I’m reading through Signature Sins by Michael Mangis (a review will be posted in the future) and came to the chapter on Gender, Family and Sin when something grabbed my attention. In order to try and not lose any of the context, I’m going to post the entire paragraph, then I’ll talk about what bothered me and why.
“Several years ago my (Mangis) friend and colleague Cynthia Neal Kimball and I surveyed college women about unwanted sexual experiences. The women wrote their stories anonymously. Although we read some accounts of date rape and sexual abuse, more than half of the stores were accounts that we came to call stories of the ‘lost voice.’ The women recounted being with men who did not overpower them in any literal way yet left them feeling violated. The men in the stories were often youth pastors or other figures who held powerful roles in the women’s lives. These women wrote things such as ‘NO! was running through my mind but I just couldn’t say it till afterwards’ and ‘I couldn’t say no to a guy even thought I knew I should. I was not forced to do anything – I just didn’t have the strength to say no.’ The women seldom blamed the men or spoke of themselves as victims. Instead they described feeling confused and ashamed that they could find themselves in such a situation and not know how to get out.” (emphasis added)
I am upset with the numerous accounts (high percentage?) of unwanted sexual experiences by the women surveyed. But what bothered me more was the fact that youth pastors had a role in those stories. I am not naive about the struggle many (all?) youth pastors have to stay sexually pure. And I have heard of youth pastors who have been inappropriate with a student. It is not new to me, yet it saddens me every time I hear about it.
I hope that youth pastors would just stop this kind of stupid behavior.
This is one of the reasons why I have certain “rules” for one-on-one interaction with female students. (and if you are a female youth worker, just switch “female” for “male” in these rules)
#1. I am never alone with a female (student or adult)
#2. If I am driving students home and one is a female, she will be dropped off before the guys. (goes with #1)
#3. Always allow a female youth coach to do the counseling of female students (when it is not possible, limit discussion as much as possible and talk in a public place).
#4. I tell my wife about all conversations I have with females, there is no need for there to be any secrecy or suspicion.
#5. If my wife is not home and a female student stops by, I will either talk to them right inside and stay by the open windows or talk to them outside on the porch. (or I’ll politely tell them my wife is not home and see if they can come back at a later time)
#6. Make sure the students and adults understand your stance on this issue.
What about you? What do you do to keep yourself accountable and prevent this from happening to one of your female students?