Say #METOO to Jesus – Part 1
From Victim to Victor:
One Woman’s Testimony of Healing Through Faith
The whole #metoo thing lately on social media has been quite the buzz in recent months. If you aren’t aware, it is a social media hash tag being used by women who’ve been victims of some form of sexual harassment or, worse, sexual assault. It is a virtual way that women are relating to one another and sharing their stories, via social media sites. With new allegations of sexual misconduct against male Government officials and other public figures coming out nearly every week, I feel compelled to share my perspective. I hope to share it from a position of humility that brings hope and healing to hurting hearts. I am an ordained Christian minister, faith-based author and speaker, but was also trained as a lawyer. In short, I am a former-attorney-turned-stay-at-home-Mom-turned-Pastor-turned-Christian-author. Both from personal experience and from my educational background and faith-based perspective, I’d like to share my point of view. So, here goes. Due to length, I am segmenting my posts.
My Victim “Creds”
Hostile Work Environment
First, I share from the perspective of a woman who has previously been victimized by boorish men with very poor manners, who made inappropriate sexual comments and created a hostile work environment. As a new Law School graduate in the early 1990’s, I worked as an Assistant District Attorney in suburban Atlanta for just shy of a year. I went to work as an A.D.A. because I had a desire to help bring justice for crime victims. I flat out quit that job due to a work environment so replete with verbal sexual harassment and inappropriate innuendo of various kinds that I simply couldn’t stand working there anymore. I found the level of disrespect with which I was treated appalling. It was all part of the “good-ole-boy” environment in that workplace. It definitely colored my perspective and I subsequently chose a staff position at my Law School and a variety of law-related positions thereafter. I never went back to the practice of law, but still hold an active law license in the State of Georgia, although I’ve lived in Minnesota for many years. (Once you pass a Bar Exam, you don’t lightly give up the credential!) Several years later, when nearly every woman who had ever worked in that office chose to bring a lawsuit against the District Attorney, I declined to join the case. I was subpoenaed, and deposed for the case at an attorney’s office in Minnesota, where I had relocated and still live. I had moved on with my life and didn’t want to remain focused on negative events in the past. In retrospect, it may have been wiser to more publicly expose the terrible behavior at the time, but hindsight is twenty-twenty. Needless to say, I have empathy for victims of sexual harassment, which creates a hostile environment in the workplace. Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt.
Oh and another thing. I was also the victim of sexual assault in a dating situation on campus at the Big Ten University I attended in the late 1980’s. Poor choices on my part — namely being under the influence of alcohol in a fraternity house late at night, led to my victimization. My choices were bad, his choice was far worse. I chose not to report that crime. At the time, I probably kept myself from doing so because of a combination of fear and shame. I used to be well acquainted with both. Incidentally, I was of legal drinking age. Legal does not always equate with wise, however. My behavioral band-aides and forms of denial became overachievement, a variety of compulsive behaviors, the familiar campus weekend binge drinking and busyness. I would later learn that people often try to cover their emotional pain in such ways. I looked okay on the outside, but inside I was deeply wounded, and I took more than my fair share of the blame.
I would definitely do things differently today. I would do exactly what I have trained my two young-adult daughters to do since childhood. Namely, RUN, YELL and TELL. No question about it.
Sexual harassment in the workplace, home or anyplace else is wrong. In some cases, it rises to the level of potential civil liability when a hostile work environment is created. In other cases, it is just terrible manners or horribly disrespectful behavior from ignorant, self-absorbed men. I cannot give anyone legal advice on that issue. I am not a practicing lawyer. That’s for someone else to do. That’s not my calling. Turns out, I would later learn, that my call was as a preacher rather than a prosecutor.
Sexual assault or physical assault of any kind, however, is another matter. It is a crime. Crimes need to be reported to the criminal justice system, and dealt with severely and swiftly. We don’t do anyone, including ourselves, a favor by failing to report crimes. Learn from my mistake. Run, yell and tell! Do it immediately, at the time of the crime. Some people need to be put in jail to keep others safe. It’s that simple.
Ok, so those are my “Victim Creds”. I’ve been victimized. #metoo. I ‘get it.’ I understand the pain of it, the frustration, the fear and the shame. I understand that helpless feeling and the desperation. I understand.
The Rights of the Accused Men
Don’t get me wrong. Evil is evil. There are some clearly guilty men who have used their power, positions of authority and wealth to victimize women for years, and the exposure that is happening now, is a necessary correction. Light is shining in once dark places. That is good, in most cases. And it’s about time! I applaud the brave women who have chosen to speak up.
Now, here is where my perspective may be different from others you’ve read. I do not think the answer for ALL previously victimized women is to publicly accuse or sue men who harassed them in some workplace five or ten or twenty or more years ago. As a former attorney, I was trained to see things from the perspective of the accused as well as the victim and to make both sides of the argument. SOME of the men in the recent media circus are being accused without hard evidence or proof. Perhaps, falsely accused. They are being vilified and victimized as well. The American justice system is based upon the rule of law. Criminal charges require evidence and proof. Even civil lawsuits require a standard of proof, albeit lower. I believe before someone is asked to step-down from a public office or career they’ve spent years working toward, they should not be crucified in the court of public opinion, without hard evidence. I think SOME (not all!) innocent men are being swept in with the hysteria. They are husbands and fathers and dedicated public servants and it is unfair. There are good men out there. Lumping ALL men together with a few, evil men who are sexual victimizers is simply sexist and discriminatory. Our response to a few evil men should not be to hate all men, that is a false choice. It also creates a whole new class of victims. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
Perhaps in telling the story via #metoo, there is some temporary relief for victimized women. I ‘get’ that too. Much of what has been bottled up in our hearts needs to come out, but there are much safer ways for women to do it than a public feeding frenzy in the media, in my opinion. I also don’t believe that lasting peace will be found in retribution or public character assassination, or even victory in credible lawsuits. Neither can good manners in the workplace necessarily be legislated or adjudicated. Certainly, human resources departments need to do their jobs effectively. But, we simply cannot sue everyone for everything. If you have strong evidence, proof, and are near-in-time to the events, and can possibly keep others from being victimized, then weighing in with credible, evidence-based accusations, may be needful and helpful. If however, you do not have strong proof and are not near in time to the events, you run the risk of further harm to yourself at the hands of powerful, often ruthless men. Carefully consider your options.
Ultimately, however, I suggest an alternate path to peace and justice. There is only one path to real, lasting peace, in my opinion and experience.
Find out how I found that real and lasting peace in:
Say #METOO to Jesus: Part 2
Thank you for stopping at A Samaritan Woman Speaks at JanetDeCaster.com
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