There was a paradigm shift in our home this week, a choice we have never made before but may become the new norm because my husband is a middle-aged white man.
It started with a text from Tim letting me know he had been asked to coach the girls high school basketball team because they no longer had a coach. Usually, I just ask the details and then we have a quick conversation about how it will affect our lives. And then we say yes…always yes.
Small Christian schools often need their teachers to help with extracurricular activities and Tim has coached many times in the past including middle school girls’ volleyball with the help of a Mom to assist. I sent him a text back and told him this time I wanted to discuss it at home. What I really wanted was time to think about this decision.
We finally had a minute and instead of discussing it I just said “No, I don’t want you coaching girls of any age anymore, not because I don’t trust you because I do completely. I don’t trust the world we live in any longer. All it would take is for a girl who is not getting enough playing time or some other slight to make an accusation and our whole life could be turned upside down.” I started to defend my statement, but he just looked at me and said “That’s enough, Kim your no is enough for me. I have always trusted your instincts and made whatever adjustments you felt like I should and that has always served me well and that is enough.” My husband has taught, coached and pastored adolescent girls, counseled, pastored single adult women and pastored women of all ages in his ministerial career. The girls in our youth group used to say that when Tim hugged them “it was like hugging their Dad, not creepy like when some other older men hugged them.” Women in our churches have often told me they admired the way Tim conducts himself around them and how often he brings me into the room even when I cannot physically be there.
But I am in a season of life that I do not want to take any chances with this life we have built after the trauma of having our lives destroyed by people who lied about us and smeared our good name. We are both teaching, both on the preaching team at our church and we are beginning to have the time and resources to invest in our grandbabies. I am not willing to put any of that risk any more.
Now before you burn me at the stake and begin to say I am defending someone I shouldn’t, let me be clear I am not defending anyone but merely pondering all the aspects of what is happening in our culture in a very real and personal way.
Although I did not respond to the #metoo movement on social media or any media for that matter it wasn’t because I didn’t agree with or applaud it. Because I did and do. It felt in the beginning like it was a reckoning a much needed and timely reckoning. Organic, authentic and freeing for many women. Finally, consequence, meaningful consequence for those that so deserved it. The kind of real consequence that matters where the money hits the road. Even beloved icons were not safe, and even though I grieved that loss the evidence was too much to ignore.
I too have had my #metoo moments. There have been a handful in my life, but I will only share two because they serve the purpose of illustrating the thoughts I have been pondering.
The first happened when I was in High School and the details are kinda fuzzy regarding who was there and where we were exactly, but the event itself is crystal clear. We were playing hide-n-seek in couples. My partner was a cute boy and I thought it would be fun to hide with him somewhere in the dark. We found a cozy place in some bushes and I was sitting on the ground in front of him. We were talking, laughing and waiting to be found when all of the sudden I felt his arms come around me and he planted his hands right on my breasts!
Not just a touch but fully covering them with each hand. NO one in my life had ever touched me in that way or there, ever. I pushed him back with all my strength and he fell backwards and away from me. I stood up and asked him what he thought he was doing; his response was classic “I just thought I would give it a shot?!” Coy smile and all. I am pretty sure I kicked him, and I took off. I left and never saw him again. I don’t even remember his name, nor can I recall what he looks like but when my mind goes back to that moment I can literally still feel his hands on me. Violation does that it imprints itself on you.
Did I tell anyone? NO, I did not! Why? Because I knew the question that would follow, what were you doing hiding in the bushes with a boy anyway? Was I really wanting to play Hide-seek? No, I wanted to kiss a cute boy in the dark away from prying eyes, but I did not sign up for the violation that occurred. I had however willingly put myself in the moment, so I understand the confusion and embarrassment that comes from the thought of telling anyone about what happened and if the violation were worse the self-doubt and self-recrimination that could keep you silent until maybe in the right moment you would be willing to speak out.
This is the first time I have ever told (written) this story.
The 2nd #metoo moment in my life happened when I was 20 and working at Taco Bell during the summer between my freshmen and sophomore years at Bethany College. Because I was 20 I worked the night shift and there was a male assistant manager that had a little crush on me.
I was professionally pleasant, but I did not encourage him at all because he was a lot older, not a Christian and I had no interest. One night after weeks of working together when he walked past me on the way to his office he slapped me on the butt and let his hand linger while he did it. I immediately turned and told him that was not OK, and he better never touch me like that again and just who did he think he was? He apologized and walked into the office, a girl I went to High School with was working the same shift as me that night and observed what happened.
At the end of the week I came into get my schedule for the next work week and he was the only manager on duty, so he read me the schedule. The next day I was scheduled to work I arrived 2 hours late thinking I was on time. He had told me the wrong times on purpose. The female store manager could tell by my demeanor that I didn’t know I was late. She called me into her office and asked me if I was Ok? So, I told her everything that had happened and that the assistance manager had given me the hours and I showed her what I had written down. She listened and took in every word and asked some other relevant questions.
The girl I had worked with that night was also working that day and on her own told the store manager what she had witnessed. The assistant manager was fired immediately. The validation of being heard and believed is powerful and healing. If I had been working for a male store manager or didn’t have a witness, could my job have been in jeopardy?
A job I desperately needed because I was putting myself through college.
I understand not telling because you wonder if maybe you invited the violation, I understand not telling because you are afraid of the ramifications. I understand that the more horrific the violation, the bigger the fear of revelation and consequence can be.
I think that maybe like many people I have understanding and concern on both fronts. As someone who has experienced violation and as a woman married to an amazing middle-age-white-man and the mother of 2 sons who will someday be just that. I like many others ponder the validity of the timing of accusations and the paralyzing fear that can finally be unlocked in a moment of freedom and safety. I have no idea what the solution is, but I do know that we need to value authentic testimony and a woman’s personal truth, but we should also be thoroughly fair in our investigation of the accused.
Maybe reading The Crucible would be wise for us all, the lessons of an older man, John Procter taking an advantage and having an affair with a young impressionable girl, Abagail Williams and the witch hunt that follows is a tale for today. This story has connections to the actual Salem Witch trials where young girls lied about the conduct of people in the community and those people were convicted and lost their lives. The testimony of young girls that had to be believed because of their age and assumed innocence.
We need to proceed with caution and wisdom because victims need to be heard and respected. A victim has the right to vindication, justice and to be able to heal from the trauma they have experienced. We need #metoo to send a warning note to men that they do not get to violate a woman in any way they want and expect to avoid consequence.
Let the reckoning continue, we need it.
At the same time let’s not destroy a good man’s reputation simply based on his age, skin color and because he holds a place of authority or power. If a man’s conducted has been historically appropriate, can we not allow for some grace while he is being investigated. Can we withhold judgement in the court of public opinion until a definitive outcome is reached?
I have a grandson and a granddaughter, I want a calm, safe, rational world for both. I don’t want either of them violated because of someone’s selfish sick desires. And I would like to have a world where we can discuss these issues in a way that brings truth where it is needed and understanding where it is needed without sensationalism or brutalization.
These are the quiet thoughts I have been thinking about this week while trying to maneuver the world I live in…