When I was invited to attend the “High Tea” hosted by My Sister’s House I was honored and excited because I had fond memories of teas that my grandmother’s church hosted decades ago. I was overwhelmed with memories of the tables decorated with pressed linens and fancy china. Being in the presence of women and girls dressed up to fellowship, inspire, and eat scrumptious tea sandwiches and mini cakes made me think of the actual reasons for tea gatherings.
According to history, women established separate tea get-togethers that also posed as a social group because they were shut out of coffeehouses in London where only men were welcome to drink coffee and discuss politics. Tearooms were also the only place where unchaperoned Victorian women were able to go and still be viewed as respectable. Women set the trend for drinking tea and teatime became an organizing strategy. Brilliantly, numerous tearooms became a space for empowerment as women became advocates against the oppressive policies and practices they endured.
My Sister’s House 9th annual High Tea was held at the Chinese Community Church on behalf of women and children who are survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking. The co-hosted event provided an opportunity for the faith-based community and sexual violence movement to show their solidarity to end gender-based violence. The program highlighted 10 actions for faith-based institutes to consider in an effort to help prevent gender-based violence. These actions included:
- Get to know your local domestic violence, sexual assault, elder abuse and child abuse service provider.
- Give a sermon, a dvar tarah, khtubah, or spiritual teaching.
- Support the safety and well-being of survivors.
A survivor of domestic violence shared her testimony about the support that My Sister’s House staff and her bible study teacher provided for her and her baby. All the women and men in attendance were moved by her story of strength and hope.
Although the church and rape crisis center appear quite different, they embody similar community-based philosophies and both provide a place of inspiration, and a place of healing and counseling for all who are in need. Once again the sense of enthusiasm came upon me during the High Tea not just because of the history, but because of the potential for a new trend for the faith-based community and gender-based organizations to co-host High Teas. These shared spaces could grow awareness and deepen the discussion of solutions to end gender-based violence for all.