Along those lines, authors and activists Belinda Bauman and Lisa Sharon Harper initiated #SilenceIsNotSpiritual and succeeded in gathering more than 4,000 signatures from a wide variety of women. The statement reads in part,
This moment in history is ours to steward. We are calling churches … to end the silence and stop all participation in violence against women. We call our pastors, our elders, and our parishioners who have been silent to speak up and stand up for all who experience abuse. There is no institution with greater capacity to create protected spaces for healing and restoration for survivors, as well as confession, repentance and rehabilitation for perpetrators.
#MeToo, #ChurchToo, and #SilenceIsNotSpiritual all reinforce the message to those in power that regarding the mistreatment of women and children, they can no longer count on us to be quiet. We will raise our collective voices and bring change.
How Can We Broker This Change?
As women leading in the church, we have at least some power to bring about this change. While pastors and other governing leaders can address the systemic issues that permit and perpetuate rape and other misogynistic practices, even those of us who are on the ground floor with survivors have a job to do. The initial momentum and companionship that galvanized women and provided sufficient courage to help them find their voice will not be enough to sustain them as fear, doubt, and disturbing memories flare up. Any woman who longs for healing will likely have years of hard work ahead of them. Every church should be poised and waiting to become a meaningful part of their journey.
1. Foster a safe environment.
Within some churches, people in power (often men) either dismiss the allegations or blame the victims by questioning their clothing choices, their lack of wisdom, or their reputations. This exacerbates the horror of the crime and unhelpfully shifts blame from the perpetrator to the victim. It is an unacceptable response. If a church wants to walk alongside these women, the leadership must foster an environment where victims feel safe bringing their stories. Safe spaces are characterized by a willingness to listen, believe, and extend empathy to the victims. The first step should be for the preaching pastors to acknowledge that sexual abuse victims are sitting in the pews and that their stories are important. Leaders should communicate from the front, to the church at large, that any comments or attitudes that reveal callousness, disregard, or lack of empathy for these victims will not be tolerated. You might even choose to identify and escort known perpetrators. It’s also important for churches to review their policies around reporting and handling allegations within the church. (Don’t forget about training people who work with children, too.)