Men, I have written you all a letter on sexual harassment, which I will release later tonight. This letter is for our women.
I should acknowledge first that I believe in man's responsibility to respect and protect the hearts and bodies of women. It's part of a commitment I've made to both God and my future wife, and I'm proud to be a part of any movement that will help promote this kind of cultural change.
With that said, I originally set out to make a practical, multi-step guide for women to help prevent acts of sexual assault on or near campus. Not only did I realize that this was stupid (you can find much greater resources at RAINN, WVU, and Baylor's Conduct and Counseling services), but I realized that it's impossible to understand each girl's situation and expect them to be prepared for every threat that may arise. I scrapped the letter and decided to do something different:
Instead of telling you what to DO in the event of sexual harassment, I am simply going to remind you of who you ARE. I hope you will be encouraged by these truths that many are too afraid to accept. I present to you...
The 4 Things Every Girl Should Remember About Sexual Assault
1. You Are Not Invulnerable
- Every girl should have some level of preparation to help them avoid difficult situations; and
- The act of acknowledging and making known the acts of sexual harassment on campus will help others prevent them from occurring.
There are many reasons why women do not report sexual assault, but it is important to remember that, regardless of your environment, it does happen. It's not practical to pretend that you are invulnerable to such a threat. In addition it's important to be sensitive to the possibility that those around you may have already experienced this, and prepare yourself to make the choices that can help prevent this in the lives of you and your friends.
For those interested in more information, the comprehensive ACHA "Shifting The Paradigm" is a great resource for understanding more about sexual violence.
2. You Are Free (From Blame and Guilt)
Great. Now that we've learned that vocabulary, it's time for you to toss out that garbage.
You are not to blame. I repeat - you are not to blame. If this has happened to you or does in the future, you CANNOT forget that you are not to blame.
I want to respectfully add that there are some things that women can do to reduce their risk of sexual assault. These include a simple understanding of statistics which suggest that cutting down on alcohol, avoiding parties with strangers, and staying with a group of friends can drastically reduce chances of sexual assault. However, no girl should ever feel guilty if a situation gets out of hand and she suffers at the hands of another's sexual attack. It was not her fault.
It's time to encourage other women that this suffering in their past was not a result of their actions. By encouraging women to live free from blame and guilt, we can actually increase the rate at which sexual assaults are reported.
3. You Are Safe (From Judgment)
Yes, but only in a place where your safety is respected. All victims of sexual assault should consider receiving counseling from someone trained in the field of psychiatric or psychological recovery, particularly in the area of sexual assault.
In other words, please talk to a counselor. Their job is to maintain COMPLETE CONFIDENTIALITY (meaning they cannot tell anyone else whatever you may share) and provide you with the advice, encouragement, and therapy to help you restore or maintain your precious grace and self-worth.
Unfortunately, time does not heal all wounds. In fact, discussing it with an expert can go a long way in relieving the stress and tension in your life. There are places in which you are safe from judgment. Please seek appropriate help.
4. You Are Loved.
Before being sexually assaulted, you were the beautiful, gifted, inspired work of God with a purpose and a plan for an incredible life of love and joy.
After being sexually assaulted, you remained the beautiful, gifted, inspired work of God with a purpose and a plan for an incredible life of love and joy.
There - did I make myself clear? :)
Don't forget these 4 Truths:
- You Are Not Invincible
- You Are Free (From Blame and Guilt)
- You Are Safe (From Judgment)
- You Are Loved
My goal with this letter is to help our women remain aware and secure in the midst of this pressing issue. If freedom from this comes through love and respect, then I believe we're called to show that to one another.