Jenna Barnett is Women and Girls Campaign Coordinator for Sojourners. In this position, she writes stories to lift up the great work of women faith leaders, advocates for policy reform on Capitol Hill, and encourages churches to become safer spaces for survivors of violence.
Before joining the Sojourners team, Jenna worked as a Peace Writer for the Women PeaceMakers Program at the University of San Diego's Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice, where she used creative nonfiction, interviews, and conflict analysis to tell the life story of Pauline Dempers, a human rights activist and torture survivor from Namibia. The narrative, Tell Them Our Names, is available to online readers for free. It's a life goal of Jenna's to continue lifting up the stories of women who are cooler than she is.
Jenna has also worked for the International Rescue Committee in San Diego. As Land and Learning Coordinator, she managed the IRC's large urban gardens, composed of growers from dozens of different countries. During this time, she worked with refugees from Somalia, Iraq, Cambodia, and Uganda who continue to improve the health of their local communities and food systems in creative (and often tasty) ways.
Posts By This Author
How Churches Can Stand for Survivors, Not the Accused
Churches must not be scared of what an independent investigation will uncover. Instead, they should fear what an investigation that prioritizes the accused won’t uncover. We cannot truly preach the Good News until we are ready to reveal the bad news of the harassment and violence at work in many of our churches and homes.
2018’s 10 Christian Women to Watch
Every International Women’s Day, we compile a roundup of Christian women who are making and shaping history right now. From advocating for immigration reform, to battling racism and abuse in the church and through the church, women are leading the way. Below, the women we are honoring this year share with us their hopes, heroes, and blessings for 2018.
The Golden Globes Held a Funeral. Now Let's Hold One in Church
I hope we stop spreading the dangerous myth that abuse and harassment doesn’t happen among Christians.
Have You Ever Heard a Sermon on Domestic Violence?
Faith communities can play a powerful role in preventing violence and supporting survivors, but collectively we’re falling short. Two-thirds (65 percent) of pastors say they speak once a year or less about sexual and domestic violence, with 1 in 10 never addressing it at all. This failure has a deep and lasting impact.
'Get "Them" Off the Streets'
In recent years, the Department of Justice had begun to veer away from the harsh sentencing guidelines that were implemented in the 1980s and ’90s, especially those used to lock up low-level, nonviolent drug offenders. But Trump-appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions is on course to stop those changes.
In a new set of guidelines issued in May 2017, Sessions instructed prosecutors to pursue charges for the most serious offense possible, including charges that carried harsh sentences and mandatory minimums. Sessions described these guidelines as “moral and just” and praised them for producing “consistency.”
But humans are not uniform and consistent, and neither are their crimes. U.S. District Court Judge John Coughenour believes mandatory minimums and sentencing guidelines make sentencing far too easy. “I considered sentencing to be an art and not a science,” Coughenour told The Atlantic in 2016. “And it’s not a science. It’s a human being dealing with other human beings.”
Neither Angels Nor Demons
I CAN THINK OF MANY MISTAKES I made before turning 18, including a couple that could have landed me in juvenile detention: fireworks in the suburbs, running from the cops, lying to the cops about running from the cops, and one or two others I’ll keep to myself because everyone I interviewed for this story insists on this: Nobody is the worst thing they have ever done.
If those words are true, Sara Kruzan will not always be the 16-year-old who shot her sex trafficker in the head right after he took her to another hotel room.
And that means Krys Shelley is not just the 17-year-old who used an unloaded gun to rob someone.
But back when Shelley stood trial as a teen, the judge only saw a criminal. Shelley still remembers what the judge said before delivering the 12-year sentence: “Good luck.” He studied Shelley closely. “You’ll do just fine in there.”
Shelley believes that the judge felt like Shelley fit the bill of a juvenile delinquent—black, tall, and masculine. At the time, Shelley identified as a tomboy (today, Shelley is gender nonconforming). From an early age, Shelley could grow a full facial beard because of an inborn hormone imbalance—a common symptom of polycystic ovarian syndrome.
But it’s less about what the courts saw in Shelley, and more about what they didn’t see: an honor-roll student with a steady job whose pastor came to the courtroom to offer support.
Why Is the U.S. Handcuffing Incarcerated Women In Childbirth?
The vast majority of incarcerated women have a history of trauma. According to the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, 75 percent of incarcerated women have suffered severe physical abuse by an intimate partner during adulthood, and 82 percent have endured serious physical or sexual abuse as children.
3 Ways the Senate Republicans’ Health Care Bill Targets Women
Thirteen male senators wrote a 142-page healthcare bill behind closed doors that puts the health of women in the U.S. in danger. While the authors of the “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017” may have forgotten about women — only including the words “women” and “woman” a few times in the whole document — Jesus never forgot about women’s health.
Let us not forget that healing was central to Jesus’ ministry, and the healing of afflicted women was just as important to him as the healing of men. Jesus healed a woman on the Sabbath in a room full of protesting men (Luke 13:10-17). Jesus healed a hemorrhaging woman considered ritually unclean who had been denied coverage — in a sense — for 12 years (Mark 5:25-34, Matthew 9:20-22, Luke 8:43-48).
Women Have to Work at Least 94 Extra Days to Earn What Men Do
For those who are counting, that’s 94 days. Ninety-four reminders of the stubbornly persistent — and plateauing — pay gap between men and women. According to the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average full-time working woman earns 20 percent less than the average full-time working man. The disparity grows starker for women of color: Black women make 37 percent less than men, and Latinas make 46 percent less. This disparity is wide enough to push some people to activism, and others to try to understand why this gap exists.
#WomenCrushWednesday: Margaret Bourke-White, the Woman Behind History’s Most Iconic Photos
Bourke-White traveled the world in search of complete stories: from Depression-era Hooverville to partitioning India to Apartheid-era South Africa to Nazi Germany. She became the first female war photojournalist and the first photographer for LIFE. After surviving a helicopter crash and getting stranded in the Arctic, Bourke-White’s colleagues declared her “Maggie the Indestructible.”