We’re OUTRAGED. Now What?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Anger. Despair. Disgust. Egregious. Heartbroken. Horrific. Incomprehensible. These words describe some of the feelings and thoughts that have charged many of our written and verbal communications over this past week’s unjust sentencing decision rendered by  Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky: a six-month sentence to county jail and probation for 20-year-old Brock Allen Turner, a former Stanford swimmer who while drunk, raped an unconscious 23-year-old woman behind a dumpster last January. Two Swedish men bicycling near the scene (heroes) saw what was happening and pursued Turner, getting him off of her. For this egregious act, prosecutors pushed for a six-year sentence for Turner but Judge Persky reduced his sentence to six months given that he had no previous criminal history and that “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him,” according to Persky. What???

According to The Guardian and other news sources, the woman who during the sexual assault was unconscious from a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit at the time of the rape and who had no memory of the attack, said at the trial:

“You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today,” she said, reportedly directly to Turner. “I am a human being who has been irreversibly hurt.” 

The woman also read aloud in the courtroom her 12-page authentically powerful, raw letter (her letter has been published with several media sites though we’ve chosen not to link to it as it may reopen wounds for others).

Mercury News

Former Stanford student-athlete Brock Turner plead not guilty Monday morning Feb. 2, 2015, in a Palo Alto, Calif., courtroom to charges related to an alleged rape on campus. Turner was represented by attorney Mike Armstrong. (Karl Mondon/Mercury News Staff)

Judge Aaron Persky

Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky has come under fire for his six-month lenient sentencing (instead of the prosecutor recommended six years) rendered against Brock Allen Turner, stating that “A prison sentence would leave a severe impact on him.” Photo courtesy NY Daily News.

In learning more about this case, you, me and the wider public have been outraged all week. In our anger and frustration about the violent act further impacted by a miscarriage of justice, we’ve expressed choice words about this situation. Even as a Christian whose mind has been renewed, unladylike words and thoughts entered my mind and were stopped short of leaving my lips by the Holy Spirit. I was outraged and I saw your messages of outrage and disbelief too.

What outrages us? 

We’re outraged by Turner’s choices and actions that inflicted unthinkable violence upon this woman. We’re outraged that the woman was asked all kind of irrelevant questions by Turner’s lawyer such as, “Are you serious with your boyfriend? Do you have a history of cheating? What were you wearing?” We’re outraged by Judge Persky’s unjust and too lenient sentencing because  a longer prison sentence would devastate Turner and his future. We’re outraged at Turner’s father writing a letter, concerned that his son was unable to eat his favorite meals because he’s so upset. What???

1 in 4. Statistics suggest that 1 in 4 college women will be raped, sexually assaulted or a victim of attempted rape in her lifetime (although we believe the numbers are higher). Forty-four percent of victims are under age 18. Eighty percent are under age 30. Every 107 seconds.

We’re outraged that in 2016, after all of the “Take Back the Night” and similar campaigns have been conducted, articles published, panel discussions held, myriad conversations, initiatives, events to educate and prevent, we’re STILL talking about sexual assault. This outrages us. We’re outraged, frustrated and heartbroken that in reading this, we know the devastation of such violence whether we’ve experienced it first hand or have comforted, listened to, cried with, ministered to or helped loved ones, friends, family members and others, in addressing it and healing from the brokenness of it.

We’re outraged. Now what? 

I ask this question as a frustrated human being over the wickedness that lies within mankind’s heart. I ask this question in understanding your anger and frustration too. Yet, the Holy Spirit challenged me to view this very differently and from a spiritual perspective.

In asking “why is this injustice (and frankly all injustices) still happening?,” here’s the rub: Frankly, we’re asking a lot of a world that is riddled with sin. We’re asking a lot of a world that is fallen, whose desires, hearts, thoughts and wills have not sought God. We’re asking a world to “get it together” as they’ve purposely chosen to fulfill carnal appetites and are spiritually bankrupt and spiritually-dispossessed. We’re asking a sinful world to “know better and do better” when they’ve divorced themselves from seeking, knowing and loving God and have no desire to love others, to be transformed in their hearts by Christ.

