USA (MNN) – The recent #MeToo social media tag took off like a spark when women across the United States began sharing their stories of being sexually harassed or assaulted. The purpose of the trend? To speak out.
The #MeToo movement came about as a response to public figures who have been accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault, beginning primarily with the revelations of the Harvey Weinstein case.
As a result, women began taking to Facebook and Twitter to share their experiences of sexual harassment and/or assault, tagging their stories with #MeToo. It became a way for women to group together and break the silence about the sexual harassment and/or assault they’ve experienced.
The social media movement has also helped raise awareness about the scope of the problem. And for many people, the #MeToo movement awoke the startling reality that sexual harassment and sexual assault is a much larger problem than possibly previously thought.
Even Christian figures, like Beth Moore and Kay Warren, took to social media to share their stories.
”I think you can hear national statistics, but when you put a face to that statistic, I think it just causes people to feel that more deeply,” InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s Greek Communication’s Director Alison Smith shares.
“Me as a woman, I felt seen and heard by it. A lot of times when I have shared experiences where I have felt uncomfortable in a situation or I have experienced sexual harassment, sometimes people can brush it off or minimize that. So, I think it was powerful for me to see women who I respect and look up to, be honest and open about their experience[s].”
And for men, Smith believes it was powerful for them to see the number of women both inside and outside of their personal lives share their real stories of sexual harassment and/or sexual assault.
Defining Sexual Harassment/Assault
“On college campuses especially, I’ve been with InterVarsity for nine years, and every year on campus I have had at least one woman tell me that she has been sexually assaulted,” Smith shares.
“And with that, you hear antidotes all the time of unwanted flirtation, unwanted sexual comments. Inappropriate things that even professors have said to my female students.”
In her lifetime 1 out of every 6 women will have experienced an attempted or completed rape in the US. This number doesn’t include other forms of sexual assault such as groping, etc. And while statistics are not available on sexual harassment, Smith says it’s probably accurate to say that about 99.9 percent of women have experienced sexual harassment.
Some might argue that the term sexual harassment is too ambiguous or subjective to use. But, in some ways, it’s actually quite straightforward. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines sexual harassment as the uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature.
“I think a lot of time women are just so used to [sexual harassment], that it’s like, ‘ugh, this happens,’” Smith explains.
“And then you have sexual assault, which there’s shame associated with that and a lot of difficult things. And so, I think it’s definitely a huge issue and one of the main issues of our time facing women on college campuses. Especially with my work with sorority women in particular. It’s a problem.”
In efforts to come alongside students in dealing with sexual harassment and assault, on InterVarsity’s Greek blog, Smith says the organization continues re-sharing its 3-part blog series detailing how to handle a situation where you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, as well as a letter to fraternity men addressing what they can do to help end sexual harassment and sexual assault.
“We want to be very clear that sexual assault and sexual harassment are never okay and that God’s design for a relationship between men and women never involves sexual assault and sexual harassment,” Smith explains.
“And so I think we want to be clear in theology of who we know God to be and how he views what a healthy relationship is between men and women.”
InterVarsity put this information on their blog hoping that students looking for answers online would come across it.
“We want to make sure that there is something specifically tailored to our students who might be looking for something,” Smith says.
As for impact, after finding out a friend was sexually assaulted, a former InterVarsity student helped pave a road to change at his university. As a member of his campus’s Greek fraternity, this young man demanded the fraternity take a stand against sexual harassment and assault.
Now, this same fraternity helps sponsor its local rape crisis center. This sponsorship has also made it nearly impossible for members of this particular Greek fraternity to be unaware about what defines sexual harassment and assault and its effects.
The Church’s Role
And now that the #MeToo trend has raised awareness, the question for the Church is ‘how to help’?
“Fifty percent of the Body of Christ is female. And if half of our Body has experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault of some degree, then we need to care about it. I mean, that’s what Scripture talks about. If one piece of the Body is hurt or is feeling pain, the rest of the Body feels it,” Smith explains.
“And so, I think it’s an important issue that we as an organization at InterVarsity care a lot about because it affects so many of our staff and students. And [it’s] something the Church should care about because of how much it affects their members.”
What Scripture Shares
Still not sure where to start? Then try looking into 1 Timothy 5:1-2 which states; “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”
Keep in mind that this verse is not dependent on the situation or persons. It doesn’t say treat a younger woman as a sister if she is dressed modestly. Dress, behavior, or any other factor is not included to restrain the authority of this verse.
So, the next time you see sexual harassment take place, step in and either help stop the harassment or come alongside and help the person who’s been harassed.
And the next time someone tells you they’ve been harassed or assaulted, believe them, don’t blame them, and help them in their next step to take action against the perpetrator. Also, stand with them during the process.
How to Pray
Furthermore, it’s easy for anyone and everyone to take action against sexual harassment and sexual assault through prayer. Pray for the victims of sexual harassment and/or assault– for their voice to be heard and for them to experience full healing.
Also, pray for universities and how they care for sexual assault survivors. Ask God to guide them in designing a policy that addresses these issues of sexual harassment and sexual assault to make sure that these campuses are as safe as possible.
Pray for InterVarsity to continue to seek God’s wisdom and speak on behalf of college students and work with them on the issues of sexual harassment and sexual assault. And pray that these same college students would feel both loved and heard by God, and that they’d build a relationship with Him.