Last week our country learned, in graphic detail, that one of our national presidential candidates has boasted of his habits of sexually forcing himself on women. In the wake of the news, our ministry team had a heartfelt conversation sharing our reactions to the tape. We shared our anger and revulsion not just toward this particular revelation, but toward the broader culture of sexual violence that surrounds us all and shapes our lives.
Emerging from that conversation, I feel called to say something I hope is obvious, but still needs saying: Your ministers care about each one of you and the impact that violence has had on your life. We want you and your loved ones, and all people, to feel safe in the world, to move freely and without fear. And yet, we know that is not the reality for many of us.
As a woman, I know what it is to move through life having been taught in a million different ways that I am not safe because of my gender. That it is reasonable and rational for me to fear and expect physical and emotional attacks because of my gender. That I need to watch my back at all times. That hyper vigilance is an important tool of self-protection.
Now, that doesn’t mean I can’t relax or be happy or feel empowered. Of course I can, and do. But I think many women would agree that the fear and expectation of violence has become part of the fabric of our lives – often receding into the background, but ready to be triggered at a moment’s notice. Trauma theorist and theologian Serene Jones, in her book “Trauma & Grace,” argues that long-term exposure to a pervasive low-intensity threat of violence has just as much potential to trigger a traumatic response in human beings as a high-intensity single event. I think our military veterans and law enforcement officials could testify to this, too. And the LGBTQ folks and people of color within and beyond our congregation. I know many of you, too, have had to live with similar levels of fear and hyper vigilance caused by the constant, chronic threat of violence.
Here at UUCF, your ministers want to help. We want to listen. We want this community to be a safe place for you and your loved ones. We want our neighborhoods and our country to be safer for everyone. We want to be agents of healing. We believe you want to be part of this, too. In the spirit of healing and hope, let us move forward together.