There's been a wash of sexual harassment and abuse allegations coming forward in Hollywood, sports, and other industries lately. Allegations have been leveled at Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Larry Nassar, Glenn Thrush, and the list keeps growing.
Now, people are coming forward about abuse in another area of their lives — at church. The now-viral hashtag #ChurchToo started trending on Twitter Tuesday, after writer Hannah Paasch and spoken word poet Emily Joy shared their stories and invited others to also speak out about sexual assault in religious communities.
"A day of reckoning is coming for the church, as it is with Washington & Hollywood," Paasch wrote, quoting Joy.
The hashtag mimics #MeToo, which trended for days as people continued to come out about sexual harassment they've experienced. Now, #ChurchToo shatters long-held ideas of the church as a place of moral superiority. Using the hashtag, people talk not only about sexual abuse at the hands of religious leaders but also about how church practices have harassed and shamed young people (mostly young women) for expressing sexuality or, in some cases, merely existing.
Others talked about people being praised for confessing fantasies of rape and abuse:
And still others had stories of being shamed for their own sexual assaults:
While it's not the first time church leaders have been accused of sexual assault or harassment, these stories give us a glimpse into the depth of the problem. Sexual assault isn't just an issue in Hollywood, in politics, or at work. It's happening even in the places people are told they should feel most safe — where they go to take care of their spiritual health.
Hopefully the stories being shared with #ChurchToo will not only help people recognize subtle moments of sexual harassment at church, but also have the courage to call out abuse.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
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