by Lisa Sharon Harper
My 3-year-old body lay next to a family member—protected by proximity to power and authority. No monsters could reach me—even the ones under the bed must stay at bay—because an adult male who I trusted lay next to me. Questions did not exist in my universe; only the clarity of one protected. Then, in one instant, questions flooded in.
He laid his hand on an area that I did not even know existed before that moment. Foreign feelings rose up, took over and sealed the bond of protected bliss.
My 14-year-old body walked down the aisle at a Creation Festival altar call. Two feet stood planted on the mountainside with thousands of other teenaged feet. Feet anchored in Jesus and arms raised, we vowed to remain celibate until we were married. I was determined to be faithful. And I was relieved, because here, in this place, no one would want to violate my body. I could escape the terror of encounter with another body. I could wait for the safety of marriage to heal that deep wound—until then, I was safe.
My 37-year-old clothed body lay entangled in my boyfriend’s arms. He heard me say “No.” Yet, he still reached his hand into my pants and awakened feelings I did not authorize.
My body sat in my pastor’s office listening to him explain how it was not the man’s fault.
“But, I said, ‘No.’,” I explained.
It didn’t matter, according to the pastor. When we decided to kiss, we opened the door to what comes next.
I spoke to a female pastor whose logic chased sanity, but never caught up. I explained what happened several times and several times she said she didn’t see anything wrong.
Finally, I made it plain: “If he reached down my pants and grabbed my vagina without my permission, would that be a violation?”
She answered, “Yes.”
I said, “That is what happened.”
She said, “I don’t believe you.”
We never spoke again.
The next Sunday, the soul inside my 37-year-old body went numb as I rose to take Holy Communion. I walked forward, held out my hands to receive the bread, then walked to the man holding the cup of wine. Fingers that had pushed past my boundaries, only a few weeks before, now held the symbol of Jesus blood. My breath stopped. I dipped my bread in his cup and felt violated again.