For a long time I wanted to write a serious post on the issue of rape and how the topic has been treated in the past and how sometimes some of those notions continue to be a common belief in our Church culture.
The dictionary definition of rape is the unlawful compelling of a person through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse.
In every rape case there is a perpetrator and a victim. The type of sexual abuse I would like to address is the male being the perpetrator and the female being the victim.
Based on quotes I read or comments I heard, it seems to exist this concept that often times the rape victim isn’t completely a victim. Let me explain”¦
Have you ever heard the following comments when someone is talking about a recent case of rape?
1. It happened at 2:00am while she was making out with this guy in a car!? She is crazy! She looked for it!
2. Why she was dressed so provocative? Seriously? Why was she wearing a miniskirt and such revealing top! She looked for it!
3. What was she doing taking public transportation at that hour and by herself? It looks like she was looking for it!
4. Doesn’t she work in a strip club? What does she expect when she is half naked dancing? She looked for it!
5. She met this guy online and went on a date by herself! What in the world was she thinking? She looked for it!
We could debate all day whether or not the actions were wise or foolish with regards to being in an unsafe place at the wrong time, etc but looking to be raped due to such actions is not something that I can easily chew or digest.
So the victim not only has to deal with the painful and torturous scars of sexual abuse but also she has to deal with the unkind remarks of those who perceive she has some sort of responsibility for such horrendous act. Such victimization is almost like to be raped all over again.
What Church leaders have said about rape and victims in the past? Let’s take a look:
“The victim must do all in his or her power to stop the abuse. Most often, the victim is innocent because of being disabled by fear or the power or authority of the offender. At some point in time, however, the Lord may prompt a victim to recognize a degree of responsibility for abuse. Your priesthood leader will help assess your responsibility so that, if needed, it can be addressed. Otherwise the seeds of guilt will remain and sprout into bitter fruit. Yet no matter what degree of responsibility, from absolutely none to increasing consent, the healing power of the atonement of Jesus Christ can provide a complete cure.”
“Also far-reaching is the effect of loss of chastity. Once given or taken or stolen it can never be regained. Even in forced contact such as rape or incest, the injured one is greatly outraged. If she has not cooperated and contributed to the foul deed, she is of course in a more favorable position. There is no condemnation where there is absolutely no voluntary participation. It is better to die in defending one’s virtue than to live having lost it without a struggle.” (President Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness)
We don’t hear many of these quotes anymore but they are easily available.
Many years ago, I attended a ward where we received instruction in Karate. The husband of a sister in Relief Society and EQ President was an instructor and he taught us how to defend ourselves in case of an attack. He then asked what we will do if a guy has a knife or a gun and tries to steal from us. Everyone agreed that we would give him all our money and we will not try to fight because he was obviously holding the weapons, however when he asked what would we do if instead the man would try to rape us (I know, the situation and the questions were quite odd for a church activity), most women including his wife said they would rather die than to be raped because they won’t allow anyone to take away their virtue.
I will never forget that day because I thought for a few seconds and then I raised my hand and asked: How exactly is virtue taken away from someone who is being raped?
Do we continue teaching indirectly that it is better to die fighting than to live and become a rape survivor? Do we truly realize what it encompasses?
I know this is a very delicate topic and there is a lot of room for disagreement. Personally, I wish we could teach more that if someone is in such horrendous situation, surviving should be paramount”¦
Take for example, Martha* she is a wonderful, joyful lady that ensures my desk at work is always clean and looks after my needs as well as the needs of my colleagues.
I was having one of those sad days a few weeks ago when she greeted me with a big smile on her face and asked me how I am doing. I said I was kind of okay and she replied saying “God is good” and started singing a song about Him.
I looked at her and asked her what is her secret? How is it possible that she is always so happy and cheerful? She looked at me for a few seconds”¦stopped what she was doing and told me she has been a victim of abuse all her life. Both her brother and father raped her since she was a baby until well after adulthood. I was perplexed, shocked, not knowing exactly what to do or say neither I could understand how someone who went through so much in life could still choose to remain joyful and happy about life and God.
She noted my surprise face”¦came closer, touched my shoulder and said “God is my pillar. If I don’t have Him, I have nothing. And I don’t question Him, I don’t spend my days thinking why *me*, I think he made me an instrument in His hands so I could go around and cheer people up and let others know that sexual abuse is NOT the end. I am the living proof of it!”.
I stood there standing face to face, trying unsuccessfully to imagine how life has been for Martha during all those years. She was there day after day trying to make the best she could out of life and trying in her small way, help and teach others that she is a survivor.
For some, the test of a fighter comes during the ordeal until death if necessary to preserve honor…for others, the test of a fighter comes after the earthquake, the aftermath….with hundreds of aftershocks and trials but trying to remain strong and ready to give a hand to feeble knees who need them.
*Not her real name