Abuse victims’ stories told as steps to heal are promised
Website with mission of empowerment contributes to calls for renewed attention to abuse by leading theologianBy Kelli Yoder Mennonite World Review
In 2012 Rachel Halder was in the midst of the worst year of her life, getting therapy for abuse she experienced as a child.
On a plane to San Francisco, she had a vivid dream of starting a blog for survivors of sexual violence to tell their stories. It didn’t feel like something she came up with on her own.
“From that day on I was like, I’m going to do this,” said Halder, a 2010 Goshen (Ind.) College graduate who is currently living in Questa, N.M. “I didn’t really know what I was going to do with it. I just thought, let it happen organically.”
And it did. She launched a website, ourstoriesuntold.com, and it gained a modest following. Seven survivors’ stories were published. Halder and guest bloggers offered reflections. But she felt many who would appreciate it didn’t know about it.
Then, in July, she posted an essay by Barbra Graber of Harrisonburg, Va., on the need for a change in the handling of discussions about sexual abuse by the late Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder. More than 2,500 people visited the site in a day.
“It just exploded,” Halder said. Hundreds joined the conversation on the website and Facebook.
With Graber’s post, the blog reached what Halder hopes is a tipping point for conversation to open up on sexual abuse in the church — and for long overdue healing to begin.
Wider attention to sexual harassment and abuse of women by Yoder — a leading theologian of the 20th century, best known for his 1972 book, The Politics of Jesus — is something Carolyn Holderread Heggen has sought for years.
A family therapist, speaker and consultant on faith and sexuality for more than 30 years, Heggen wrote Sexual Abuse in Christian Homes and Churches in 1993.
Having experienced Yoder’s “unwanted sexual advances and lurid invitations,” she began recognizing similar stories of other women, sometimes seminary students.
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