What do fat-shaming, rape culture, and medical misdiagnoses have in common?
The feedback given betwixt them is often shockingly similar. They can be subtle and can take a variety of different shapes and forms, but the meaning is loud and clear: we don't believe you.
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Not being believed triggers a domino effect for many women, such as doubting herself, her own ability to judge things accurately, and her own experiences. It can lead to a loss of self confidence, and it can cause her to feel hopeless and depressed.
A sense of mastery is important to one's mental health, and when a person cannot affect his or her environment, they learn that they are without a voice.
Imagine a woman has a physical condition affecting her weight, and she is not believed when she says that she does not know why she is overweight. The real issue will now be compounded.
Imagine a woman who has been violated and comes to people for support but is brushed aside. Her wounds will now go untreated, there will be added trauma, and a criminal will go free, possibly hurting other people.
Imagine a woman who says she's no longer interested in the things she used to enjoy, and her words are immediately discounted. Her depression will go untreated, causing a myriad of other problems.
Imagine a person with anxiety whose words are not heeded and the suffering she will go through, wondering if somehow her panic attacks are her own fault.
How tragic that is in each scenario, but we have the power to fix it.
In each church scandal, there was a moment when it was decided not to examine the facts of an issue but to look the other way when somebody came forward claiming abuse.
On the secular stage, it took the trending hashtag #metoo to create a snowball effect to topple the likes of Harvey Weinstein and others.
In either case, the results were devastating in terms of abuse.
In the Old Testament, in Deuteronomy 22:23, it says,
But if out in the country a man happens to meet a young woman pledged to be married and rapes her, only the man who has done this shall die.
This means that a woman would be listened to and believed. By this passage can also assume that there would be other evidence pointing to the commission of a crime as well. Examining, by the way, doesn't mean bullying or interrogating someone processing a painful event.
So many Christians have taken the idea that such things are handled in-house, or in-church, because Paul said that the brethren were not to be suing one another. It must be noted that this regarding civil matters and not criminal, as nowhere is criminality condoned. Paul also said in Romans 13:3,
For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong.
And in Romans 13:4b, it says:
But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.
The rate of false report regarding sexual assault has been found to be between 2% and 6%, a lower figure than other sorts of criminal behavior. The CDC also says that 1 in 3 women will have been the victim of sexual assault and that these figures are not representative of the total because of rampant under-reporting.
Put simply, many women choose not to come forward because of the not unfounded fear that they will further accosted and not believed.
We have to balance the desire to prevent false accusations with the knowledge that the least of these must also be protected.
Imagine the kind of world this would be when young girls and women are no longer used to being disbelieved, and as a result, they learn to trust their instincts and judgments. Imagine how much time will be saved in getting a correct diagnosis and in making sure predators are no longer able to help others to hurt other people.
Imagine confidence instead of low-self esteem and dignity instead of shame. Imagine beauty instead of ashes and justice instead of scandal. Imaging adopting a trust and then verify mindset that protects everybody. Imagine what it would look like to not play the blame game.
Imagine not harassing trauma victims who are processing unimaginable circumstances. Imagine learning about what these responses look like to provide support.
Saying, 'I don't believe you' creates a label of shame and says that the person is unreliable and maybe even stupid.
Saying, 'I believe you' provides a sense of validation and helps him or her be seen as a person with importance and value.
We should aim to be truthful and to find out the truth, because we serve a God who already knows which side judgment is to fall on. And if you're one of the ones who wasn't believed, understand that God truly sees and will be your avenger -- whether in this life or in the net.
The Bible says we are to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves and to seek justice for the oppressed. In order to do that, we must first listen, and when we hear what has been said, we must make the choice to utter the three words that can change everything: I believe you.
Think a woman can't take an active role in her own life and pop the question? Think again!
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Other Posts You May Like:
The Christian Backlash Against #Metoo
I Trust No One Around My Child
Domestic Violence: An Elephant in Our Churches