How can we respond when sexual harassment and assault are in the news?

Sigh.

Here we go again. Stories of one man’s history of sexual harassment and sexual assault have been filling my news feed. Two years ago, it was Bill Cosby. This year it’s Harvey Weinstein.

Frankly, it is hard for me to see all the stories. Like most women, I’ve experienced sexual harassment in my life. As a sexual assault survivor as well, some of the news can be a bit triggery.

I go back and forth. I am probably better off not reading about other women’s experiences with sexual assault. At the same time, I want to honor their experience and their courage in speaking up. And even when I want to avoid the stories, they are all over the place.

Some of you are probably in the same state—upset by what you read, yet drawn to the stories at the same time.

I’ve seen a range of reactions from friends and in comment sections. Some women are painting all men with a broad brush, stating that all men are creeps. Some folks are dismissing the stories or the credibility of the survivors, saying that they made the choice to put up with what they did because they cared too much about their acting career. Others are saying that men like Harvey Weinstein are pure evil.

I understand each of those reactions—but they aren’t helpful or healing for anyone.

How can we respond?

When we carry our own scars from sexual harassment or sexual assault, seeing these stories can be painful. The wounds may be healed, but they still leave scars. Reading about Harvey Weinstein might make some of those scars just a bit raw. And if you haven’t really healed yet, your news feed may rip the emotional scabs right off, to the point it feels fresh all over again.

When these kinds of stories hit the news, how can we respond in a way that is healthy and that doesn’t compound the hurt?

I’d like to share six things I do when sexual harassment and assault hit the news.

1. Thank God for the good men in my life.

Some men abuse their power and sexually objectify women—but most men do not. Most men, in my opinion, are decent guys who want to treat women well. When I see a rash of comments saying that men are creepy jerks, I make a point to consider all the men in my life who are good. My husband, sons, and other male family members are good men who respect and care for women. They are not the ones who hurt me in the past.

2. Pray for the victims, both those who have come forward and those who have not.

As many women have come forward with their Harvey Weinstein stories, it’s a pretty safe bet that there are a lot of women who had similar experiences but choose not to come forward. Pray for God’s healing in their lives. Pray for God to show them how to transform that trauma into something that makes the world a better place. Pray for them to truly believe that this was not their fault. Pray for them to find peace.

As I pray for those in the news, I also pray for the women I know who have experienced sexual harassment and assault. The inundation of news stories about sexual harassment and assault can be very difficult for survivors; I pray for their peace and healing.

3. Pray for the wrongdoer.

Harvey Weinstein was made in God’s image, just as you and I were. I will never understand why some men do this kind of thing, but I can’t imagine it is done from a place of wholeness. Whatever happened to make him do such hurtful things to so many women, he now has to live with the penalties—both for now and for eternity. I pray for him to experience God’s healing presence as he navigates the consequences of his choice to abuse his power, over and over again.

I also pray for the man who raped me. Praying for him reminds me of the forgiveness that God helped me give him. It reminds me of the forgiveness that God has granted me as well. I also pray for men who have done things that constitute sexual harassment in my life.

4. Talk with the kids.

I have two sons and a daughter. When news cycles like this come around, I talk with my sons about what it means to be a good man who respects women. I talk with my daughter about any uncomfortable experiences she may have had lately. My children are adults, and they have learned well. I remind myself that what I experienced doesn’t have to be the legacy I leave.

5. Do something to support another woman.

I look for opportunities to encourage women, particularly in knowing their own ability and value. I reassure women who are struggling to accomplish a goal. I praise those who are successful in those goals. When I see a tired mama in the grocery store, I smile at her and comment on how happy her children seem or give her a verbal attagirl.

Doing something for other women helps me step away from memories of my own experience and into the experience of pouring into others. And I am directly countering some of the impact of sexual assault and harassment, one small way at a time.

6. Step away when it gets to be too much.

If I’m not careful, I can get totally overwhelmed by the news. Last night I was reading through a long article about the many women who have come forward about Harvey Weinstein. About halfway through, I realized that I was feeling tense and anxious. I clicked away from the story and took some deep breaths. Yes, my news feed is flooded with Harvey Weinstein stories right now. I can’t completely stay away from Facebook, but I can choose not to read the stories I see posted. I save them to read—or not—later.

Do you need help?

It is normal to be upset by news about sexual harassment and assault. Perhaps some of the strategies I shared will be helpful to you.

However, if you find that thoughts about it are interfering with your ability to function normally, please seek help. You are not alone.

Talk with your pastor, a counselor, or an understanding friend.

Visit RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) for information and support.

You can read some of my previous posts about dealing with sexual trauma.

Mending the Remnants of Broken

Lessons from Sexual Harassment

Trapped by Trauma

Shame, Guilt, and the Gift of Sexuality

‘Tis the Season

Beautiful in Its Time

How can we respond when sexual harassment and assault are in the news?

Image credit  Concord90 | Pixabay.com

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2 Thoughts on “Six Things I Do When Sexual Assault Is in the News

  1. StandingTall on October 16, 2017 at 2:21 pm said:

    Thank you for writing about this. I saw a Facebook post today that read: “We don’t need men to protect us. We need them to stop protecting one another.” Many of us are married to “good” men who have never assaulted a woman and never would. But that’s not enough. They need to speak out and do their part to keep abusers from being put into positions of power and to help women assume more leadership positions. They should take an active role in bringing about societal change that affords women equal access to positions of power, earning potential, etc.

    • We need courageous women and men to speak out against abuses of power, while at the same time removing barriers that allow for us all to use our gifts to their maximum potential.

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