[I’ve been advised that I need to say this post mentions sexual assault and raw personal stories. It is not intended to be political. Grace and peace to you. -Aimee]
Friends, I hate politics and I’m not sharing these thoughts to be political. I’ve never been smitten with any president or political party. I know everyone is human and flawed. I know power corrupts everyone. I know all our hurts and hopes shape us and those we choose to follow.
As a person who is seeking to learn how to listen, empathize, and enter in, my heart is continually broken. As a person humbly exploring what writing about, advocating for, acting on behalf of, and shepherding my children toward what just mercy is all about, I’ve been aching and grieving over the darkness that invades so many people’s lives.
Some days I pray a lot. Some days I swear a lot. Some days I hide from the news. Some days I read all the news. Some days I do a small act of kindness or justice. Most days I don’t. Most days I ask, “what are you asking me to do about all this, Lord?” I admit I can hardly pray anymore, as Bob Pierce did, “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.”
This weekend I was agitated. I went to bed angry, dreamed angry dreams, and woke up angry. I woke up ready to FIGHT for truth and justice, to listen and advocate and pray. This weekend my heart was broken (again) for women who have endured the entire spectrum of sexual violence – rapes, assaults, taunts, touches, pornography; by family, friends, strangers; at home, at school, in cars, on buses, at sleepovers, at the office, online, in their own beds. It’s too much.
I prayed and drafted out the conversations we needed to have with each of our kids about bodies, sex, boundaries, inherent value, “NO,” choices, justice, mercy, respect, dating, consent, marriage [we had these conversations again; we’ve had them before, and now again in ways appropriate to their older ages]. They were hard, uncomfortable talks, but we did it anyway. I pray we’ve laid another strong layer on a foundation of trust and truth with our dear kids. We’ll have these talks again.
I texted and/or called my friends who have gone public with their rapes and assaults and suffered deeply (in their years of not reporting and in their time since reporting). I told them I loved them and was proud of them.
I remembered the friends who will never, ever report, but in the last 32 years have asked me to listen to them and/or pray for them when they told me about the uncles, brothers, cousins, soldiers, boyfriends, high school sweethearts, husbands, friend’s dads, dad’s friends, neighbors, doctors, and/or classmates that shoved them against walls, pulled down their pants, pulled up their nighties, touched them in their most tender places, held them down, made them bleed, made them dirty, made them cry, made them scared, made them silent.
(The roles of people listed above are all from the heartbreaking stories my own friends and family shared with me. I understand it is also tragically common to endure this violence from dads, step-dads, step-brothers, coaches, teachers, babysitters, pastors, youth group leaders, bosses, colleagues, camp counselors, policemen, and others put in the role of authority and care.)
I cried on my walks this weekend thinking about the suffering women have endured since the very beginning. The ways we haven’t been protected, the ways we’ve been blamed, the ways we’ve been used, the ways we’ve been lied to, the ways we’ve been violated in the most sinister and ugly ways. I cried about the power. The abuse of power. About how all the sex stuff is about power. I cried with God wondering what I’m supposed to do about it. Wondering what he’s going to do about it.
I prayed for the people in power in our country, churches, and influencing places. I prayed for the accused in the news and the accusers in the news. I got mad. I got scared. I got annoyed. I got mad again. I prayed with silence and breath.
In my silence I felt shame, probably a kind of survivors guilt. That what I’ve endured isn’t that bad. But then, in the silence, with the crickets chirping and my dog’s little steps on the pavement, a steady list streamed into my thoughts. Not criminal, but certainly dark and formative. Scary and unjust.
I thought about the older, wealthy, distinguished business leaders I worked for in my twenties. If one of them decided to run for office would I say something? Would I think it was important that they liked to corner me when they came to the office? That they licked their lips and stared at my body when I greeted them for meetings? That they told me they didn’t care what was on the agenda but they came to see what I was wearing, and how it made them happy when I wore dresses? That when I reported it to the leaders of that organization I was told with scorn and contempt, “Who do you think you are? Do you think your “feelings getting hurt” is more important that the money these men give to help the poorest of the poor?” That my husband begged me to quit. That when I finally did, HR was so mad at my lack of loyalty they made up an excuse for my leaving and emailed it out before I could draft something? That a female board member took me out to lunch to explain what I “was going to have to learn about men to make it in business.”? I felt weak. I remember all their names.
I thought about the crazy high school boys I hung out with on mission trips and youth group meetings, at after school activities, in basements and crowded cars, alone and in large groups. I was spared a lot, because my mom loved me and taught me really high boundaries, and I was very, very untrusting of boys. But still, I did have a boy ask to sit next to me on a 19 hour bus ride who had a reputation for “tickling” girls and “fell asleep” with his hand on my breast gently squeezing it from underneath, and when I moved to get away his other hand pushed my ribs into the brightly upholstered seat so it hurt to breathe. I was so thankful when the leader said that he wanted girls to sit with girls for that leg of the trip. If that tickling guy was running for office, would I say something?
I thought about the guys I loved hanging out with the most in high school, and how one night they invited me to watch a movie with them. When they turned it on it was graphic porn. I ran up the stairs to get out of the basement, but the door was locked. I couldn’t get out. And if I could get out, I didn’t drive there and I couldn’t get home. They were rolling with laughter. I sat on the top step hugging my knees to my chest and covering my ears. Two of the guys made the host turn it off, then they apologized to me. One other guy apologized when I came back downstairs. The host rolled his eyes and said nothing. I was never alone with the host again after that.
