Sexual Abuse and the Me Too Movement
In this episode, Dr. Darrell L. Bock, Jurrita Williams, Jan Edgar Langbein, and Joy Pedrow discuss sexual abuse and the Me Too movement.
- The guests explain sexual abuse and the Me Too movement
- The ministry of Genesis Women's Shelter & Support
- Sexual abuse in African-American communities
- How the Church support victims of sexual abuse
- Resources for abused women
- Supporting abused women in African-American churches
- How churches can stop abusers and prevent further sexual abuse
- Marriage and the domestic abuse
Dr. Darrell Bock: Welcome to The Table where we discuss issues of God and culture. I'm Darrell Bock, Executive Director for Cultural Engagement at the Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary, and as you can see I am surrounded today where our topic is the Me Too Movement, and abuse, and I have three guests.
To my far left is Jurrita Williams who we've had on The Table before, and she is our former student body president, I guess is the way to say it now. And what are you doing now, Jurrita? Where are you headed in terms of ministry?
Jurrita Williams: Yeah, so I ended my tenure at the student body president in April, and then April 1st, I began as the Associate Director of the Center for Missional Outreach for the North Texas Conference for the United Methodist Church.
Dr. Darrell Bock: Whoa.
Jurrita Williams: Yeah, a mouthful.
Dr. Darrell Bock: Take a deep breath and go.
Jurrita Williams: Exactly, yeah, so God's kinda shifted me, and it's just work after my own heart. I'm helping the UMC be a ministry with their neighbors, particularly people who are in underserved communities.
Dr. Darrell Bock: And then next to me on my left is Jan Langbein who runs the Genesis Shelter. Is that right here in the city?
Jan Langbein: Right. I'm CEO of the Genesis Women's Shelter and Support.
Dr. Darrell Bock: Okay.
Jan Langbein: The support's a big piece of it.
Dr. Darrell Bock: Okay.
Jan Langbein: So, yes, here in Dallas.
Dr. Darrell Bock: Here in Dallas, and actually, that's not located very far from where we are, right, here on the campus or are there a variety of shelters?
Jan Langbein: We're sort of all over Dallas.
Dr. Darrell Bock: Okay.
Jan Langbein: We have the non-residential which is just on Lemon Avenue.
Dr. Darrell Bock: Okay.
Jan Langbein: The shelter, the transitional housing, the school, the daycare, they're all in a secret location, obviously, for the safety of the moms and kids who are there.
Dr. Darrell Bock: Okay. And we'll be talking about what Genesis Shelter is in a minute. And then Joy Pedrow is here, and tell us, you just graduated.
Joy Pedrow: I did.
Dr. Darrell Bock: So I should tell you congratulations.
Joy Pedrow: Thank you.
Dr. Darrell Bock: And you're headed into D.Min. work, is that right?
Joy Pedrow: Yes, I just started the D.Ed.Min., and my big passion is to free women from shame, whether it's sexual additional, sexual abuse, I wanna break those chains and help them find freedom.
Dr. Darrell Bock: Very, very good. So I'm just gonna go around and say, and this is our normal first question, how did you get interested or involved in this area, in our topic, and issues of sexual abuse? Jurrita, I'll start with you.
Jurrita Williams: Well, I'll start with saluting Sojourner Truth who said, "Ain't I a Woman?" So intersectionality is what got me interested.
I'm a woman, been a woman all my life, and the abuses that, particularly, black women have suffered because of the historical abuse and dehumanization of black women as enslaved people, caught my attention as the Me Too Movement moved because Tarana Burke who is a black woman, an African-American woman who started the movement or coined the term "me too" with what is now seen as the hashtag, was erased from the conversation initially.
And that's the history that black women live with every day, and I'm so grateful that Joy invited me on so that we can make sure that we have the voice of black women, and I'm not the voice, but just a part of the representation of what that's like.
And so I'm grateful for the opportunity to sit at the table, and I'm praying and hoping that God will use this conversation with all of us to help heal not just our survivors of sexual violence, but also the perpetrators because that's what keeps the cycles going.
Dr. Darrell Bock: Now you used a technical term that I want you to define, intersectionality. Tell people what that is because some people might not know.
Jurrita Williams: Intersectionality was coined by Kimberle Crenshaw who's a legal, a lawyer by trade, and she found that as she was fighting for her clients that there was no intersection for black women, so anti-discrimination laws, and laws that were addressing sexism did not consider the complex overlapping and combining ways in which systems lock out black women and how they are subordinated.
And so intersectionality speaks to that intersection. It speaks to how black women have a unique way of being discriminated against. And so we'll shout out all of the women that I hold dear. Most of the books, and most of the research, and the data addressed men who were all black, and men who were all white, and it never did intersect with black women.
