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Friday, May 11, 2018

Twenty-one Ways to Fight Sexual Assault, Harassment, Rape, Violence and Oppression in The Episcopal Church

Twenty-one ways to fight sexual assault, harassment, rape, violence, and oppression in The Episcopal Church

1. Declare a National, International and Diocesan Zero Tolerance for sexual assault, harassment, rape, violence and oppression in The Episcopal Church.

2. In the local congregation, have the priest, deacon and laity create a zero-tolerance statement and post it beside or near the church’s mission statement: Example: If any abuse – to anyone but especially women and children – occurs in this church, we will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law no matter who the offender might be.

3. Commit to equal representation of women in leadership and decision-making positions in the church, which special attention to women of color and young people.

4. Have various groups in the church sponsor a #MeToo evening to listen to stories of survivors.

5. Use the hashtag #MeToo on the church and diocesan outdoor sign, church bulletin/diocesan announcements and web page.

6. Require all leaders – laity and ordained – to study the issue of sexual assault, harassment, rape, violence and gender-based oppression.

7. Post domestic violence and sexual assault hotline numbers in church/diocesan restrooms and coat rooms.

8. Post warning signs of domestic abuse and abuse of children in the church/diocesan newsletter or announcement section of the service bulletin.

9. Raise congregational awareness about the “grooming behaviors” of predators.

10. Take regular offerings for a local community domestic violence shelter and add the name of the shelter to the weekly Prayer List.

11. Intentionally use the word ‘sexual violence’ in prayers, sermons, adult education and public conversation instead of “misconduct” or “boundary violation”.

12. Focus liturgies and educational programs about sexual violence on injustice/justice instead of just healing.

13. Hang posters in April for Sexual Assault Aware¬ness Month and in October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

14. Plan education classes/adult forum/liturgies on these issues during April and October.

15. Invite a victims’ advocate to lead an adult education class or series.

16. Preach a sermon or teach a series on biblical “texts of terror”*, such as Tamar’s story.

17. When the topics of human sexuality in general and sexual violence in particular are spoken in the church or preached from the pulpit, do so in a frank and forthright manner without using code words or making inappropriate jokes.

18. Maintain and update safe church child protection policies and review regularly with staff and leadership along with Zero Tolerance policy regarding sexual harassment, abuse, violence and oppression.

19. Establish a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” in dioceses as well as nationally and internationally to allow those who have been harmed the opportunity to tell the truth of their stories and raise awareness about the scope of the problem of sexual harassment, abuse, violence and oppression.

20. Review all congregational and diocesan compensation and benefit policies and their applications among male and female clergy employed in the diocese.

21. Establish a diocesan/national and/or international HR Committee where issues of discrimination in compensation may be brought for arbitration and negotiation.

Adapted from “A pastor's #MeToo story”, Ruth Everhart, Christian Century, 12/4/17.

PLEASE NOTE: The list was compiled from suggestions from many women on several social media sites. It is suggestive, not prescriptive. It is not presented in order of priority or establishment of a planned approach. What may work well in one community of faith may not work well in another. Women must be involved in all levels of the discussion of this issue and especially in the decision-making of the planned actions. This list is not exhaustive. If something has worked well in your community of faith, if you have developed a liturgy – in whole or part – or an educational model, please make it known and share it with others.

* “Texts of Terror: Literary-Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives” by Phyllis Trible.

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