Jesus is our compass for behavior. We reach to grow the fruits of the spirit inside of us (love, peace, faithfulness, joy, goodness, gentleness, patience, self-control and kindness). Sometimes, others’ compasses are not pointed in the same direction. When my girls were toddlers, I taught them that no one had the right to touch them anywhere their swimsuit covered. I taught them that they could come to me any time for any size problem. For decades, boys and men have felt welcome to touch and harass women sexually. Sometimes this harassment starts before our young girls have even reached high school. These days with smartphones on the scene, young girls are pounded for requests by their male classmates for naked photos. If a girl relents and the boy decides to share the photo with others, the girl feels humiliated. She may become depressed, anxious and suicidal. The repercussions are big. Shame, anger and embarrassment take center stage. A young boy does not see the consequences ahead for the girl; he only knows about his curiosity and physical attraction.
Long before I became a mom, I worked in Santa Monica, CA. I worked for a boss who would harass me sexually with his vocal comments. He was very inappropriate. So much so that I wanted to file a report with OSHA. However, I feared that he would track me down. He did not seem to be a very stable human being. The payroll check that I received bounced. No real surprise there, considering his instability. I was a financially strapped student studying at UCLA and I accepted the wrong job. I grew up in a rural town of 3,000 people. Although people discriminated against people of color, there was no sexual harassment that I remember experiencing. At the time I was at UCLA, I was naïve and in foreign territory. I tried ignoring my boss, saying “no” to his demands and I looked for another job. Fast forward to today. Shockingly many still blame the victim of sexual harassment. However, there are so many factors involved that blaming the victim just does not make any sense. Often there is a power differential of position (he can stop my career, I don’t want an enemy like him, I don’t want to lose my job). So, women tolerate the harassment. They do not report the harassment. They don’t want to be viewed as a “troublemaker.” The problem is that this feeds into the prurient interests of the perpetrator. The perpetrator not only continues his behavior but becomes more powerful and brazen in his actions. Shockingly, many religious leaders have been found to cross many boundaries harming both women and boys and girls. It seems that biblically we know that men are to protect and defend women. Yet, media portrays a myriad of ways that women are disrespected (pornography, violence against women, objectified women on television and in magazines). Little girls are inundated with images of sexual women. Pageants often dress young girls up to look like adult women. The pressure on our girls to be sexual is enormous or they have to endure the taunts of being called a “prude” or being socially rejected by their peers. Some have criticized the #me too movement as a witch hunt against men. Women are asking that men be held accountable for their bad behavior. If you have not acted inappropriately, there is nothing to be concerned about. It’s okay that people are being asked to be held accountable. It’s appropriate for perpetrators to feel shame for their behavior. It is not ok for perpetrators to accuse their victims of exaggerating or embellishing because this calls the victim a liar. John7:24 says, “Be honest in your judgment and do not decide at a glance (superficially and by appearances); but judge fairly and righteously.” (John 7:24 AMPC)
So, what are we to do? We need to support each other. We need to love each other and show compassion. Building up our young girls and women needs to be a priority. We need to keep encouraging our girls to speak up. We need to lead by example when it comes to our own bodies. Keeping our compass pointed to Jesus allows us to always have a flashlight as we navigate in the dark, the dark being areas of our lives where we don’t have any experience. Jesus is love. Our world seems to be in dire shortage of love these days. In 2018, the word I will focus on is choice. I can choose how to react to others. I can choose to communicate with love instead of irritation, jealously, criticism or cynicism.