If She Had Been A Man (#metoo)

If She Had Been A Man

I was thinking yesterday about how things would have been different had the woman who attacked me at church been a man.

Had he caught me off guard shortly after we met, and forced me into a long, aggressive, and uncomfortable hug and had to be told not to hug me (or try to hug my kids) again.
Had he tried to interject himself into a separate situation involving me and had an angry, profane outburst when I told him that it wasn’t his concern.
Had he stalked me around the church for months after that, always seeming to know where I was, huffing past me, muttering, and “accidentally” bumping hard into me or my husband when he brushed past either of us.
Had he been the reason I wouldn’t go to the bathroom alone or let my kids out of my sight at church.
Had it been a man who made me feel like I had to look over my shoulder everywhere I went and keep myself visible at all times to people who knew what going on.
Had it been a man who came at me looking ready to attack, hand raised and screaming profanities in the church foyer.
Had my husband had to put himself in front of me because a man was coming at his wife. (And thank God my husband happened to be coming to check on me at the exact moment this person went off on me.)
Had it been a man who needed half a dozen people to keep him from getting near me, remove him from the building, and prevent him from coming back in, all while he screamed horrendous profanities, threats, and accusations at me (and Glenn by the end).


My husband is what you’d call non-confrontational. I do the confronting. He sings the songs. Even so, does this look like a guy who’s gonna stand there and let his wife get attacked? Not on your life.

“But did she hurt you or did she just yell at you?” I was asked later that day.

What a ridiculous question, but it’s the one that made me see the situation for what it is. Abuse.

I have struggled with wondering how I could have handled everything differently. As a leader, as a pastor’s wife, as a mother, and as a Christian woman. It never should have gotten that bad and as I usually want to grow from experiences just in general, I have done a lot of self-reflection over the last few months to try and understand how I could have done or said anything differently to prevent it from escalating to that point. It’s kept me up at night, wondering, blaming myself, going round and round in circles chasing a way to make sense of this and have peace.

Until that question replayed in my head yesterday.

“But did she hurt you or did she just yell at you?”

Nobody would have asked me that question if she had been a man. I wouldn’t have second guessed my own responses to her if she’d been a man. A light bulb moment if ever I had one.

If she had been a man:

-The leadership of that church would have done me the courtesy of having the conversation about what happened to my face and not on Facebook messenger.

-“He” would have been talked to and dealt with long before things escalated to me being attacked in the first place.

-Nobody would have suggested that Glenn was too aggressive in stepping in front of me to block me.

-The attacker would have been dealt with more seriously after the first woman he targeted in this way.

-Someone would have called the police without thinking twice.

-I would not have been told to just pray for “him”, call “him” up, and try to be “his” friend moving forward, after the fact.

-Nobody would have tried to laugh it off as simply being “annoying” behavior.

-My husband would not have been asked what my problem was when I absolutely refused to put up with any more it.

-Nobody would have told me that “he” could still come to church even if I got a restraining order, which I was going to do had my husband not been fired.

-The behavior and attack would not have been minimized on the basis of a possible difference in sexual orientation, which I personally have no issue with for starters, and also find it offensive to insinuate is the kind of behavior inherent in being LGBTQ. It isn’t.

-Had she been a man targeting men in a church, instead of a woman targeting women, the response would have been very different.

-My husband would still have his job. (This is not officially why they fired him but as I’ve said before, I will believe that when hell freezes over because his job certainly wasn’t on the line before this happened and firing him 4 days later looks pretty damned shady to anyone paying attention.)

When I started to think about how everything would have been different if she’d been a man, I felt a weight lifted off of me. We’d still be there, talking about how the church had to remove a volatile person for the safety and well-being of its people, if a man had pulled that. We’d be talking about how lucky it was that Glenn stepped in right when he did and that the ushers moved to help so fast. I’d be writing about not being afraid to use your voice and how to say no to people who make you feel threatened or uncomfortable, and nobody would be arguing with me. The last thing anyone would be concerned with is my beautiful f-word coffee mug that I posted a sarcastic photo of the day the attack happened as stress relief, but which sent the leaders into a massive tailspin because GOD FORBID anyone find out that there’s trouble in the church.


