The Common Good

sexual assault

On Domestic Violence, the Church Has a Long Way to Go

I thought at first that it was a fictional scene, conflating in one example some of the problems those of us in Christianity face when confronted with issues of domestic violence. The scene was set up as a call to rethink how we articulate our theology in areas like sacrifice and forgiveness and commitment and gender roles.

Here’s what I wrote in The Capital Times in Madison, Wis., that was posted on Sunday:

“A woman has been suffering physical abuse at the hands of her husband. She finally summons up the courage to talk to her pastor about it.

“His advice: First, you need to recognize that your suffering is like Jesus’ suffering. Next, you need to forgive like Jesus forgave. Then remember that you made a commitment to marry this man for life. He is the head of your family, so you need to make sure you are doing what he wants so as not to trigger his anger.

“And then an offer: Let me meet with the two of you and help you patch up your marriage.”

I described it as a fictional scenario. And then I heard this from a friend: “that was the response from my minster regarding my first husband 30 years ago ...”

I’d like to think that many pastors these days are a least a bit wiser both theologically and practically in how they deal with someone facing domestic violence. That’s reflected in a groundbreaking survey released last week by Sojourners at The Summit: World Change Through Faith & Justice.

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#SurvivorPrivilege

In his opinon column published on June 6, George Will suggests that colleges have "become the victims of progressivism."
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Why #NotAllMen Misses the Point

To my fellow men,

I’m sure you are as heartbroken as I am about the killings at UC Santa Barbara by a troubled young man with a misogynistic manifesto. Heartbroken for the community, for the families who lost loved ones, and even for the young man who felt like there was no other way.

Now I’m not much of a “Tweeter” (is that the right word?), but I heard that a group of us has taken to defending ourselves on Twitter with the hashtag #NotAllMen. They want to say that that #NotAllMen sexually assault women. #NotAllMen expect a date to be reciprocated with sex. #NotAllMen harass women for the way they do or don’t look at us. They want to say that we’re not like those other people, that we respect women as equals, not demean them as prizes or products.

Who cares?

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WATCH: Dule Hill, Steve Carell, Seth Meyers Join Fight Against Sexual Assault in New PSA

As part of yesterday's announcement of new initiatives to combat sexual assault on college campuses, the administration released this public service announcement, joining forces with leading actors Benicio Del Toro, Dule Hill, Steve Carell, Daniel Craig, and Seth Meyers. 

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Biden Announces New Efforts to Combat Sexual Assault on College Campuses

Today Vice President Joe Biden announced a series of new initiatives aimed at addressing sexual violence on college campuses and launched NotAlone.gov — a website that pools campus reporting data and points both students and school officials to sexual assault resources.

The administration is also releasing the first report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, which was established in January.

Under Title IX, college campuses that receive federal funding are already required to take steps to prevent sexual assault on campus and respond promptly when sexual assault is reported. Further, the Clery Act requires those that receive funding to report their crime statistics and provide policies for prevention. The website NotAlone.gov will be a central repository for these reports and clarify for students their rights under the Clery Act and Title IX.

What is unclear, however, is what has changed for Christian college campuses and other private institutions.

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V-Day: Speak Out on Violence Against Women — from the Pulpit

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, our annual reminder to celebrate the love we share in our lives. While many may be struggling through aisles of candy hearts and bunches of roses, I invite you to flip this day of mandatory public expressions of love on its head.

What if, along with romantic dinners and expensive chocolates, we celebrated those we love by committing ourselves against sexual and domestic violence? This Valentine’s Day, or V-Day, Sojourners is joining with One Billion Rising to speak out on violence against women — the most hidden injustice in our world. We speak out because one in three women will be raped or beaten in their lifetime. That’s one in three women in my family, in my circle of friends, in my workplace — and in my church.

We speak out because we want a different reality for our daughters.

We speak out because our Christian faith tells us to lift up the voices others would silence.

And we speak out because we must rally our church leaders to commit themselves to do the same.

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We Can Help Stop Rape in the Military

By official estimates, 26,000 people are sexually assaulted in the U.S. military each year. That comes out to 71 people every day. It’s an epidemic that’s been widely reported in the news.

As if that weren’t bad enough, most of the assaults go unreported – only 11 percent of assault victims ended up filing reports last year (3,374). Studies show that those who do not report the assault cite fears of retaliation and a concern that nothing will be done.

Leaders in Congress are trying to change that this week with the Military Justice Improvement Act.

Right now, if a woman is sexually assaulted in the military, her case is evaluated by a commanding officer. This officer decides whether to bring the case to trial. Once it has been tried, the same commanding officer is responsible for enforcing the consequences. That’s called “convening authority.”

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Weekly Wrap 9.20.13: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. Shamed in Edina for Using Food Stamps
Read this moving 'apology note' from one mom in Edina, Minn., an affluent Minneapolis suburb, to the woman behind her in line at the supermarket: "I did not observe you, but my daughter was with me packing the groceries and saw it all: 'EBT: Yeah, right,' you muttered, with that look of disgust that would have shattered someone feeling just a little bit of shame over needing food stamps."

