In the past few years, there has been skepticism of some reported instances of sexual abuse, harassment, and assault. And of course, there are going to be some women seeking attention by making false accusations against innocent men. But that doesn’t mean we should immediately doubt a woman’s story simply because some have lied about it before.
Can I be honest with you? I don’t believe there is a woman on the face of the earth who hasn’t been subjected to some form or fashion of harassment. Likewise, I know that there are women who have pondered the belief that it was their fault.
Too many women feel powerless to speak out about what they experience, some daily. A lascivious comment is often enough to cause many women to doubt themselves and take the blame for someone else’s behavior. Worse, they believe if they speak up, they will not be believed.
While I was working in retail, a man twice my age approached me. “Stay away from lunch,” he said, looking me up and down. “You’re the size I like.” Another time, a co-worker searched through my Facebook page to find a bikini picture to “Spiff up.” Later, I had someone vomit explicit sexual threats while hiding behind a fake name.
Many of those accounts happened while I was working, going to school, or even sitting at church. In all these instances, I was wearing modest clothing.
Thoughts would race through my mind. Was this my fault? Had I done something? Was it what I was wearing? Did I bring it upon myself?
No. It was not my fault I was approached and demeaned. It was theirs. It was how they were taught. It was the result of being infected with the teachings of a hyper-sexualized culture.
Sexual harassment is real. Not only is it real, but it also affects how women view themselves and the choices they make in their day-to-day lives.
For the woman who has experienced harassment, you didn’t do this.
But you, my precious sister, did not do this.
Say no to the feelings of shame and guilt that lies about who you are. You are made in the image of God. We are to be worthy of respect, women. We are to be trusted and loved. Not to be abused and misused. If you have ever been in a situation where this has been an issue, I would like to give you three bits of help.
You don’t have to stay in an uncomfortable position
Honestly (and I make it a point to always be honest with you), I do not trust many men. Partly because of what happened to me, but also because I don’t believe it’s necessary to be in a trusting relationship with most men. You can be friendly and appropriate and not wish to ever be alone with a male of any age.
I trust my boyfriend, dad, grandad, and uncle. That’s about it. Out of those four, you will never see me engaged in one-on-one with another man. There is no room for it.
If you work with someone you don’t feel comfortable with, talk to HR.
If you are in a church setting with someone who makes remarks about you, take care of it before it gets out of hand.
The world has changed over the past few decades and is starting to listen to women who are speaking out. Don’t stay in an uncomfortable situation just because you feel you have to. Get out. People are here for you.
Just like you don’t have to be around anyone you don’t feel comfortable with, you have the opportunity to avoid the situation altogether. As you look around for the situations that could arise, you can shut it down.
Everyone should be able to live and work in places where there is a zero-tolerance policy for sexual jokes and comments. Watching out for one another, we have a better chance of protecting others and ourselves.
You’re not at fault for others’ actions, but you are at fault for not being aware of the situation. If you get a bad vibe, leave. Don’t engage. Don’t speak. Who cares if you’re being rude? Protecting yourself from harassment should be your priority.
Break the chains of shame
I’ve been there. It’s hard. I spent many nights worrying if I cost someone a career, a job, or a ministry all because I told what happened. But the truth is, I just may have stopped it from continuing. By standing up or calling someone out, you’re taking control of the situation.
While speaking out hurts, it opens the eyes of others to the situation. By doing so, we’re granted to the opportunity of saving our beloved sisters.
Sexual harassment is real. You have the power to stay in shame or change the story. Don’t remain captive. You’re loved, treasured, beautiful, and not to be blamed. Christ died so you could stand in freedom. Don’t be bound to shame.
With all the love, truth, and wisdom I have – it is not your fault. Don’t live in the shadows of shame because of the words of someone else. It’s an opportunity. A chance. A rescue mission to shine the light on the darkness and help those around us.