The past few weeks, I've hardly slept. I keep waking up in the middle of the night, finding myself scrolling through survivors' stories, news reports, the Roy Moore campaign race, constantly looking to see who has been accused and who's admitted to it. I keep finding myself awake at 4:00am every day, listening to the stories of heartbreak and pain that drudge up my own past. I keep scrolling through #ChurchToo hashtags, spreading the light on the awful, dark, hidden stories of people who have experience sexual abuse in the church, and, many times, how horrendously religious people treat victims. I keep rubbing my eyes and wiping away tears at painful stories that ring too closely to home. My stomach has been in knots trying to figure out how to help, how to share, and, if I'm honest, if it's even worth it help, because it feels like it'll only be a drop in the ocean.
The #MeToo Movement has taken off and exposed celebrities, CEOs, producers, TV hosts, pastors, you name it, there's an allegation and a #MeToo story behind it.
The world has seen the bravery and courage from men and women of all walks of life, who have come forward to share the truth. We've seen perpetrators give apologies and recognition to their inexcusable behavior, resign from their positions, and leave the public eye. Many still refuse to leave or recognize their behavior, despite cases being built against them. The world is experiencing is the heartbreaking way many people have responded to survivors sharing their stories. Online hate grows and looms. If you listen in to the news and tune in to social media, you'll stumble across a newscaster covering someone's story and you'll start to hear what those who doubt, or simply don't want to believe, have to say.
When I find myself sitting awake at 4am, I so badly wish I could come up with just the right thing to say. I wish I could sit at my laptop and think of the perfect answers and tell the whole world how to make sense of it all. I wish I could figure out the best way to help victims and survivors. I wish I could make sure this never happens to anyone else again. I wish I could erase all of the pain and hurt for all of us.
But I can't, and no one can.
But the one thing I can do is use what I know from my own #MeToo story and the stories of those who I've walked with and use it to help the world respond lovingly when they hear the terrible things that have happened to victims of abuse.
There's so many things you can do to stand with a survivor to help them heal, and also sooo many things that can really, severely damage them in their healing process.
Here are some things from my perspective as a survivor, and survivors that I've walked with and who have shared their #MeToo stories with me.
T H I N G S T H A T H U R T:
When you hear a survivor's story or someone sits down to tell you theirs, the most important thing to do is respond in a way that affirms them and makes them feel safe. If you know of an abusive situation that is happening or has happened in the past, don't push the victim to tell you details they don't feel comfortable sharing. Let them know you believe them, you support them, and you are there to listen whenever they need it. These are tips to help you navigate your relationships with the people in your life who have experienced sexual abuse because your heart may be in the right place, just trying to do your best to be supportive and loving, but you can inadvertently hurt them. These are extremely important skills to have, as 1/3 people will experience sexual assault. So when someone in your life experiences abuse, you can be prepared and ready to respond with open, loving arms.
Here are some don'ts that you should steer away from at all costs:
T H I N G S T H A T H E L P A N D H E A L
When you're walking with a victim on their journey to healing, remember to do your best to help them heal. As a victim, you often feel alone, misunderstood, and like no one will fight for you. So, as someone on the outside looking in, try to make your loved one feel comforted, understood, and like you will be their advocate. You won't always know what to do or how to help, but just trying can make a world of difference to someone who is experiencing the aftermath of abuse. Here are some "do's" to help encourage you to keep fighting for your loved ones in helpful, loving ways that will help them heal.
This can be a lot of information to take in and a lot to process. Just remember that making an effort to take these steps is appreciated and is helping, even if you don't feel like it. It may seem like a lot of do's and dont's, but it's all just precautions to make someone who has experienced one of the absolute worst things you can go through feel safe and comforted. Trauma is very painful and can last a lifetime, so being sensitive is important.
You may feel like your efforts aren't worth it, but they are so important in the life of a survivor. If we all make efforts and take a stand for victims, we can truly change the world and change the way that survivors are treated. We can help heal those who have been beaten down and broken. We can fight for the truth. We can be a voice for the voiceless. We can make those who feel marginalized feel loved, cared for, and supported. We can love the forgotten and ignored like Jesus did. Your choices to advocate for survivors are making a difference. Thank you for doing what you do, and keep fighting.