Dr. Darrell Bock: So it's almost an invisible factor.
Jurrita Williams: Absolutely. An erasure.
Dr. Darrell Bock: Jan, talk about your involvement with the Genesis Shelter, and, yeah.
Jan Langbein: Absolutely. I have been actually involved with Genesis for 30 years. I started as a volunteer on the hotline. I'm not from abuse. I really didn't think about it, and if I did think about it, I was assured that it happened to somebody who didn't live near me, or look like me, or work like I do, or go to school where I went to school.
And it was actually through the Junior League of Dallas, I was a member, and sat on the back row, and kind of rolled my eyes when the people at the front said, "You can make a difference in this world," and I didn't think they were talking about me, but of course we were talking about God's jokes, and he's got lots of them.
Jurrita Williams: Oh, yes.
Jan Langbein: And somehow I moved from the back row to the front row and signed up for Genesis. I thought it was gonna be the easy way out of this placement requirement. As it turns out, it was not.
Dr. Darrell Bock: So this is a Junior League place that got you started.
Jan Langbein: Well, it was to begin with.
Dr. Darrell Bock: Yeah.
Jan Langbein: It got me started. And when I got down there and I realized, you know, battered women are tall and short and fat and thin, and black and white and Hispanic, and the only common thread I could find was, among all victims who come to Genesis, is that they were in a relationship with an abusive partner.
After three years of volunteering, the opportunity came up to be the director, and I went from one Tuesday answering the phone to being in charge on the next Tuesday. Somebody had faith in me. I had none in myself. I had never read a financial statement. I had never managed a staff. But once you see it, once you know it, I don't know how you turn your back on it until it's fixed.
I was so interested in what you were talking about with regards to black women. I think I could take exactly your words, and take out black and put in battered. They are isolated by design. They are forgotten. They are discredited. All the kinds of things that you were talking about, I think we're talking about with regards to victims of domestic violence as well. So it's been an interesting journey for me.
Dr. Darrell Bock: Mm-hmm. And Joy, what about –
Joy Pedrow: Yes, yes, so I became a Christian in college, and experienced date rape and abuse a little before that, and so I, as a new believer, couldn't find resources to deal with my abuse, and to deal with pornography that I was struggling with, and so I started to create these resources.
I started my blog, JoyPedrow.com, and started writing about the things people weren't talking about. And so when the Me Too Movement went viral, it wasn't a shock to me, it wasn't a surprise to me. I knew that 1 in 4 women are sexually abused. And so I went on Facebook, and I wrote "Me Too," and in the beginning I was behind this lens of white privilege. I thought it was just about sexual abuse.
I didn't know that there was more to the story. I didn't know about the power and the privilege that was all wrapped around this issue. And so because of my history with abuse, it gave me to write "me too."
And the most powerful part of it was seeing friends that I hadn't talked to in years also contact me saying "me too," and to create this way that victims can connect with each other and not be alone anymore. So that is how I got involved.
Dr. Darrell Bock: Well, this raises all kinds of series of questions, but I wanna start off by talking about the Genesis Shelter. Tell us how that works and how people can find out about it and kind of a little bit of its history.
Jan Langbein: Sure. The Genesis Women's Shelter and Support was actually started in partnership between the Episcopal diocese and Grace Presbytery here in Dallas, and it rose up out of the soup kitchen at First Presbyterian Church recognizing that women can become homeless as the flee to safety, not chronically, but situationally homeless.
With regards to the shelter, that was our initial footprint, a place, like an emergency room of a hospital, a place where moms and kids could go when they're running out the front door. But over the year, of course we had recognized that abuse doesn't have to be a push, a slap or a shove, it can also be financial. It can also be spiritual. It can also be emotional and verbal. And many of those, those things can be as painful, if not more. They can be even as deadly.
So what Genesis has done over the years is create a full-service response so that no matter where she falls into it, if she hasn't left or has other residential resources, we can still provide the same counseling, information, referral, access to civil legal representation at our non-residential office.
If she is running out the door with the clothes on her back, we've got a spot for her to sleep tonight. If it is an issue of long-term need, we have transitional housing. We have daycare so she can go back to work. We have a lawyer who can walk into court with her and say "this is not her fault," and surrounding that with the advocacy and the counseling for moms and for kids who have been told "you are not good enough" are once again told "this is not your fault. There is help and there is hope." So that's what we've been doing for 35 years.
Dr. Darrell Bock: So if people wanted to find out about the Genesis Shelter, how would they do that?
