Have you ever had a friend tell you she was pregnant? Did you believe her? Of course you did! You’re not a crazy person. I’ve never asked any of my friends for proof when they’ve told me they were carrying a baby in their bodies. We all have the capacity to take women at their word when it comes to their bodies. After all, it’s her story, her body and her experience. When she tells her story, we should believe her.
Maybe you’ve had something happen to you that you didn’t address right away. Someone says or does something offensive to you out of nowhere. An incident occurs, but it takes a bit for your mind to comprehend that something truly wrong happened. When it sinks in, you question if you really heard what you thought you heard. Was what happened really over the line or that big a deal? If you come forward with an accusation after you’ve walked away and collected your thoughts, maybe it’s too late. Maybe how you remember things happening aren’t actually how they happened. If your accusation is against someone powerful (boss, priest, pastor, president) you’d sure better have your ducks in a row. The onus for being accurate in your detail is on you. So, you probably hold your peace. It’s not worth the hassle. You carry the burden of what happened to you on your own. Perhaps you tell a close friend or a therapist, but that’s it. You’re a victim of physical or emotional trauma, and you’re carrying the weight of your experience while the antagonist in your story is unencumbered. It’s your story, your body and your experience. We should believe you.
Three women have come forward with incidents involving Brett Kavanauh from 40 years ago. They have told the world what happened to them, and are drawing skepticism from the people peering into their experience from the outside. Why did they wait so long? This is just a ploy by “the left” because they hate Trump. What does it matter what Brett did as a teenager? We all did bad stuff as teenagers. Sound familiar?
Every one of the above statements are valid if you view human beings as inherently evil, and if your world view gives you a pessimistic picture of humanity. If you believe 3 women would subject themselves to public shame, rejection, and embarrassment to block a supreme justice nominee or for some sort of personal fame….
DO BETTER! For every woman I’ve ever talked to about this, and there are several, being sexually assaulted is one of the most traumatic things that can happen to a woman. That alone should cause us to pause before jumping to the conclusion that women are lying when they come forward. There are also the statistics.
Based on recent data. One out of every four women have been a victim of some sort of inappropriate sexual behavior from men. Two out of three incidents go unreported, and less than ten percent of the ones that are reported are false claims. The numbers are overwhelmingly in support of us offering compassion to the women who have the courage to come forward and share their stories. Still, we demonize women for the timing or manner in which they come forward.
I’ve witnessed men talk about a woman’s obligation to report what happens to them in a timely fashion as if we have any concept of what it is to be the victims of sexual assault, unless you’re in the 3 percent of American men who are victims. I struggle to express how dangerous and insensitive this way of thinking is. I find myself so frustrated as I write this. Any language that minimizes the traumatic experiences of other human beings based on personal or political biases tears away at our collective humanity.
My wife and I are raising three daughters, and I pray that the world they will soon adult in will be a safe place for them to be women. That’s only the case if we create an environment where women can come forward on their own terms without our judgment. Every time we shame women for coming forward we are communicating that how we feel about their story is more important than what actually happened to them. That’s not ok.
The idea that as citizens we are innocent until proven guilty is not mutually exclusive to the idea that we should believe women when they tell us their stories. It’s insensitive for us as men and also for women to rush to defend the man’s innocence in cases like this. We can wait for all the facts to unfold before determining the guilt or innocence of an accused man without doubting the validity of a woman’s story. It’s her story, her body and her experience. We don’t get to tell her what to do with any of the three.
Lastly, I would urge any Christian reading this blog to deeply consider how damaging our shaming of women for coming forward can be. I feel I can say with relative certainty that Jesus routinely took the side of women in society. Consider the woman caught in adultery. She was legally guilty of wrong, and politicians used her story to try and gain political high ground. Jesus sided with her. He showed her compassion, and dismissed the men who tried to have her harmed. I wonder how considering how Jesus responded to this woman might affect how we process the stories we here.
Imagine one of these three women are related to you. How would that affect how you view their story?
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