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  • Writer's pictureruthannelphillips

The Women Shall keep silent

The women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.”

- Corinthians 14:34

This was one of the last posts I received on Facebook from one of my male coworkers before I was advised by those concerned about my wellbeing that it would be wise to stay off of social media for a while. It was probably sage advice in that - after two and a half years of actually trying to remain silent in the face of harassment, bigotry, discrimination, retaliation, and out and out racism - my psyche had exploded into a mass of anger and depression.

When I gave notice at work, I told my boss that remaining silent was destroying my soul and that I was afraid if I continued on my present course, I would turn into a mindless zombie unable to advocate for what was right. He happily accepted my resignation, relieved that the status quo would be preserved. He cared nothing for the state of my soul. He considered me a thorn in his side from the day I had been assigned to his department.

The funny thing was, I was known for tsk-tsking and giving glances of abject disapproval. Enough so, that I obtained the nick name of The Liberal and probably much worse while I went through my training. But it wasn't enough to protect myself, my co-workers or my community.

I had wanted this job more than anything I had ever wanted in my whole life. I did everything I could do to get it. I had eye surgery, took classes, and obtained every certification I could. I applied in every state and every city in every state. I worked out religiously and kept my CPAT current until I finally got offered the job of my dreams and I moved my entire family and ten pets with me across the country.

I should have known the “Women Should Remain Silent Rule.” Not because I was overly religious, but because I had followed it in the past.

In college I was raped on a date. There. I said it. Don't worry. It wasn’t one of the “real rapes" - it was the kind where you are drinking and your date puts something in your drink. You know - the kind where you shouldn’t have been drinking that much, didn’t have your posse with you to protect you, and suddenly you wake up naked on the floor in some strange place, covered in a towel and vomit with complete memory loss. And while you are searching through a strange apartment looking for pieces of your clothing - wondering what happened - you justify the whole thing by saying, “is it really rape if I might have slept with him anyway?” or “This is my own damn fault for going out with a man I met playing chess on the pier in Santa Monica.”

It was the kind of rape where you hurriedly get dressed and make the walk of shame somewhere in the middle of Los Angeles; looking for street signs and landmarks so you can get on a bus and avoid getting assaulted again. The kind where you don't tell anyone for twenty five years. You do manage to go to the Planned Parenthood office to get tested for pregnancy, AIDS and STD’s - but you don’t even tell them what happened. Instead they question why you are there, since “you aren’t in a high risk category for STD’s or AIDS" - but they test you anyway.

They knew. We all knew. They had seen someone like me thousands of times before.

Back then, I remained silent. I didn’t open my mouth. I have had to live with the guilt that I did not protect any of the women who came after me. The ones who went out on a date with that same man and who ended up on the floor - naked, sore, and laying in their own puke.

When I started my dream job, I wish it could have been like Robert De Niro in the “Intern.” A wise old woman giving amazing advice based on her years of experience. But when the man giving you your physical asks, “When did you last have your period?” sarcastically followed by, “or if you even have it anymore,” you know you’re not in Kansas anymore. I also got to hear the lecture about how his sons worked really hard to get the job and was I really up to the task?

Oh. I get it. You don't think I'm qualified. Ha ha.

Women shall remain silent when they are given a job that is historically a man’s job. They should remain silent and grateful and be submissive. Even when they are assaulted - physically pushed down and stricken. When no one admits to seeing it, and when you do speak up - you are told you waited too long. You are told that it will bring you more trouble. And even when the same thing happened to someone else - you are told it is all in your mind.

“It was never my choice (to make a complaint) because I care too much for the other women... I wanted to make a difference, to make things better for them… I don’t want the public to see females as troublemakers, nor just there to screw the guys…Public Opinion.”

- Advice given to me by my {retired} supervisor on her decision to remain silent

Morally, the “I kept my mouth shut because I care more about women than you do” doesn’t work -especially when she is the person you reported your assault to.

Our culture is a culture of complicity.

I was driving to training with two of my coworkers who were talking about a patient they had picked up who said she had been raped. They couldn’t fathom that she had waited three days to report it. They openly mocked her, using what they perceived as a hilarious rendition of a black women claiming she was raped “by her baby daddy.”