The hypocrisy in finding this hilarious mug more offensive than anything else that happened that day is mind-blowing.

The last I heard, nobody is allowed to talk to anyone else about what happened. They’re all supposed to talk only to the pastor, presumably so that he can tell them what to think and squash any rational questions about the matter. It’s out of my hands whether people want to subject themselves to that, but the larger issue here is that there IS a larger issue here. This situation is freaking tiny compared to the landslide of stories like mine and much, much, much worse than mine which are coming to light en masse thanks to #metoo.

We are a long ways to go in our culture both in the church out, before people are believed when they say they don’t feel safe at best or have been victimized in awful ways at worst. I was lucky. People saw what happened – a lot of people. It couldn’t be denied although it was swiftly covered up and we were sent packing before we could speak up for ourselves. Now I’m home and I have a voice. I can talk about what happened. She never got to lay a hand on me that day, which was by the grace of God alone I’m sure.

I do wonder though, if maybe it would have been worse, had she been a man.

Maybe I would have been blamed for being too friendly or not friendly enough.
Questioned about what I was wearing that day or how I carried myself.
Doubted for how I interact with men in general, and had my friendships and relationships with the opposite sex scrutinized.
I probably still would have been told I was lucky he didn’t lay a hand on me.
We may still have been sent packing to minimize fallout and keep people from asking questions.

Church. I am begging you to wake up. If we aren’t willing to open our eyes and see how deep and wide the problem is, we have such a long way to go. It’s systemic and the scope of it is only just beginning to come to light. It’s time to get out of the dark, pay attention, and step up to the plate in being agents for change. What does that look like? I’ll have to not get kicked out of a church first to let you know the answer to that, but I think listening is a good first step. Just listen. And call the bloody cops when necessary because not everyone is as lucky as I was that day.

copyright (2018) Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved

5 thoughts on “If She Had Been A Man (#metoo)

  1. Wow so powerful and I am glad you have been given the gift of writing … it always saddens me to read about places of worship that still don’t take the authority they have been given to deal with this type of situation and the innocent party is kicked to the curb but know this you and your family will be blessed and find the right place where God wants you wash your hands and dust your feet and just keep moving in His ways. God bless you all. 💖


  2. Wow, very powerful message here Jenna! Men, women and children caught in the cycle of emotional abuse need practical, emotional and spiritual support. Shouldn’t pastors and churches volunteer for the front lines when it comes to addressing emotional abuse and other forms of domestic violence? Victims want and need support from their churches. The church should always Take the necessary steps to make the church a safe place, where victims and their abusers can find grace, love and healing. Disregarding it will not make things better.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good for you Jenna. I was assulted by a MAN in church. Where it to was covered up and i was the one in the wrong. I also was told to keep my mouth shut about it because God says to forgive and its a sin to gossip about it.
    Bless you. My you and Glenn heal from this. There are good churches out there. Sadly there are wolves in sheeps clothing that the devil puts in the 4 walls of the church.
    Bless you and Glenn with even a better job and much joy and peace.


    • I am so sorry that happened to you. “It’s a sin to gossip” is a manipulative way to keep the truth locked up and excuse leadership from accountability. It’s easier to talk people down or talk them in circles, when you can convince them that they are the only ones with questions or concerns. You are right though, there are good churches out there and we have a responsibility to our kids and communities to be engaged and invested in those ones the best we can. One of our pastor friends was telling us how he recently explained to his church how they could have him removed from his position if they felt that it was necessary. Because he is holding no control over anyone and doesn’t take his position or authority at all for granted. We are amazed by the integrity of the leaders in our lives – what an amazing example of humility that I will never forget! Bless you as well and thanks for sharing.


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