If you want to protect yourself from sexual assault, sometimes you’ve got to be rude.
And that’s absolutely okay.
Like many of you, I was glued to Twitter and YouTube watching the testimony of the many victims at the Larry Nassar trial. I read a lot of the testimonies online, and my heart just broke.
Here was this doctor, who was respected and well-liked, by all accounts, digitally penetrating girls’ vaginas and anuses, without gloves, claiming it was a medical procedure. I can’t imagine how much that must have hurt, and how uncomfortable that must have been, for those young girls.
And they were lying there, fighting back tears, trying to be “big girls”. Trying to not complain. Trying to just endure it, like they were supposed to, even though everything inside them was yelling at him to stop.
I can picture myself doing pretty much exactly the same thing. I remember being on a missions trip to Tunisia, getting panic attacks every time we’d go on public transportation. I’d be in a crowded bus, and men would grab my breasts, put their hands between my legs, and I was wedged in there. The other team members didn’t seem to notice what was happening to me. And I’d freeze. 19-year-old me didn’t know what to do. So I just stood there, and they kept groping.
We hear about the fight or flight response all the time, about how when we’re scared, people go into a “fight or flight” response where they either lash out or they flee. But there’s another response that’s tied with fear, and it’s found more commonly in women. It’s the “freeze” response, where you’re so shocked, and so scared, that you do nothing at all.
That’s if we’re actually being touched.
But what if it’s just a casual, social encounter that turns creepy?
Last fall my daughter Katie visited Toronto with a friend of hers, and a creepy guy sat down beside them at a fast food place and started chatting, asking details he really shouldn’t have asked. Katie’s friend kept talking, and Katie tried to pull her loose.
But her friend didn’t want to be rude.
That’s a problem, isn’t it? It’s ingrained in us that we’re supposed to be polite, so when people make lewd comments, or stare at us suggestively, or touch us just a little too long, we don’t know what to say. So we try to be polite, keep the conversation normal, instead of trusting our instincts and lashing out.
I wrote about this earlier in my post about the #metoo movement–about how intimidated women can feel in those situations when a guy propositions us when we weren’t expecting it. It’s humiliating, degrading, and even scary. But we just don’t want to be rude.
I remember one of the stupidest things I have ever done as a parent.
When Rebecca was about 12, she had braces. Her orthodontist was about 4 blocks from our hair dresser, and so I often tried to time those appointments so we could kill two birds with one stone.
One day we were at the hairdresser, and it was lasting longer than usual. I was sitting there with foils in my hair, and it was time to leave for Becca’s appointment. Her orthodonist’s wife was the receptionist, and she was really strict about appointment times. She could cause you to shrivel up with one look if you were late.
Meanwhile, my hairdresser had just finished the cut of a man who was a good friend of hers, but whom I had never met before. She suggested that he could just drive Rebecca to the appointment, and he agreed. Then my hairdresser readily backed off when she realized how insane that sounded (how can I let a strange man drive my daughter anywhere?). But I didn’t want to be rude. I was scared of the scary receptionist, but I liked and trusted my hairdresser’s judgment. So I let him drive her.
Rebecca was absolutely fine and nothing happened, but that episode has haunted me for years. How could I have had such a lapse in judgment?
(Note: my hairdresser reads this blog, and I mean no criticism of her! In fact, I think she was dumbfounded at the time that I let Rebecca go, too!)
What makes the story pretty ironic is that last year, that very same orthodontist was arrested on child porn charges (he had been surreptitiously filming patients without their knowledge). For years I’ve felt badly about handing my child over to a potential pedophile, when really what I did was hand my child over to a guy to take her to an actual pedophile, to whom we were also paying an exorbitant amount of money. So there’s irony for you.
Looking back, I always felt like Dr. Solomon was kind of creepy. Nothing I could ever put my finger on–just kind of creepy.
But when we women are with someone creepy, instead of putting up boundaries, we often question ourselves. We say nothing. We smile, and try to keep the conversation going.
After all, we can’t be rude, can we? We don’t want to cause a scene. We want to be polite. And we want people to see Jesus in us!
You know what, ladies?
Jesus does not want you hurt.
Jesus weeps when girls and women are violated.
Jesus values you and your heart and your safety.
So it’s okay to speak up.
It’s okay to leave a conversation and walk away.
It’s okay to yell in public, “Get away from me!” if you feel threatened.
It’s okay to hit someone’s hand away–hard.
It’s okay to protect yourself.
It’s okay to be rude.
The mark of biblical womanhood is not always being gentle and kind.
Jael took a tent peg and rammed it through Sisera’s head. (Judges 4:21)
Deborah led an army and told off the mightiest men of Israel. (Judges 4)
Rahab risked her life to save Israelite spies. (Joshua 2)
In all of these things, these women acted to protect God’s people.
YOU are God’s child. It’s okay to protect yourself.
Pass it on!