The Tipping Point

 

When I was fifteen years old an attractive middle-aged woman sidled up next to me in the parcel pick-up lane and stuck a piece of paper in my front pants pocket with her phone number on it as she whispered seductively in my ear, “If you’re ever interested, give me a call.”

It happened a couple of times by a couple of different women. I’m not sure if I was particularly handsome or if these poor women were particularly desperate. Either way it was a heck of a situation to be in, and at first I didn’t know how to handle it. One day I told my mom what was happening. In Mom’s typical style she explained to me how some people are lonely, and in an attempt to quell their own loneliness they sometimes try to take other people’s goodness. Mom warned me not to let those women take my goodness. I suspect that on the inside Mom was seething; but with her usual candor, and much-appreciated wisdom, she identified the heart of the matter, and gave me the guidance I needed.

While on some level their invitations were flattering, what they were proposing was illegal. I was a kid. Those women didn’t know me, not really. I was just the high school teenager who bagged their groceries. Though I didn’t know it at the time, their advances were a form of sexual harassment. That was 40 plus years ago. 

Fast forward to today. Fourteen months ago we heard our then presidential candidate brag about grabbing women by their genitals, sparking a conversation about harassment and abuse that continues to gain momentum. Although Mr. Trump was elected into the highest office in our land, (which I still don’t understand), the discussion of sexual abuse seemed to reach a tipping point. The movement to uncover – and combat – sexual harassment has grown. As more victims and survivors share their stories in the #MeToo movement, more offenders, from Harvey Weinstein, to Kevin Spacey, Matt Lauer, Al Franken, Roy Moore and others, are facing consequences for their actions.

Time Magazine revealed last week that their Person of the Year is “The Silence Breakers: The Voices that Launched a Movement.” Every day we hear brave survivors of abuse find their voice and utter the words they thought they’d never share: “I have been abused. No more. Never again.” There’s something really empowering about standing up for what is right; and God bless these folks who launched this movement at this time.

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) statistics, every 98 seconds someone in our country is sexually assaulted. Every eight minutes, that victim is a child. Meanwhile, only 6 out of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison. One out of every six women has been the victim of an attempted sexual assault. 1 in 33 men fall prey. These statistics represent real people. Real faces. People with real lives. In my parish people have shared with me that they have been abused; some of them while they were children. In my own family people have experienced abuse and assault. It’s real. It’s close. It’s everywhere, even, as we well know, in our churches.

How can we be part of this movement to end sexual assault and harassment? Part of the answer lies in how we treat each other; learning to respect one another. My parents raised the seven of us in an environment where the 3 girls and 4 boys were equal. We all played sports. We all studied. We all did yard work. We all babysat. We all learned how to bake a cake and how to change a tire. There was nothing one gender could do that the other could not. My parents were probably a bit ahead of their time; but my siblings and I are the better for it. We learned respect for each other and respect for all other human beings.

That respect for others is emphasized in one of my favorite prayers, found in our Baptismal Rite. The priest asks the parents, Godparents and congregation, “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” Those present respond enthusiastically, “We will, with God’s help!” My parents modeled that prayer for us. They taught us what respecting the dignity of every human being looked like by the way they lived their own lives. How fortunate we were! Thank you, Mom and Dad.

An additional role we play in ending sexual abuse is one of action. It’s kind of like addressing terrorism. When you see something that looks like someone is being assaulted, say something. When you hear something that sounds like someone may be sexually assaulted, say something. When the little hairs on the back of your neck stand up and you feel like someone is in trouble – or that YOU are in trouble – do something. Model showing others how to appropriately treat others. Be part of the silence breakers movement, for you and for the good of us all.

Finally, a prayer for those who have been assaulted and / or abused:

 

Author –  Susan D. Delaney, MD, MS – a survivor
Prayer for Survivors:
Compassionate and merciful Father, I thank you for this day. I thank you for the sunshine. I thank you for the shining of your son Jesus, whose Light shines in us and through us, touching every layer of our beings, body, mind and spirit. I thank you for all of the days of peace and love and light that you have given me in the past and I thank you for all of the days of peace and love and light that are to come.
I thank you for the gifts of the Holy Spirit that you gave me at Baptism: Faith and Hope and Love. Knowlege and Wisdom and Discernment. And Healing. Increase these gifts in me now, Lord. I have been hurt and broken, and I am a leaky vessel right now. I need constant filling. I know You love to help me, Lord, so help me now.
Heal me from the hurt. Restore me to wholeness.
I see myself whole and healed, radiant with Your Love. Serving You.
I pray this prayer in the Name of Jesus and in the Power of the Holy spirit and I say, amen, it will be so.

Prayers for us all.

Peace everyone,

Chuck

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5 Comments

  • Helaire Webster says:

    Well spoken! Thanks for posting and sharing, Chuck.

  • Roberta Marchant Jennings says:

    Thanks for sharing, Chuck!

  • Barbara says:

    Thanks Chuck, this couldn’t have come at a better time. Especially with your lesson about respect. I too love the Baptismal Question. If everyone learned that Q&A
    instead of the 10 Commandements. We actually might be someplace different in our lives, culture, religion, respect for other religions. Don’t want to vent but THANKS!

  • Kathy McCleary says:

    Bless you my friend for always finding a way to put a real face on national issues and/or discussions. I continue to be baffled (Shocked? Horrified?) by what I hear woman share – who are these men? Who raised them? Where in there path did they get the sense they are entitled to do, to say, to act in any way they so choose and the women, girls, children are to just take it? The movement is real and it is time we all stand up against such atrocities. Again, bless you and thank you!

  • terry says:

    Happy Advent Chuck !!
    love how you took the situation to your mom .. xo
    wonderful wisdom she gave you without over-reacting
    so sad that this is the state of things 🙁

    favorite part on respect 🙂
    “That respect for others is emphasized in one of my favorite prayers, found in our Baptismal Rite. The priest asks the parents, Godparents and congregation, “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” Those present respond enthusiastically, “We will, with God’s help!” My parents modeled that prayer for us. They taught us what respecting the dignity of every human being looked like by the way they lived their own lives. How fortunate we were! Thank you, Mom and Dad.”

    we were lucky to have parents that modeled this too .. xo
    thanks for sharing Chuck .. XO
    hugs .. prayers .. and ACTION

    have a Merry Christmas 🙂

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