Yet here I am again.
We continue to see accusations of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and the vast expanse of gray area in between, with things that are more than an unwanted comment or a grope but aren’t forced penetration. I’ve watched my friends struggle with the public spotlight on this issue.
Each time I hear of a pattern of unsolicited sexual behavior from someone, my heart sinks. How many women carry around these unwelcome memories? How many women struggled to accept sexuality—theirs and their husband’s—as a good, God-given thing? How many women suffer because of unwanted sexual words and actions?
Yes, I know that men also experience sexual harassment and assault. I know that some accusations are completely unfounded. I know that most men are good men who don’t do these things to women. Even so, the sad truth is that most women we know have experienced some kind of sexual imposition.
The relentlessness of the accusations makes it easy to feel a little hopeless. As Christians, however, we are a people of hope. We don’t have to stay mired in the pain of the past—and we don’t have to let our Christian sisters stay there, either.
What can you do?
I think this is really important, and I wanted to say a bit more than I was able to in the podcast. The Bible tells us to carry others’ burdens. Experiences with unwanted sexual attention can definitely be a burden.
I’d like to share specific suggestions for how you and your church can support women in their healing.
- Offer information about support resources that can help women. Provide links to sites such as RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) or GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environment). Have a display of fliers from community agencies that help women.
- Work with your pastor to develop a process for your church to help women who come forward about unwanted sexual words and actions. What would help women feel safe and heard? What church leadership resources can provide information and strategies to help you put together something that is respectful, thoughtful, and supportive? What can you personally do to help?
- Lead studies on marriage and sexuality that include a good section on healing from sexual trauma or damaging beliefs. Passion Pursuit (affiliate link) from Authentic Intimacy is a good example.
- Lead studies or offer books on healing and wholeness. Even if it doesn’t address unwanted sexual encounters specifically, the right resources still point women to the Great Healer. You can find a list of some good resources in this post.
- Serve as a mentor for other wives. If your church has a marriage mentoring program, you can offer a great deal of support simply by listening to a woman who will respect your experience as a wife. Don’t shy away from conversations about how beliefs and past experiences can affect our marriages.
- Establish relationships with other women in your church. We feel most comfortable and safe sharing difficult things within the context of a relationship with someone we trust. If you see a woman who doesn’t seem to have much connection with other women in the church, reach out to her.
- When a woman speaks out about harassment or assault, support her. Sit with her and listen. Pray with her and for her. Offer to accompany her to appointments with authorities, pastors, or others so she doesn’t have to feel alone. If people make negative comments about her decision to come forward, (“she should’ve come forward earlier,” “she shouldn’t have been alone in the room with him,” “she’s ruined his career,” or “what’s her agenda?”), speak up on her behalf and remind those folks that Jesus’s first response to hurting people was always to love and heal.
- Share your own stories. It isn’t always easy to talk about painful experiences from the past—but doing so can have a big impact. Stories are powerful. They profoundly communicate “you are not alone.” Your vulnerability with another woman invites hers as well. A woman who hears your story knows that you can walk alongside her in a real way.
One of the things I really love about women is how we support others. Instead of feeling hopeless and overwhelmed when we learn about our Christian sisters’ experiences with unwanted sexual attention, let’s work together to share their burdens and support their healing.
What suggestions would you like to add to this list?