Jan Langbein: I think the best way would be go to our website, GenesisShelter.org. There is certainly a hotline. It's listed there. Another interesting thing, or several interesting things, there is a blog on our website talking about the different issues, guns, gun submission and the Me Too Movement, it needs to be more than a hashtag.
But there's also how to help a friend. Every single one of us, everybody who'll be listening to this podcast will know somebody, a sister, a friend, a coworker, who needs to know how to get help, and then how we can be of help, how to believe her, how to understand what she's going through, to be able to talk about, like you were saying the shame of somehow feeling it's her fault, the fear of being in it, but the terror of leaving it.
I think that we so easily ask the question – I'm sorry, you said keep these answers short. We've not met before today, but that's almost impossible for me, Dr. Bock. We're all so often asked the question "Why doesn't she just get out?" and certainly that's an easy question for which there are no easy answers.
As you were saying, we need to start asking, "Why does he do it?" and keep the questions what they should be. So bottom line, go to our website. There's help if you or someone you know needs help, there are ways to get involved on the website, how to contribute to the Benefit thrift store, how to write a check, how to volunteer down there. So I would suggest if you wanna get in touch with us, the website's the best way.
Dr. Darrell Bock: And how much contact exists for pastors who may need to refer someone or something? The reason I ask the question is when I lead spiritual formation groups here on campus for a while, we used to take a day and walk over to the shelter, and I would take the students over there to, one, show that this was happening; and, two, to be aware of what the ministry was; and, three, to acquaint them to what they might do should they be in a counseling situation that might require. How does that –
Jan Langbein: I really appreciate you bringing up this aspect of it, and I'm not sure we have enough time to keep talking about it, but we open our doors. What we know, and we love working with the faith communities 'cause what we know is, as I mentioned earlier, spiritual abuse can be one. If that is what is the most important thing to her, that will become his choice of weapon.
And if I'm told I'm not a godly wife, if I'm told to go home and pray about this, if I'm gold forgive and forget instead of forgive and hold accountable, we find that faith communities actually, depending on how they practice, can become fertile ground for abuse.
We find women who are steeped in a faith community were probably less likely to get help, to tell, and least likely to reach out to a secular organization like ours. So I encourage everyone, come take a tour, come get involved, know the ins and outs before you need them.
And if you say, "If that pastor ever comes up on it," if that pastor hasn't come up on it, then they're not asking the right questions. They're not preaching it from the pulpit. They're not talking to the congregation in ministry because it is there. When I tell you that 1 out of every 3 women – boy, I'm on a tear this morning, right, I'm sorry. – 1 out of every 3 women, so count it off in the pews.
So we absolutely not only welcome, we seek out partnerships with the faith communities to address this issue. Women who will not call a shelter, will not call the police, most often will turn to their faith community as their support, and unfortunately, many, if not most of the time, they get the wrong answers.
Dr. Darrell Bock: Interesting.
Jan Langbein: – or no answers at all.
Dr. Darrell Bock: Now Jurrita, talk about the, if you will, what you've seen, and what you hear about this particularly in black communities.
Jurrita Williams: Well, I wanted to speak to the point of intersectionality when it comes to abuse. You really can't substitute one for the other because of the access that black women have. Seventy percent of most black churches are made up of women.
And so, when we think of what the intersections of employment, intersections of healthcare, when black women are 4 to 5 times more likely to die after they have children, that's a unique presence that we must address.
And so I think that in my community, as I've grown up in a Missionary Baptist Church, and I was a youth pastor in the Church of God, I think the signs of consent, or the culture of consent, is what we can do deep work in. And so I think that knowing what patriarchy looks like, and sexism looks like, and addressing it from a patriarchal system, it's hard to destroy.
And so educating our pastors in the black community has been a hard fought thing to do because if we think about privilege, white privilege, black men didn't have that in the overall majority culture, and so what we have to address is the same systems that oppressed white women is the same system that oppressed black men, and then you go to the deeper level of black women.
And so we have the opportunity to amplify the voices of the victims, the voices of those who survive this abuse, and so I think understanding and training pastors from the perspective of race and gender and sexism, and we can also speak to ability, and sexuality, and classism because all of those things intersect and combine to continue to keep black women subordinated.
And so I think as we do the research, and as we pull out the data, continue to speak to what a lived experience for a black woman is, that may be the reason why she won't come to a Jan because she might not have the access, and if we think through the systems that continue, like police brutality with black men, a lot of black women won't call the police because we're super loyal. Loyal to our fault a lot of times.
The family is borne on our shoulders. We're mainly the ones that's in the workforce continuing to bring bread to the table. Many times when our husbands or boyfriends or fathers of our children are in prison, and so what we do is we keep silent because that's a cultural norm for us many times.
