Offering Hope in the Midst of #MeToo

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Leslie Bennett, Women’s Ministry Initiatives

In 2017, the #MeToo movement left many wondering how to respond to such an outcry. Some of us are asking, “Who do I know that may be affected?” Or even, “This is my story and my secret—now what?"

Statistically speaking, sexual abuse or harassment has affected you or someone you know. Most of us can agree that the number of women coming forward is staggering, and we, the Church, need to be equipped to respond well. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and wait for it to go away. We must begin to reach out to our communities, as well as within our own churches, to help these women.

The sin of sexual abuse is one that has continued to grow in silence for way too long. The best way to defeat the power of the enemy is to break the control of fear and silence that breeds shame (Rom. 12:21). We must have a strong voice to cry out against the atrocities being committed. We must begin to give women of all ages tools to equip them in their healing journey, a space to share their story, and boundaries for their protection.

It is our responsibility as the Church to change the cultural tide by making changes within our churches, families, and communities. The issues of sexual abuse are so pervasive that we must mount a full-on assault to experience notable change. Standing on the sidelines waiting for the next play is not an option.

I'm confronted by the sin of sexual abuse each week when I'm invited to hear women's private stories and their secret memories. It’s often the first time this precious lady has been able to speak about her abuse. The words that flow from her mouth are raw, dripping with emotion. Most have held this secret for years, if not decades. The heartache at our first meeting is palpable, and some of the stories are difficult to wrap my mind around. These are the moments that I lean the hardest into the Holy Spirit and silently whisper, "Father, please give me Your ears to hear fully" (Rom. 8:26–27).

If you’re ready to make a positive kingdom-focused impact as a leader, you must first gird yourself with prayer (1 Peter 5:8). When we, the Church, choose to stand up against this battle, the resistance will be strong. Do not believe that you can enter into the war without being fully equipped with the armor of God and leaning fully into His wisdom (Eph. 6:10–20). Attempting to tackle such deep struggles without being rightly equipped could lead you and those to whom you minister vulnerable to the enemy’s devices.

Steps to Take

While the answers are not one-size-fits-all, here are some steps that churches and families can consider:

  • Have programs available for those who’ve been abused.
    At the church level, we need to begin to set up biblically sound programs for women (and men) who have experienced sexual abuse (no matter when it occurred). We also need to provide options for support groups and private counseling. As the Church continues to work with those impacted by the pervasiveness of sexual sins, it’s necessary to connect those people with local Christian counselors and ministries to provide long-term or specialized care (Prov. 11:14).
  • Provide a safe place to share.
    Churches must provide a safe and an open place for sharing sexual wounds while also providing hope—in Christ and His power to heal. Sharing this hope is the only true long-term answer to the struggle. Without Christ, we are left grasping to fix soul-brokenness that can only be repaired by the ultimate Healer and Redeemer.
  • Set up strong boundaries.
    Churches must also set up boundaries to help prevent opportunities for sexual misconduct. As part of strong boundaries, assign accountability partners to all who are known to struggle with sexual sins while not allowing them to have a position of authority (Gal. 6:1–2). Background checks are no longer just a good idea; they are essential. Churches must know a person's history before trusting them with a position of power.

    As a means of prevention, churches should be wise about situations where adults and children/teens are together, both for the protection of young people and protection for adults against false accusations as well as avoiding any appearance of impropriety. For example, if youth leaders want to have a time of relationship building or discipling, choose to meet in a public area or with a group. Have at least two non-related adults together in leading Sunday school classes. These are just a few ideas on how to take reasonable precautions.
  • Have appropriate (and ongoing) conversations about sexuality and abuse.
    Conversations about healthy boundaries and good and appropriate sexual conduct must occur—not only teaching about sexual abstinence but teaching about human sexuality ordained as part of God's perfect plan. Our sexuality should not evoke shame, but for those living with the repercussions of abuse, it is nonetheless a part of their reality. Through Christ, all forms of pain, struggle, and hopelessness can be transformed into something for our good (Rom. 8:28).

    At the family level, the church needs to begin to teach on topics of abuse in the family. Going to church does not keep a person or family from sinful behavior. It is key to set up a culture within the church where a child or teen feels safe to share inappropriate behavior occurring at home. The church needs to be a place of safety and security, even if their home is not. The outward, upstanding image of the family does not equate safety. The Church should work in tandem with the family in providing a strong, biblically sound support system.

Let’s Change the Cry

The Church needs to lead in communities by ministering to those impacted by sexual abuse or sin. We must not add to the silence but instead begin the conversation. One way we can do this is by setting up conferences or classes to address the topic of abuse. Then we can engage with our local communities, facilitating a movement toward healing. We can and should be known as the safest place in the community to share hurts and to find the greatest hope. If the Christian community bands together, we can change the rallying cry of the #MeToo movement to a movement of healing found in Christ. #HopeAfterMeToo

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified (Isa. 61:1–3).

How has your church answered the call to minister in a #MeToo culture?

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About the Author

Ann Madison

Ann Madison

Ann Madison is the Executive Director and Founder of Peace Restored, a ministry to women who struggle with difficult life experiences, which may include sexual and physical abuse. Ann has received extensive training in crisis intervention, trauma, coaching, and Christian counseling. Through the ministry of Peace Restored, Ann offers multiple monthly classes and biblical studies in addition to offering individualized one-on-one care either in person or through a virtual format.

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