The Strength of our Stories | Sojourners

The Strength of our Stories

Editor's Note: This article is part of a blog series for Women's History Month featuring stories of men and women working to create a more equal and safe world. May we all continue to partner and pray together for gender justicedownload our free March 2015 Prayer Calendar.

I was raised by a Norwegian Lutheran mother and the son of a Methodist minister, a WWII veteran who came home from the war an angry alcoholic. As the youngest of three children with little to no voice in my family, I was mostly raised by my mother and two older sisters. I never had a positive male role model. My fondest memory as a young child was sitting on the edge of my maternal grandmother’s rocker while she fed me peppermint lifesavers and read Bible stories to me.

As a young teen, my mother insisted I attend church every Sunday regardless of my objections. All of this contributed to my vulnerability when I met a charming youth pastor who first became my mentor, and then went on to sexually abuse me over a period of years. The faith and belief in God that had been instilled in me as a child was buried beneath that betrayal, but it never died. After decades of alcohol and drug abuse, I began my recovery with the help of that faith.

I had strong Christian values, but I had no idea how to act out my faith. It was only in my healing that I began to learn to live with hope and strive to become a man that I actually liked. On my healing path, I became very involved in the movement to end child sex abuse—an abuse of power that has flourished due to inaction by society. As Edmund Burke noted, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good (people) to do nothing.”

Marshall Ganz teaches us about the importance of our stories as individuals and the power that comes from sharing them. In a 2009 Sojourners magazine article, he discusses how building a movement to change culture is strengthened by the merging of our stories. There is room and need for men’s stories in the narrative of ending violence against women.

In blending our separate and shared experiences we find common ground. Together they lead us to what Dr. King described as "the fierce urgency of now." Every action we take today will save others the pain and suffering that is in our collective past. We need to add male voices and stories to those of women who have been speaking out about violence for decades.

Today I work as a co-coordinator in Oregon for the We Will Speak Out campaign. Our goal is to bring faith communities into the movement to end domestic and gender-based violence. This not a women’s movement. It is a movement of all people of faith to speak up and speak out to end the use of power over women and children. It is a movement that walks with survivors in their healing journey. It is a movement that strives to live into Jesus’ commandment to “Love one another as I have loved you.”

The "Broken Silence" report commissioned by Sojourners and IMA World Health indicates that the main issue in keeping pastors from speaking out about sexual and gender-based violence is a lack of knowledge on the issue. By speaking our truth and sharing our history we provide both the common ground and urgency to take action—together and now. 

Randy Ellison, author of Boys Don’t Tell: Ending the Silence of Abuse, is a speaker, writer, and a child-sexual-abuse victim’s advocate who works with local, state, and national organizations to promote social change. He writes regularly about abuse and recovery for 1in6 and the Joyful Heart Foundation