Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) U.S. is helping to break the silence about sexual violence by raising awareness about the issue and offering resources for use in communities and congregations.
Sexual violence, from unwanted sexual advances to rape, is something we need to speak about openly, said Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz, MCC U.S. restorative justice coordinator.
“We know that sexual violence affects millions of people in the U.S and that every 98 seconds someone in this country is sexually assaulted,” Stutzman Amstutz said, citing statistics from RAINN, a national anti-sexual violence organization. “Unfortunately, we know it happens in the church too.”
MCC is combining its voice with those of other Christian-based nonprofits, churches and organizations that are part of We Will Speak Out (WWSO) U.S., a coalition committed to ending sexual violence. MCC is a sponsoring organization of IMA World Health, which launched WWSO in 2011.
MCC U.S.’ work with WWSO started with a listening project of online surveys and focus groups to learn people’s thoughts and experiences related to sexual violence and the church.
The survey respondents expressed a need for MCC’s assistance in terms of educational resources, challenging societal norms, and learning about mental health and emotional support services that are available locally.
"We asked people what the challenges for addressing sexual violence are, and people identified stigma, victim blaming and a lack of understanding and safety,” Stutzman Amstutz said.
Barbra Graber of Harrisonburg, Virginia, participated in the listening project through the online survey that she promoted on her blog. As a survivor of sexual violence herself, she was glad to participate.
“So seldom are survivors at the table, so when a Mennonite organization like MCC actually makes an effort to talk to survivors, that’s a big deal,” she said.
A group of more than 20 MCC constituents and staff came together in December 2016 to review the results of the listening project and to discern next steps.
For the first step, MCC U.S. is encouraging orders of any or all of MCC’s four, free resources about sexual violence that are available in English and Spanish. They are:
- Understanding sexual abuse by a church leader or caregiver
- Created Equal – Women and Men in the Image of God
- Pornography: Lies, truth, hope
- Abuse: Response and prevention – A guide for church leaders
The next step is for MCC to provide additional resources for church leaders on teaching about healthy sexuality.
“We have to provide more education,” Stutzman Amstutz said, “so those kind of things don’t continue to happen and that when they do, survivors aren’t going to be blamed or not believed.”
To order the existing resources, email email@example.com or call toll free, 888-563-4676.