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How to Respond to Pervasive Sexual Assault Against Women

Recent events have led to a heart-breaking hashtag trending on the internet: #metoo.

Women around the world are using this to speak out about the misogynistic or abusive treatment they have received at the hands of men.

It has taken the immense courage of the women who have made allegations against such a high profile and powerful person as Harvey Weinstein to break down the floodgates of fear and to empower and encourage others to speak out in this way.

Sadly, we know that this scandalous treatment of women is nothing new. We even find it in the Bible with the rape of Tamar and the unfair treatment of the unnamed woman dragged before Jesus with a baying crowd ready to stone her for allegedly being caught in the act of adultery while the man was not similarly accused.

This is not how God created men and women; we were made for complementary relationships, not exploitative ones. We were created to act out of love, not lust.

God’s law speaks of (and Jesus enacts) the responsibility to protect not exploit, to raise up the fallen not trample on them, and the responsibility to use power to help the most vulnerable not gratify yourself.

I have felt deeply moved about this and have not been sure what to do with the range of emotions I have been feeling until I thought about lamenting.

I think this is one of the times where the biblical concept of lament is called for – whether you use the words of laments, such as Psalm 102, or create your own.

A lament is not simply a cry of woe; it’s an honest cry to God against injustice, oppression, violence and evil.

It’s a heartfelt and defiant call to the Lord and into the world that despite the circumstances faith is not extinguished and that good will prevail over evil despite how things appear.

It’s an invocation for God to do something. It’s a reminder that this is not how God intended things to be and they will not always be this way.

It’s a call to action to see God’s kingdom come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

So, I lament.

I lament for those who are victims. Many friends of mine (both women and men) have posted #metoo to say that they have suffered abuse. I cannot begin to understand the pain and hurt that they have carried with them caused by others whose treatment of them was degrading, dehumanizing and disgusting but I lament for them.

I lament at the scale of the scandal, but the sheer numbers are cold and heartless. Each one is a story of someone made in God’s image but treated as less than that.

I lament we live in a world where those who are victims feel so intimidated, afraid or ashamed that they have not been able to speak out until now (and many more who won’t even feel able to use the hashtag). I lament for the silent and voiceless.

I lament that men have done this and that we have built a patriarchal society that not only allows this to happen but has seemed as impregnable as the walls of Jericho; may God use the movement of his people to break it down.

I lament it is not how God intended us to be with one another. I lament at the distortion of God’s creation that we were created to love one another, not exploit and abuse one another.

I lament and ask that God might use this moment to not only unearth and expose the evil but also to restore the dignity, honor and self-worth that has been stolen from those who are victims.

I lament and ask that God might use this moment to restore his kingdom values in his world so that we see one another as he sees us and that we love one another as he loves us.

I lament and resolve to play my part in that movement for change. Will you join me?

Nick Lear is a regional minister of the Eastern Baptist Association in the United Kingdom. A version of this article first appeared on his blog, Nukelear Fishing, and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @NickLear.