163 – #SilenceisNotSpiritual: Breaking the Silence on Violence Against Women and Girls

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Dr. Sandra Morgan and Dave Stachowiak discuss the power of the #SilenceisNotSpiritual movement and the best ways to implement changes in our own communities.

Key Points

  • #SilenceisNotSpiritual is different than most movement hashtags because it requires people to sign a commitment that they will stand with women and for women.
  • 75% of harassment victims experience retaliation.
  • If you are going to help a women escape a violent situation or file a sexual harassment lawsuit then you also need to be willing to stand by them during the fallout.
  • If community and political leadership are heavily populated by men, does that affect its response to harassment of women?
  • Many churches that have policies that allow women in leadership don’t actually have any women in those positions.


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Dave: [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. This is episode number 163, #SilenceIsNotSpiritual: Breaking the Silence on Violence Against Women and Girls.

Production Credits: [00:00:12] Produced by Innovate Learning, maximizing human potential.

Dave: [00:00:32] Welcome to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. My name is Dave Stachowiak.

Sandie: [00:00:37] And my name is Sandie Morgan.

Dave: [00:00:40] And this is the show where we empower you to study the issues, be a voice, and make a difference in ending human trafficking. Sandie, we certainly couldn’t not say something about this topic, with everything that’s been going on in the media and in the news over the last five or six months. There’s so much happening, there’s so much conversation going on. We’re at the very beginning of a revolution which has needed to happen. And yet there is so much complexity here. And yet today we’re going to try and tackle one piece of this. And one way that one organization is responding. And I think that there will be some takeaways for all of us on how we can think about this differently, especially here in the New Year.

Sandie: [00:01:25] I’ve heard someone say this is a defining moment in history. Here in the news, we see it felt like for a few weeks like there was a sexual harassment revelation every single week and someone lost their jobs. And how do we respond to that? And one of the things that a group of my close friends began to look at is how do we as women respond in a context that we’re part of our churches. And so, it isn’t about alienating ourselves from media, or even pointing fingers at men who are bad, and things like that, but really taking the opportunity with this attention to look at issues that surround violence against women and girls. And this is really important from the Ending Human Trafficking perspective because we know that when we look at prevention models, many of the girls who end up in being trafficked had an experience either with sexual abuse as a child with sexual assault that left them in a vulnerable position, and may have run away or found themselves in a place where they were much more recruitable or even abducted. Manage all of those things, you can you can go back and listen to some of those podcasts.

Sandie: [00:02:52] But how do we be proactive now? And so, this group has launched #SilenceIsNotSpiritual. And the first time I heard the hashtag idea, I thought oh that sounds like Sin by Silence. And Sin by Silence is the name of a documentary that Vanguard alum, Olivia Klaus Morrogh, created based on our beloved founder’s research, Dr. Elizabeth Leonard’s, on convicted survivors women who had been battered and ended up in prison because their husbands died in an altercation at their hand. And so, the idea that breaking that silence is part of the key to ending violence, this was an echo of that. And I wanted to pursue that, so I said yes, I’ll sign and I’m like the fourth signature or so on this. Now it has almost 5000 signatures when I looked yesterday. And the idea is that this has gone beyond awareness. We push things out, you’ve got Twitter stuff, you retweet the things you like, I push things out on Facebook. But this means that you actually have to go to the site and sign it. So, it’s real engagement. We’re not measuring how many hits; how many people saw it. I mean the first day I posted it, it had 470 views. That doesn’t matter. That does not matter. We watch things happen, we’re bystanders. This is about getting involved during a defining moment in history. And we want people to go to the website and sign that they’re standing with women and standing up for women. Those are the two actions statements.

Dave: [00:04:54] As people are listening to this episode, I know one of the calls to action we’ll have is to go visit the website, Sandie. When you do sign what is it you’re committing to, what is the organization really trying to do in order to effect change?

Sandie: [00:05:06] Well want to go beyond the #MeToo or even the #ChurchToo. And we don’t want to be out there saying oh who’s doing this wrong. We want to look in our own community and Vanguard is a private Christian university. The leaders that launched this are women who are in leadership and in the Evangelical church world. And so, we want to take responsibility in our own context. We want to look at what’s happening in our churches. One of the things that they were very intentional about was doing their research through research communities that are part of the churches like they use LifeWay Research. They did a poll a survey, LifeWay Research did, of a thousand pastors. And discovered that 74 percent knew about violence against women but they had very unrealistic expectations about if it was present in their own churches.

