If you use Twitter, Facebook, or even Instagram, you will have seen women and those who identify as female posting “Me too” as their status. A black woman named Tarana Burke is the original creator of the #MeToo campaign that has recently taken over social media.
Burke, founder of youth organization Just Be Inc., created the “Me Too” campaign in 2007 long before hashtags even existed. The 44-year-old told Ebony Magazine that she created the campaign as a grass-roots movement to reach sexual assault survivors in underprivileged communities (source: Me Too Campaign History)
I will admit that I was hesitant to post “Me too” as my status. I do not owe it to anyone to share those experiences. Did I want my family to know? What about those in the congregation that I serve?
There is shame, guilt and trauma associated with being a survivor of any form of sexual harassment and abuse. None of it which we should bear the burden of. No one who identifies or presents as female should carry that. We did not ask for it. For any of it.
There are many who have not said “Me too” who are still living the story of abuse from partners, family members, co-workers.
According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. And every 8 minutes, that victim is a child. Meanwhile, only 6 out of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison. You can read more about the depth and scope of this here.
As I began to reflect on the comments made by those I have met over the years, spanning over several different countries, time zones, and from those in different faith communities, I knew I had to say more than “Me too”.
I think about Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). Her husband, Uriah was fighting a war for King David. He was with thirty other men, protecting the city, protecting their King.
One afternoon, Bathsheba is taking a bath on the rooftop. I imagine the sun was high in the sky, or we were getting close to what we call the golden hour. It was probably warm, the air starting to cool, and having to ritually cleanse herself after her period, she decided to enjoy a moment of quiet on the rooftop.
Not long after she begins this endeavor, servants for King David come into her home. They tell her that the King wants to see her, and she goes to him. After all, you respond when the King (or the Hollywood executive, or the longtime family friend, or the person who pays the bills) beckons you.
King David rapes Bathsheba. He holds power over her. Her husband is gone, he is protecting the city. He is protecting them. King David sees something that he wants and he takes it. I imagine King David had a conversation with Bathsheba. “Would your husband approve of you bathing on the rooftop? Don’t you want to lay in my bed with me? Do you want me to have your husband killed? You must do what I say”.
Bathsheba is not the only story of rape in the Bible. There is the rape of Dinah (Genesis 34), Tamar (2 Samuel 13), an unnamed concubine (Judges 19). There are also the angels in Sodom and Gomorrah who Lot protected, while a gang of men stood at the door, yelling for them to come out of the house so they can rape them (Genesis 19).
Bathsheba is not the only story of a woman being shamed for her sexual history; we just have to look at the way we still talk about the woman caught in adultery (John 8), the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), or the way we talk about Mary Magdalene.
When women in (roughly) 1000 BCE AND 2017 have to say “Me too”, we have failed one another. We have been failed.
We – the Church, Christians, men, women, gender non-conforming alike – we have been deferring to the men in these stories for all of history.
It is time we speak up. It is time that we act.
It is time we create spaces where people feel they can share their stories.
It is time for us to acknowledge that we are not owed these stories.
It is time that we preach the stories from our pulpits.
It is time we begin to move towards justice for all.
It is time to recognize and call out where power is being subversively and explicitly held over the heads of all those who identify as female.
To all of you who have been harassed or abused:
I see you. I hear you. You are worthy. You are a beautiful child of God.