Discloser: No names of people and places have been used due to legal reasons.
Most of you reading this will know what the #Metoo movement is. The #metoo movement was started in 2017. Less of you will know what the #churchtoo movement is. The #churchtoo movement is linked with #metoo but it specifically focuses on sexual violence in Christianity and the way it is covered up. Some of you might say a church would never do that, or that its something of the past. Well I am here to tell you both of those statements are wrong. I know this due to my personal experience with sexual violence and the church, which only started four years ago and still to some degree hasn’t ended. I am here to raise awareness, share my experience and make you aware of what can happen right under your nose.
I just want to say, before I go on that churches will say they will speak out about it and you wont be alone. What they don’t seem to realise is their actions are different to what they say. For example, my now old church said they would take action after my assaults where shoved under the carpet in 2017. Well actually they didn’t take action, they were just words, they didn’t care. If they did care something would have changed and people would have stopped shoving the family of the boy who assaulted me down my throat. They would have stopped worshiping them, but friendship and reputation was put first again! This to me is shoving it under the carpet again. So just be careful if leaders or high up individuals in a church say they will help you and support you when it comes to sexual violence. Actions speak (a lot) louder than words.
To start off with this movement focussed more on Catholics and the way that priest were able to groom young girls and boys and assault them. The accusations are hard to prove due to the time historic time period. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. It takes alot of courage to come forward and in most cases the sexual violence will have been covered up to protect the reputation of the church and the perp.
Research has been carried out into sexual violence within the protestant church. For example pastors have been asked about their knowledge of the #metoo movement and the #churchtoomovement. The results found that only 16% of pastors had heard of the #churchtoo movement, but 85% had heard of the #metoo movement (Christianity Today, 2020).This shows that churches are aware that people can become victims of sexual violence. But also that they either don’t believe it happens within churches or they choose to look the other way. The research also found that Pentecostal and Baptist churches are unlikely to admit that sexual violence has occured within their congregation (Christianity Today.2020). This shows that more rules need to be put in place, to help victims who come forward. This is due to the evidence that churches try and ignore that it has occured and this damages the victim further. It is sad that I have to say that To me this is not a surprise from my own experience, but to others reading this it might be.
I have found from experience that churches find it hard when it comes to taboo topics. They seems to find it hard to talk about them. For example, I was sexually assaulted by a boy from the same church. They didn’t believe me as they said ”He wouldn’t do that he is a Christian.”. They seem to think every Christian is good and perpatrators seem to use it as a way to get away with breaking the law and hurting individuals. Their words changed when he confessed to them what he had done. They then told me to ”Forgive him and that he won’t do it again”. That was how they decided it would be solved. They didn’t go to the police. They threatened me when I said I wanted to go. (Looking back now I wish I had done straight away, but hey we can’t change the past, but we can learn from it. ) They didn’t follow the safeguarding and basically told me to get over it and if I didn’t then I wasn’t a good Christian. The church I was part of welcomes people who have done bad things in their life, people who may have been former drug addicts etc. But what they can’t handel is when they have to do something for someone being abused. They let me down massivly and still are today. I was threatened by them and the family for talking out and even the people I trusted have now stabbed me in the back. The members of the church team etc, have been told not to talk to me or contact me and blocked me from them and the church website. All this because I spoke out. I told the truth about one of their congregation sexually assaulting me and about two high up people ignoring it along with threats from his family (passive agressivly) and that is how they treated me. To me that is not a Christian way at all. They have treated me like I am the one who has sexually assaulted someone. In my opinion the devil is in that church. You can’t preach about justice and helping people, when you treat someone the way I have been when they come forward.
How a church handels sexual violence is very important. If they handel it incorrectly then it can cause further damage to the victim. If they handel it correctly and obey the law, then they can help with the recovery of the victim and in some cases evidence against the perpetrator. Apart from the example above on how my sexual assault was handeled I will give you a few more on how they can be handeled incorrectly and then some on how they should be.
