I just finished watching CNN’s The Hunting Ground. And though I recognize that many will dispute the sensationalism, political bias, and journalistic integrity of CNN, I found the show to be informative for my own struggle to draw attention to homelessness. I am not complaining about the quality of the reporting at all, though I have no doubt much could be done to improve it.
This documentary film follows a group of young ladies as they draw attention to the problem of sexual assault at our nation’s colleges and universities. Each of the featured women claimed to have survived attacks themselves and then suffered undue scrutiny and/or lack of proper attention from their school. As they began to face their problem, they also began to organize with other survivors around the country in an attempt to change the system that treats them unfairly.
Throughout the film, it is clear that just drawing attention to the issue meets resistance in the larger culture. The victim tends to get blamed, the crime excused or covered up, and the public ignores the whole scenario.
As a street prophet dealing with the homeless, these exact dynamics all have a familiar ring to me.
The film begs the question repeatedly, How can you send your daughter to a place where 1 in 5 get sexually assaulted? If everyone had this information, wouldn’t it almost automatically create change? And yet disseminating this information seems to create resistance to the message instead of alarm, change, or caution.
I was particularly attuned to the comment one of the women made about how making personal narrative the approach seemed to make headway with their movement. And the film featured dozens, if not hundreds, of clips from interviews with young women nation-wide telling compelling sound bytes of their stories. And I am inclined to believe them for the most part, largely because I took a course in Rape Investigation last year at Wayland Baptist University. So much of the documentary I watched resonated with the class.
I also recall the “culture of rape” that was exposed at Texas Tech last winter in the local news media. I recall the headline-making frat party with the message: “No” means “Yes” and “Yes” means “Anal.” That really was a message/theme of a party some of our own kids in this “Christian” town promoted, and it made the TV news.
(Where was the pastoral outrage for that? Cheering the team at Saturday’s game, I think.)
But I am not posting to argue about rape. I am posting to say that I was enlightened by the resistance to such a basic message. The forces behind that resistance are Sports and Politics, with Money pulling the strings from behind. It’s not so different with homelessness.
I am mindful that my message seems to constantly fall on deaf ears. I use my worship, my mouth, my computer, my clothes, my bike, cardboard placards and any imaginative means I can think of to spread our message – awareness at least. But I get almost no response. Of the response I get, I expect about 90% is resistant in some way. But when I sent that news release from Carpenter’s Church last week, I got a prompt response! First one in months! But the news release gives the impression that the problem is now handled, and you can rest easy knowing that. And I think the underlying notion is that by reprinting that message in the church bulletin, the message has been acknowledged and given its due.
But when I can get my church friends to come out and sleep on the hard, cold concrete in a parking spot behind a machine shop, under a “No Trespassing” sign, I think then they will find it hard to ignore the problem and short-change it. But if the Rape Documentary teaches anything, the lesson is to get personal narrative on center stage.