Blog by Cherese Jackson
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. ~ John 8:36 (NIV)
In October 2017, the words Me Too spread virally as a social media hashtag to denounce sexual assault and harassment, in the wake of sexual assault allegations flooding Hollywood. The power of #MeToo is that it uncovers something that women have long been quiet about and transformed it into a powerful movement.
#MeToo is not a protest or campaign; it is simply an attempt to bring attention to the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment. Uncovering a climate of serial sexual predation is not an easy feat, but #MeToo has proven to be revolutionary in its own right.
Stories of sexual assault can be very difficult to read, frightening and emotionally draining for some, but they also show other victims they are not alone in their struggles. I vacillated back and forth, on whether I would share my story or hold off until the book is written. While some continue to suffer long after their horrifying experience, others, like me, go on to recover and regain control of their lives. Hence, the title, “Free Indeed, #MeToo.”
My #MeToo story is a long one, but I’ll just share the essence of it here. It started when I was 12 and ended with an encore about eight years ago. A family member was supposed to be “watching” me as he had done many times before. This time was different and things took a sharp left. He and his friends assaulted me, both sexually and physically, in a very violent manner. I was warned not to testify against him. I did and my life – which was already in a critical state – quickly turned into a living nightmare.
I was hurt, angry, suicidal and an overall emotional wreck. I was labeled a problem child, because people failed to “SEE” me. Why would anyone love me after all I had endured? At that time, therapy did not help because the abuse was on repeat. For years, I suffered so much physical, mental, and emotional abuse it is truly a miracle that I’m still alive.
The ironic truth is I came from a very religious, but extremely dysfunctional, family. Despite growing up in church, I did not believe God loved me. I was unlovable; so, how could He? Even if He did, I had made up my mind that I had no desire to go to Heaven and spend eternity with the “Bible-thumpers” that constantly inflicted pain on me.
Thankfully, I also come from a very talented family. I quickly learned the power of a song. Of course, God is the author and finisher of my faith, but during this season, I credited music and song writing for protecting the little sanity that I had. Even today, music can transition me from any slump into a brighter place.
Although my initial church roots were infected due to the toxicity of my surroundings, Jesus was yet an intricate part of my childhood. While children in other families played house or cops and robbers, we played church. We led worship, sang in the choir, preached and performed the altar call…we had it down to a science and even wrote our own songs. It was actually quite entertaining.
After a long and difficult road, I found my way “back” to God. Still very skeptical, I was in the company of Christians who worked hard to prove they loved me and had the grace to endure the struggle. It was a fight; I had been through hell at the expense of people who were supposed to love me.
After being tossed back and forth from one family to another, and later, to and fro through a couple of relationships, it is no wonder #MeToo has me thinking about the Samaritan woman in John the fourth chapter. This woman represents the consummate “outsider” who, after her transformative encounter with Jesus, becomes not only an “insider” but also a leader. Jesus not only engaged her, He freed her!
Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him. ~ John 4: 28-30 NIV
Everyone preaches about her as if she is a notorious “sinner” who was married five times. The text does not suggest this. A woman in her time could not initiate divorce, this means she had been discarded or abandoned in some way. Even today, as many read her story, they have failed to SEE her, but God saw her! In an instant, she was in a Free at last, #MeToo state of being. Yes, she had been a victim, but at His word released from what plagued her.
The fact that we read her story and think of her as a sinner rather than a victim says more about us than it does about her. Her testimony of Jesus is, “I met a man who told me everything I had ever done.” However, when you dissect the text, Jesus not only saw what she had done, but everything – both done and done to her. Moreover, who she is, not just all that happened!
I wonder how many women today are like this Samaritan woman. They have unwillingly landed on the receiving end of unjust assumptions from disciples who offer idle speculation and blame. More so, than the God who fully sees, knows, and loves. My prayer for the #MeToo community is that we would all realize that God sees and knows. Yet, He loves us without reservation.
For many their #MeToo story was something unspoken, private, and ashamed of acknowledging. This silence, although understandable, is a high price to pay. Truth is, I still find myself navigating through the residue of my experiences, but I am not a victim of my past. Instead, I am free indeed and simultaneously a #MeToo advocate.
Sexual violence affects hundreds of thousands of Americans each year. Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. RAINN is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. The National Sexual Assault Hotline is available 24/7 by calling 800-656-HOPE (4673). You can chat with a trained staff member who can provide you confidential crisis support. However, if you are in immediate danger call 911.