Who am I?
Simply one lesser light out here, one small bulb, committed to shining light in dark places.
My wish is that I wouldn’t have to speak out about sexual abuse–a topic far too taboo considering we’re in the 21st century. As a teenager, I became a 1 of 3 statistic. My choices were (1) to report the crime and sever all ties with my family, my friends, and my church; or (2) to dutifully repress the traumatic experience and drop the whole truth thing.
More recently, the actor publicly and painfully reminded me of that truth. Never having to face accountability, he remained part of my religious and family community. Around 2012, he started acting in undeniably bizarre ways. The man sent me a friend request on Facebook shortly before he named his child my first name. He later claimed this was mere coincidence and that he hadn’t communicated with me in years (obviously, not the truth, though others were unaware of this). He was gradually showing himself to be a present danger. I reasonably took my concerns to family and community leaders, most of whom knew of his past deeds. They admitted this actor was behaving “weirdly.” Yet, no one could offer me solid support. To the contrary, I was told something to the effect of, “Yes, what he did was inappropriate … [but] I cannot support you on this.”
Houston we have a problem. My community, who conscientiously objected military service in support of peace, struggled in its objection to sexual violence. Some in the community didn’t even think sex crimes like sexual battery were acts of violence. It was a culture of acceptance plaguing not only my community, but many communities. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for sexual violence to infiltrate communities. Sexual violence has been around since biblical times. That’s a given constant.
The variables within individuals’ and communities’ control include prevention, awareness, and response to sexual violence. Sadly, though, many want to toggle some middle ground of false “neutrality” when allegations within communities arise. All must understand this: there is no neutral position when it comes to sexual violence. There is no gray area. Sexual violence is, by definition, wrong. It is sinful and criminal. When a person chooses silence so as to “keep peace” the person sides with violence and violators.
God put it on my conscience that being silent to known danger was unrighteous (and dangerous). But what could I do? I could remove myself and my children from the community (easier said than done, considering my family is interwoven into the community), but how could I help others within it? I’m a nobody.
I realized I didn’t need importance or might to simply shine a light. While my lone light may not cover the expansive dark, it can brighten my corner. Many small lights can collectively light the darkest spaces. Maybe somehow, someday the twinkling lights of truth will reach my community and help others from the cold, shadowed silence of sexual violence (it is a sin and a crime, and by not explicitly naming it, we give it more power than it deserves).
My hope would be that no one would ever know the effects of this crime. This topic makes others uncomfortable. I get it. Talking about sexual abuse still makes me uncomfortable. The truth is, our discomfort comes from a place of fear. This topic is culturally silenced, and that perpetuates the discomfort we feel. We fear truth. We know this crime is real. We know it occurs in our own schools and our own churches. We know it occurs in homes.
This is a real crime, a pervasive crime, a divisive crime, a silenced crime, and, most of all, a destructive crime. It has destroyed generations of boys and girls, men and women, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons. Knowing this, we have two possible choices.
One, we keep the truth hidden in shadows out of our misguided fear and shame. Nothing changes, and this crime continues to destroy. Two, we expose this crime to light. Evil cannot long survive light. We prevent and protect. We heal.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that.” If more of us would step up and carry torches of truth, we could save someone’s sons and daughters. We could create a new legacy, one without shame. One with joy and peace. I encourage you, too, to become a lesser light.
The Lesser Light & The Greater Light: Truth, Christian Salvation, and American Justice
It’s not a “what,” but a “who.” A Lesser Light is me. A Lesser Light is you.
For those of the Christian faith, you know the Bible is full of light imagery–from Genesis through Revelations. The Bible defines God as light (in Him is “no darkness at all”). So what about abuse that occurs in the church? The Bible is clear. While salvation is available for any soul, the Bible clearly says laws of man are to be followed. Romans 13 – Only “evildoers” fearfully resist men’s laws, for those doing good have no need to fear.
Romans 13 says something else, too. It says, “The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.Let us walk honestly, as in the day….” Truth and light are inextricably linked throughout the Bible. God is the Greater Light, and Christians who profess the indwelling of God’s spirit are to reflect His light to the world. In this sense, all Christians are called to be “lesser lights.”
And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. –Genesis 1:16-17
And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. –John 3: 19-21
Christianity calls followers of Christ to be “lesser lights,” but America’s founding principles call all Americans to bear truth torches, too. The American legal system is based on “primary truths,” according to Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton said, “Caution and investigation are a necessary armor against error and imposition” (The Federalist Papers: Number 31).
The founding fathers also said the government had a responsibility to protect public peace from “foreign and domestic violence.” The ever-rational Publius (Hamilton) argued that laws must be based on these theorems, these primary truths. He explained that men’s passions, emotions, personal interests, desires, and ambitions made a government of laws necessary:
But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. (The Federalist Papers: Number 51)
The founding fathers were aware of man’s propensity for evil against fellow-man, and they saw protection of individual civil liberties as necessary for a stable republic:
It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part . . . In a free government the security for civil rights must be the same as that for religious rights.
So, why be a Lesser Light? Be a Lesser Light to be a good Christian, a good American, or, simply, a good human. Sexual abuse isn’t a victim’s problem. It’s society’s problem. It isn’t a private issue. It’s a public issue. Sexual abuse touches every facet of society. It’s an issue with a solution, though. Part of that solution is you.
Other abuse survivors can read my experience here. If you are a survivor, whether you’ve disclosed your abuse or not, know I believe you. Sexual abuse is a crime committed against a person. It does not define a person. You are not at fault nor are you worthy of blame for someone else’s willful and wanton crime against you. Certainly, God is the healer and protector of the soul (see this blog’s spiritual healing & mindfulness links will provide tools for you if you’re hurting). Thankfully, though, God has provided us earth-dwelling healers and protectors of body, too. Arm yourself with information, the law, and the tools of recovery. Whatever path you choose ahead, know I wish you strength, peace, and love on your journey.