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A Survivor’s Response to Theologian Ravi Zacharias Sexual Abuse Reports

Recently Christian religious communities around the world have been shocked and aghast by Ravi Zacharias sexual abuse reports. He was a superstar preacher and theologian, with many books on Christianity. Apparently, he had as many pictures of naked women as books. He died at the age of 74 in May 2020, after denying allegations by Lori Anne Thompson since 2017. Many people did not believe her and actively slandered her. The organization (Ravi Zacharias International Ministries) finally took action to investigate, and recently published a report on his many sexual abuse cases. (Trigger warning for the rest of the post!)

As a survivor of sexual harassment, one of my worst experiences was in a church setting, by the son of a deacon (church leader). Listen to the whole story here on Zoya Amirin Youtube Channel. It’s in Indonesian, but I’ll give an English translation in the next blog post. I first started speaking up on my experiences back in 2016. As a result of that, I met Sophia Hage of Yayasan Lentera Sintas Indonesia. This non-profit hosts private closed group discussions to support survivors. Lentera also actively campaigns about sexual harassment awareness and laws that need to be changed in Indonesia (RUU PKS). RUU PKS is a proposed bill focusing on the prevention of sexual violence in Indonesia while increasing victims’ rights. It was proposed in 2016 but dropped by DPR (People’s Representative) in 2020.

Back to the Ravi Zacharias scandals. I observed quietly as many people in my Whatsapp groups bravely attempted to digest this difficult news. I would like to share my voice here from a survivor’s point of view.

Not surprised at all.

All the signs were there-superstar, powerful, rich figure of patriarchal background. It is all too easy for someone in that position to abuse well, everything and everyone, really. Unless there are proper checks and balances set in place, then it’s just much too easy for him to do whatever he wants. Especially to village girls that have limited options in life due to poverty.

I wish discussions would be more empathetic and supportive of survivors.

Can you imagine how you would feel if your pastor was groping your thighs? Or how you would feel, if you were looking for a job because you desperately needed money to get through the week, and your boss offers you financial support in exchange for sexual favors? How would you react?

Statistics say that 1 in 3 women worldwide has experienced physical and/or sexual violence. They just haven’t spoken up about it. This is a staggering number.

What will you do about the issue?

Do not think your place is exempt from this social issue. Use the momentum of this news to bring it up to the leaders of your religious organization, workplace, school, to see if there are protocols set in place to ensure that everyone is safe. That people can speak up if they feel they have been mistreated. It can be as simple as an anonymous abuse hotline where you can report your case. Or an email where people can send anonymous stories to. Or let your family members (especially your children) know that if anyone ever touched them without their consent, then they can talk to you. You will not judge them. You will listen and believe them, and you will love them.

Let your children know that if anyone ever touched them without their consent, you will not judge them. You will listen, believe, and love them.

However you choose to act, my plea is this: do not stay silent on this issue. International Woman’s Day is coming up on 8th of March. They are campaigning for the hashtag #ChooseToChallenge. Speak up, use your voice. If you have money, find a campaign you like and donate to it. If you are in a leadership position, use your power to create better systems for your community.

What you do now will not be forgotten by your sons and daughters.

If you have been sexually abused, you can talk reach out to Lentera Sintas Indonesia, Zoya Amirin, or many other nonprofits and worldwide organizations. Have hope. The world is changing-slowly, but surely.

You can also talk to me. I’ve been there. You’re not alone.

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