In his talk for Awaken 2017, my husband made the comment that he wants to accomplish for abuse what we’ve seen happen within very recent memory for seatbelts and cigarettes. Once upon a time, cigarette smoking was not just socially acceptable, it said you were savvy, upscale, classy, elegant. There was also a time when nobody wore seatbelts in the car, EVER. And then suddenly — it almost looks like overnight in retrospect — everybody knows smoking kills you, and we buckle up first when we climb in. Today, the wave of disapproval I encounter when I don’t have my 70 pound child strapped into a five-point harness is almost palpable. That’s some serious progress.
I was pondering this phenomenon this morning. In reference to abuse, what exactly would this global change of social expectations look like? Here are my ideas. I would love to see all of these things happen within the next twenty years. I am writing with a church audience in mind, because these are my people, and this is where I think the changes should start.
With regard to Child Sexual Abuse:
- Children would be taught from birth as a matter of course about bodily autonomy and consent.
- Every educator and children’s ministry worker would expect to be under scrutiny, and would invite and welcome that scrutiny. Not because we think they’re bad people, not because we want suspicion to be the norm, but because our norm especially where our children are concerned should be to trust but verify.
- Every Christian teenager would go through TWO studies on boundaries in healthy relationship — one sponsored by school, and another sponsored by church.
- Every crime or suspected crime against a child would be reported as a matter of course. People would understand that safety measures to protect the accused are built into our legal system, and that individuals outside the system are not responsible for exercising “healthy skepticism” or “assuming the best” when a crime is being alleged.
- All children would know that healthy play happens with doors open, lights on, and people around. Private places, secret places, and dark places are unsafe places.
- Social sleepovers and time with friends in general would receive much more parental attention. Houses of relatives and friends CAN be safe, but we should not assume so.
- Churches and schools would universally implement child safety policies and education along these lines, and would prioritize the education of their youth ministry workers about bodily autonomy, consent, and the power and responsibility that are incumbent on them as spiritual leaders.
With regard to Domestic Violence:
- Society would be broadly educated about the signs of an abusive relationship.
- Healthy relationship patterns and boundaries would be a common topic. Churches and schools would teach teens and young adults.
- Churches would stop talking so much about forgiveness, avoiding gossip, and believing the best, and instead would teach on speaking (and receiving) the truth even when it hurts, protecting the disadvantaged, oppressed, and voiceless among us, and about upholding our system of justice.
- Churches would begin as a matter of course to include the financial support of single moms as a line item on their budgets.
These are my ideas and my hope for the future. I would love to hear from you. What can you add?