Please let me qualify my remarks in this Jeff’s Journal. My words here do not reflect on nor recall any particular person or situation regarding the matters of sexual harassment or sexual assault. The timing of this writing is the result of a long period of reflection regarding the events surrounding what has been called the #MeToo movement.
In all of history there have surely been encounters between individuals which reflect a lack of respect for the personal privacy and consent of one of the two persons. Usually what we hear in the news media, are stories, allegations and testimony about a man whose behavior toward a woman insisted, demanded or forced sexualized behavior on her without her agreement to the behavior. Although, it could happen with a woman being the aggressor.
For many years, women were reluctant to come forward with allegations of sexualized behavior by a man, due to the generally known fact that the legal system would not support her accusations or even families that would not stand by their female members who told their stories.
Women were afraid of being ostracized by society, of losing their jobs and of even being accused of immoral behavior themselves — that they must “have asked for it.” Sometimes, for whatever reason, they blamed themselves.
When we scratch the surface and ask women if they have been inappropriately touched, spoken to in sexually suggestive language, been pressured for sex or even raped, you will discover more distressing information than you expected to find. Many women have, but have never talked about it.
It happens between family members, in the workplace and sadly, sometimes even in the church, as well as other places and at other times. Often a woman will be silent about the behavior, for fear no one will believe her, but rather will believe her abuser. Sometimes the implications of sharing such information are too overwhelming to imagine. Families can be torn apart, people can lose their jobs, friends may drift away and the woman is left with nothing other than that she told a terrible truth.
Now, having said this, have there been situations where the alleged abuser was innocent and the accuser was guilty of fabricating a story? The answer would be “yes.” I have witnessed this actually happen. Fortunately, the collateral damage was contained and lives were not destroyed.
We may have moved from a time when a person was afraid to come forward, to a time when a pent up flood of fear and anger has come pouring out, due to a perceived receptiveness by the court of public opinion and better advocacy for those abused.
What I want to say to each of us, is that we never have implicit permission to touch someone, period, much less on private areas of their body. Even then, it only makes sense if we have a well developed relationship with them and a commitment to their well being which is clearly understood by both parties. We might call that love or marriage, but even then, married couples have a right to maintain control over their bodies and personal space. We do not have the right to use suggestive, sexualized language with anyone to whom we are not committed to in love. We are to love each other as Christ loved the church. We are to be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Moving to the deeper places,