Four Steps to Getting Out of an Abusive Situation
Kathleen Cooke spoke about the #MeToo movement at a media and arts conference I attended on Australia’s Gold Coast earlier in 2018. She and her husband Phil were guest speakers, and they both brought thought-provoking and challenging content. As founders of Cooke Pictures in California, and all-round Hollywood media executives, Phil and Kathleen are a powerful combination. In addition, they bring a well-rounded Christian voice into all their activities.
A Heart-Breaking Outcome
Of all the talks we heard that week, Kathleen’s was the most challenging, the most real, and the most disheartening. After her talk, there was a moment for questions, and one man, let’s call him David, responded with great emotion:
“I am very stirred by Kathleen’s words about the #MeToo movement,” he said. “I know I’m just one man in the room, but I think we should offer an unconditional apology to the women here today who have been hurt or offended by a man.”
It was a predominantly male audience, and there was a murmur of agreement and affirmation.
“In fact,” he said, “I suggest we men stand, in order to honor the women, and to formally apologize.”
So, in a shuffling of chairs and a stirring of feet, the men rose to express their sadness at a situation which has impacted women for time immemorial.
And my heart broke.
Such a Cruel Twist
Because I was incredibly aware, that while it was well-meant, the apology felt hopelessly inadequate.
While I have escaped relatively unscathed from sexual abuse, I sensed the many conflicting emotions circulating. There must have been women, dominated by husbands. Girlfriends, imposed upon by their boyfriends. Female employees, whose career depended on sexual favors. Innocent daughters, betrayed by their dads. And others who had experienced sleazy suggestions, illicit innuendos, and raised eyebrows.
But my heart also broke for the men. Because I know it’s not just about women’s suffering. In a cruel twist, many of those men also carry the hurt and indignity of sexual abuse.
How God must weep at the broken world we live in!
It was great to talk to Kathleen a few weeks after the conference and you can listen to our chat on the podcast >>>
Below, is the essence of our discussion.
How did the #MeToo Movement Begin?
The #MeToo movement started in October 2017, when actor Alyssa Milano encouraged the use of the hashtag on Twitter after some sexual allegations against American film producer Harvey Weinstein. Within 24 hours, the hashtag was used over 500,000 times on Twitter, and by 4.7 million people on Facebook. To say it went viral is probably an understatement!
As Kathleen works in Hollywood, she is ideally placed to see first-hand the impact on people there. And since then, she’s worked at understanding the problem. This is how she came to write articles and speak at conferences, to reveal the findings of her research.
Soon after the #MeToo blow-up, Kathleen released an opinion piece entitled The Casting Couch, Harvey Weinstein, and How to Survive the Pitfalls of a Hollywood Career. In it she writes, “Hollywood moguls like Harvey Weinstein have used their power since the beginning of the industry – but the truth is, it happens everywhere. The competitive world of Hollywood just has an overabundance of desperately seeking individuals, looking to be famous.”
Passion. Pride. And Prejudice.
Clearly, sexual abuse is an age-old problem. Sadly, people prefer to sweep it under the (red) carpet, than admit anything is wrong.
Kathleen agrees. “Really, this has been going on forever,” she said. “We’ve all known in Hollywood about the ‘casting couch’. That’s never been hidden in any sense. And we know that since biblical times, whether it was David and Bathsheba, or Samson and Delilah, that those sexual harassment, sexual abuse and injustices have been around. So, that’s nothing new to us.”
But, I wonder, what changed that there’s now so much public passion and fervor? Suddenly, it’s okay to put aside our pride and add “#MeToo” to our social media status updates. So what’s new?
“What’s new,” Kathleen continues, “and what I believe has really broken all of this out into a bigger platform, is the fact that we’re in the digital age these days. And so we instantly know what someone else is doing. It’s opened a new can of worms. And in many ways it’s good! I believe that wounds have been there, and they need to be opened.
“I think we’re in a time right now, sounds kind of gross to say, where that blood and that pus is coming out. And it’s not fun to hear or see. And there are some severe repercussions happening from it.”
I don’t know about you, but I find that description to be very gross and confronting! But also very apt. Sexual abuse is something awful, which has gone on under the surface for a very long time. Every one of us lived a double-standard when we knew, and turned away. Saw, and ignored cries for help. Asked for honesty, and showed our prejudice by believing lies.
We’re All Drowning
In fact, sexual abuse and innuendo are diabolical, hurting people from the beginning. But how do you heal with something as big as the #MeToo movement when so many are caught up in it? It impacts millions of people. It’s almost as if humankind is drowning in a sea of abuse.
Clearly, it’s not a simple scenario. To be completely honest, we’re all impacted by the #MeToo movement in some way. Kathleen understands the scope of the problem. But she can also see a solution. “I believe we have the ability to bring God’s healing to this situation. And I speak not just to women today on this issue, but to men.”
Kathleen continues, “Men have been accused of course. And they have really come out in recent days, through #MeToo, as being the perpetrators and at the forefront of it all. But, believe it or not, statistics tell us that one in four women¹ will be abused, but one in six men² will as well. So, the statistics are pretty close together.”
Her comment reminds me of my heartbreak at the conference, when David suggested the men stand to apologize. Sadly, it’s a huge issue for both women and men.
