Recently Harvey Weinstein, one of Hollywood’s most powerful and successful producers, was accused of sexual harassment by several women over a 30-year time frame. This is not news, as sexual harassment has been going on since the beginning of Hollywood. It is a problem not just in Hollywood but in many sectors of our society. The abuse of men and women by people of power has been going on since the beginning of time. Many have chosen to look the other way and plead ignorance. However, as Christians what should be our stand on this issue?
People are not objects to be used by others
To take a stand on anything, we must have a basis for the stand. As Christians we believe the Bible is our sole authority for faith and practice (belief and behavior). Our ethical and moral position on this subject comes from biblical principles. People are created in the image of God (Genesis 1.26). As such every person has value and dignity. They are not objects to be used by others to satisfy someone’s sensual pleasure. A fundamental teaching of scripture is we are to love God and love others. This results in living the “Golden Rule,” doing to others what you would want them to do to you.
Sexual harassment is selfishness in its most evil form. It is a perversion of God’s gift of sex to humanity. Sex is a gift to be used within the boundaries of a committed marital relationship between a man and a woman. It was created by God for procreation of the human race, for pleasure and for the bonding of a husband and wife into an intimate relationship of oneness. Sex also has a deep spiritual significance. It is designed to help us understand the deep intimate relationship God has designed us for with Him. Anything less in our sexuality is just a cheap and unfulfilling imitation of the real thing. All forms of sex outside of God’s boundaries will never result in true satisfaction. This is proven by the fact that sexual predators need to keep harassing and abusing.
The leverage of power positions
The harasser often occupies a position of power and trust disguised as a person of healing or help. In reality they are a wolf in sheep’s clothing. This debate about sexual harassment often results in blaming the victim. Common questions are asked – “Why were they alone with the person? Why did they dress that way? Why didn’t they speak up before?” Yes, there have been false accusers and unwise or naive decisions made. However, it is never right to blame the victim for the wrong or criminal actions of an individual against their person. Usually the predator has a pattern of harassment and sexual abuse. This needs to be the focus so they can be stopped from hurting someone else.
What is not often understood is the impact of a power differential and the psychological advantage it gives one person over another. It is why people in positions of authority or help (such as medical professionals, teachers, pastors, therapists, bosses, etc.) are going to be held more responsible than the victim. It is hard to understand unless you have been in that position where some type of leverage, stated or implied, is held over you.
Perhaps this illustration will help clarify. Many people suffer from low self-image or are still trying to get their parent’s approval even as an adult. When around a parent or other authority figure, they feel like a child or are intimidated. These negative feelings leave them wounded and vulnerable to the manipulation of others. Most predators are able to sense these weaknesses. They know how to manipulate, threaten, intimidate and promise to help others get what they want if the victim will give in to the predators sexual lust.
How to help change the narrative
None of us can rid the world of all evil. This is a job only God can do, but we can do something. Focus on doing something in your world with any individual God brings into you path. First, just provide a safe and listening ear. That means to keep confidences, really hear and don’t worry about giving advice. One thing a person needs is to process their emotions, and we do this by talking or writing about them. Listen with true empathy and compassion, and it will make a huge difference. Don’t judge; you probably don’t have all the information. Remember that saying, “But for the grace of God there go I.” You don’t have to have all the answers, encourage them to get professional help when you feel things are beyond your abilities.
Do your part in your world (church, work, school, industry, etc) to create a climate of mutual respect for every person. Think how would I want a member of my family to be treated by another? While we are at it, let’s not forget the harasser. Yes, he or she is easy to despise, but how does God see them? They need to be held accountable for what they have done and deal with the consequences of their actions. However, God still sees them as another sinner who needs to be redeemed. No one is beyond the reach of God’s grace. The best way to remove sexual harassment from our culture is to change a harasser into a new creature in Christ. Impossible, you say. Probably so on a human level, but remember nothing is impossible with God.
Dr. John Hawkins, Sr. runs Gateway Counseling Center in Boynton Beach along with his son John Jr. He can be reached by visiting gatewaycounseling.com.