The Punch

If there’s a phrase I could ban from every orientation talk, every summer conversation between parent and child this summer, it would be this:


Don’t drink the punch.


Every time I hear it, it comes with a snicker, a smile, like it’s a joke.

And that’s what it is, but it’s a joke at the expense of women, one at the expense of sexual assault victims and survivors, and at the expense of every innocent college party.


When I hear that phrase, what I hear is “don’t be vulnerable. Don’t ever let your hypervigilant state down.”


It’s exhausting and scary and a reminder that I am physically weaker than most men, that not all people have good intentions towards me, and that people will find reasons to blame me for the actions of others. The worst part is that there is nothing I can do to make myself totally and permanently safe. Whether I wear a niqab or become a religious sister or never make male friends and avoid being around men alone, I will still never be totally permanently safe.


Even if I don’t drink the punch, my chances of being sexually assaulted don’t go away. And if it happens, whatever other vulnerability is present will be counted against me. If I went on a date with him, if I invited him to study at my place because he’s in my classes or club, if I wore the wrong thing. Don’t drink the punch is another reminder that I will be blamed for being vulnerable. I will be blamed for being a victim.



Part of what it means to be human is to be vulnerable. As a woman, I feel it more acutely. Everyone in a minority position of any sort- race, sexuality, economic status, religion, knows there is an extra vulnerability that comes with being part of the non-dominant power group.


Don’t drink the punch is another reminder of that. Of re-enforcing and setting the stage for blaming me for being vulnerable. Of, in this case, not having as much physical power and social capital. Of not having my worth be based on my “potential” but on my purity.


I am vulnerable. It’s part of my humanity. I cannot give it up. It will always be a risk. Every date, every hello, every yes and every no to every man I ever meet. It will always be a risk. Being vulnerable has led to some horrible, horrible places in my life. But it has led to the best places to. Asking for help more than 5 years ago led me on the path to my current career, which I love. Meeting a stranger at the farmers market turned into my husband. Saying yes to a lunch group with some women I barely knew (and frankly, I was totally intimidated by because of their awesomeness!) has turned into a life giving group of encouragement and healing and productivity.


If you want to say “what we mean is don’t get drunk”- then say that. You have the right, even if it will be poorly listened to. Even if it doesn’t actually help. Teach students about alcohol education for the sake of their knowledge and self-empowerment. Teach students what it feels like to be drunk vs. drugged, how much alcohol is in a beer vs. an everclear vodka kool-aid, and what different levels of alcohol feel like and do. Teach students the laws about medical amnesty, so they don’t fear calling for help. Write medical and safety amnesty policies, so we don’t contribute to the vulnerability we keep blaming them for. So we don’t keep exacerbating the problem. We don’t make ourselves safer by covering assault up with vulnerability-shaming and ignorance.


I’m a Christian, and the evangelical bones in my body still ask “what would Jesus do? How does God see this?” And I’ve yet to imagine Jesus telling anyone “don’t drink the punch.” The God who died for me did so with absolute love expressed through a physical and spiritual vulnerability that has changed my life. And when I meditate on that, it’s clear my vulnerability is not the problem. Vulnerability is not a sin. Taking advantage of the vulnerable is.


And I hope the conversation with your kids centers on the problems, and the solutions about sexual assault. Talk about consent. Talk about love and yes means yes. Talk about rape culture. Talk about fact-based alcohol education. Talk about ignorance and fear. But don’t blame vulnerability. Don’t blame the punch. It tastes gross, it’s probably unhygienic despite all that alcohol, but it’s not capable of committing any crimes. It’s a liquid in a cooler, not a person, not an institution, not a culture.


And those are our problems. Individuals who commit crimes, institutions that discount them and re-victimize women for being vulnerable, and cultures that care about winning football games or men’s potential more than they care about women. Cultures that think saying “don’t drink the punch” is the appropriate prevention tool against sexual assault. It’s not. It only makes things worse.


Lilly Leman, MDiv., George W. Truett Theological Seminary                                                     Pastor, First United West (UCC)


The World Turned Upside Down


It’s been 58 days since we gathered together in Elliston Chapel at Baylor University to say these words together:

Even though our grief may last for ages,

Our hope is never entirely lost.

We acknowledge that sometimes hope is a bright light

breaking through the darkness

and sometimes hope is a tiny flicker

barely visible in the dead of night.

Sometimes the most we can do is hope to hope.

There are times we cannot hold on to hope at all.

We lose our grip, and somehow the hope carries us

through the wilderness of our despair.

Sometimes hope is loud,

and sometimes hope is quiet.

Sometimes hope is as small as our next breath,

Sometimes hope is the gumption that rises

like beauty from the ashes of our past,

Sometimes hope makes us brave. Sometimes hope heals.


Today is a day we can easily speculate about the future of a football program, the future of administration, the future of recruiting etc. Let us not forget today is a day that people whose stories we’ll never know are listening to our responses. They will hear today that their voice caused Baylor to fall or that their experience was their fault. They will be called names and made to feel fear all over again.

Some will be happy, some will be sad, some will just want it all to end. But today, as Christians, our response should be mindful of those forgotten in this story. Those who suffered at the hand of negligence for far too long. We are responsible for the culture change that follows. We are responsible for teaching respect, teaching consent, teaching each other what it means to choose people over prestige. May we choose to hold ourselves to a standard beyond the law of the land.

Litany of Acknowledgementorg


10 ways every church ought to combat sexual violence and domestic abuse

An article from one of our own. Great resource.

10 ways every church ought to combat sexual violence and domestic abuse

Prayers for Survivors: A Liturgy in Protest of Sexual Violence


Georges Rouault, Miserere Plate 2


Silence for Reflection

We rejoice in the knowledge that there is love loud enough, bright enough, powerful enough to shine through the darkness. Love is seen in the support of allies, the gifting of survivor’s stories, the prayers of many. Allow this love to enter into our hearts, give us the ability to know it, and feel it, and allow it to do a work of healing.


