It’s Not Ok!

This post is written to tie in with Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week in the UK, which is 5th-11th February.

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The tagline says “It’s not ok.”  

Surely we all know that.

In some ways it seems surprising that an awareness week is necessary.  It seems that reports of sexual abuse and sexual violence have never been out of the news over the last year.  Surely we’re all aware…

And yet I think many people are still living in denial, thinking this is something that affects other people, but not them or their community.  It’s not something they want to talk about or think about.  I’ve been surprised at the reaction when I have tried to raise the topic recently in a couple of different contexts with people involved in working with teenagers: a reluctance to discuss it, and in some cases a failure even to see the need for such a discussion.

It’s not ok.

It’s not ok if we are not discussing something that affects so many people.  (Studies estimate between 1 in 5 and 1 in 20 people: really it’s impossible to say because so much abuse is never reported, but either way it is a lot of people.)

It’s not ok if survivors are still left feeling ashamed of their stories and fearing the reaction if they speak up.

It’s not ok if we are not doing everything possible to protect our children and to care for those who have suffered.

As I was considering this post I wasn’t sure what to say.  Honestly, it’s not really what I want to write about today.  I’d prefer to write something more positive and uplifting, but I felt it was a topic I had to tackle and that saying nothing was not ok, so here are a few reflections:

God says, “It’s not ok”

  • In Genesis 34, we find the story of Jacob’s daughter Dinah being raped by a man called Shechem.  Throughout most of Genesis, events are related without any form of commentary or judgement about whether the actions were good or bad, but here there is a clear verdict: “Shechem had done a disgraceful thing against Jacob’s family, something that should never be done.”  (Genesis 34:7 NLT)
  • While Jesus doesn’t talk specifically about sexual abuse, he does talk about the value of children and the importance of treating them well.  Calling a little child to him, he warns the crowd, “Whoever causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe in Me–it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea!”  (Matthew 18:6 HCSB)
  • In 1 Thessalonians, Paul urges the church to avoid sexual sin and impresses upon them that it is something God takes seriously: “the Lord is the avenger in all these things.”  (1 Thessalonians 4:6 NASB)

We should say, “It’s not ok,” with our words AND our actions.

When we do, it is powerful.

About five years ago, there was a situation in a youth organisation I was involved in where an employee was convicted of possessing pornographic images of children.

It was horrible to think about, but I was so proud of how the organisation dealt with it and, as I considered the facts, I realised that they had done absolutely everything possible to protect children at their events and their policies meant that the chances of anything happening there were almost zero. (There was no suggestion that anything did happen there, but obviously it was a concern.)

From police checks for all employees and volunteers, to excellent levels of supervision and a clear child protection policy which was reinforced regularly, everything possible was in place to minimise the risk to children.

What’s more, the fact that it had been the organisation that reported this man to the police, as soon as the images were discovered, gave me great confidence in them.  The message came across loud and clear that child protection was something they took seriously.  Even their critics could find no fault in their response because they dealt with it so well and the feared media backlash against the organisation never happened.

Forgiveness is important, but it doesn’t mean it’s ok.

I’m sure many of you have been following news reports about the trial of USA gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, who was convicted on several counts of sexual abuse, and about Rachael Denhollander’s impact statement in which she forgave him and pointed him to Christ.  If you haven’t, I encourage you to read her statement here.

I also encourage you to read this interview in Christianity Today where she shares more about how forgiveness and justice are both parts of the Gospel and they both go hand in hand- that forgiveness is not excusing what happened or saying it’s ok.  She also reflects more on the church’s response to situations of abuse.

“One of the areas where Christians don’t do well is in acknowledging the devastation of the wound.  We can tend to gloss over the devastation of any kind of suffering, but especially sexual assault, with Christian platitudes, like God works all things together for good, or God is sovereign.  Those are very good and glorious biblical truths, but when they are misapplied in a way to dampen the horror of evil, they ultimately dampen the goodness of God.  Goodness and darkness exist as opposites.  If we pretend that the darkness isn’t dark, it dampens the beauty of the light.”

The darkness is dark, but God’s light is stronger.  The pain is great, but God’s power to heal is even greater.  It’s not ok, but there is hope.

If you or someone you love have been affected by sexual abuse, I encourage you to check out Crystal Sutherland’s book “Journey To Heal”- details at Crystal’s website.

You may also like the series 30 Days of Truth by Michelle Viscuse in which she shares 30 biblical truths and how they helped in her healing from sexual abuse.

If you’d like more resources on this topic, join me on Facebook or Twitter this week where I’ll be sharing some other posts, by myself and others.

