The Stanford rape case and the deplorable sentence given to a rapist convicted of 3 felonies is front and center in our world right now. Given a six month sentence, this man will be out of jail in 3 months for good behavior. He will have to serve some community service. He is appealing the sentence.
And then there's the victim. Who has bravely stepped forward to tell her story. Who has endured a level of revictimization* that is hard to comprehend. Read her story! Ingest it. Get to know her. Hear her pain. Listen to the way that our legal system addresses her story. Hear how they worked so hard to shift the blame away from the guilty. Hear how they made her relive the experience over and over again.
In the church we rarely talk about things like rape. We look at sins like immodesty or drunkenness as the culprit and pretend that what happens is a result of sin. We imply, in our silence, that somehow a woman can deserve to be raped. But that is simply not true. Violating another human being is NEVER okay. Whether a sinful or holy person, it's NEVER okay.
When we refuse to acknowledge the evil in the world and refuse to be present for those that are hurting, we let evil reign. One in five women - ALL women - not secular women, or bad women, or loose women - but ALL women, are sexually assaulted or raped.
How many women sit in your church service? How many women sit in the office cubicles around you? How many young women attend your youth group? How many women are in the grocery store with you? How many college women attend your church? How many women are in your Sunday school class, prayer group, or small group? How many women are in your meet-up, your book group, or your running club? 1 in 5 have experienced life altering violation.
And they are sitting next to you.
Where in the church do we make safe spaces to talk about this? I know my tradition didn't. A message of "don't get raped" would have been on the short list.
- Make sure you don't show too much skin so men aren't tempted....no one is forcing a man to rape a woman without enough clothes on.
- Make sure you're never in a situation where you might be a target (overall good advice)...but no one is forcing a man to rape women who are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
- Alcohol is evil. Don't drink....alcohol doesn't cause people to rape other people. Alcohol does lessen boundaries and opens the door to bad decision making when used in excess, but it still doesn't cause people to rape people.
- Feminism causes rape....how exactly does that work?! Feminism is the idea that men and women are equal. Nothing in there says it causes people to rape other people.
Women receive the message that things that happen to their bodies aren't important. That those things should be hidden and not addressed. The church reinforces this, the justice system reinforces this, and even one of our presidential candidates reinforces this. When these are the only voices that women hear it opens the door for abuse, pain, and ignorance.
Women are created in the image of God. Just like men. Women are 100% human. Women's experiences, bodies, joys, and pains are just as important as anyone else's. There should be no shame about being a woman in our churches. Even when we face things that we wish to forget. When the church refuses to make space for women in their communities to live fully, we dehumanize God's creation.
One of the things that makes this worse are voices that are allowed to continue to speak unedited in the Christian world. We have a huge problem when people that are considered good Christians say things like: