If you listen to this week’s podcast, (a #metoo response) you’ll hear that I’ve been dealing with sexual harassment, in some form, since I was 4 years old. Although I don’t recount my entire life on the podcast (the link is at the end of this post), my personal story includes dozens of instances of unwanted sexual attention, as recently as last summer. My story does not include rape or serious victimization. Therefore, these words are about sexual harassment, not more serious forms sexual abuse.
Most of us, even our men, have stories of unwanted sexual attention. The enormous response to #metoo validates this. Generations of people have endured sexual harassment because it’s as old as Methuselah. Boaz anticipated Ruth would be harassed. That’s why he warned the men to stay away from her (Ruth 2:9). Joseph was harassed by that cougar, Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:12)!
Unfortunately, tales of sexual harassment will only end when Jesus comes back.
Why is the enemy relentless in attacking sexuality?
It is part of the core of who we are. God made us each male or female. Because I believe God made me on purpose, I believe he was purposeful in making me female. If we feel bad about our sexuality and question who we are, Satan can move on that and push us to question our faith in God.
It is the foundation of sexual intimacy. God created sexual intimacy as a powerful metaphor for the type of intimacy we will have with God in the next life. Sex within marriage is powerful and Satan wants to destroy it.
It creates shame. Shame closely follows any hint of sexual immorality, even if you are on the receiving end of someone else’s sin. Shame keeps us quiet. Shame becomes a secret. Secrets isolate us from others. Apart from reading our Bibles, it is in community that we find encouragement and truth. When we are stuck in shame like a fly on flypaper, God sends his people to give voice to the truth and help us get unstuck. We can’t hear truth if we aren’t sharing with other people.
How to heal after sexual harassment.
If you #metoo’d, it was incredibly brave of you to join the conversation. However, you can’t stop there. Dragging the secret into the light is only the first step to healing.
4 things to understand after disclosing sexual harassment.
1. You are more than a combination of body parts. If you’ve experienced a cat call at a construction site, you know how those comments make you uncomfortably aware that you are carrying around a great backside or long set of legs. But, those things don’t define you. That’s not who you are!
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart,” 1 Samuel 16:7.
Luke 16:15, Jesus said to the Pharisees, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.”
God loves what is inside of you, your thoughtfulness, your kindness, your enthusiasm, your wit and humor, your servanthood, your compassion. You are dearly loved by God. And, I’m confident, you are dearly loved by many people in your life.
You are more than a set of fabulous ta-tas.
“Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. But the very hairs of your head are numbered. Therefore do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows,” Matthew 10:29-31.
2. Find forgiveness. I am outraged that this happened to you. It’s OK to be angry. But, if we get stuck in the anger, it leads to resentment and bitterness. Bitterness is emotional acid that destroys you from the inside out. Bitterness eventually leaks out and destroys good relationships due to your bad attitude.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting. It just means letting the negative emotion attached to that incident go so that you no longer expend energy on it when it comes to mind. It means giving the person over to God. Let God work in their life to shape them into a better person. Or, if they are too hard-hearted, God will deal with them.
As Jesus hung on the cross, he pleaded, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” (Luke 23:34). I think most sexual harassers know not what they do. Oh, how I wish they were driven by God’s truth about what is meaningful and important in life. However, it seems in the instance you were affected they were driven by baser things, like lust and gratification.
Forgiveness will lead you to understand that the bad behavior of a few people does not represent their entire sex. We can’t view the opposite sex as the enemy. They aren’t the enemy. The enemy is the enemy. Satan wants us to war over sex. What better way to divide and conquer?
“Finally… rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you,” 2 Corinthians 13:11.
When you reach forgiveness, your prayer is that God puts a spark in the hearts of harassers to pursue Him and higher things.
3. Love over fear and shame. When you are sinking in a sea of emotions that result from sexual harassment, love is a life-jacket and fear are weights tied to your feet. You rise to the surface when love buoys your heart. You drown if you can’t let go of the fear. Unwanted touch and filthy words are what we fear because it leads to trauma and shame. Shame paralyzes us and is why we keep the secret of sexual harassment. It is another tool of the enemy.
Healing the fear and shame comes in part by understanding that the filthy words and unwanted touch really have nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with the other person’s heart. I wish everyone was overflowing with the Holy Spirit, but they aren’t. Some people are driven by their animal instinct and look to satisfy it at anyone’s expense.
Healing also comes in part by understanding that shame and fear are lies of the enemy aimed at diminishing you. The truth is seen in Christ’s life. He plainly says that he loves you, the Father loves you, and the Holy Spirit loves you. Christ never shamed anyone because of their sexuality! He rescued both the woman caught in adultery and the woman at the well.
Christ also told us quite plainly to love God, love others, and love ourselves. We love God by trusting him to take care of our offender. We love others by praying for our enemies (i.e. the offender). We love ourselves by putting up a healthy fence. This fence has a gate that shuts out things that are not of God and lets in the love of our redeemer. The love of the redeemer comes to us through the Holy Spirit and other people! Let God use his workers on earth to offer you love and comfort. Believe what they have to say.
Love leads to hope and positivity. Love washes away bitterness. Love conquers all things.
4. The source of forgiveness and love. I truly believe that humans alone do not possess the capability to truly forgive and find love. I think we can make great strides, but true forgiveness and good-will comes from the piece of God that lives within us, the Holy Spirit. Pray that the Holy Spirit will overflow from within your heart and lead you to gentle peace.
“We can know the right words yet never be changed. This is the difference between information and transformation,” AW Tozer. The Holy Spirit transforms.
1. Find a friend. The only way to obliterate the shame, fear, and ugliness felt from sexual harassment is to tell someone. Speak it out loud. By speaking it, you can start to process it. Your husband is one alternative. However, as much as we love our husbands and they try to be compassionate, I’m not sure they can truly understand this pain. Some probably can. I would suggest you find a mature, discerning Christian woman in your life to talk with as Ruth talked with Naomi.
2. Empower yourself. Christ did more for the cause of women than any other in the Bible. Know who you are in Christ! You are a precious, precious soul. Knowing your value in Christ, gives you confidence to stand up against evil. You can be like Jael (Judges 4:21). She put a tent spike through the head of the General leading the enemy of God’s people.
3. Build your fence. A fence is not to cloister you away from the world. It is only a barrier to keep out evil. OR, think of it as putting on the armor of God (Ephesians 6). (My armor of God looks like Wonder Woman’s armor.) Build your fence (or create your armor) by spending time understanding truth, righteousness, and faith. Learn by reading the Bible. Connect to God through prayer. Knowing undoubtedly that you belong to Christ is the strongest fence. Only then, will you have the strength and discernment to handle the next time you are sexually harassed.
4. Don’t play the game. When I was a board member for Christian Women’s Job Corps, one of the women in our program was harassed on the job. She needed that job. The money from that job was feeding her baby. When she told us that her boss threatened her job if she didn’t go out on a date with him, our director called that company and spoke with headquarters. Our protegee retained her job. Her boss lost his job.
Even if you lose a job due to informing on a sexual predator, you will be blessed. You will be empowered to take back what the enemy is trying to steal, your confidence and righteous empowerment. Possibly, you’ll be helping another from being a victim.
5. Believe her. If someone comes to you to share a secret shame. BELIEVE HER!
6. Don’t wait to inform. If you experience sexual harassment anywhere in any form, immediately tell someone. If you don’t quite know what to do about a particular situation consult a mature Christian or your husband. If they tell you to keep it a secret, find another person. Keeping it secret is not the answer. However, handle the information with wisdom and discernment.
How does this relate to low sex drive?
As a young woman ogled for her body parts, I saw sexual intimacy as merely a physical act. There were no tender emotions associated with the lewd comments thrown my way or the groping. In my marriage, after the shine of the honeymoon wore off, my anxiety toward sex heightened because we hadn’t yet learned how to foster an emotional connection. Without an emotional connection, once again I was just body parts. My husband didn’t want me to feel used, but that was how I was feeling until we learned some tools.
So, if you are a low drive wife who has experienced sexual harassment, consider that you may need to foster more emotional connection in your marriage. Husband, learn how to let your wife into your heart. Transform sex into love making and help create sexual interest.
If you hurt from sexual harassment, I sincerely pray you find your way out of the pain, shame, or humiliation. Seek God. When we seek him and find him, little by little he renovates our hearts. God made me new and he will make you new, too. (#newtoo)
If sexual harassment happens again, don’t stay quiet.
Listen to the Podcast:
8 Ways to Support Other Women in an age of #MeToo – The Forgive Wife, Chris Taylor.
Surprised by the Healer (by Dr. Juli Slattery & Linda Dillow) – Stories of 9 women healed from sexual trauma. “God’s Word declares that there is healing for your deepest pains…”
On the Threshold of Hope (Dr. Diane Langberg) – Opening the door to healing for suvivors of sexual abuse.
Possibly, you have experienced much worse than harassment. If so, RAINN is a good resource.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE, online.rainn.org y rainn.org/es) in partnership with more than 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country and operates the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help survivors, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.