Dave: [00:06:12] Interesting.

Sandie: [00:06:13] And so how do you move forward and create space to stand up for women, if you think it doesn’t exist in your church. And so, we have to break that silence. That’s why its silence is not spiritual, being a voice, and how many times have you heard me say Proverbs 31:8 says, “Be a voice for those who have no voice, ensure justice for those being crushed.” And that’s really the premise for me signing this. It isn’t an option for me. I want to sign this. I want to support a movement that calls us to reflect in our own community, in our own backyard.

Dave: [00:06:55] Well and you think one of the challenges with the current defining moment revolution whatever term we want to use that’s going on in the broader society right now, is the tendency for us to you know look outward and to look what’s going on everywhere else in Hollywood, and government, and all the places that we’ve seen these situations emerge. And it is sometimes a secondary consideration of what potentially is going on in our own community. And what do we have some ability to influence? And I think about Stephen Covey’s work who wrote the book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. And making that distinction between the circle of concern and circle of influence. Our circle of concerns for most of us is much bigger than our circles of influence. And if we spend our time focused on her circle of concern and only there, we limit our ability to influence. But if we spend our time really looking at where we can influence, we grow our circle of influence. And so, I think from what I’m hearing you say, this is really calling us to look at our own backyard as you said, and in our own communities and in her own faith institutions and to take the responsibility for making sure we’re starting within our own circle of influence to take action.

Sandie: [00:08:13] That’s such an insightful example because in the statement we start off with the idea that in Genesis, God declares that all people are made in the image of God. And if you go back go to the statement and read it, you’ll discover it actually includes the perpetrators. They’re created in the image of God. And when we begin to look at the at the issue of violence against women, including sexual harassment, and assault, trafficking, rape as a weapon of war- the focus at the beginning is global. One out of every three women have experienced physical and or sexual violence, and 200 million girls are missing. And we’ve talked about that on previous podcasts because of son preference, the preference for having a boy in many parts of the world. And one out of every three women has experienced some sort of violence. And then we bring it into the U.S. according to the 2016 Center for Disease Control report, one out of every five women in the U.S. have experienced rape or attempted rape. And 44 percent have experienced some other form of sexual violence including coercion, unwanted sexual contact, and non-contact unwanted sexual experiences. And you know we’re not going to go into a lot of numbers and things at this point. But the idea that we start with that circle of concern and we often see big numbers that are global, but then we have to get down to our own community.

Dave: [00:09:52] Well I’m so glad you mentioned that, Sandie. I mean, you think about some of these numbers, and we know of course a lot of these statistics are under-reported. But even the 200 million number of women and girls who are missing, we have approximately the population of 300 million in the United States. I mean it’s two-thirds of the population of the United States. I mean that’s the [00:10:11] end not [0.4] of numbers of people we’re talking about.

Sandie: [00:10:13] And that drives human trafficking.

Dave: [00:10:15] Oh my gosh, absolutely. And I mean one of the things that I’m sad to admit, you know just listening in on and just watching what’s going on in the media over the last you know six or seven months, and some of these high-profile cases that have come out in leaders and organizations. I’m certainly not naive to think that this doesn’t exist in the world. But I am a bit surprised that in 2017 and 2018, how much of this and how blatantly in many organizations it’s still there. It’s really stunning, and I think it’s worth all of us to take a step back, and think like wow if this is going on in so many different organizations, so many different places, you know of course it’s happening in every community.

Sandie: [00:11:00] Absolutely.

Dave: [00:11:00] On some level and every community is different of course but just by the sheer numbers. I mean forget everything else, just by the numbers you know that it’s happening in almost every faith community at some level. And most of us know people who are struggling with this right now.

