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Don’t Dismiss Abuse: People Matter More than Institutions

Our First Priority Is Not Protecting People of Power

These messages are clear: Americans should place their trust not in the multiple women who claim to have been victimized, but in the innocence pleas coming from powerful men.

Institutions are at stake, they say. Majorities need to be kept. Or they they are doing such good work. Or people’s jobs will be lost. Or whatever.

This, friends, is the wrong message for a number of reasons.

Let’s be clear, I understand that many find themselves hesitant to criticize men like Moore when we don’t know all the facts. Believing in a person’s innocence until he or she has been proven guilty is an important legal principle that is at the very bedrock of the American justice system. For this, all of us should be thankful.

That being said, our priorities must be kept straight: when women and girls are mistreated, our primary concern must not be first to protect the reputations of potential perpetrators and their institutions. In most cases, their day in court will come, and rightfully so. Our first response before bringing anything else into the discussion is this: listen to those who have been victimized and give them the freedom to speak up. And be willing to believe people who are sharing their pain.

When a crime is reported, call the police. And, when allegations are credible, take action.

And if institutions (Hollywood, politics, or church) are building walls to protect those who abuse at the expense of those who have been victimized, we need to take those institutions apart… brick by brick.

Brick by Brick

Too many political leaders, right and left, worry about the stability of their respective political parties and spend their days carefully counting congressional seats. Everybody wants to either gain or maintain a majority. But when the partisan scorecard becomes more important than everything else, we’re selling our souls on both sides. One party may win, but the real losers are those who have been victimized, because we have communicated that their pain will never matter as much as that congressional seat.

Despite our concern—however legitimate—regarding upcoming election results, we should heed the words of none other than Kellyanne Conway, who reassured us that “there is not a Senate seat that is worth more than a child.”

She was right then.

That’s why Roy Moore should step out of his race, but also why Al Franken should step down from his seat, and so should John Conyers. Being in Congress is not a right, and credible allegations (or actual admission, in Franken’s case) mean you need to step down or away for an investigation.

When we compare the importance of protecting political institutions to our need to care for those who are abused, the latter should win every single time. Any institution—political or not—that fails to do this and instead tries to protect abusive men at the cost of ignoring women who have been victimized must not just be confronted, but either eliminated or given a complete overhaul.

Brick by brick.

Sound radical? Probably so, but as we have observed, what has been done thus far does not seem to be working, as the number of men accused of sexually exploiting women continues to grow.

And, if you (like me) have talked to some of your colleagues recently, you know such harassment is everywhere.

Institutions across the country, whether they’re responsible for policy creation or film production, need to spend some time in self-reflection, considering where their priorities are. Do they side with those who have been victimized, or defend perpetrators?

They need to consider their long-term goals: Do they concern themselves with prevention, or only look to cover up incidents of abuse as they bubble to the surface?

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Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., is a professor and dean at Wheaton College where he also serves as Executive Director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, has earned two master’s degrees and two doctorates, and has written hundreds of articles and a dozen books. He is Regional Director for Lausanne North America, is the editor-in-chief of Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited in, interviewed by, and writes for news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He is the Founding Editor of The Gospel Project, a curriculum used by more than 1.7 million individuals each week for bible story. His national radio show, Ed Stetzer Live, airs Saturdays on Moody Radio and affiliates. He serves as interim teaching pastor of Calvary Church in New York City and serves as teaching pastor at Highpoint Church.