2. WATCH: The Most Beautiful, Haunting Infomercial You'll Ever See
If you haven't caught the latest, "advertisement disguised as an anti-commercial animated short," check it out. With Fiona Apple on vocals covering "Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka, the Chipotle ad / commentary against factory farming has drawn 4 million views on YouTube already.

3. From the Mouths of Rapists: The Lyrics of Robin Thicke's 'Song of the Summer' Blurred Lines
WarningThis post contains graphic descriptions of sexual assault. 
Featuring images from Project Unbreakable — an online photo essay that features images of sexual assault survivors holding signs with sentences their rapists told them — The Society Pages breaks down popular, yet somewhat lyrically disturbing, song "Blurred Lines." 

4. Pope Says Church is 'Obsessed' With Gays Abortion, and Birth Control
Laurie Goodstein at the New York Times has the excerpts from Pope Francis' lengthy interview: “We have to find a new balance,” the pope continued, “otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”

5. How Stop-and-Frisk is Creating a Generation of Young People Who Don't Trust the Police
In interviews with New Yorkers age 18-25, only 40 percent said they would feel comfortable calling the police if they needed help and only 25 percent would report someone for committing a crime, The Atlantic Cities reports. 

6. INFOGRAPHIC: 16 Mass Shootings Since Newtown You Haven't Heard About
The definition of "mass shooting" is a shooting event in which four or more people other than the shooter are killed. Huffington Post collected information on 16 such incidents that have occurred across the country since December's horrific Newtwon, Conn., massacre. 

7. The Language of Lament
Diana at A Deeper Story reads all of our minds as we grieve another difficult week for our country. "It is lament that carries us directly into the presence of God when we are feeling furthest away; it is lament that addresses our unanswerable questions honestly, even profoundly; it is lament that opens the door to worship."

8. Talking Sex With a Married Catholic Priest
With Pope Francis' inclusive language and prioritization of love above divisiveness, many have speculated about possible changes to the Catholic Church's stance on priestly celibacy. Christian Piatt sat down with a married Catholic priest (who joined the priesthood from the Anglican clergy) to discuss the pope, celibacy, and more. 

9. The Dramatic Rise of Life Without Parole, in 3 Charts
From The Atlantic Cities: "Nationally, almost half (47.2 percent) of life-sentenced inmates are African American, though the black population of lifers reaches much higher in states such as Maryland (77.4 percent), Georgia (72.0 percent), and Mississippi (71.5 percent)."

10. WATCH: Rick Warren on Guns, God, and Son's Tragic Death
Shining a light both on mental illness and gun sales in the U.S., Rick Warren and his wife Kay sat down with CNN's Pierce Morgan to talk about their son, who took his own life in April. "“One of the hard things was forgiving the person who sold him the gun,” Rick Warren said. “Because I didn't want to forgive him.”

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How Long, O Lord?

I can still see in my mind’s eye the vibrantly colored wraps draping the hundreds of displaced women I met at Joborona Camp in Northern Sudan. The stories they told, of blazing huts in Southern Sudan and their men burning alive inside; of their boys forced to fight and kill at ages as young as six or seven; and of their girls taken and forced into sexual slavery seemed impossible to be true. Yet I heard them again and again.

And if these stories weren’t horrific enough, it was the stories the women chose not to share that haunt me the most. Their empty eyes and void expressions told me all I needed to know.

I know empty eyes. I have gazed into them in Bosnia and Croatia. I remember Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. I have witnessed them in the Democratic Republic of the Congo — where it is believed that one million girls and women have stories to tell of the gender-based violence they have endured. I have been confronted by the eyes of our sisters from Darfur, who risk their dignity, their bodies, and in some cases their very lives by leaving their refugee camps to collect firewood for their small cooking stoves (those who are lucky enough to have one). It is in the bush, often, that they are victims of sexual and gender-based violence. These are the countless women who risk being raped so their children can eat.

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'From The Beginning:' Addressing the Roots of Sexual Violence in the Church

Editor’s Note: As we continue reporting on the important topic of sexual abuse and violence, Sojourners has opened up the Sexual Violence and the Church blog series for submissions. This piece is one such submission. If you are interested in submitting a post for the series, please email the Web Editor HERE.

"From the beginning …" began my pastor, rising slowly from his armchair. With his next words, he broke my world apart. From the beginning, he had been attracted to me as a woman. From the beginning, his interest in me had been personal. He told me the reasons why, and then he said these words: "If we were both single, and if I weren't your pastor, we'd be going out to dinner." He paused a long beat. “And we’d see where it went from there." 

Were my pastor's words an act of sexual violence?

When we hear the words "sexual violence," we may envision a forcible rape or a sexual act with a person incapable of consent. Many of us would consider unwanted groping or uninvited embraces to be acts of sexual violence. Some of us would include "consensual" sex between persons of different rank, because we understand that power disparity makes meaningful consent impossible. But what about the manipulative behavior that gives rise to the delusion of consent? Was my pastor's not-quite-a-proposition an act of sexual violence? Could a lingering handshake, a compliment on spiritual gifts, or an offer of pastoral support be acts of sexual violence? Most of us would say no. And most of us would be missing the boat.

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