There's a cultural norm from Victorian ideals that says "this is not what a proper woman should talk about in our community," and so identifying the actual names of our body parts, and allowing people to speak freely about what that looks like, and what that sounds like in our community is critical.
We don't wanna raise our 2 and 3 year olds to say, "This is my pot-pot." We wanna give them the accurate name of how God made them, of how God created them in order to speak well about the beauty of God's body.
And so blackness has been, you know, there's been anti-blackness from the inception of the country, and so helping our community understand what that looks like and helping the community of the church understand what that looks like is important.
So bringing in voices, I think, from black and brown women's voices I think are imperative for us to do the work to destroy what sexual violence does to not just the black community because if it's affecting the black community, it's certainly affecting and impacting the majority culture as well.
Dr. Darrell Bock: Yeah.
Jan Langbein: Can I jump in? I don't want you to think or anybody to think that I was disregarding the black experience.
Jurrita Williams: Sure.
Jan Langbein: I was saying there were common factors, the isolation, the disregard.
Jurrita Williams: Sure.
Jan Langbein: The common factors between women of color who are battered, –
Jurrita Williams: Right.
Jan Langbein: – white women who are battered.
Jurrita Williams: Absolutely.
Jan Langbein: The violence is against someone else, and so it's about power and control which I think you were touching on then. So please don't understand that I meant –
Jurrita Williams: Absolutely.
Jan Langbein: – that I was disregarding that experience other than building on it.
Jurrita Williams: Yeah, just wanted to clarify.
Jan Langbein: For sure, for sure.
Dr. Darrell Bock: Now you alluded to a culture of consent earlier on. Explain what that is?
Jurrita Williams: When we think through how our faith says that we are redeemed by the Redeemer Jesus the Christ, and so that redemption doesn't just come for me. It comes for those who offend Christ and offend the imago dei of those that are made in the image of God. So I believe that as we heal, and work through the trauma with survivors – that's part of the Me Too campaign when it went viral.
There were stories that were shared that nobody had heard before, and there was no after care. And part of the Me Too Movement, when Alyssa Milano Tweeted it, it started to focus on the perpetrators when Tarana Burke's purpose was to focus on the survivors.
And so I think that we certainly want to ensure that we are redeeming and that we are helping the perpetrator to walk through what it looks like to honor and to care for your sisters in Christ, and sisters in general if you're not a believer.
And so I'm hoping that this will be a start for the church to create a culture of consent which means that you ask to touch somebody, that's whether it's touching my hair which is part of a historical thing with black women, that's part of my body, or if it's to hug you.
Many times, I've been hugged too long, and it's my body, it's my comfortability, and helping men and women see that women are autonomous and they have the right to say what their bodies should receive and should not receive. As a black woman, we didn't have that opportunity.
It wasn't until 1860, I think 6 or so, before a black woman could even bring a rape case against a white man because slaves, or women who were enslaved with black skin, didn't have the right to humanity.
Because once a woman says, "I've been raped" or "I've been touched," or "I've been sexually abused," that means she's human. And so I'm hoping that we allow the teachings and the destruction of patriarchy, sexism, racism, all of those things that continue to keep people, women, and men who've been abused as well, to keep them before the people, and to have a recurring teaching and understanding of what the culture of our church should be.
We shouldn't be applauding the abuser. He should be getting some help. And so my hope is that this is what the conversation will begin to unearth and we can move forward so that the cycle can be broken.
Jan Langbein: Yes.
Dr. Darrell Bock: So we've got really two elements here. We've got the issue about the person who is abused, but then we also have the person who causes the abuse. What I'm gonna wanna do on the other side of the break – I can't believe how fast our time is going – is to kinda split the second segment into those two parts to talk about, really, one of the things that's changed is that people are now coming forward and actually expressing what's taken place, and that has scrambled the egg.
It really has changed the way in which people are reacting. And then thinking about the perpetrator and how to deal with that, and the community's involvement in that is an important part of this conversation.
Joy, we're gonna start with you. You talked about when you experienced abuse there was nowhere to turn, and I'd like for you to talk a little bit about kinda where you were when that happened and what's changed.
What do you think has happened in recent time to change that narrative, and yet I'm still sensing that getting concrete help is not the easiest thing in the world. So put that puzzle together for us.
Joy Pedrow: Yes. So only one third of victims actually report the abuse, and I think that goes with a lot of what Jurrita said, we're not believed. So when I first told a few people, they blamed me. They said it was my fault, and so that just creates a lot of shame, and that puts all of this guilt and shame onto you instead of putting it on the victim, it was their fault, not your fault.
