Just tonight, Olympic gymnast Simone Biles joined the chorus of women who’ve bravely brought their stories of abuse into the public light. Biles, 20, made this announcement detailing the ways her former team doctor, Larry Nassar, abused both her and other teammates.
#MeToo, it seems, continues on, as it should until every story is heard and each and every church becomes a place of healing and restoration for all who have been treated as anything less than worthy of one made in the image of God.
We’re living in a time of confession—one focused on openness and honesty about the ways women have been abused and mistreated. This only comes after decades spent trying to deny truth and sweep exploitation under the rug.
Much of this started with one of the most shocking news stories this nation has seen in years—a story about one man’s desire to conquest not just one, but multiple unwilling women. Over the course of his career as a Hollywood mogul and movie producer, Harvey Weinstein took it upon himself to sexually harass and assault countless female coworkers and acquaintances.
Although the list continues to grow, many have already come forward to speak and share their stories about their encounters with Weinstein. Despite the differences between these women, several common descriptors can be used to characterize Weinstein perpetrators and his victims.
First and foremost, these encounters were exploitative.
Many victims of Weinstein and others are often young women forced to ward off approaches made by much older, aggressive men. Regardless of age, however, exploitation happens all to frequently and should be forcefully condemned by all of us.
Women are not resources to exploit.
The exchanges were transactional.
According to some accounts of Weinstein’s behavior in particular, the perpetrator made clear the kinds of treatment victims would receive should they choose to submit and play along with his wishes. The ‘casting couch,’ it seems, is still alive and well.
Women should not have to trade their sexuality for advancement.
Last, some of these exchanges were forced.
Perpetrators of sexual abuse don’t go out of their way to ask women what they want or find out whether they’re interested in receiving affections. Regardless of the environment surrounding each situation, we must take seriously the importance of mutual consent. Anything that isn’t a resounding “yes” on both sides is to be forcefully condemned.
Women, regardless of who they are or what they have done, should never be forced.
Sadly, This Is Not Shocking
Unfortunately, none of these behaviors exemplified by Harvey Weinstein shock us as they should.
Women have been targeted for exploitation by aggressive men for centuries. Often, their positions under male leadership in offices and organizations make them particularly vulnerable to these kinds of advances and threats of retaliation. Although we might wish to expect better from them, the film industry is certainly no stranger to these evils.
I’m appreciative of some of the recent steps we’ve seen in Hollywood, but also disturbed by some of the unaddressed realities. Meryl Streep powerfully criticized President Trump for his harmful rhetoric and behavior, pointing out that when someone powerful does something wrong, it “gives permission for other people to do the same thing.”
Yet she gave a standing ovation to admitted child rapist Roman Polanski, which, some might say, “gives permission for other people to do the same thing.”
Although Hollywood may seem like an easy target, they’re certainly not the only ones who’ve earned a reputation for the mistreatment and exploitation of women. A quick look at the professional world is enough to show anyone that this problem is not particular to one single industry—it’s much more pervasive than that.
This past October, 140 female lawmakers, lobbyists and consultants came together in California to craft a public letter in support of an end to the sexual harassment of working women everywhere. Their goal was to pave the way for women to enter the workforce freely and without fear of experiencing mistreatment by male bosses and coworkers on the job.
For those who assume that these issues end at the border—think again. A quick look at the evils of the human trafficking industry confirms that this problem is global in scale. The millions of women and girls trafficked annually both nationally and globally for the exploitation of their bodies are a part of the same deep struggle—a struggle against a world that doesn’t recognize them as a dignified part of God’s creation.