Sandie: [00:11:16] And when you look at what happens to the victims if they speak up, the CDC’s report showed 75 percent of harassment victims experienced retaliation for when they spoke up. So, it’s not wise, you might lose your job. And that’s a real concern. Single mom, you’re just going to have to take. In some professions, it’s understood that this is going to be part of what’s happening and I’m not referring to Hollywood. I’m thinking about being a young nurse on night duty, and you know to be really careful when Dr. So-and-So comes in because he tends to have wandering hands. Those are things that they actually prepare you for as a young woman entering a new profession. Why is that even part of what anyone would say as an older person? Now I’m thinking I shouldn’t have said oh OK I’ll make sure I keep the counter between us, or I’m on the other side, or whatever. Evasive tactics that we use. And I love, I’ve often quoted Jackson Katz who always includes a great exercise that is one of my favorite, where he has our students have two columns and he asked all the guys what they did today to avoid getting raped. And you know the guys all laugh and there’s hardly anything written up there that they could even creatively write. And then you ask all the girls what did you do. And are like well I kept my doors locked, I carry my keys this way, I watch and make sure that I have a buddy when I go out to the parking, they fill up two sheets of paper. So, you have to start asking yourself why that is? And in this statement, it is just taking a stand. Violence against a woman is violence against all of us. And so, we have to all be called to action. And the two actions steps, for our churches particularly, are listed at the end of this statement. So, I’m in going to read action step one to you, because I don’t want to misstate it or paraphrase it too much. The first call to action is to stand with women who experience violence. A call to solidarity by making space for women to break their silence in our congregations and communities. Recognizing each woman’s inherent dignity, we call on churches to create protected spaces where survivors of violence can offer their stories as they choose and where the body can receive these stories with empathy, love, and care. When you think about that call for solidarity to make a space. If there is no place for me to tell my story, it’s like being invisible and it’s like having someone hit the mute button to use common vernacular now. And without the ability to tell my story, how do I begin to build safer places. How does the local church get involved, and so creating a safe space? Many times, you know I teach family violence and we talk about the community response to a woman who stays in a violent situation because she has no options. She doesn’t have the finances, she doesn’t have a place to go, and yet they blame her because she isn’t leaving that situation. Instead of blaming him for being the abuser, and it’s like wait a minute there’s something wrong here. And I think that takes us then to the second action step.

Dave: [00:15:15] So before we read the second one I am curious about this, you may be getting to this. But this is one of those things that I suspect if we surveyed all the pastors we know in church communities you know we would find broad agreement with that statement. And yet I also think we would probably run into situations where people would say OK I’d like to create that safe space, but how? Like why doesn’t my church community have that, and if it doesn’t like what would I do to take a step? I know you speak and consult with lots of churches, Sandie. Of churches and faith communities you’ve seen that have done this well, or taken a good first step. What is a good first step to begin creating that kind of space?

Sandie: [00:15:52] I think one of the best ways is making sure that the people that are in your church have training so they know how to walk with people who have experienced violence, who have trauma in their backgrounds, people who know who to call if they need resources. People with training knowing that if you’re helping someone leave a domestic violence situation if you’re helping someone gain the courage to file a sexual harassment-assault, that you also were going to be there after that initial action has done, because there will be fallout from that. There may be violence. We know that what happens if the woman leaves and takes the children, then perhaps the husband comes after her. And sometimes it’s the reverse. But 90 percent of the time it’s not that way. And so, having people on your staff and volunteers at the church that knows who to call. I was really proud of my husband recently because many of you know he pastors a little church here in Southern California. And he got home and he’s telling me about his day and he tells me about a particular circumstance and I was like, “Why didn’t you call me.” He said, “because I had the number you gave me.” And so, he called them and there are different numbers for different resources and in different communities here in OC. In Orange County, we use OC211 to call for resources for housing for someone who needs to leave or doesn’t have a place to go, those kinds of things. But you need to know what that is in your community and local pastors should have a list of resources that even their secretary that answers the phone knows how to advise somebody. But creating that safe space is going to be support groups, it’s going to be people to walk with them. And sometimes partnering in your community, because a church cannot usually sustain a budget that would cover all of those resources, so it’s a good place for a public-private partnership. And you know who to call in the community that provides those resources.

Dave: [00:18:06] Very helpful, thank you.

Sandie: [00:18:06] So then the second statement for action is to stand up for women who experience violence. And I’m losing my voice, Dave, do you want to read that second call to action?

Dave: [00:18:20] The second call to action says, “to stand up for women who experience violence. A call to advocacy repenting of our silent assent to systems, structures, and practices that harm our sisters. We desire to spark action at all levels affecting the lives of women. We call leaders and influencers within the greater faith community to action. We invite the body of Christ to adopt a genuine willingness to repent where we have failed and to fight both systemic and individual injustices in our midst.”

