I’ve talked a lot about sex on this blog, and it's been heavy. But these conversations are only the beginning of genuine social reformation, and it’s exciting to see change taking place at such a rapid pace.
(If you missed out on my Expectation of Sex series, check it out here and here.)
As I’ve already stated in the previously linked posts, the issue of sexual abuse happening so often is twofold: there’s the expectation of sex and the separate need for power and control. So we understand the why, but do we fully understand the what?
Recently, a sharp criticism of the #MeToo movement has risen to the surface - is this movement restricting sexual freedom? This conversation only began after the allegations came out against comedian Aziz Ansari, in which some deemed an example of a bad date.
(The full story is here, but beware, it’s pretty explicit.)
Here’s the truth: We are each created in the image of God to move in and through His spirit of love and compassion. Period. That is what each and every one of us is called to do and every action and interaction should reflect that. If you as a reader have any objections to this statement, that is pride and ego speaking, not truth or love.
So here’s the money question: when does sexual activity cross the line into abuse?
And here’s the money answer: whenever there is a lack of consent.
Notice I didn’t say, ‘whenever the victim says no’ or ‘whenever the victim physically fights back’. In the case of Ansari’s accuser, she gave non-verbal cues, such as going limp, not engaging, and pushing him away, in addition to verbally stating she was uncomfortable.
This way of thinking calls humanity to a higher standard - will we choose to be motivated by respect and love? Or will we choose to stay motivated by ego, choosing satisfaction over honor?
Sexual abusers will:
Continue sexual activity after you’ve voiced uncomfortability
Dismiss non-verbal cues
Pretend not to hear you
Guilt you into sexual activity
Use physical force to continue or initiate sexual activity
And to be clear, by sexual activity I mean any activity sexual in nature, not explicitly penetration, including touching, oral sex, masturbation, asking for or sending nude photos, or sexting.
I want to speak to those who may be struggling with realizing that they may have been the victim of sexual abuse. Many times victims of sexual abuse try to deny that the abuse happened because of the intense shame of the incident and the fact that often they experience positive physiological reactions to the abuse.
Try to understand the mental complexities of a victim of abuse: they are full of fear because they have lost control of the situation and feel like their bodies are being violated, and are often simultaneously feeling extreme shame and self-loathing because their bodies are responding positively to what’s happening to them.
If you identify with this at all, please know that what you experienced is abuse and that it is in no way your fault. Your body is not broken - it is strong, beautiful and pure, redeemed by the overwhelming love of your heavenly Father.
If you believe you may have been sexually abused, please tell someone you trust. Darkness only gains power if it is hidden. Exposing darkness to the light allows you to gain power over your experience, leading you, through a journey of healing and understanding, to a glorious and love-filled freedom. Please seek counsel, as legal action may be appropriate.
(If you are having difficulty in having this critical conversations about sex and abuse, please refer to my blog post where I talk in detail about starting conversations with the people around us.)
I also want to speak to those who are realizing that they may have sexually abused someone in the past. I want to challenge you to go before the cross and seek God’s heart in this. Why did you choose to abuse and manipulate? Was it out of selfishness? Warped expectations? Or a need for control? Assess your heart, making a 180 towards the path of love and respect. I also want to challenge you to seek forgiveness from those you’ve wronged, for it is good and holy to make peace with those we’ve sinned against. (If the abuse was long-term or violent, I advise not approaching the person directly, but speaking to a family member first.)
Sexual abuse damages our ability to speak out because of the deep shame it causes within our spirits, making us afraid to speak out for fear of judgement. That same shame keeps us from speaking to the people we trust, isolating us from our friends and families. The confusion of the body’s reaction mixed with the fear of the circumstances and the love we have for our partner - it creates an awful paradox that leaves us feeling helpless and uncertain.
The only way to regain our voice, regain our community and regain our power is to identify the truth and to speak it out. Truth is power. Truth leads us back to the One who loves us perfectly and without expectation or manipulation. Truth leads us to love. Truth leads us to healing. Truth leads us to freedom.