We’re asking a prideful and arrogant world to invite God/give God full access to all areas of their life so they may walk in His ways. People don’t want to embrace such obedience or “sacrifices” that will have God telling them “no.” And if they do invite God in, He’s only allowed to speak to them during a crisis. Otherwise, God should remain quiet and not interfere with how they desire to speak, behave, think, carry themselves, interact with, etc. (Isaiah 65:2)

While you and I may have surrendered all to Christ Jesus, others haven’t. You and I may be walking in Romans 12:1-2, but others have chosen not to: “Therefore, I urge you brothers in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2- Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (New International Version)

God is a Holy God of love, mercy and justice. Because God created us, man and woman, in His image (Genesis 1:26-27), we also long for justice—it’s in our very makeup. Therefore, we become outraged when justice has not occurred. Yet, many want justice without inviting God into their lives. Oh yes—we want God to rectify injustices delivered by other people (sexual assaults, shootings, fraud, etc.), yet we won’t invite Him to work with us on the injustices we inflict upon others through our derogatory speech, ungodly thoughts and actions. We say, “God fix them but leave my stuff alone.” We’ve not surrendered to Romans 12:1-2.

clean heart

No doubt some acts are more egregious, horrific and more devastating than others. But as a Holy God, He views all sin equally. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

All offenses grieve God. Until we surrender unjust actions, thoughts, speech, behavior to Christ Jesus, we’ll continue to experience injustice in this world. Without Christ, we’re left to our own devices and it becomes a slippery slope. Without inviting the Holy Spirit into our hearts, it’s foolish thinking to consider ourselves “good.” As a dear sister in Christ says, “We underestimate our sin. We underestimate who we are.”

I’ve also asked His forgiveness in the unjust thoughts I had toward this incident. Will you give Him full access to transform you into Christ’s likeness, to help stop the further reproduction of more injustice?

Heavenly Father, I know you fully understand our anger, our outrage at the injustices carried out in this egregious situation. As Our Creator, you created us to also pursue justice. Heavenly Father, we pray for Your amazing love to heal the broken places in this young woman’s life and others affected by such actions. We pray that she and others would lay their anger, hurts, pain and shame at the foot of the Cross to receive true healing and freedom through Your Son Jesus Christ. We pray for Your justice to be rendered. We pray healing for victims and perpetrators. Lord, please raise up more principled and wise public servants who will administer true justice and exercise greater care over those they’ve been entrusted to serve.

Heavenly Father, you are a Holy God and view all sin equally. Forgive us for the injustices we’ve inflicted against You and others by our ungodly actions, thoughts and words. Lord, may we have an understanding for how all offenses grieve You.  Lord, may we obediently desire to surrender to you our unjust words, thoughts and actions to stem the further proliferation of injustices in this world.  May those operating in justice, in Light and Love as the Body of Christ continue to do so. Thank you and we love you. 

In Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior,

Nicole

Nicole D. Hayes is the founder of Voices Against the Grain, a bold teaching ministry launched in May 2013. Nicole’s purpose in creating Voices Against the Grain is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amid confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.

