One of Norway’s 12 bishops in The Norwegian Church has gone public with how she’s been sexually harassed over the years and been sent nude photos. She claimed on national TV Wednesday evening that both fellow pastors and men outside the church have been among those exceeding what she considers the limits of common decency.
Bishop Ingeborg Midttømme of Møre in central Norway told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that she’s received offensive text messages and nude photos on her mobile phone. Some of them were altered photos of herself, edited to make it look like she’d been photographed in intimate situations.
Midttømme spoke to NRK as she strolled through the cathedral in Molde, wearing her collar and lighting candles as she spoke. Her statements about the sexual harassment to which she’s been subjected send a shocking message that no one seems immune to bullying and sexual harassment from men. It should no longer be a subject that’s taboo, she contends, not in the church either. Her comments follow an outpouring of complaints about sexual harassment in the wake of the international “metoo” campaign.
The 56-year-old Midttømme recalled one of the first incidents that occurred when she was 25. She said she was riding in a car to a pastors’ meeting with a male colleague old enough to be her father, when he started putting his hand on her leg.
“It was terribly uncomfortable and I didn’t know how I should react,” Midttømme told NRK. After awhile she decided to tell him that she didn’t like such behaviour, but he didn’t seem to think she was serious. He continued to harass her and phoned her at home several times. “I didn’t say anything to our superiors because I thought it was all embarrassing at the time,” she said.
Now Midttømme, who’s been Bishop of Møre since 2008 and active in promoting measures to aid refugees and reverse climate change, thinks differently and is encouraging anyone who feels harassed to speak up and report it immediately. No one should have to deal with the sexualized or “power language,” as she called it, that she did even as a young pastor in small churches. It could come from people both within the church and outside it, who told her she shouldn’t be “so prim and proper.” She said it was common for men to ask her whether she was a virgin.
“This has nothing to do with being ‘prim and proper’ but rather about speaking up when language from men both inside and outside the church is unacceptable,” Midttømme said. She urged other women to tap into the momentum of the “metoo” campaign to curb “the power language that chokes off free speech.” She has cracked down herself within her diocese, with the result that several offenders no longer work there.