Sandie: [00:18:51] So when I listen to that. And I love the fact that it says structural. I think back to studying for teaching the Intro to Women’s Studies class, and I found an author that I just. I’ve read both of her books and I keep them on my closest bookshelf because I’m constantly picking it up and referring to it with my students. Gerda Lerner wrote a book about the creation of patriarchy and so I like her definition of patriarchy because that’s the structure where this is rooted. We’ve heard lots of pundits analyze the sense of entitlement that someone may have, and that entitlement may be based on financial superiority, it may be based on higher levels of leadership and ownership in a company. So, you have financial superiority over someone, and it can also and this is where it’s important for us to look in our own backyard. It can also be based on spiritual authority, and that creates an imbalance. And we look at the premises of power and when there is an imbalance of power, and we see that across every spectrum of life whether we’re talking about politics, city government, whoever has the power. The other side is much more vulnerable to some form of abuse. So, her definition of patriarchy, he says, “there’s a problem with the word patriarchy which most feminists use, is that it has a narrow traditional meaning. The system historically derived from Greek and Roman law, in which the male head of the household had absolute legal and economic power over his dependent female and male family members. This usage distorts historical reality. The patriarchal dominance of male family heads over their kin is much older than classical antiquity and into the 19th-century male dominance in the family took new forms and was not ended. Patriarchy in its wider definition means the manifestation and institutionalization of male dominance over women and children in the family, and the extension of male dominance over women and society in general. It implies that men hold power in all the important institutions of society and that women are deprived of access to such power. It does not imply that women are either totally powerless or totally deprived of rights, influence, and resources.” So how do we look at that? And there are lots of little ways to assess what patriarchy looks like in a community.

Sandie: [00:21:48] One of the tools that are often used in visiting countries and doing reports on violence against women, is to look at the government and see how many men are in power and how many women. And of course, you know in many governments, there are no women, there are no voices. And the UN set up a preferred protocol that parliament and legislators should be 30 percent women. And I remember when I visited Iraq, and the parliament folks said to me we have 30 percent, women, because they had just passed this law to come into international standards and you only have 16 percent in the U.S. Whoa. Think about that. Where is the imbalance of power for women in the United States? Does this impact how we respond to the one in five in our own U.S. Center for Disease Control? Does it impact how the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which is coming up in 2018 and would be of interest to all of you?

Dave: [00:22:58] Oh for sure it does, and we see it at seems like many levels of government Congress and all kinds of things that are decisions are being made. And when you were saying institutional structure, Sandie, I was thinking back just to about how we handle some of this in our own family bonding. I’ve been asked to sometimes over the years to support an organization or get involved. And one of the things we’ve learned to do is we’ll go onto a website, and we’ll look at the organization, we’ll look at who’s on the board of directors, or who’s on the board of elders. And if it’s all white men, the conversation kind of stops there for us as far as if it’s an organization we would engage with. You know we’re very intentional when we engage with organizations. There are times we have made an exception to that for other reasons, but we’re very intentional about looking at that, of like how is this organization structured. We very intentionally are part of a church community where the distribution of the people on our session, our elders looks like the distribution of the congregation, it’s very diverse.

Sandie: [00:23:56] That’s such a good point! Because when you look at church literature now, it is predominantly usually more than 50 percent of the members are women. And yet you look upon the platform, and you don’t see 50 or 60 percent women. So, it doesn’t reflect that constituency. And that leaves some areas for improvement because we’re being very positive here and taking advantage of this moment in history to redefine how we as an evangelical community respond and begin to make corrections that would adjust how patriarchy has contributed to this sense of male entitlement.

Dave: [00:24:41] For someone who maybe is hearing about this for the first time, Sandie, and thinking about this in the context of everything that’s going on in the news. What’s a good first step is it to go to the website and to look at this and consider it, or is there something else that’s even helpful to start first or maybe in addition to?

Sandie: [00:24:58] Well I think it’s important to begin. I remember a pastor locally that came to the Global Center for Women and Justice and he said, “you know our leaders were trying to decide if women should be allowed to be ministers if women should be allowed to be board members.” And so, I wanted to do some research and I thought this would be a good place. We had some great conversations. We connected them with Christians for Biblical Equality. And eventually, their church created space for women to be leaders on the same equal footing as men. And I think from the perspective of structural change, that’s an important first step is to begin to look at what is your leadership like. Because you can make a change. You’re the ones in power. And I’m not going to go out and paint signs and march in front of your church, Dave. Actually, I might just come to visit your church. But those are some of the important because you have a circle of influence that I don’t have access to as a male. And many of our listeners and pastors whose hearts really want to make a difference, and it’s very easy to find some women in the church who will start a support group for women that might be victims of violence. Because you can’t, as a  male Pastor, you’re not going to be able to lead that. You can create space for it. But really beginning to look at your own leadership structure. Are there women? And here’s the thing that’s interesting. Many churches that technically have policies and bylaws that allow women to fill leadership roles, they don’t. And I was I was asking someone at a church like that. I said I saw on your website that women can be elders and women can be pastors. But I don’t see that here. And the response was Oh people here wouldn’t accept that. And my response is if they haven’t seen it, that’s why they don’t accept it. So, you as a pastor, if you’re listening, if you model this if you begin to intentionally ask women to come and preach, eventually it will become normal. It’ll be a little uncomfortable the first few times, and the first time you add a woman’s name to the business meeting to be voted for as an elder. That may be a little uncomfortable, but for those of you who already have bylaws that allow it. This is the year 2018 to take steps to actually make it happen.