 

 

 

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Overcoming Sexual Assault: The F-Word That Produces Our Victory

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

1 in 4. Statistics suggest that 1 in 4 college women will be raped, sexually assaulted or a victim of attempted rape in her lifetime (although we believe the numbers are higher). The numbers are hard to comprehend. Often, it’s not the boogeyman jumping out of the bushes or dark alley. Hauntingly, the perpetrator is someone you know and trust, and allow in your space (2014 statistics indicate that 2/3 of sexual assault victims know their assailant). Forty-four percent of victims are under age 18. Eighty percent are under age 30. Every 107 seconds. We pray for God’s amazing love to heal the broken places. We pray for God’s justice to be rendered. We pray healing for victims and perpetrators.  rape

Why are we talking about this? April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Our devotional writer Ana Martinez has courageously shared her story and video message on several occasions of overcoming assault, which we re-posted this month. We’ve also shared the work of our ministry partner PureHOPE in restoring purity and justice in a sexualized, broken culture. Sadly, we’re still having the conversations because the issue is not resolved. The fact that we are made in God’s image, man and woman He created us (Genesis 1:26-27), some do not hold such reverence for God’s most beloved and wondrous creations.

Sexual assault: you, me and many others too. Part of me debated on whether to share this aspect of my life, but how else could I obtain victory or empower others to do the same?  Because at times I’m a private person, sharing this has taken me out of my “comfort zone.” Believing that our testimonies can bless, empower, free and heal others, I will share my story (thank you Ana for encouraging me).

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: In the Presence of Evil

It was December 1992. I was well into my freshman year in college and preparing to break for Christmas. I had finished the last of my classes for the semester and looked forward to leaving school for a while. I lived on campus and didn’t necessarily appreciate the craziness of people and college life. Nor was I the party animal many people tend to become once they are away at college and out from under their parents’ radar. Instead, earlier in that semester, I joined a Christian on-campus youth group. I also met a guy who sang in the campus gospel choir. Awesome! He was talented with a great singing voice.

By that fall, we were dating. I gravitated to his straight-laced, gentleman-like nature. We shared similar musical interests in R&B and gospel. As boyfriend and girlfriend, we ate our meals together, watched movies. A no-pressure, easy-going relationship in which I felt comfortable—especially because he was Christian. By all accounts his actions and behavior displayed toward me were non-threatening—even with him belonging to a fraternity. Yet, I was 18 and still “green” in my perceptions about the world. I was naive. Though I considered myself quite observant and perceptive, there were areas I had never been exposed and protected from.

With finals finished, many students had begun packing to head home for the holidays. Some would return after winter break and some would not. That night, he phoned my room and invited me to his dorm room to watch movies. This would be our last time to hang out before break since he was from another state. Though bitter cold outside with fresh snow on the ground, the thought of snuggling to watch movies appealed to me. I made the brief journey from my dorm to his. Again, because of who he was and how he had presented himself all along never gave me cause for concern. That changed the moment I entered the room.

As I removed my heavy coat, I looked about the room and realized how stark it appeared compared to the previous times I had been there.  Then, that’s when I noticed: the TV was gone. I asked him, “Where’s the TV?” He replied that his roommate, who was not returning the next semester, had taken the television and other belongings. I was dumbfounded. I asked him how he thought we were going to watch a movie. I don’t recall what reason he gave.

We sat on his bed reviewing a poster he had produced. Though I realized we wouldn’t be watching a movie, it was disturbing that he had invited me over with the intent of watching television without the TV. What was up with that??

Atmosphere Shift

Like a spring storm that suddenly rushes in with its dark thunderheads, covers the bright sun and ushers in a swift change in atmosphere, this is how quickly the scene changed in his room. Prior to that moment, I’d never clearly understood the meaning of “spiritual warfare” or what it meant to encounter a demonic presence. In an instant, the person I saw before me was no longer the same person. It was as if he “put on” a new persona. I didn’t recognize this person who had swiftly and forcefully gone from pleasant to violent. Without notice, I was no longer in the company of a friend, but that of a predatory, ill-intentioned, dark, demonic spirit. His once brown eyes behind his glasses were now dark black. With me pinned on the bed underneath his weight, his intent was certain. His weapons: his weight, graduation gown cords and a demonic spirit driving him. While he sputtered threatening words, I struggled against the strength and will of his flesh. The pulling at and away of my clothes, his hands going where they were not authorized; feeling in some ways I gave in only to avoid further harm. In my distress, God intervened…