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43 thoughts on “It’s Not Ok!

  1. I was not aware of this special emphasis in the UK, but good for you!
    It is sad that we have to deal with the breach of such an obvious boundary, and yet if this helps us to return to a right understanding of God’s guidelines for sex and the interaction of men and women, then I’m thankful for that outcome.
    Thanks for giving this topic time and space in your writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You’ve added to this necessary conversation, Lesley. Those verses from Scripture are most appropriate … how God must grieve His daughters’ sorrows,their woundedness.

    When we lift up the rock, the bugs and beasts scatter. And well they should …

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It’s deeply frustrating that awareness campaigns, days, weeks, months, etc. have to exist. Really, people should know better. But sin is real. I hope and pray that more and more Christians begin to raise their voices.

    (Incidentally, I have a post on the same subject scheduled for tomorrow. Perhaps God is up to something).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your encouragement, Calvonia, and I’m so sorry you have experienced this too. It is definitely not ok! Praying that you find the right time and right way to open up and share your story. Love and hugs to you!

      Like

  4. Thank you for sharing about this very important topic. I never realized my date rape was just that until about 5 years ago. I thought it was my fault this whole time. Word must get out. Thank you for being a voice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Barbie! I am so sorry you experienced that. It is so sad when on top of the traumatic experiences people are left with the guilt of feeling it is their fault when it is not. We have to get the word out that this is not ok and provide better support to people. Love to you!

      Like

  5. Thank you for bringing this to your readers’ attention. As much as it is spoken about in the news, it is still brushed under the carpet in the private sector as if it didn’t exist. Our progressive world is not really that far along when it comes to these difficult topics.

    You have given me food for thought. I was more aware of this when I was teaching and I have become complacent since retiring. It’s Not Okay!

    Loved these words —-> The darkness is dark, but God’s light is stronger. The pain is great, but God’s power to heal is even greater. It’s not ok, but there is hope.
    Blessings and hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Mary! I think it is easy for people to hear about it on the news but not to think of it as an issue that relates to them and their community. We have such hope to offer people so it’s important that we do that! Blessings and hugs to you too!

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  6. Thank you for speaking up about this and pointing out that forgiveness is necessary but does not excuse the action. We need to make it easier for victims of sexual abuse to speak up and know they will be heard and loved and given help to work through the horrors they have encountered and find healing and hope.
    Blessings to you! I’m your neighbor at #TeaAndWord.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I grew up in an abusive home and even my best friend did not know what was going on. Why, I did not tell her, too ashamed. I often look at houses as we drive and wonder, could this be one of those houses where horrible things are going on. I am so glad this is now on everyone mind, the more aware we are , the more help we can bring people. Good for you for writing about this subject…it’s needed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Betty! I’m so sorry you experienced that growing up and that you weren’t able to talk about it. It is good that we are talking about it more now- hopefully it will help others to speak out, though it will never be easy. I work in schools a lot and I have similar thoughts to you as I look at groups of children. I know that, statistically, there is likely to be abuse in some of their lives, and I wish I could know and do something to help. I do pray for them though, and God knows what is going on.

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  8. Lesley, your post is spot on. I have friends and family members who have been victimized by sexual predators. Though some have shared a little of their stories with me, there’s still much discomfort about this topic. Your words and your passion will empower people to speak up. Thank you for sharing so honestly. May God use your (and others’) words to speak hope to those who have experienced this. May they also exhort those of us who need to do more.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m thankful your voice isn’t silent nor your actions. Yes, we need to talk about this openly and loudly. It’s not ok! It’s never ok! Thank you, Lesley, for another well thought and written essay.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. No, it is never okay. We need to talk about it with our children, both boys and girls. In our churches. Schools. Work places. We must stop pointing blame and saying just forgive. Because like you said, the scars and pain are real and should not be glossed over. Thanks for writing about this. Standing up and saying enough.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Theresa! Yes, talking about it with children is so important so that they have an idea of what’s appropriate and what’s not and that they can talk about it if they’re concerned. And yes, forgiveness is important, but too often it is encouraged in a way that minimises the offence and makes the victim feel that they are in the wrong. There’s a lot that needs to change. Thanks for adding to the conversation!

      Like

  11. Thank you Lesley for your voice and courage! I love this —>

    “We should say, ‘It’s not ok,’ with our words AND our actions.

    When we do, it is powerful.”

    Thank you also for sharing the link to 30 Days of Truth. You are a blessing. #itsnotok

    Liked by 1 person

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