Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Sara Dingman is curating a series on the #metoo movement and the church. The series will feature recollections, sermons, and art. We honor the women who have shared their stories, and hope their courage might inspire others to seek the support they need to speak their truth too in ways that are best for them. The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline is always available to support survivors of sexual assault. We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.
Sophomore year of college. It was not a good year. For a variety of reasons, depression was consuming me — me — not sure who I was or what I believed. The world seemed very unsteady under my feet. This was not my first dance with depression, but this was different, this was brought about (or arrived concurrently) with that very natural part of growing up, figuring out the difference between what you believe and what you were taught as a child. I’d grown up going to church. Ministry had appeared as a possible calling before, but I didn’t have the slightest idea what that meant, and didn’t enter college with that in my heart. Still, faith in God was my baseline.
Now, I wasn’t even questioning if God was real. I’d not dared to say those words aloud — I could hardly admit such doubt to myself. It seemed blasphemous. Weak. Scary.
And then, I found myself at a party where I was introduced to a man who was a student at a nearby seminary. It seemed providential. I immediately had a million questions. I know that it wasn’t fair to place that burden on him. He was in school. He wasn’t my pastor. But I certainly wasn’t going to take these questions to church, and he had appeared before me.
I waited to open up to him. We drank. We were really getting along. Finally, it became clear that I would probably be spending the night at the house (my friend who had brought me was staying. She was my ride. She was staying.). He invited me to stay with him. I did what most of my friends did in similar situations. I stated my intentions. I could stay over, but I wasn’t going to have sex with him. I didn’t do that. But we could kiss. We could cuddle. He agreed.
We went to his room, where we got in bed. I was clothed. And we talked, his voice soothing and comforting. I asked him question after question about what he was doing in seminary, what he believed about God. After a while I went in for the big question: “How do you know that there is a God? What if God doesn’t exist?”
My question came with tears, released with the desolate reality of what I had suggested.
As I cried, he made his move. I said no. I tried to move away. He wasn’t violent, but I couldn’t fight. He raped me. And he didn’t even answer my question first.
Morning, or something close to it, finally arrived. As soon as enough light came through the window I went to find my friend and told her we had to go. I made it to the car before I started to weep. I don’t know what I told her. I don’t know if I ever said what had happened. I do know that he had no idea anything less-than-delightful had happened.
The next few months were hard. Depression seemed to be winning. But somewhere, sometime, a few months later, anger began to rise from within me, and it was an anger that would save me. Anger at knowing that what happened wasn’t right. Wasn’t okay. Wasn’t of God.
I put myself in the presence of preachers, women preachers, whose words were the Holy Spirit to me, helping me rebuild my faith, block by block, moment by moment. I began to understand what a call to ministry meant, and that I was, in fact called, a call that had been within me for some time, I just hadn’t had words to name it.
This understanding of call, the one I still inhabit today, decades later, had a new companion that I hadn’t known the first time God tapped me on the shoulder: anger. Anger at what had happened. Anger that the man who had assaulted me was someone who would be entrusted with a congregation.
I never spoke to him again and never told anyone else until I told a therapist, years later. I still google him from time to time — on the surface, at least, he’s doing fine. He’s still a pastor. He has a family. I have no idea if this was an isolated incident or not. I hope that it was.
I’m still angry. Angry, because the church deserves better. Jesus deserves better. And over time I’ve come to embrace that this is part of my call — if I detest what he did, then I cannot leave. I must stay and do better, show better, live better. Love deserves no less. Jesus deserves no less. The church deserves better. I will do everything within my power to keep #churchtoo from happening on my watch.
This post was written by an anonymous author.