… I must have prayed to God, because I don’t know how else I would have overcome without the Lord.  Before the ordeal escalated to rape, I believe the Holy Spirit gave me the words that saved me and possibly him. I calmly and politely spoke a few words to him that I do not recall to this day. As quickly as the storm came in, it blew out. He rose up off of me and wore a look of confusion and repentance on his face. I was shocked but I did not stick around for him to change his mind.  I gathered myself, quickly left the room and headed back into the cold, winter night in a daze. All the while I wondered, “What in the world just happened back there?” It didn’t seem real. But it was.

God knows just how much we can bear.

Anger Rears Its Ugly Head…and My Hate Toward Black Men  

As the years went by, I truly believed I was over that incident. Or was I? Did I really have victory over it? I thought I did. But not so. I still harbored anger and hate in my heart. Though the years had distanced me from the event, the emotions were as raw as that night. Had I laid eyes on him, I would have inflicted him with bodily harm. Because of his actions (he was Black), I generated a strong hatred toward most Black men (this didn’t include the Black men in my life who had proven themselves trustworthy). Also, the incident played a role in my poor academic performance that year in college. Disappointed by my performance, I took several years off from school. Through the encouragement of a dear friend, I enrolled in another college and completed my degree.

I realized that I needed to get this straight in my life before God. I got honest before God and asked Him what I should do with this. I asked a trusted friend to pray for me and that I would receive an answer from God, a breakthrough; how to release these feelings and get to the other side of it. I wanted my victory.

Getting to the Other Side of It: My and Your Victory—The F-Word

Barely a day after my prayer request, I was at work when a distinct, familiar feeling pricked my spirit. The Holy Spirit was talking to me. God was answering my question. He literally “zinged” me in my spirit. I felt the sharp sting on His answer and when I received it, I was not happy. Honestly, I was downright ticked with what was being asked of me. Essentially, I had to learn a lesson in forgiveness. Upset, I internally challenged God with questions like, “Forgive who??!! Forgive what??!!” I didn’t understand why I had to step up to the plate. I didn’t do anything wrong!

But in the same moment I surged with anger, it was the same time God lovingly revealed His plan for me and why He called me to that specific action: Because He asks us to forgive one another. He commands it. Mark 11:24-25 reads: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” 

The main message is in verse 25, but I am providing you with verse 24 as they are both equally important. In my desire to be obedient to God, this was going to be another area. He forgave others and commanded that I do it too.

forgive

Like it or not, we are accountable to God for our actions. We are accountable to Him for how we respond to situations, whether they are bad or good. In addition, God does not want us to miss out on all that our destiny holds because of unforgiveness and holding onto our past. Forgiveness produces our victory! If you have been through such a situation or someone has wronged you, as difficult as it seems, choose to forgive. If not, your victory will be delayed.

I have since forgiven this person. God also removed the anger I harbored toward him and Black men in general. In exchange, He has provided me a peace that exceeds what I expected to feel about the whole situation! Only God! Victory is mine!

Often times when we are going through tough times or experience wrongdoings inflicted upon us by other people, we ask, “Why me, God?”  Furthermore, we may ask, “Why does such a loving God allow bad things to happen to good people?”

Both questions are valid yet, they manifest as part of our selfish human nature that struggles to understand God’s ultimate purpose for our lives.

In all of it, be encouraged. KNOW THAT IN TRIALS, OUR POWER COMES FROM OUR ABILITY TO BE PROCESSED FOR SUCCESS.

Such an example of being processed is described in 2 Corinthians 4:8-12-

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our bodies.  For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.”

While the statistics, raw emotions and setbacks around such injustices are real, the victories are also real.

-Nicole

Nicole D. Hayes is the founder of Voices Against the Grain, a bold teaching ministry launched in May 2013. Nicole’s purpose in creating Voices Against the Grain is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amid confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.