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THERE HAS GOT TO BE A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS…

I feel caught between a rock and a hard place in the conflict between sympathy for the victims of sexual assault or abuse and the rule of law. Many of my friends cast this current conflict at the hearing for the Supreme Court in the light of power versus victims. Many people are simply saying, “believe the victim!” Others are reminding us that a person is considered innocent until “proven” guilty. I want to do both. If someone is indeed a victim I want to believe them, love on them, protect them, and even avenge them. Whatever in my feeble and inept ways I can I want to be there for them, try to understand, listen, and weep with those who weep. In my own family I have seen someone ripped apart by the abuse they suffered, and I admit that I will never adequately know how that has affected their fears, feelings, self-image, confidence, sense of security, and ability to trust. I have marveled at how they have clung to the grace of God, and by the power of God have been able to give of themselves, have courage, and even speak frankly about the effects of abuse on their life. It is undeniable to me that abuse radically shapes a person’s thoughts, feelings, and actions. Some may say that the hearings are not a trial, so it is okay to bring accusations without proof or corroboration. I have seen this kind of equivocal situation in the context of the church, usually in the case of church member versus pastor, or elder. There too it might be looked at as a victim versus power. When Ruling Elders of a church allow a member to come to a Session meeting and bring accusations against a pastor, or even another member, without witnesses or proof, but solely in the name of keeping the peace by allowing someone who feels aggrieved the opportunity to vent their feelings, it is not only destructive and detrimental to the protection of the church and its authority but simply wrong. Equivocation between parties is not justice, though it might appear to be so by adjudicators thinking they are keeping the peace. There is a movement to erase all boundaries of protection for a person’s reputation in the name of giving comfort and safety to those who claim to have been abused. Ultimately this is corrupting to the rule of law and is more akin to lynch law where the mob makes decisions on their emotional response to a situation. We obviously have a dilemma, as a society, when it comes to such things. How much time should we allow victims to bring forward their stories? Is it ever too late to bring something up from the past, especially if it is some kind of sexual abuse? My answer would tend to be that there should be no time limit, but there should always be the limiting factor of who is told, and the limiting factors of standards by which people are believed. We have to protect children, or those abused as children, and women, and we have to give them a way to bring their story and accusations forward, while at the same time not giving way to a flood of hysteria that takes away all safeguards for people who are innocent of those charges. We don’t have to look far to see the danger, first in the Bible with the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, then to the stories of black men lynched at the word of white women that were later found to be lying, and even to present day as men are finally let out of prison when DNA proves they could not have done the crime for which they were incarcerated. I feel ashamed as an American to see all this played out at the Senate hearings. I am ashamed that the Senate would ever let someone step forward to make an accusation about someone without corroboration, prior to their public appearance. This is equivocation of the worst sort, with political gamesmanship and the weaponizing of public opinion. I am ashamed of teen-age drinking parties, where parental supervision seems to get lost or be abandoned. I am ashamed of men who try to rape women, and most especially of those who sexually abuse children. I am past shame and into anger when it comes to and kind of religious authority using their position to sexually abuse children. I am ashamed of myself when I think of where, and how, I learned about sex and what I wanted and tried to do and get away with in my teen years. I am grateful for the cross of Christ where I found forgiveness and the power to be delivered from really intense sexual bondage. I am sad that our society seems to know so little about forgiveness, or grace, and can’t seem to provide either one to victims or perpetrators. I don’t think this reality TV has helped us very much, except to realize that there has to be a better way for the Senate to advise and consent to the President’s choice.

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