For statistics, facts, and resources on how to help survivors, visit https://www.rainn.org/. To talk to someone to receive 24/7 support, call 800-656-4673 for the National Sexual Assault Helpline. To hear stories of survivors or share yours, contact us here on the blog under the contact page.
When the Harvey Weinstein stories started pouring out this fall, no one was prepared for all that would surface with the infamous hashtag #MeToo . In early October, women and men all over social media started using the hashtag to share stories of sexual abuse, harassment, misconduct, and abuse. Survivors started telling their stories, flooding the internet. Reports from Hollywood came in massive waves, exposing producers, stars, and politicians, and the reports haven't stopped since. Among these celebrities are familiar names like Warner Brothers producer Andrew Kreisberg, Producer Brett Ratner, E! News correspondent Ken Baker, NBC and MSNBC news correspondent Mark Halperin, and Head of Amazon Studios Roy Price, faces many of us see daily on television and names we hear the news. Many of these men have denied reports despite evidence and multiple allegations from different victims, like Harvey Weinstein and That 70's Show actor Danny Masterson, who has evidence piling up against him in pending rape cases. However, some have chosen to tell the truth. Actor and comedian Louis C.K. responded to the allegations of five women of sexual harassment, released a statement to the public saying, "These stories are true." Later in his confession, he went on to say "There is nothing about this that I forgive myself for. And I have to reconcile it with who I am. Which is nothing compared to the task I left them with ... The hardest regret to live with is what you've done to hurt someone else,". Actor Kevin Spacey was accused by actor Anthony Rapp of making sexual advances toward him when Rapp was 14. Spacey responded on Twitter with this apology:
Bill O'Reilly has thus far denied sexual allegations of repeated harassment, sexual assault, and sending explicit material and pornography to a woman who made a claim against O'Reilly. It has since surfaced that made a $32 million dollar settlement with a network analyst in order to keep the allegations quiet. Many stars and bigwigs on the Hollywood scene have resigned from their positions after their allegations surfaced. Among those resigning are Steve Jurvetson of SpaceX and Tesla, David Guillod of Primary Wave Entertainment agency, Kentucky Speaker of the House, Jeff Hoover, head of NPR and New York Times editor Michael Oreskes, and President and publisher of The New Republic Hamilton Fish. The list goes on and on and on. The powerful #MeToo hashtag has started a movement, and a war for the truth.
Do you believe us now?
And where does that leave us? Where does that leave the Church?
Although the truth is emerging from both survivor and now abuser, the war has not been won. It's not even close, especially for the Church. Not only is it our God-ordained responsibility to care for the broken, speak for the voiceless, and cry with those in pain, loving like Jesus did, it's our responsibility to attack the problem from the source. There is a war being waged. Women, children, and men are being sexually assaulted, raped, and harassed. One in three people will experience sexual abuse.
We live in a world where we see that when survivors come out to tell the truth, they're, more often than not, treated as liars, covered in shame that isn't theirs. They're labeled with titles that have no place being on a victim. They're isolated even more than they already feel; left to deal with the PTSD, flashbacks, panic attacks, depression, disassociation, and sleep disorders, that survivors of sexual abuse deal with, alone. In many [most] parts of the Church, the Jesus of the Bible, the radically loving Jesus who stopped at nothing to show love to the broken, isolated, and perpetrated against, is lost in many Christian circles' efforts to sweep the "drama" under the rug. The very essence of the God we worship is lost. Boys are taught that they have no control over their bodies so don't look, and girls are taught to make sure there's nothing to look at, or whatever happens is on you. Boys' behavior is overlooked if she was asking for it. If she was showing too much, if she was flirting, if she was "putting herself in the situation", it's agreed, she had it coming. The curtains are closed, the victims are swept to the side, and more hurt is created.
