by Abigail Conley
If your pastor is a woman, she can say, “Me, too.”
No, really, if your pastor is a woman, she can say, “Me, too.”
Maybe you’ve been hiding out away from social media and missed the #metoo of the last few weeks, when women have been talking about everyday sexual harassment and sexual assault. Again. Last year it was #yesallwomen. Tarana Burke started talking about me, too ten years ago.
Just so you hear it: if your pastor is a woman, she can say, “Me, too.”
At least one person who she’s referencing in that, “Me, too,” is likely in the pew along with you.
That’s maybe the best kept secret of female clergy. We talk about it among ourselves. If we’re lucky, we talk about it with lay leaders who have our backs. We sit through boundary trainings geared toward men talking about all the things clergy shouldn’t do; no one ever addresses how to handle sexual harassment from one of your sheep. We write about the omission in the review, if one is handed out.
In five years in my current call, I’ve twice said to lay leaders, “I should never be alone with this person.” Both times, they had my back. They went with me on pastoral visits. They magically appeared in key places in the church building. The most challenging response I ever got was, “I don’t get that vibe, but ok.” Be those people. Never, ever respond, “Oh, that’s just Dave.” Even if he’s an old man who walks with a cane, he can still sexually harass your pastor. He’s one of the reasons I say, “Me, too.”
As I reflect on these experiences, I’m trying to remember now if we were ever told we should report other clergy who sexually harass us. The Big Deal time that happened to me, it sucked a day of work away as I reported and followed up; it has meant I thought long and hard about going to places where he would be, even if they’d benefit me professionally. His ministry’s success is in a denominational entity’s promo video; my stomach drops every time I see it.
You can read plenty of articles out there about Me, Too, even talking specifically about the complicity of the church. You should. Google is your friend and if you are shocked, you need to realize how deep and ubiquitous this problem is. If you are not shocked, you still need to be reminded. But I have two other, far more important requests.
First of all, believe your pastor when she says, “Me, too.” Believe that it is true even if she doesn’t say it in front of you. This is one of the longstanding, often accepted sins of the church.
Second, and just as important: don’t stop talking about me, too. Don’t think in another year that it’s a new thing. Amplify the voices of the women talking about sexual violence by reading and sharing their work. This is the beginning to create a generation of women who cannot say, “Me, too.” That work is all of our work. It is surely work that is as holy as feeding hungry people. Do this work with the same persistence and determination. Do it as if your life depends on it, because many lives do.
And in the meantime, yeah, me, too.