She goes on with some more statistics. “Every 98 seconds a woman is raped³. But interestingly, men are also raped, very much so in our world and culture today. We hear about it in a lot in prisons. But little boys are being abused as well. And as the sexual perversions are happening, and the Internet is causing pornography to run rampant, male addiction is high, but female addiction is growing rapidly. And so, yes, it’s a male and female situation.”
The Root Cause? It’s not what you think.
Why am I not surprised to hear that porn is part of the issue? The market is flooded with it, and people are drowning in abuse. No wonder, as mothers, we need to help our kids deal with it. This problem is not going to go away!
But is it really only porn that’s to blame?
Kathleen suggests another angle. “The bottom line, when you look at the whole sexual abuse situation, is that it all comes under the same category of injustice,” she suggests. “Sexual injustice, financial injustice, business injustice, whatever it is, it all boils down to selfishness. It all boils down to the fact that we live in this broken, broken world. And injustice is injustice.”
Selfishness. Injustice. A powerful double-whammy. And they control people. Whichever side of the #MeToo movement you are on, you need help and support to move past it and into freedom. The big question is, what to do if impacted by sexual abuse, either as the victim, or the perpetrator? How do you get past it?
Kathleen Cooke’s Four steps to Getting out of an Abusive Situation
1. Remove yourself from the situation
Kathleen encourages both victim, and perpetrator, to get themselves out of those situations. It is important to ask for help, and to seek it out as best as you can. You need someone trustworthy around you. Or an organization you can trust.
- For the victim: Getting out of the situation takes a lot of courage sometimes. It may mean not knowing where you’re going to get your next meal. Or where your next home will be. Or where you’re going to take your kids to get away from an abusive husband. If you leave a job because your boss is asking you to do things that are not right, it may mean you don’t know where your next pay-check will come from. It means trusting God.
If sexual abuse is something you suffer, seek assistance. This thing is hard, and sometimes it’s overwhelming, and you can’t do it on your own. You need to find some trusted individuals, whether it is a pastor, or a friend.
- For a perpetrator: If you’re causing abuse in someone else’s life, you need to get help too. And you need to confess your problem to that person.
You must recognize you cannot stop this behavior on your own. You must have a support person to help you do this. Somebody who is willing to walk through the situation with you. And help give you a way out.
HOT TIP #1: One thing that is good about the Internet is that you can search for services and ministries are around that might be able to help. There are also a lot of great resources online to connect into as well.
2. Forgive – At Many Levels
One critical factor is the whole issue of forgiveness. Forgiveness has nothing to do with letting people “off the hook”, because they will still have to face the consequences. Instead, forgiveness has everything to do with giving you freedom from the incident. This needs to happen on many levels for you to receive any sort of inner peace.
- For the victim, it’s so important to forgive the perpetrator. But there may be other people to forgive as well, including yourself. Read more about forgiveness here >>>
- The perpetrator also needs to forgive themselves, and perhaps forgive others. The perpetrator must also accept responsibility for the wrong they’ve done, and stop blaming other people.
Once the perpetrator steps back, and realizes they’ve done something inappropriate, they can get hold of the great power in forgiveness. It’s not just about freedom from guilt. It’s also about freedom to choose differently next time. Here’s some more info about forgiving yourself >>>
3. Teach your Children to Choose Freedom, not Fear
We live in a really scary world today. And our kids can watch television shows and videos any time of night or day. Even fairy tales can cause kids to be vulnerable to fear! These iconic stories often have very frightening details. Some stories cause fear of parents, such as Hansel and Gretel. Other stories, such as Snow White and Cinderella, feature stepmothers who treat children poorly.
When kids read those kinds of stories, it can leave a lot of fear in their lives. It’s better to find stories where they can voice those fears, but where God is also there for them. It’s important to teach our children that when they’re fearful and in difficult situations, to pray to Jesus to help them. Especially when loving parents are not around.
4. Be the Parent your Children need
The bottom line is, you have to be a parent. The Bible says to raise up a child in the right way that he would go (Proverbs 22:6). That means it’s up to us as parents to raise our children. We have to provide safe places for them.
This includes a strong, biblical support system, and a safe social media world, which we are connected to, all the time. As parents, connect to the Word of God, the Bible. And make sure your kids connect to you for guidance.
Be encouraged! Don’t be afraid to parent. Don’t be afraid to work on those hard places, and make strong choices for your kids. At the same time, teach them how to make strong choices for themselves.
HOT TIP #2: Kathleen highly recommends 65 Promises From God For Your Child, Powerful Prayers and Supernatural Results, by Mike Shreve. She loves this book because these are the things we need to be standing on as parents, and that we need to teach our kids. These promises of God that can provide supernatural results in this crazy, crazy world that we live in.
To read more about how to tackle the #MeToo movement from a biblical perspective, CLICK HERE >>>
To read Kathleen’s interview about Future-Proofing the iGeneration, CLICK HERE >>>
¹ Our Watch Facts and Figures: https://www.ourwatch.org.au/understanding-violence/facts-and-figures
² Prevalence of violence since the age of 15: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/mf/4906.0
³ Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network https://www.rainn.org/statistics