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?
KYLE LOVES TORI PHOTOGRAPHY