Dave: [00:27:44] Well taking steps is so important, Sandie. I mean I had two thoughts when you were speaking about that. I grew up in the Catholic Church. And so, I remember the very first time I ever went to a church service and a woman was preaching the sermon. That was very different like it didn’t seem wrong to me but it just seemed very different from what I was used to. And now it seems completely normal. Like of course you know we have women and men preach at our church, but I can remember a time where that was unusual. And so, the other thought I had is, you know when you were talking about the pastor who came to you and said hey I’d like to study this and really think of like how do we do this intentionally? On one level I think a lot of us respond and we’re like oh my gosh that’s great. You know let’s help that person to engage and their community to engage. At another level, I really find that a struggle for me personally, of like are you kidding me like, why do you need to spend six months researching this. Like come on, be done with it already, why are you not moving on this. Like really you have to spend six months to justify? So, this is just part of this I’m saying that Sandie, because I know there are people in our listening community who also have that response. And that to me, and I know saying that and having those thoughts go through my mind is not the mature response to have of yes, I’m at a different place now and other people are a different place. But we need to also work to meet people where they are if they are willing to take that step and to help them move along that journey. And I think that it is as challenging for us as it is for them to meet them at that level. I mean there’s a lot of courage on both sides to do that, to not just be the person like of course, you should believe this like why don’t you see things the way I do. But to be able to if we can like stop and really place ourselves and really truly understand where that person is coming from, where their tradition has led them, where their community has led them, and also at the same time to really appreciate that desire they have to say yes in spite of all that we do want to change and we are thinking about it. I think that’s a really beautiful place to be.

Sandie: [00:29:54] And the motivation for that, we do things for others that we maybe wouldn’t do for ourselves. And so, we begin to understand that a 14-year-old who was molested by her youth pastor and there was no way for her to tell anyone in her church, there was no safe place, began to self-medicate and got involved with drugs. Or a 16-year-old who was in my office a month ago and finding out that during a mission trip a youth pastor was so inappropriate but there’s no one to tell, there’s no way to tell. That begins to create. And if you’re against human trafficking, those are the kinds of kids who become more vulnerable. So, you can do this for a bigger issue, you can look at those global outcomes that are the result of being silent now.

Dave: [00:30:52] Indeed. Sandie, there is so much we could say about this. When you and I were putting our notes together for the show, I was joking we have a good seven or eight hours of content.

Sandie: [00:31:03] That’s right. But we got to find ways forward for a change.

Dave: [00:31:06] Indeed. So, I think one of the key calls to action here is to check out the website, silenceisnotspiritual.org. And of course, we’ll have all the links for everything we’ve mentioned here on the podcast and our show notes. And we would really encourage you to check out the website for all those resources at the endinghumantrafficking.org. That’s where you’ll find the notes for this episode 163, but also all of the notes and resources for every episode we air. And of course, Sandie, this being prevention month, we are asking you to also take the step to think about taking the next step in engaging with our community, and building partnerships and relationships, and continuing to study the issues so you can be a voice and make a difference in ending human trafficking. And one key way you can do that is to learn more about the Ensure Justice conference, coming up here March 2nd and 3rd 2018. Sandie, what’s our focus for this year’s conference?

Sandie: [00:32:08] The link between substance abuse and human trafficking.

Dave: [00:32:12] And we’ve talked about some of those in the last couple episodes already, and more to come of course as time goes on. So, if you haven’t already learned about the conference, go to ensurejustice.com. Join us here live in Southern California March 2nd and 3rd 2018. We look forward to meeting you in person. And Sandie, I’ll see you again next week.

Sandie: [00:32:32] Alright, thanks, Dave.

Dave: [00:32:33] Take care, everybody.

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