And even Barna came out with a study recently that 2 to 6 percent of the accusations are false. So people say that "Oh, we shouldn't believe these women that are coming forward," but only 2 to 6 percent are lying, and so our gut response as a church should be to believe these women coming forward not to say, "Oh, it's her fault because she –" "What was she wearing?" That's a common question people have. Rather, we should believe her.
Dr. Darrell Bock: So the issue of believability is important, and I think we've watched that play out in some of the exchanges we've seen in the public square recently, and the tensions that that creates, but there also is the process of what's required to come out, so let's talk about that a little bit.
Joy Pedrow: So I was in college, and I went to the police on campus, and they wanted you to do a full body examination which takes hours, hours of basically getting raped again, and so as a victim who is trying to heal, I didn't want to go through that, and so that becomes, "Well, there's no evidence now to support my claims."
So then they made me tell my story in front of this whole group of professors, the guy who raped me, and to see if I was believable or not. And so if this is what is happening on colleges, I mean, what's happening, and that's so much smaller in a sense compared to what our churches are doing.
But back to your other question, I think the Me Too Movement has changed some of it, but it also hasn't. I mean, that fear of not being believed is still there. You still, to have proper evidence, have to get a rape kit which takes hours. And so some women don't want to go through that.
Dr. Darrell Bock: So what advice would you give to someone who feels like they're coming forward in terms of what they are – I don't know how else to ask this – what they're in for psychologically? I mean, because obviously, to go through the retelling is almost like reliving this experience. That's not easy. And yet, you're in a situation where you've got to provide, from a legal standpoint, you've got to be able to provide evidence in order to pursue this.
So what advice would you give to someone who's caught in an abusive situation, and the second question will be, and what advice would you give – let's talk about the churches for a second – when this comes up, what's the best way for them to be structured in order to receive such a report?
Joy Pedrow: Hmm, okay. Well, some women don't have the option to have support. They don't have anybody in their life to have that support. For me, I would say surrounding yourself with yes people. So whenever someone told me it was their fault, I kinda cut them out, "I can't deal with you right now. I'm going through a lot. You're a no person. I need yes people."
And so to stay close to those friends that helped walked me through reporting it, going to counseling. Finding a Christian counselor was a game changer for me. And I did bring it to my church at the time.
I brought it up with a woman and she began to disciple me and met with me regularly, and that was a great way for the church to kind of minister to me, to have system in place that if a woman comes to the pastors or someone in the church, who are the people that are going to meet with these people to help them begin this process of healing.
We think of the structure of the church. If all of leadership are men, where are the women gonna turn? I was lucky that I had a Bible study leader that was a woman that I could turn to, but everyone on my – my pastors were men, my leadership team were all men, so if I wasn't involved in that Bible study, I wouldn't know who to turn to.
So I think a first step for our churches is to have that structure in place. We know that sexual abuse is happening, we know the people in our church are struggling, so who should be the point person that they come to?
And to even have the structure in place if one of our pastors are the abuser, what do we do, and to tell the church, "Hey, if this happens, these are the steps we're going to take to hold them accountable so both the victim and the victimizer know what's gonna happen next."
Dr. Darrell Bock: Okay. So let me get pretty practical here. What I'm hearing between the lines is that it would be helpful in reporting to the church for the church to have a structure in which it's women who are participating in receiving the report, etc., and that the woman who is the victim may need someone to represent her in the midst of those conversations. Am I hearing that correctly?
Joy Pedrow: Yeah, that would be fabulous.
Dr. Darrell Bock: Okay. And so that's one part of it, and then of course the second part of it, you got very specific on what happens if the abuse is coming from within the church, which we also know does happen. What advice do you give in that particular situation? Same kind of structure in place, but that may need some internal additional support from some of the men in the church in order for the whole thing to sort itself out.
Joy Pedrow: Right, do you mean for the victim?
Dr. Darrell Bock: For the victim, yeah.
Joy Pedrow: Yeah, so as soon she or he comes forth that it's a crime and it needs to be reported. And I think as the Me Too Movement as brought to attention all of these cases where it wasn't reported, where it was taken kind of in control and only inside the walls of the church, we see that's where it's kinda fallen apart.
And so for that victim, when it's in the church, if nobody believes her, to bring some outside sources in to stand by her maybe would be the first step.
Dr. Darrell Bock: Now, I imagine the Genesis Shelter also provides resources in this regard, and advice in this regard, so what advice would you give to someone who's thinking about, I mean, obviously if they come to you, they've made a step.
Jan Langbein: Right.
Dr. Darrell Bock: So I guess the question is what is it that you offer them that helps the woman through and what advice would you give to someone who's kind of, "I don't know whether I should leave or not."
