Over the last few years, as I’ve talked to many women reeling from the devastation of discrimination, harassment, sexual abuse and violence, a persistent question arises: why aren’t there more faith leaders, people of privilege, speaking out?
Breaking the silence of violence is difficult. Gender based violence can feel too intimate a topic to raise in our faith communities – it feels like something best left for the pastoral visit. Referrals to expert support services are responsible actions for a faith community to take, but so too is understanding the common fears that work against leadership speaking out. For example, losing their job for views deemed controversial to their member base; overlooked for promotion for ruffling feathers. Gaining a reputation for being difficult to work with, ostracism by colleagues and even friends out of fear for their financial, professional, and social safety
Consequently, there is an inclination by folks of privilege to be risk adverse. So it’s no surprise to me that these same people are the ones struggling to figure out how to act for justice. More often than not, those who are denied access, voice, privilege, and justice in dominant cultures know exactly what they need to do to act for justice
To break the culture of silence starts by listening. Listening must be more than ‘let me solve your problem for you’ which only serves to rid the privileged person of discomfort. Listening is the process of opening oneself up to personal and devastating accounts of oppression in order to stand in solidarity. And only then, using our place of privilege in our communities to speak out as an ally