By Rev. Vicki Flippin, Originally posted on the Church of the Village blog
I remember that day in seminary well. I walked into the chapel for our midday worship, and by the end of the first hymn, tears were streaming down my face and I sniffled and sobbed until the benediction. It wasn’t that I was particularly moved by anything in the liturgy. I just needed a safe space to process some of the things I was learning in my classes.
Most people have at least one of these days in the seminary experience when some piece of personal faith and worldview is shattered to make way for God’s truth. For many the moment occurs when a professor tells them something like, “The exodus from Egypt probably never happened…” or “The gospels weren’t written by Jesus’ disciples…”
For me, it was learning at the age of 23 the real nature of sexual violence against women.
We were reading a book in my pastoral care class about how to counsel women who are survivors of acquaintance rape. Part of my upset in learning about sexual violence in this class centered around my finally understanding what happened to a good friend in college—someone who had been raped by a boyfriend. And part of it was that I was shocked to be experiencing, for the first time, sexual harassment and discrimination as I began to take on pastoral roles in the church.
But mostly it was the realization that the annoying harassment and the pesky glass ceilings were all directly related to the real threat of physical violence against women, including myself and my friends.
All those little oppressive moments that I was experiencing—the creepy men, the fear of going certain places by myself, the cat-calling, even the fact that I’d never seen a woman consecrate communion—they all added up to a culture that placed less value on my voice, my body, and my agency. And they formed the foundation of what I now know to be called “rape culture”, a world in which violence and sexual criminality against women is normalized.