Jan Langbein: Well, it definitely is a choice. I think there has to be an understanding of what the issue is, but there are some women who never will leave, and we understand we can walk beside here with counseling and with advocacy, but we also lay out this menu whether she comes to us or not, we wanna be in the faith communities, we wanna be in the schools, we wanna be out in the community, so wherever she falls into the system, there is someone where to help.
I was thinking, Joy, of what you were saying about women and men being the leadership of the church. You know, if the statistics say whether it's sexual assault or domestic violence, that 1 out of every 3 women will be impacted by this, that relatively means that 1 out of every 3 guys are doing it which means two thirds are not, and so I think it's great to have – I do think it's great to have a system in place, and I love having women in leadership that you feel comfortable and you can identify with. But I think men need to be more than the perpetrators.
I think men need to stand up –
Jurrita Williams: Mm-hmm, absolutely.
Jan Langbein: – and hold other men accountable, and say, "You know what? I'm not gonna shake your hand. I am not going to play golf with you because I don't like how you joke about women. I have zero tolerance for my mom, for my sister, and just because you don't perpetrate it isn't enough."
So I think in the faith communities, men can really stand up. At Genesis we have a men's organization called Heroes, Heroes Respects Others, along with our students tackle abusive relationship along with our madrinas to work in the Latina culture as well.
But with that said, men who go to court and sit on the bride's side of the courtroom, men who mentor our children one-on-one, men who come and flip hamburgers at the shelter on Wednesday night, so I think there is not one answer, Dr. Bock. It has to be this menu.
Like, you know, I'm Methodist, so I don't quote the Bible as well as a DTS graduate, but for those who have ears to hear it. If we only talk about the level of Christ one time a year, I just didn't happen to be there on that Sunday, this isn't enough to talk about this in one place or in one month or in one day, we have to toss it out there and see where these seeds are gonna grow.
So there isn't an easy answer, but with regards to the understanding of it, I think so many times, Joy, as you were saying, it's about what the victim did wrong. It's not your responsibility not to get raped.
Jurrita Williams: That's right.
Jan Langbein: It's a rapist's responsibility, not to rape. We know abuse will not stop until abusers stop abusing, and so we have to be support for one another, but also hold each other accountable.
Joy Pedrow: Yes, yes.
Dr. Darrell Bock: Now, Jurrita, you said that one of the particular problems in the black community is sometimes there's a lack of support or a lack of resources to be able to utilize some of the means that might be provided. So what are the extra challenges of coming forward in a black community?
Jurrita Williams: Many times the staff in our community is just the pastor. Many times, as youth pastor I had about 23 volunteers. It was just my pastor and I who were full-time in positions.
So I think, speaking to Jan's point with not just a one-time thing, I think we can leverage the veneration of our pastors who are mainly male and saying "This is going to be a continual theology of sexuality that we speak to, which speaks to the culture of consent, and the culture of honoring, and it's not because she wore the wrong dress or too tight jeans."
And so I think in our community is allowing us to come from a word, like in Acts 12, who answers the door when Peter knocks? It's Rhoda, the slave girl who Luke chooses to name. So he gives this girl who has been marginalized, who, I would assume, has been raped, who's been allowed to be a voice in the church, the early church.
Rhoda comes back and she tells them, "Hey, Peter's at the door." And what do they do? They don't believe her. And so I think that we can establish a culture, as particular in the black community, where women are not just given a place to teach Sunday school, which I love, 'cause I'm still a Sunday school teacher, are not just given the place where she can cook the chicken in the kitchen, but she can have a place at the table where it shapes the culture of the church, where she brings the data, where she brings what she's listening to in the community because there's a community of what we call Madeas that have wisdom, that have knowledge, and that have story.
And so if we could place women in the pulpit to have a word to speak to the congregation, I think that's powerful. Because if the pastor partners with the Madeas, with the aunties, with the millennials, I think if pastors will partner with them, and give them voice, that would be a Rhoda speaking up for the community.
Dr. Darrell Bock: And so the point that you're making here is that in the midst of a conversation that obviously is a cross-gender conversation, to only hear one set of voices –
Jurrita Williams: Exactly.
Dr. Darrell Bock: – it doesn't get it done.
Jurrita Williams: It doesn't get it done.
Dr. Darrell Bock: And so there's some value in actually having a cross-gender conversation about what's required because this is a cross-gender exchange –
Jurrita Williams: Continually.
Dr. Darrell Bock: – that we're talking about.