The facts regarding sexual abuse are unbelievable. Only six out of one thousand sexual perpetrators will go to prison. Every 98 seconds, someone will experience sexual assault. One out of five women in college is sexually abused. 90% of victims are female. 8% of sexual crimes happen on school property. 66% of victims are ages 12-17. The list goes on forever with sickening facts. This is too big for the Church to ignore.
Something has to change.
The Church has to change.
We need to be ready to take action: care for the victims but also proactively attack the issue from the foundations. Boys need to be taught that they are made in God's image, to love and protect. They need to know they're strong and smart. The Church needs to learn to offer encouragement to men, young and old, in a society that is obsessed with sex and pornography, that teaches them that they're weak , stupid, and worthless. They need to know that if they've been perpetrated against, that it's not their fault and they aren't any less of a man, and that they will have support, love, and advocates. Women need to be taught they are loved and valued, and that their worth isn't lost in what has been done to them. They need to be taught that it is never their fault. They need to know that no matter how they've been treated, they are beautiful and treasured. Women need to grow up knowing that they aren't objects and be treated as such. They need to know that it's not their responsibility to "prevent sexual assault" with modesty. Everyone needs to be reminded that no amount of skin showing, drinking, partying, flirting, or any actions taken justify any persons being taken advantage of. The church needs to remember that sexual assault is being taken advantage of, without consent, and that fundamentally by the definition, there's absolutely no way to "ask for it". We need to all adopt the heart of Jesus, to all broken and hurting people. We need to leave the agenda of keeping a seemingly perfect, always cleaned-up facade behind, because that's not the life we were called to live by our Lord. We need to stand loyally with survivors. We need to seek the truth, no matter who is telling it.
Anyway you look at it, Jesus is the only hope for the world. There is no other way for people's hearts to be truly changed without Jesus. There is no way to raise our next generation to fight on the right side of this fight without the passion, empathy, and love of Jesus. There's no way to win this battle, or any other battle, without Jesus. It's all running around in surface-level circles without Jesus. As the Church, it's our job to bring Jesus into the world, no matter how deep and dark. It's our job to carry the broken. There is no one else who is going to bring the light of Jesus to our world but us.
The war is being fought, but we have the only way to win.
The truth is coming to the surface. There is a movement for justice taking place. We are living in an age of exposure that the world has never seen before. Silence is not an option.
So Church, do you believe us now?
As the body of Christ, we are called to be the voice of the voiceless and hurting. We are called to stand up for those who are silenced by fear, hurt, shame, and violence. As the hands and feet of Christ, we need to be his loving arms to the hurting. The truth isn't always pretty. It hurts. It's ugly. It's painful. But the truth is what's right. It's what we as believers are called to share and live by. If we want to truly live like Christ, truth is key. 1 Corinthians 13:6 " Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth."
Read and share this presentation to raise awareness on sexual violence as we continue the Real Truth Project to be a voice for those without voices.
It's finally here! Some amazingly brave women have stepped up to write and share their stories of survival, pain, healing, and redemption through Christ. The work Christ is doing through each of these women is incredible. Read and share the project to get the word out! God is going to do amazing things with each and every one of these incredible people.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. In honor of that, Waking up to Real is going to be starting a project that I am so excited about. It's called The Real Truth Project. Because of my own story, God has realllly been challenging me with finding a way to share it, and also with figuring out a way to better equip the church with a way to help those who have been hurt by sexual abuse. So then came the Real Truth Project. There are so many people who have been hurt by sexual abuse. I want people to hear the real stories of these people, and others, ultimately, to learn how to help other people through hearing. And who better to learn from than the actual people who have experienced this pain. This project will be real stories, written by the real women. At the end of the month, all of the stories will be shared together here on the blog. There will be a separate page and sub-page for everyone's story. I know that God can use anything to glorify Himself, and I pray that this project can be used to comfort those hurting, empower those who don't have a voice, and educate those who don' t know. Even if it is just a little post on a little blog. Keep it in your prayers and keep checking back in to get updates! And, check back on April 30th to see the Real Truth Project Published. ❤
KYLE LOVES TORI PHOTOGRAPHY