More than 10 years ago, the Me Too campaign began with African American activist Tarana Burke. The recent wave of “Me too” posts on Facebook and Twitter were fueled by high-profile sexual harassment and assault cases starting with last year’s release of the “Access Hollywood” tape. All of these revelations reinforce how powerful men can get away with claiming the bodies of women as objects. The heartbreak, exhaustion, re-living of trauma and anger that accompanies any news of yet more violence disguised as sexuality is all too familiar.
This violence is not distant from any of our lives. Although abuse and harassment can happen to any of us, the vast majority of this kind of personal invasion is targeted toward women and gender-non-conforming folks – whether through words, unwanted touching, threats or coerced sexual acts. This violence is usually committed by men known to the people experiencing these denials of personal autonomy. This leads many women, and others, to be constantly vigilant in the backs of their minds. How much freer and more joyous would we be if the background vigilance didn’t need to be there?
This, too, is part of the task and the promise we undertake as creators and dreamers of Beloved Community. This is the sacred work of the UU Our Whole Lives sexuality education program, which teaches consent and bodily autonomy. There is more work yet to do.
Although this problem can feel daunting, Unitarian Universalism has committed to ending sexual assault and harassment. In 1995, the Unitarian Universalist Association resolved the following:
“We desire Unitarian Universalist congregations to be places safe from interpersonal violence or abuse; … we recognize that both laity and clergy need to accept active responsibility for the prevention of interpersonal violence and abuse within our congregations and for healing where such violence or abuse has occurred, or may occur, so that there is a restoration of community.”
Our congregations, clergy and laity are culpable. We are not exceptions to the rule. People within our faith have experienced violence disguised as sexuality. People within our faith have fallen short of basic respect for others. And, we are charged to do better. To learn from our mistakes.
UUCF should be a space where people are not required to be on guard. The ministers and the pastoral care team are always ready to listen and to intervene if someone experiences harassment or abuse or is concerned about possible abuse. You are not alone here. UUCF’s behavior policy for our community affirms that:
“As Unitarian Universalists, we affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every person. We celebrate diversity and welcome all individuals. At the same time, the members of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax affirm that our congregation must maintain a safe atmosphere in order for such openness to exist.” https://uucf.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Policy-Dealing-with-Incidents-061510-1.pdf
Because many of us are saying “Me too” and at the same time we fully believe in the values of our faith, we have programs to prevent sexual harassment, intimidation and assault, as well as clear policies and procedures in place to respond. We aim to respond with dignity and respect for all parties, and expect the same of others.
We believe that even though this is a daunting problem, we can one day transform hearts, minds and culture to truly affirm the worth and dignity of every person – including women and gender minorities. On the journey to that land, we are here with you and ready to listen.