1 in 3 women in the U.S. will experience sexual or domestic violence in her lifetime.
I am one of these women.
During college, I endured rape at the hands of a trusted Christian friend. But the worst part of this violation was that I felt unsafe to report it—especially to my faith community.
Throughout my conservative evangelical upbringing, I heard teaching after teaching about King David’s honor and integrity as a man after God’s own heart. Not once did I hear anyone preach about how David used his power to have his way with Bathsheba. I was taught to uphold purity and modesty, including being told that what I wear would cause men to stumble. Not once did I hear that it was ultimately the responsibility of my brothers in Christ to control themselves. I was told that God-fearing women are to be silent and submissive, as the Bible clearly ordains. Not once did I hear it was okay to question how scripture is interpreted and by whom without fear of condemnation for “backsliding” or challenging moral authority.
It wasn’t until I attended seminary that I began to break this silence. For the first time, I learned about “texts of terror” and how scripture can be misinterpreted to justify oppression and control. I learned how to name and claim the forgotten stories of Tamar, Dinah, Bathsheba, and other biblical women rendered invisible by violence and abuse. And I learned to recover my sacred worth, to find my own voice, and to seek help and healing.
To this day, my theological training continues to inform and guide my work to end sexual and gender-based violence. But I was one of the lucky ones. Unfortunately, many faith leaders report feeling ill-equipped to respond to sexual assault and domestic violence in their congregations and communities.
That’s why Sojourners is committed to going “Back2School” to engage theological schools on sexual and domestic violence. Seminaries and divinity schools are key places where pastors and lay leaders are prepared for ministry. More courses, training, and resources are needed to help equip faith leaders to respond effectively to trauma and abuse.
Clergy and other people of faith often serve as “first responders” to sexual and domestic violence. But we at Sojourners have heard story after story of faith leaders who blame and shame sexual assault survivors, of domestic violence survivors who are battered at home and bullied in church, of clergy who value purity and the sanctity of marriage over protecting the image of God in each individual person.
It’s time for theological schools to take the lead on educating faith leaders about sexual and domestic violence. Join me in this effort by supporting our Back2School Challenge.
It’s taken me a decade to get to a safe place where I can share my story. Through increased awareness and action, it is my hope and prayer that more survivors of trauma can look to faith communities as a “shelter in the storm” — safe spaces for discussion, for reporting, for healing. May it be so.