How Purity Culture Upholds Abuse and How to Find Healing


How Purity Culture Upholds Abuse and How to Find Healing

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When Emily Joy Allison outed her abuser on Twitter, she launched #ChurchToo, a movement to expose the culture of sexual abuse and assault utterly rampant in Christian churches in America. Not a single denomination is unaffected. And the reasons are somewhat different than those you might find in the #MeToo stories coming out of Hollywood or Washington. While patriarchy and misogyny are problems everywhere, they take on a particularly pernicious form in Christian churches where those with power have been insisting, since many decades before #MeToo, that this sexually dysfunctional environment is, in fact, exactly how God wants it to be.

#ChurchToo turns over the rocks of the church's sexual dysfunction, revealing just what makes sexualized violence in religious contexts both ubiquitous and uniquely traumatizing. It also lays the groundwork for not one but many paths of healing from a religious culture of sexual shame, secrecy, and control, and for survivors of abuse to live full, free, healthy lives.


"#Churchtoo is a timely resource for Christians and a much-needed contribution to the conversation about sexual ethics in the contemporary Church."

—Sarah Bessey, author of the best-selling books Jesus Feminist and Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith

"This book asks the important questions, centers the stories and healing of survivors, and challenges us to reckon with the church systems and structures that have protected abusers for far too long."
—Amena Brown, poet, author, and host of HER with Amena Brown podcast
"Understanding is power, and this book will put power back in the hands and bodies of so many who were damaged by purity culture."
—Kevin Garcia, author of Bad Theology Kills; digital pastor, spiritual coach, and public theologian
"The 'polite' silence of American Christians around sexual assault is deafening to anyone who has been impacted by it. Emily Joy Allison shines a light on the church's failure to stand with victims."
—Mike McHargue, author of Finding God in the Waves and You're a Miracle (and a Pain in the Ass)
"If you have been hurt by purity culture, #ChurchToo feels like an empathetic friend who has come to vanquish sexual shame. Do yourself a favor--read this and heal!"
—Dr. Tina Schermer Sellers, author of Sex, God, and the Conservative Church
"Emily Joy Allison proves herself as a theologian of the highest order, expertly knitting biblical knowledge, historical reflection, cultural observation, hundreds of conversations and interviews with survivors, and her own intimate experience to narrate the rise of purity culture and its devastating effects."
—Rev. Emmy Kegler, author of One Coin Found
"In #ChurchToo you'll find some of the deepest elements of our faith reassembled in a new form, stuck together with love and duct tape, beautiful and real."
—Austen Hartke, author of Transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians
"#ChurchToo finds us in trauma and points us toward healing. With Joy's redemptive storytelling and astute theological imagination as a guide, we can see the way forward."
—Sara Moslener, PhD, author of Virgin Nation: Sexual Purity and American Adolescence and project director for The After Purity Project
"#ChurchToo is a compelling and well-argued case for rethinking how we talk about sexual ethics in Christian contexts."
—Rev. Kira Austin-Young, Episcopal priest and author of Pro-Choice and Christian: Reconciling Faith, Politics, and Justice
"Emily Joy Allison is a necessary voice in the movement for confronting power and defending the marginalized from those in power who would abuse their position."
—Dianna E. Anderson, author of Damaged Goods and Problematic
"#ChurchToo is as important as it is devastating and will be helpful for survivors, clergy, and laypeople alike."
—Matthias Roberts, therapist and author of Beyond Shame: Creating a Healthy Sex Life on Your Own Terms
"Written with stunning vulnerability and radical empathy, #ChurchToo has the power to propel real change and to help more people find healing."
—Becca Andrews, reporter at Mother Jones
"There is a tremendous amount of work to do to repair the personal, cultural, and structural harms of sexual violence, and #ChurchToo is a vital piece of that work."
—Rev. Lyndsey Godwin, Assistant Director of the Carpenter Program in Religion, Gender, and Sexuality, Vanderbilt University Divinity School
"Tackling head-on the half-truths of purity culture and exposing the link to abuse, Allison leads us into the honest conversation pastors and parents must have if we want to do better for the next generation."
—Abby Norman, author of You Can Talk to God Like That
"This is a must-read for churches seeking to provide sanctuary with good theology that promotes human flourishing."
—Rev. Jes Kast, United Church of Christ pastor


"Part memoir, part sociological exploration, and part support kit for survivors of abuse, this is a jarring and persuasive exploration of the mechanisms that make abuse possible. Allison's persuasive testament will resonate with readers of a Christian background in ways that both comfort and disturb."
Publishers Weekly

"#ChurchToo opens up a vital conversation about how conservative Christian theology has left "a whole generation" suffering from sexual shame and religious trauma."
Foreword Review

Table of Contents


1. Keep Your Way Pure... Or Else
2. For Women Who Profess Reverence for God
3. The Works of the Flesh
4. At All Times
5. Not Even a Hint
6. Male and Female He Created Them
7. As Long As He Lives
8. I Suffer Not a Woman
9. Greater Love
10. Healing Paths Diverge
FAQ & Resources

Product Info

  • Publisher Broadleaf Books
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781506464817
  • eBook ISBN 9781506464824
  • Dimensions 5.5 x 8.5
  • Pages 240
  • Publication Date March 9, 2021