Who would win Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year”? Who would be revealed on last Wednesday’s cover. For the first time ever, I was curious.
Turns out, the “winner” isn’t a person, per se. Turns out, the “winner” is . . .
The #MeToo movement—a movement that has become a tsunami of women standing up to sexual harassment and abuse.
Isn’t it sad that this year’s winners have lost so much? But there’s good news:
Finally, the truth is being told, more than ever.
Finally, the sexually harassed and molested and raped are being heard, more than ever.
Finally, those hearing are beginning to believe, more than ever.
Finally, those guilty are being held accountable, more than ever.
We’ve been silent long enough. We’ve been blamed long enough. We’ve been hurt long enough. Not only by abusers but by all excusers who cover for abusers. I don’t know which sinner harms more—the abuser or those who know and do nothing. I’ve been wounded by both.
Because I’m a #MeToo woman.
As a child. As an adult.
By a relative. By a boss.
Last Wednesday’s announcement was the beginning of a greater reckoning, I believe. And that’s a good thing. But last Wednesday left me thinking about all the other forms of ungodliness experienced and endured because of power inequities.
Let’s be clear.
Sexual abuse is a heinous crime. But sex isn’t the only way the powerful keep their power and serve their own iniquitous need for control.
There are other tactics that can ravage the soul:
These behaviors happen everywhere—in homes, in schools, in offices, even churches.
In fact, churches can be breeding grounds for power-seekers using Scripture to subjugate—to silence—to downright damage not only the mind and heart but the very soul and relationship with God that church leaders are supposed to nurture and protect. Is there anything more damaging than hurting the relationship between the created and her Creator?
True, not all who harm know what they’re doing. In fact, many don’t. And some can’t seem to stop. Many who harm are caught in their own unconscious cycle of compulsion and haven’t broken free. They harm and then apologize. But usually, the apologies are lame, laden with excuses to assuage the conscience without leading to repentance.
And so the cycle continues.
The need to control remains out-of-control. There will be more abusing—apologizing—abusing—apologizing—abusing . . .
Some never, ever say “I’m sorry.”
They just let their wounded limp away and hope all will be well someday. But there’s worse.
Sometimes, the intention is to break so one can’t stand.
~ ~ ~
In a hospital where I once worked, the head of my department had his way with me in front of an entire PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) unit of combat veteran men (oh, the irony!) because I dared to warn him of an impending mutiny. Here’s what happened.
The patients were mad as hell and they weren’t going to take it anymore. I don’t remember exactly why. I just heard a rumbling like distant thunder of an impending storm. I told Ben, the clinical director, who encouraged me to advise the man in charge of the psychology department, Mike. We went together. I sat in a chair with no arms in front of Mike’s desk. Ben stood off to the left by the window. Mike leaned back in his comfortable chair behind his desk, arms crossed over his chest.
“What’s this about?” he barked in his usual manner, ex-Marine manner.
I told him.
“So what makes you think you know what’s goin’ on?”
I tried my best to give facts. Mostly, my intuition told me something was horribly wrong—that something bad was going to happen. Soon.
He laughed a mocking kind of laugh.
“Right! You’re just an intern. And you’re tellin’ me there’s something wrong with one of my units? Who do you think you are?”
My direct supervisor, the one who had encouraged me to go to the top, said nothing—nothing about his own concern that led to him advising me to tell Mike. He stood like a stone pillar, holding up nothing.
Doubt poured into me, rising fast.
Maybe I was wrong.
Maybe I was too inexperienced.
Maybe I was too . . .
Mike had a solid reputation for demeaning women.
Hoping my face wasn’t flushed beet red from shame, I thanked Mike for hearing my concerns and left his office.
The next day, all the combat vets on the PTSD unit walked across campus to the hospital administrator’s office, airing their complaints.
Turns out, my intuition was right, even though I was just an intern—just a female—one who dared to advise her male superior who didn’t think he needed any input, apparently. After all, he had more training. He had more experience. He was the expert. Turns out, I would soon pay a price for having a voice.
Next day, Mike called a meeting for the whole PTSD unit, patients, and clinicians. The “meeting” ended up being a mocking. Mike proceeded to put me in my female intern place by using a variety of verbal knives to slice me open and splay me like a chicken in front of the whole unit.
If that weren’t bad enough, many of the patients laughed right along with him. And if that weren’t bad enough, every single one of the clinicians sat there in silence looking straight at Mike, not even daring to glance my way.
Not one wiggled in their seat.
Not one grimaced.
I considered my options:
I did a cost/benefit analysis in my head. Considering I was in my sixth and final year of my doctoral program, that I was in one of the most coveted intern sites in the country, I decided to stay—to sit there and take it.
When Mike was done having his way with me and everyone was rising to leave, one of my former rotation supervisors leaned over and whispered, “I’m sorry.”
Too little. Too late. Somehow his after-the-fact apology offered no comfort.
~ ~ ~
There’s power in numbers. And cowards stand by instead of standing up. I sincerely doubt Jesus would have stood silently while a circle of men stoned that woman. But too often, leaders assemble their packs and circle their prey. And the packs are too afraid to take a stand.
What a conundrum we women can find ourselves in! What can we do?
Get informed. Research abuse in all its forms: physical, sexual, verbal, spiritual. Learn what is and is not appropriate behavior. Get support. Try to confront. If that doesn’t work, get out if you can. Find safety somewhere.
I realize that getting out can be a complicated issue. After all, look what I did in this one story. I sat there and took it. Believe me, I know the difficulty.
I don’t know if I did the right thing, but I do know I made my own choice.
Sometimes choices come with very high prices. I think each of us has to decide for ourselves what price we’re willing to pay. Regardless of what choice we make, to confront or not—to leave or stay—one thing we all can do is pray.
Pray for those who harm. Pray for those who are harmed. Pray for God’s will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Pray for God to make a way to His way.
~ ~ ~
After a painful couple weeks praying about this whole subject, I stood in my kitchen washing dishes Saturday morning. My arms covered in purple rubber gloves up to my elbows, I lifted the cake pan from the dishpan full of sudsy water. I looked up. Sitting right outside the window on the front porch rail was a hawk, the reddish-orange streaks on its breast contrasting with the gold of its eyes. A male Cooper’s hawk. The kind that kills birds. A bird preying on another bird.
Suddenly, the hawk plunged into the thicket of barberry bushes lining the porch. A female cardinal tried frantically to evade the hawk. Down she went. She sat quietly and still as the hawk pursued. Once, twice, three times the hawk tried to maneuver through the thick, prickly branches on the way to his hoped-for breakfast.
My heart beat faster.
The female cardinal hunkered down on the ground, her voice silent.
The hawk gave up and flew up and away, probably going for easier prey. Thankful, I watched the female cardinal work her way out of the thicket then fly up to a high branch of the honey locust tree where her mate waited. They flew off together into the thick branches of the Scotch pine offering greater protection.
I believe God will make a way if we’ll pray—if we’ll look—if we’ll fly. And even if Man harms us, God is for us. Our souls never need fall prey. We are beloved by One who never harms and who always heals—in His own time and in His own way.
You, Beloved, are God’s.