I maintain notes on my phone. I use the app to write my grocery list, to-do lists and thoughts that inspire me to write. Presently, I have 43 notes. Trust that there are several “notes” within the notes. And while I still sometimes agonize over what I wish to write for my blog, this week was rather difficult. I could not select anything from my notes, because my mind remained in default to the escapades of the week. I experienced a flurry and cascading rollercoaster of emotions, from anger, disappointment, fear, concern, hurt and sadness. If you’ve been living in a bubble, I am referring to watching the hearings of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh. As a believer, I recognize that God is on the throne, and yet concurrently, as a woman, more specifically, a Black woman, I know that we live in a world that doesn’t see me in the same vein as God, and accordingly, the journey is filled with twists and turns, not always favorable. What happens when one’s faith is interrogated with one’s reality?
God is sovereign. There is no doubt in my mind. And yet, the realities associated with gender and sexual violence are real. Survivors are 3 times more likely to suffer from depression; 6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder; 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol; 26 times more likely to abuse drugs; and 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide (RAINN). In other words, when violence goes forth, it significantly impacts that “reasonable amount of health and strength” that we so proudly recite when “on program.” What is the answer you ask? To be sure, violence against women has been on repeat since the beginning of time. One of the most profound accounts of violence against women depicts the narrative of Dinah. She was a woman and daughter of Leah and Jacob, minding her own business, when Shechem, the son of Hamor, saw her and raped her. Then if matters weren’t corrupt enough, he then asked for her hand in marriage because he loved her. This twisted situation didn’t fair too well for Shechem. Check it out (Genesis 34). But what strikes me most in this account is that Dinah was believed.
Often, when we hear about a sexually violent incident, we critique the “victim’s” behavior. What was Dinah doing? What was Dinah wearing? Did her behavior warrant what occurred? If so, how? If not, why? Why was she out to ruin someone else’ life? Theologians are conflicted. Some say Shechem didn’t rape Dinah because he loved her. That is utterly ridiculous to me. How do you believe Dinah felt? In what ways was her voice silenced? Bottom line, Dinah didn’t ask for what happened to her. Dinah didn’t give consent for what happened to her. And her brothers didn’t require proof. They started with belief. Daily as I work in the reduction and elimination of sexual and gender violence, some soul shares, “but what about the survivors who lie?” The fact of the matter is somewhere between 2-8% of people provide false accounts of sexual violence, which is the same percentage of other felonies. Yet, that consideration is often left out of our blame filled conversations and accusations. More importantly, what about the overwhelmingly 90% of victims that tell the truth?
If I didn’t believe that God said I was fearfully and wonderfully made in His image (Psalm 139:14), my day to day operations might be a bit compromised. Thank God for Jesus! Yes, He remains on the throne, but as humanity, we can do better to manage ourselves and unpack themes of patriarchy and power that enable violence to thrive. No one wakes up with the intention of becoming a survivor. Yet, someone does wake up with the intention of becoming a perpetrator. That is a hard reality to assume, but one that we must face and not go into our places of worship and ignore. Jesus was an agent of social change and lived as a person advocating for social justice. If we are to be more like Him, we must relinquish our comfy pews and convenient Word, and use our voices to speak out against injustice, and get educated on the root causes as to why violence continues to persist. Trust me, it ain’t short skirts. And when someone tells you that something happened to them, start with belief. Survivors need your belief. You can be certain that the enemy is engaged in his craftiness attacking their mind, their peace and even egging them to question their status in God. Survivors don’t require “assistance” that mirrors that of the enemy. While our well intentioned saints are in learning mode, survivors must do what God instructed Jacob, and then Jacob to his family, after Dinah’s violation. In the 35th chapter of Genesis, God compelled Jacob to return to Bethel, which means, “the place where God lives.” As we navigate trauma, we have opportunity to seek the shelter of the Most High. An explanation is not needed and we can be certain that we will be loved. We will not be questioned. We will be nourished. We will be believed.