Invocation Prayer – a communal version of Psalm 5:1-3

Give ear to our words, O God; give heed to our groaning.
Listen to the sound of our cry, O God, we’re calling out to you.
O God, we believe that you hear our voices; we plead our case to you, and watch.


Litany of Acknowledgement

We pause this day to recognize there are many among us who have been wounded by violence, exploitation, coercion, or manipulation.
There are many among us who are suffering and grieving.
There are many who need support and healing, who need their voices heard, and their stories acknowledged, and their experiences validated.

The weight of oppression is heavy,
and the effects of trauma are real and long-lasting.

We pause this day to recognize all of us are impacted by the culture of violence.
All of us are impacted by the culture of impatience and hostility in which we live.
By listening to one another, may we become instruments of justice and peace.


Scripture Reading – Romans 8:26-27

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.


Hymn – “When Sorrow Floods the Troubled Heart” – Celebrating Grace Hymnal, #544

When sorrow floods the troubled heart and clouds the mind with fears, 
affliction presses from the soul the bitter flow of tears.
God’s weeping children raise the prayer: “Almighty God, how long
till tears shall cease and silence break and grief be turned to song?”

The voice is stilled, no words express the pain that lingers on;
our prayer becomes a silent sigh; all mortal speech is gone.
The Holy Spirit groans in us with intercession strong;
when tears have ceased and silence breaks, the Spirit stirs a song.

The sting of death cannot forbid the child of God to sing.
The scars we bear may long remain, but resurrection brings
the healing of the broken heart, the righting of the wrong.
Our tears shall cease, our silence breaks in Christ the living Song.


Prayer of Petition

God. In a world that has little time for us,
     we want to believe that you have time.
In a culture that too easily dismisses us,
    we want to believe that you care.
Among institutions that are slow to come to our aid,
    we want to believe that you are eager to help.
You are our first and last resort.

Here is our petition:
We ask for comfort and peace.
God, hear our prayer.
We ask for courage and strength.
God, hear our prayer.
We ask for your justice and healing.
God, hear our prayer.
We ask for compassionate listeners.
God, hear our prayer.
We ask for faithful advocates.
God, hear our prayer.
We ask for bold truth-tellers.
God, hear our prayer.
We ask for personal and institutional transformation.
God, hear our prayer.

In the space below, take a few minutes to add your own petitions:

We ask for…

God, hear our prayer. We need you to act here, to act now.


Litany of Commitment

As a community of faith we will not forget those who are hurting. We will listen carefully. We understand there are those among us who suffer in silence. And so…

We will not further silence our neighbor with platitudes or should-haves.
We commit to hold their pain gently.
We know we must continue to challenge the power dynamics in our world that make abuse prevalent, even when these dynamics and systems benefit us.

We will not worship ideas or institutions.
We will love God and love our neighbor above all else.
We struggle to understand how the world can be so broken, but we will not let this deter us from seeking justice.
We will not cease praying for your Kingdom come.
We commit ourselves to the journey ahead. Our friends will walk alone no longer.


For more resources and information, visit StrongWomenWrite.

Compiled by: Lilly Ettinger Leman, Sharyl West Loeung, Heather Mooney,
Kyndall Rae Rothaus, Rachel Toombs, Natalie Webb, and Emma Wood.


Resources for Abuse Survivors


Brochure on Recovering from Sexual Assault from the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network:

National Sexual Violence Resource Center:

Stalking Resource Center:

Male Survivor: Overcoming Sexual Victimization of Men and Boys:

101 Resources for Domestic Violence Prevention:

Emotional and Psychological Trauma:

Interactive Online Program to Help Students Deal with Traumatic Events:



Bass, E. & Davis, L. (2008). The courage to heal: A guide for women survivors of child sexual abuse 4th Edition. New York: Harper & Row.

This is a classic and well-known resource that follows a similar model as The courage to heal workbook (Davis, 1990) as it is written by one of the same authors. This book has less workbook-type activities but it does have some guided journaling. It may be useful to have the client read this book and then work with the workbook exercises in counseling sessions. What is unique to this book is that it provides helpful biographies of survivors that might be helpful for clients seeking role models; however the biographies can also be difficult and possibly painful to read, especially for more fragile survivors. This book also has a chapter addressing the controversy regarding the recovery of memories and the best and most comprehensive guide to resources for survivors and their allies.

Davis, L. (1990). The courage to heal workbook: A guide for women and men survivors of child sexual abuse. New York: Harper & Row.

This resource guides the reader through exercises to promote acceptance and healing of sexual abuse experiences. It has many excellent activities that can also be used in counseling sessions. The workbook first starts by teaching coping skills to support the client in her/his healing work. The book then leads the client through activities designed to remember the abuse; identify the effects of the abuse; work through grief, anger and shame; and move towards self-trust and resolution. The workbook also addresses survivor issues such as sharing their story, confrontation and creating a healthy sexual relationship.  This resource can be used in conjunction with readings from The courage to heal (Bass & Davis, 1992).


Davis, L. (1991). Allies in healing: When the person you love was sexually abused as a child. New York: Harper Perennial.

Ledray, L. (1986). Recovering from Rape. New York: H. Holt.


Maltz, W. (1991). The sexual healing journey: A guide for survivors of sexual abuse. New York: Harper Perennial.


Walker, L.E. (1979). The Battered Woman. New York: Harper & Row.


Warshaw, R. (1988). I never called it rape: The Ms. report on recognizing, fighting and surviving date and acquaintance rape. New York: Harper & Row.