I Was Victimized By The Purity Movement

by Elizabeth Baker
Originally Published: 
A woman victimized by the Purity Movement in a yellow-white striped sweater praying above the Bible
arkira / Getty

“That’s not relevant.”

Evangelical leader Franklin Graham spoke these words in response to a question about Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged attempted rape of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford when they were both high school students in 1982

Not relevant? Judge Kavanaugh is nominated for a LIFETIME Supreme Court appointment, a position with no accountability once he is confirmed. If he is sworn in to the highest court in the land, his decisions will shape our country for decades. Conservative Republicans desperately want him confirmed because they see him as the key to overturning Roe vs Wade — a move that would legislate and control generations of women’s bodies.

So it’s not relevant that he violated Dr. Ford’s body in 1982, but vitally relevant that he be given the rest of his life to influence laws that would tell women what they can and can’t do with their bodies beginning in 2018? Got it.

Purity Culture and Power

It’s no secret many Evangelical leaders sold their souls to the Republican Party for power. Their hypocrisy continues to astound me, and I struggle with anger and disillusionment with the church, especially with leaders like Franklin Graham who profoundly influenced my Christian upbringing.

I came of age in the height of the Purity Movement, the bulk of my abstinence-only education happening in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I signed a purity pledge and slipped a ring on my finger when I was 15 years old, promising in earnest to remain “pure” until my wedding day. On that day, I felt so confident, so sure, that I was doing the right thing, the holy thing, and that God would bless my faithfulness and commitment to purity. My favor with God and my future marriage were on the line, along with every aspect of my future. That purity ring, and all it symbolized, completely controlled my mind and my body.

For years, I received the consistent message that pre-marital sex would leave a permanent stain on my future marriage, and it was my responsibility to keep boys from “stumbling.” Along with my own, their virginity was my responsibility too. I dressed modestly, avoided being alone with boys, and consciously repressed my natural sexual development in pursuit of “purity” and “waiting for God’s best.”

These purity messages came from all levels of authority in my life: my parents, local church leaders, and big-deal spiritual leaders like James Dobson and Franklin Graham. At the time, their message seemed consistent: sexual morality mattered. It was relevant. It mattered in my home, my church, and on the national political stage. Bill Clinton’s infidelity was proof that he was unfit for public office, and identification with Democratic party could not coexist with my Christian faith.

Now, two decades later, those same spiritual leaders whose moral authority left me full of shame and confusion about my body and sexuality, are consistently defending and endorsing men with past sexual immorality that would never be tolerated from Democrats.

It was about control.

It was never about purity. It was never about what was best for me and my spiritual development. It was never about my future marriage. It was about control of my body and the pursuit of political power.

I’ve never been raped or sexually assaulted. And I won’t claim or pretend that my scars from years of Purity Culture’s brainwashing are worse or even close to as painful as those who have been raped or assaulted. But my scars are real, and today, they have a profound impact on my faith, my marriage and my identity.

So, is a decades-old sexual assault committed by a man endorsed by the same leaders who controlled my sexuality for decades…relevant?

YES, it’s relevant.

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