“Didn’t she know she can’t be raped by her baby daddy?” they crowed.

My body quaked as I relived my rape and assault.

Women Shall Keep Silent…

I volunteered at the rape crisis center for almost two years. We handled a little under three hundred rapes each year. During that time I only had two adult patients. Two. The remaining victims were children. Of the adults, one was a married woman who had been assaulted by her husband.

According to my co-workers – not rape?

The other was an eighteen year old who had been at a party. I am not sure what she was wearing, so it was difficult for me to tell you if she was asking for it or not. However, I was the one who called her mother to come to the hospital.

Her mother refused to come and told me, “She asked for it. That’s what happens when you hang out with n*****s.”

I rocked her in my arms while her body was racked with sobs. She cradled her broken arm and protected her cracked ribs.

Women Shall Keep Silent…

My dear friend was violently raped - thereby making it a confirmed real rape. Although she had been at a bar - so maybe she partially deserved it. I also don’t know what she was wearing - so maybe it was her fault.

The rules of rape are confusing and ambiguous, so we may never know.

My friend worked for the local Christian university. Because she had her health insurance through the {self-insured} university they were able to see what type of medical procedures she had done after the rape - including testing for pregnancy and STD’s.

When one is employed by the Christian university one has to sign a morality waiver. The waiver basically says you cannot have sex outside of marriage. When my friend’s boss saw her medical bill, he confronted her about getting tested for pregnancy and STD’s. I know this should have been illegal and a HIPPA violation, but her boss had Jesus Christ, self-righteousness, and moral indignation on his side. This - apparently - trumps any privacy concerns one may have.

My friend refused to discuss the circumstances of her hospital care with her boss and she was fired.

Take a moment to let that sink in.

She spoke to an attorney who told her she had a case, but that it would cost a lot of money and she would be questioned repeatedly about what happened to her. Her character would be dissected and assassinated. If she was having sex outside of marriage prior to the rape – the University would have just cause for the firing. They would drag her through the mud and destroy her reputation. Because the university is world famous with a famous leader, it would probably become international news. They would destroy her life and her career and she would have trouble finding work.

As a single mother, that was not an option. Her only option was to remain silent.

That’s what happens when you are raped while employed at a fine Christian University worth billions of dollars.

Women Shall Keep Silent…

“You prove your worth by actions, not words. In any job, there will always be people who don’t want you around because of your race or gender or any other number of factors. Those factors are irrelevant when you do your best at what you do.”

- My coworker’s post to me on Facebook

Actually she’s wrong. When people don’t want you at your job because of your race, or gender, or age - and they make it known by discriminating, harassing, and assaulting you, it is illegal - not irrelevant. When people of color are made to work twice as hard to show their worth, when women are denigrated simply because of our gender - we should not accept that as the norm and we most definitely should not lean in and try to earn the respect of misogynists, racists and bigots.

And when we do speak up, we shouldn’t be told we deserve what we got.

The world is upside down when we try to justify evil instead of correcting it.

Why is it that when we say or do something awful - instead of apologize and try to make it right - we double down.

When someone is hurt or troubled - we blame them.

What does it say about our society when domestic violence is rewarded with work furloughs and promotions and a whole culture asks “what did she do to deserve it?”

We have become monsters.

When Christians use the Bible to silence those who need to be heard the most - we have lost our moral compass.

Women Should Keep Silent

I think sometimes that people are the worst and most awful living things on the planet. Worse than mosquitoes, ticks, fleas and flies. At least you know what you’re getting from them. And yet, there are the glimpses when people are so amazing it is breathtaking. You need to hold on to the moments that are breathtaking.

-Advice to my friend

It’s time to for all of us to become breathtaking. We have been silent long enough.

If you have been a victim of sexual assault there is help available. Contact RAINN or call 1-800-656-HOPE.

If you are considering suicide or need help with someone who is contemplating suicide, contact the suicide prevention lifeline at or call 1-800-273-8255

If you have been a victim of discrimination or retaliation at work contact the EEOC in your area.

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