In the news: The Weinstein revelations

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11 Nov 2017
The media currently seems full of people speaking out publicly about sexual harassment and assault. Perhaps we wish our children weren't hearing these stories. But, how we can coach our children through tough stuff? In this post, whistleblowing.

If our children have access to social media or are watching the news, chances are that they’ve listened into the current conversations about sexual harassment and assault that are hitting the headlines – first of all the casting couch allegations concerning Harvey Weinstein and now the unsavoury stories flying around Westminster and the almost daily revelations appearing in our news feeds.  Women all over the world – and some men too – are speaking out publicly about their own experiences – good, brave conversations, but ones which we might wish our children weren’t overhearing.

But is this a chance to coach our children in some tough stuff? In this post we’ll be thinking about whistleblowing.

One of the immediate reactions to the Weinstein revelations was outrage that so many people seemed to have known what was going on but had remained silent – why didn’t they tell?  Why didn’t they blow the whistle on him?   However, as we all know, whistleblowing is not as easy as it sounds.  Should I say something?  What if I’m wrong?  What if they find out it was me who told?  But we all, from time to time, find ourselves in places where we may need to speak up, and our children are no different.  It may be now when they see unkindness in the classroom or fellow pupils taking drugs at lunchtime, or in thirty years’ time when they come across some corporate misdoings.  So how can we coach them now to have the confidence to speak out the truth when they need to?  What you talk about and how you do it will vary according to your kids and their age, but here are some ideas that might help:

Help them understand that whistleblowing is partnering with God to bring about his kingdom values in this world.

In order for our children to be confident to speak out, even in difficult circumstances, their actions need to be grounded in their conviction that this is the right and just thing to do.  God’s priority throughout scripture is justice, the needs of the poor and downtrodden.  Whistleblowing is a way to expose and stop situations when people are being exploited or hurt.

  • Together, explore Bible passages which help us understand God’s heart for justice and truth – such as Psalm 12; Micah 6:8; John 8:32; Isaiah 1:17; 1 Corinthians 10:24
  • Share stories about famous Christians who exposed wrongdoings, such as William Wilberforce, Elizabeth Fry and Martin Luther King.  What inspired them and kept them going?  
  • The Bible often uses the metaphor of light and darkness to talk about the importance of truth (for example, 1 John 1:5, John 3:19-21; Ephesians 5:8-13).  Chat about how whistleblowing might be like shining light in a dark place. With younger children, you might want to play with a torch, shining it into dark corners of your cupboards to reveal the dust and spiders webs previously hidden!
  • Think about the idea that even if we are partnering with God to do his work, it may not be easy (John 16:33).  Wonder about some Bible stories which didn’t have happy endings, such as John the Baptist (John 14:1-12) or Paul’s life (see for example 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, 2 Timothy 4:6-8).  Why did they keep going?  If they had their lives over again and knew what would happen, would they live differently or the same?

Frame why whistleblowing is important.  

  • Highlight times when you see the truth being bravely told by someone – maybe on the news, in a story or in a movie.  What was different because they told the truth?  What helped that person be so brave?  What is it about the truth that was stronger than their fears?  
  • Wonder why is the truth important?  If we didn’t have truth, what would the world be like?  Who do you know who is full of truth?  Do you agree with Edmund Burke who said, ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing’?  What might have been different if some of the good people who knew about Harvey Weinstein had said something years ago?
  • Share some Bible stories where people stood up for the truth no matter what – Jeremiah and Baruch’s courage in persisting with telling the king God’s truth (Jeremiah 36); Jesus in the temple; Mordecai in the book of Esther; Elijah and Ahab (1 Kings 18:16-19:9)

Help them learn to whistleblow well.

  • Talk about how God has helped you make difficult decisions in the past, and given you courage when you needed to do something difficult.  What did you do? How did you hear God’s voice?  What did he do?
  • Wonder about what the difference is between telling tales and whistleblowing.  Are we just complaining about something we don’t like, or are we speaking out to prevent harm to others?  We often discourage children from telling tales but would want them to encourage them to whistleblow.  Whistleblowing is about exposing and stopping people being hurt or exploited, not just pointing out that something isn’t right.  
  • Help them think through when they might need to whistleblow and how they might do that.  ‘When I was at school I knew that some of the older children were taking other children’s dinner money from them … what would you do if you saw that?’ or ‘In an office I used to work in, the boss was really horrible to people and used to bully them …’.  
  • Talk through scenarios with your child that you know they might encounter – for example, fellow pupils taking drugs at school.  How would they make up their mind what to do?  Who could help them?  What would they do?  What might the consequences of their whistleblowing be? 

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