Wednesday, May 30, 2012


In the spring of 2010, an event was held at my school: Take Back the Night. Take Back the Night exists to raise awareness of sexual violence, to prevent it, and to decrease shame and isolation among survivors.

In my opinion, to work to remove shame and isolation is a holy calling. It is a picture of who God is, and it is His work. He makes broken things into beautiful. That is who He is.

At that point, I had been home about four months from my internship in Bolivia, where I had spent my days (and nights) hanging out in a group home with fifteen beautiful, hyper, joyful, crazy girls. Beautiful girls who had been hurt, objectified, made to serve others' evil whims, abused, raped. Adrienne, the president of the club organizing the event and a good friend, asked me if I would speak. I prepared and gave a short talk on a few themes of what I had learned: on our calling to watch out for those who are utterly unprotected; on redeeming physical touch.

An important part of the night is an open mike time, where people can step forward and share their stories. Of being hurt, of being objectified, made to serve others' evil whims, abused, raped. It is a safe space, and after each story is finished, together we all shout, "THAT'S NOT OKAY".

My clearest memory from that night, though, is not my talk, and it's not the open mike time. My clearest memory from that night is an upsetting one. It's not a bad memory, exactly. But it was jarringly painful to me when it happened and has been every time I've remembered it since- which, to be honest, has been often.

I walked away from campus after the program with one of my most beloved and respected friends. It had meant a lot to me that she had come, in the middle of the week in a busy semester; I knew it had been mostly because I was speaking and she wanted to support me.

We walked in the dark together, both silent. And then, after a few minutes, she told me that before that night she had not known that it is always not okay.

I do not have words to convey how much I love this girl, or how much I respect her. That day, and today, and every day in between. She has a heart which is more kind and humble than almost any I know. And, perhaps in large part because of my deep love and respect for her, I also cannot put into words how painful that statement was to hear.

The point of this isn't to share anger or shock or even pain. The take away from that interaction was that her information and therefore her opinion had changed. That is exactly the hope and the purpose of Take Back the Night. And, further proving my opinion of her, her life changed- immediately. As in, she went straight to her computer and wrote a letter to a friend conveying compassion.

I don't think I ever thought it was okay. But without Bolivia, would I know?

It is horrifying to me that there could ever, ever, ever be a question in our minds or a bit of indifference in our hearts about beautiful, beloved, image-of-God bodies and souls, and the protection they deserve.

I don't know everyone who reads this blog. I don't know your stories and I don't know if you think it might sometimes be a little bit okay. I don't know if you've ever had someone tell you that it was okay. It is not okay.

Removing shame and isolation is who He is.

(on prostitution.)


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Eric Muhr said...

You've got the God's identity part just right. Thank you!

tricia said...

very powerful post Emily.

Human Needs Global Resources Covenant, 2009

As fellow travelers on this journey, we commit to this covenant before God. Lord, in Your mercy, hear these our prayers:

When confronted with scarcity, need, and inadequacy, may we be nourished by the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation. Abundance overflows from Your table, sustaining all who come in faith. Father, help us.

When monotony blurs our vision and dulls our senses, may we encounter others as Christ did, through intentional presence in daily life, submitting as clay to be formed into vessels filled with the Spirit. Christ, guide us.

When wounded by the fractured condition of Your people, may we be united by Your Lordship in faith, hope, and love; seeing, as through the facets of a diamond, the beautiful spectrum of Your light reflected onto Your holy Church joined in praise. Spirit, empower us.

When all Creation groans, afflicted by injustice and driven to despair, may the promise of redemption root us in the hope of Your Kingdom: "Behold, I am making all things new!"

Holy Trinity, send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve You with gladness and singleness of heart.