I thought about a known lothario at my conservative Christian college. Who had a not-too-subtle plan to date every girl on our floor. When he asked me out I said yes. I guess I wanted to be included? But 10 minutes on our way to the fancy restaurant he insinuated that him paying for my fancy dinner entitled him to my body. That was a hard pass from me. I laughed like he was joking and crossed my arms and legs and leaned into the passenger door. I was trapped in the car. At the restaurant I stopped talking to him, and he flirted hard with the waitress and I said I would take a cab home and he could stay with her. He called me a bitch for the rest of the night. A couple months later he went out with one of my friends and raped her. He raped her. It messed her up. She wouldn’t report it because he was very scary and very flirty and had a way of getting out of everything. I told her I would go with her to the Dean. She refused. So one night, when everyone was studying in the lobby of our dorm he sauntered in and sat down on the coffee table in front of me. I have no idea what he was saying because all I wanted to do was get justice for my friend. So I leaned toward him and said, “I know what you did to _____.” He played dumb. I said, “I know you raped her. You RAPED her.” He said I was an ugly virgin and didn’t know how things really worked. It was snowing and I had huge hiking boots on from the 3 week wilderness trip I took before college started; I leaned back and kicked him in both knee caps with my big ugly boots. He fell over to the side and muttered, “You Are Such A Bitch. I’m going to kick the shit out of you.” And in my adrenaline and bravado I said, “Do it, ____. I hope you hit me right here so all these people can finally know the truth about you.” He swore at me more and limped away. My friend never reported him. If he ran for office I would beg my old college friend to say something. I would pay for her plane tickets and start a gofundme to help cover her legal fees.
I have so many more stories. Every woman I know does. About the catcalls, the fast walking across a dark campus or quiet street, the guys you thought were friends that get handsy and then hurt, the classmates who whisper what they do to you in their dreams as they pass the worksheets down the row, the guys following you to the bathroom and walking in pretending to be lost, the terror of silent parking garages, the coy ways to get a man to stay out of your apartment, making yourself ugly to get a guy to pay attention to someone else, having a hand on the handle in the cab ready to jump and roll when the driver says, “you’re in my car, i can do whatever i want to you. hahahahaha.” The lewd jokes. The verbal, extensive body critiques. How scary it is to let the landlord/cable guy/plumber in your house when no one else is there.
(If this doesn’t resonate with you, you could search #whyididntreport on google, twitter, facebook, or instagram and read thousands of stories of why boys, girls, women, and men did not report the sexual crimes committed against them. It’s very hard to keep reading and scrolling through all that darkness. I had to stop.)
I have another huge knot to unravel in all this as a Christian woman. Is it all Eve’s fault? How is that possible? Was Adam too weak to say anything? I mean, seriously? Why were those spies in Rahab’s place of business? Proverbs makes women sound terrible. Why are there no long allegory Proverbs telling women to run far, far away from predatory men? Why were all those patriarchs so messed up? Oh my goodness, David did not protect women at all, but was a “man after God’s own heart”? Lord, help me understand. Did Paul hate women as much as the feminists like to say he did? Why is it ok for me to wear earrings now, but not preach in some places? Why do some men think they have the right to lead and dominate, when the Bible clearly says husbands are to love their wives like Christ loved the church – wasn’t that about bringing dignity to the scorned, healing the sick and despised, foot washing, being beaten, being killed? Jesus wasn’t macho or dominant – why in the world do Christian men think that’s what God wants them to do? If you need to feel powerful do crossfit or something.
The story that’s in the news – I have no idea if that awful story happened decades ago. (Maybe it didn’t, maybe she’s a pawn/liar/very sick person. But the people saying this woman is lying were certain Monica Lewinsky was telling the truth. What does that mean?) If it happened, that nominee could say, “It was a long time ago and I was drunk/lonely/____ and I did it. I thought it was mutual, but obviously it wasn’t. I thought that it was normal because all my friends talked like it was. I never really thought about it after that night. But I hear that it hurt you. That you’ve been going to counseling and mentioning my name long before I was a public figure. I am sorry. I am sorry I hurt you back in high school. I’m not trying to buy your forgiveness or your silence, but I’d like to do what I can to make it right. Here is money to cover your counseling plus this much extra. I assure you I didn’t do anything like that again. Ask around. I will own up to my mistakes. Will you forgive me?” That’s the pathway EVERY HUMAN needs to walk down to move past our mistakes from our youth and from last week.
Regardless of what happens in this current news story, if your heart is broken because of past hurts, fresh hurts, world issues, and human suffering, know you are not alone. If you need a safe place to report something awful, I can be that place. I’m absolutely not a trauma specialist, and I will probably cry with you, but I’m a learning listener.
You are loved.
All gorgeous art in this post is by ©Danielle Crilly, inspired by the beauty and haunting of her healing journey. All images used with permission. To use these images please contact Danielle Crilly via http://www.dcrilly.com or in the comments below.
All words and written ideas by ©Aimee Fritz & Family Compassion Focus, 2018. Please share online with attribution as you find helpful, but do not print or reproduce for profit without written permission requested and replied to in the comments below or through firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.