Jurrita Williams: Yes. Can I say, as a youth pastor, I asked my pastor could I have a series with human sexuality for our children. In the United Methodist Church, it's fifth grade. I'm a fifth, well, I was a fifth grade lead teacher at my particular church, and they, every year they had a weekend where they kinda firehosed it with the sexuality, but I think we can expand that. Also –
Joy Pedrow: I went to that.
Jurrita Williams: Did you really, yeah?
Joy Pedrow: Crazy.
Jurrita Williams: Yeah, but it's good because it's made in the image of God. It's made fearfully and wonderfully as you know. It's how they enter into that. But also at our church, there are little trifold cards that says, "If you are abused, if someone you love is hurting you, or if someone who loves you is hurting you, then this is the number that you can contact, and this is who you can contact."
That's something simple the black community can do, and put them to a Genesis Shelter. They don't have the capacity, they don't have the finances because if we look across the board at the employment rate for black communities, we're under employed according to every other race.
And so if you don't have those resources, what you have to realize what's important to you, because we can put our resources when we need to, we can put our resources in human resources, helping survivors have a contact with somebody. Every city I know has some kind of shelter, some kind of way, and we can open up our own houses.
Jan Langbein: Whoa, okay, if you're talking about with regards to domestic violence, that's really pretty dangerous and really pretty scary.
Jurrita Williams: Oh, sorry. I'm so sorry.
Jan Langbein: No, no, no. I'm glad you brought it up because I hear so much you wanna help and be a part of this, and what we've done at Genesis is actually to your point, try to remove any roadblock. "You can't come because you have three babies with you. I'm gonna take care of your babies."
"You can't come because you don't have transportation. I'll give you a bus pass." "You can't come because you think it costs anything. None of our services, no cost, no strings attached."
And so we continue to try to work with communities, whether it's the minority communities or the whatever to find out, "Tell me what your roadblocks are." When a woman leaves, and I know I probably overreacted on the "bring them into your home," but –
Jurrita Williams: No, no, no please.
Jan Langbein: – when a woman leaves, she is 75 percent more likely to be killed after she's left and while she's in it. So endangering you and your family, and your children, when there are places that are safe and secure, and non-disclosed, and surrounded with partnerships with police or whatever we need to do.
I think the problem is, I think the problem is the women that you're referring to don't know that it's free, and don't know that there's childcare –
Jurrita Williams: Very true, yeah.
Jan Langbein: – and don't know that I'll give them a bus pass, or you can stay there or not stay there, or make choices and we'll walk beside you.
And so I don't know how to get that word, clearly I don't know how to get that word back into those communities well enough that this is not a problem.
Jurrita Williams: Well you've been partnering with churches.
Jan Langbein: Yes, oh, yes. No, we keep talking about it.
Jurrita Williams: And so that's what we could probably do that.
Jan Langbein: I also chair the Dallas County Fatality Review Committee, and you said earlier black women are absolutely high risk. They're the number one killed by abusive partners, unproportionately so, inproportionately so, but we also know, and we sit around every month honoring the lives of women who were killed by reviewing their deaths, and we sit and we say, "Okay, did you see them? Did she turn to the pastor? Did she go to the police? Did she come to a shelter?"
And absolutely, almost without exception, it is "no, no, no, no," and at first I'm like, "What is the matter? Where are we not getting the word out?" But where we find intersection, we realize she doesn't die.
So if she goes to her pastor and there's a woman on that staff who can hear her and believe her or if she turns to a police officer and he literally makes an arrest of that perpetrator of crime, when she turns to her best friend and says, "I feel alone in this," that person will be a yes person. I think that's when we're making a difference.
Dr. Darrell Bock: Now, again, we're running low on time, I wanna transition, but I wanna make a point too. In the last week, I had a set of parents come to me who said they're dealing with someone in middle school, and their child came to them and said, "You know, I'm being encouraged during breaks to watch porn on an iPhone."
So I'm responding to the idea of this program for fifth graders, and a lot of parents will go, "No, no, no. I wanna have this conversation in the home" or however they wanna handle it, and yet it's so pervasive in terms of setting up an environment in which you create perpetrators.
That's where I'm going with this. That if you don't deal with it early on and prepare young people early on for what is going on all around them, and you turn a blind eye to it or you're as quiet about it, the chances of their getting sucked into it are actually significant.
So Joy, what I wanted to ask you is, how do you, or what are things that can be done to get at the perpetrator side of this, and obviously one of the places to start is training up young people so that they don't even start to go there, but still what are some of the things that you think can be done on the perpetrator?
Joy Pedrow: I think we could look at the issue of pornography because as pornography gets more violent, our culture kind of will look like pornography, and pornography tries to take it up a notch, so they try and make it even more violent to have people watch it. And so these are what our men and women are viewing.
