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Sexual Harassment Isn't Funny

I've had an eventful week! On top of getting kids back-to-school ready (Yes! They start Friday, the 10th) and packing for my two week mission trip to Africa, I created a bit of local media stir after we went to the county fair.

I'll avoid telling you what happened, since it's all outlined in a Special Edition Podcast I released this week to share the experience. But, basically, I witnessed something alarming, spoke up about it, got an entire company fired from performing at the fair, and became the center of a great deal of controversy about consent, rape culture, sexual harassment, victim shaming, and entertainment. Just another day in the life...

I've become the target of some very unbelievable comments, from people that have never met me. I've been called names, I've been called a liar, I've been called "politically motivated" (that one is funny), I've been called a left-wing feminist, I've been labeled a variety of things and called "triggered," with more to come, I am sure. The thing is, they will find a reason to discredit what is said. If I was wearing a cross in my profile pic or had a Bible verse on my cover photo they would be saying I am a right wing prude that can't take a joke. None of it matters. Rise above it.

Here is the deal - I did the right thing. I stand by it. Overwhelmingly, there has been support and a showing of sane, clear thinking. I've also learned that the woman who participated from the audience is filing a complaint because "She was super uncomfortable throughout that 'performance' and she felt very violated when he kissed her. It ruined the rest of her time at the fair and had her very upset." While I hate that she experienced this, it was a powerful reminder to me to trust my instincts.

Why is this whole thing so important to me? As a survivor of sexual abuse, a mother of daughters, and someone who coaches and mentors many women through sexual trauma, there are three key takeaways:

1) There is a fine line between entertainment and inappropriate behavior. This act was a pump-fake, kiss on the lips. Maybe 100 other times no one cared- it's funny, it's a joke, right? What if it happened to you in real life? As a society, we've become desensitized to what is and isn't appropriate. Then we tell someone to stop being so sensitive. Next time, they are raped - is that a joke? No.

2) Say "NO" if you are in an uncomfortable situation or someone is doing something you are not okay with. I ended up having a great conversation with my daughters about what it means to "give consent." It doesn't matter if you are with one person or in front of a crowd- you have the RIGHT to say NO to words and actions that are uncomfortable. Know that it won't be popular and you will receive criticism and even be bullied; but, it is STILL the right thing to do.

3) Speak up if you see something and/or if something happens to you! Most of the response has been supportive; but there are those that have been very ugly in their dissent. This is why people stay silent. It's scary to be the one standing up in the crowd saying "this is wrong." As I watched a circus tent full of people laugh at the public humiliation and violation of a woman, I was appalled. We allow society to shape what is morally okay and what is not. Trust your instincts and speak up when something doesn't look right. When you do that, you give others courage to speak up, and when we are talking about sexual abuse, assault, and harassment, it becomes less acceptable. When it becomes less acceptable we start to make an actual positive impact in the world.

If you want to know more about this, check out the podcast, the post that started it all, see the circus owner's response to a woman who messaged them about it, Channel 4 News, Williamson Herald, The Tennessean, Franklin Home Page. I won't respond to the numerous fallacies in the press coverage from the owner of the circus; but, I continue to be alarmed by how the production is responding and altering the information to appear to have been wrongly terminated.

#healing #empowerment #Inspiration


©2020 by Kristin Benton.

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