Some victims are told that they must have done something wrong in their life, so that they have to suffer the consequences. This is utter rubbish! It is not the victims fault that the perpetrator decided to abuse them. They are not in control of them, so why are victims past actions being brought into the discussion, when it is irrelevent. You cannot blame anyone else other than the perpetractor for the sexual violence.
This next example is very personal and angers me everytime I read about it and if I am honest while writting this. Yes I am still a Christian but I have been told that I am a bad Christian, for not forgiving the boy who assaulted me and the people that covered it up for him. I have found that the word ”Forgive” is thrown around nower days within churches. We are told that God will only forgive us if we forgive others. Why should I forgive people who have delibratly hurt me and made living my life so painful? In all honestly we are told to treat others how we would treat Christ. I don’t think they would treat him the same way. It is your own choice to forgive someone. Demanding the victim to forgive the perpetrator can do more damage then help to them. I was forced to forgive my abuser and that has made my PTSD alot worse. I was in a room with him and a high up individual within the church and told that if I didn’t forgive him then I would be banded from the church. This was not the first time I had been threatened with this. I was so scared that I was going to lose all my friends and saftey net that I agreed. I also agreed to stay silent for them, only to come forward when someone else approached me about the same guy. The people in power in the church had twisted the meaning of forgivness and used to help the perpetrator than to help me. This has made the healing process alot harder for me. Using this against a victim doesn’t just damage their mental health but it also damages their faith and confuses them.
Some of you reading this are thinking so what can they do to help victims of sexual violence.
- Well for one stop covering it up!
- secondly stop victim blaming. These are the two most important things churches need to learn to stop doing.
- More help is needed for the victims. They need a safe place where they can open up and seek advice. They need suppport, this can involve spiritual advice (as their faith is likely to be damaged), but also support with going to the police or seeking professional help. People who become victims of sexual assault are going to be vulnerable at that time, the more support they get the easier it is going to be for them to heal and process what has happened.
- Leaders of churches need to start talking about it in their sermons and making the congregation aware of what can happen and to look out for the signs. This will show compassion towards to victims and make them feel safe, but also it will be a warning to perpetrators that sexual violence is not tollerated in the church.
- Stop putting friendship and reputation before the law. Yes the church is called a family because of how close everyone is. But when it comes to such important situations the law needs to come first. I honestly don’t care if they are a good friend of yours, if they have hurt someone you should tell the truth and help the victim. I don’t understand how some people sleep at night when they put the reputation of the perpetrator first. They have committed the crime so they should pay for it, simple as. In my case the reputation and friendship was put first which has allowed other girls to get hurt, and loads more people giving him special oppertunities.
- Leaders of churches should be have intense training on sexual violence and safeguarding. This would help educate not only them but also others on the issue and help put things in place to prevent it happening. Pastors and other leaders are also known as teachers, which means they are listened to and followed. So they can use their high status to raise awareness of sexual violence and also help end it. On the point of safeguarding, most people believe it just means a place has to be safe for children. Well that is not the case. Safeguarding is also ment to cover any body who is vulnerable and also young adults. Everyone will be vulnerable at least one time in their life and that is why the guidelines are in place. Safeguarding should always be followed, if they are not then unfortunatly the outcome is going to be like mind.
So yeah there you have it. This isn’t a full indepth post about the movement as I want to get the most important information across to you. I don’t want to become a sleeping pill, or that person you don’t want to talk to. I want you to take away the fact that more needs to be done to protect vulnerable people in churches from sexual violence. And also that more needs to be done to prosecute both the perpetrators and their assailants. To me the most important conclusion I have come to is that there needs to be more support for suvivors of sexual violence within churches. I have found that there is a real lack of it. Yes professionals can help with the damage to your mental health, but unless they are religious they can’t help you with the spiritual side of it. I hope to one day play apart in creating a safe place for healing when it comes to sexual violence within Christianity and other religions.
Please stand with me today and end sexual violence in churches!
Until next time, STAY SAFE AND BE KIND.
P.s. Here are some helpful links to read