They're thinking this is okay. They're thinking this is normal. So if we're not talking about that in our churches and our ministries, starting young, they don't know that that is not okay, that that is not acceptable. So I think that is one practical way to start the conversation about that early.
Dr. Darrell Bock: And I would assume that a second feature that's important is the way in which sometimes perpetrators are protected, so let's talk about that dimension of the equation. What can be done –
Joy Pedrow: The power.
Dr. Darrell Bock: Yeah, what can be done in relationship to that.
Joy Pedrow: Mm-hmm, power, privilege. There needs to be accountability amongst our leaders, and that could look different in every structure in different organizations, but there needs to be someone checking on them in an accountable way that they don't have that means to get away with it.
Dr. Darrell Bock: And part of, and Jan, this is for you, part of the idea of allowing a person to come out of the dangerous space, if I can say it that way, isn't a commentary on, and this is sometimes the way churches will excuse or be hesitant to do something, isn't a commentary on what the church has to say about the importance of marriage, but it really is an important – it's creating space so that people can be safe given the dynamics of what's taking place within an existing relationship.
What I'm alluding to is that sometimes you get churches who are slow to talk about separation because they are also very hesitant to move towards divorce.
Jan Langbein: Protective of the marriage as a –
Dr. Darrell Bock: As an institution.
Jan Langbein: Right, right.
Dr. Darrell Bock: And so talk about that tension a little bit.
Jan Langbein: No, I think you're right, but I think you have to circle back and from the top down be saying, "Abuse makes God cry." I think that marriage was destroyed with that first foul, disgusting thing he called her, or that first punch, or hit, or slap, or the first time he wouldn't let her go to church.
Dr. Darrell Bock: Certainly is an assault on the marriage.
Jan Langbein: Exactly, exactly.
Dr. Darrell Bock: Yeah, yeah.
Jan Langbein: Exactly. So, yeah, it's definitely a real struggle.
Dr. Darrell Bock: Yeah.
Jan Langbein: I think God hates divorce, but I think he hates abuse even more.
Dr. Darrell Bock: So I think all these are very important conversations, and, you know, I'm sitting here looking at the clock and going, "Man, we just barely even got started." But it is an important discussion. I do think things are changing. I do think the conversations are opening up. I do think the challenge to the church about thinking about this is important.
I'm gonna take a risk here with the clock being what it is, and I'm gonna let each of you say one short, crisp thing. So what would be one last thing you'd wanna say, everybody, and we'll just go around. Jurrita, I'll let you start.
Jurrita Williams: I'll just say believe the survivors. Believe them. Is it 96 to 98 percent are telling the truth. Believe the survivors and do the work of consent. That goes I think in marriage as well –
Jan Langbein: Yes.
Jurrita Williams: – because there's sexual abuse in marriage, and they use the scripture from Paul that says "your body belongs to me." Our bodies belong to God first, and I believe that when we walk in equal relationship – I'm not married, never been married – but when we stop objectifying one another for our pleasure, that we can walk in the power of what that actually means.
Dr. Darrell Bock: Okay. Our time –
Jurrita Williams: Oh, I'm so sorry.
Dr. Darrell Bock: – is gone. But anyway, I wanna thank y'all for coming in and just opening the door on the conversation, and encouraging people, one, to talk about it, and two, to believe what it is that is present and to think about how to do that with sensitivity.
We hope this conversation has been enlightening for you. We thank you for joining us at the table, and look forwarding to having you back with us again soon.
About the Contributors
Dr. Bock has earned recognition as a Humboldt Scholar (Tübingen University in Germany), is the author of over 40 books, including well-regarded commentaries on Luke and Acts and studies of the historical Jesus, and work in cultural engagement as host of the seminary’s Table Podcasts. He was president of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) from 2000–2001, served as a consulting editor for Christianity Today, and serves on the boards of Wheaton College and Chosen People Ministries. His articles appear in leading publications. He is often an expert for the media on NT issues. Dr. Bock has been a New York Times best-selling author in nonfiction and is elder emeritus at Trinity Fellowship Church in Dallas. When traveling overseas, he will tune into the current game involving his favorite teams from Houston—live—even in the wee hours of the morning. Married for over 40 years to Sally, he is a proud father of two daughters and a son and is also a grandfather.
Jurrita Williams is DTS graduate (ThM) from Tuscaloosa, Alabama and is a former educator and youth pastor. She lives to take the truths of Scripture and curate a story that tells the Story. Her heart burns for Christ as her Savior and loves abiding as a catalyst in assisting others in joining her enkindled journey with Him. Jurrita is the first woman to have served as DTS student council president (2017-2018).