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Rape is a crisis all over the world, including our neighborhoods, our schools and universities, our workplaces, and our churches. It affects all of us, as people who have been victimized directly, or as friends, spouses, and family members.

Yet, many of us have not taken time to understand rape. We tend to think of it in sexual terms, rather than see it as the violent crime that it is. We may not think that we know someone who has been raped, so the statistics can’t possibly be true. We fail to take into account the veil of silence that surrounds this epidemic.

What we do hear about rape in the media may not be helpful. For example, a story about a gang rape at the University of Virginia which appeared in Rolling Stone magazine was later retracted. It then became a bigger story, as many news outlets that had never covered the original story jumped on the chance to call it a lie. This feeds into the myth that women lie about rape, when the truth is that false rape allegations are rare. The choices we make about what we pay attention to in the media say something about our values. Which story would you rather read: A story about a woman alleging gang rape at a prestigious university? Or a story about how the reporter covering that story failed to maintain good journalistic standards? We must acknowledge our tendency to not believe. It certainly makes our world a safer place if stories of rape were not true. And there is fear that the retraction of this story will keep others from sharing their own experience.

There are physiological reasons accompanying trauma that may contribute to the idea that a story of rape is not true. The stress hormones released during severe trauma affect the way the brain functions. This can lead to fragmented memory, dissociation, or tonic immobility (being unable to move). The traumatized person, as a result, may be unable to give a linear account of what happened. This doesn’t play well in an interview or in court. Thankfully, new techniques for interviewing in cases of rape allegations are now being used which take this information into account.

In a more recent campus rape case, two football players were found guilty of the rape of an unconscious woman in a dorm at Vanderbilt University. The conviction is encouraging in that the allegation was taken seriously. The case has also left some wondering what the outcome might have been had the defendants not video-taped the event on multiple phones and sent it to others. Most allegations of rape don’t have that kind of evidence. District Attorney Glenn Funk said that he hopes this case leads to change. "This case gives our entire community an opportunity to talk to each other and to our children, especially to our boys, about the way we treat women, both with our actions and with our words.” 

Everyone, created in God’s image, is valuable, and no one deserves to be violated. So how does that play out in our response to a cry of rape? What do you think? 


There is very little reporting in the press these days. Most of the stories are gossip. Public TV is as bad as the rest. Their "Nightly Business News" is still tolerable. We read the Wall Street Journal for national and international news. I don't think anyone reads our local newspapers before the edition is put to bed. We are seriously planning to drop the cable and watch old movies on the net.  

The number of people who have been sexually abused is huge (1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys by the time they reach 18 years of age). There are many people in our congregations that have experienced abuse, though it remains undisclosed. How do we create safe places in our congregations where survivors can talk about issues of faith and how they've been impacted by their experience of abuse? How can we support those who have survived abuse in their healing journey? It won't happen as long as the culture remains likely to blame the one who's been victimized. We need to understand abuse dynamics, so that we can be the walk-alongside community that a survivor needs.

Why are 25% of young girls sexually molested? The power of advertising? is there a large sub rosa US population which approves of this custom? Some claim that circumcision of boys is child abuse. Then there is our growing religious population which may approve of the same sort of female mutilation.  The problems of "law and custom" are even goofier than "law and justice." No one seems to complain about "custom and justice." Logically, in those three  phrases, "and" should be replaced by "or."

Not withstanding the fact this is a troubling societal issue, it is even more troubling when the courts need to enter the dialogue to ensure justice is done.






I appreciate this article and also agree with Bonnie's comments
I am not sure how to encourage congregations to talk about these topics (much less become involved and supportive).
Outside of church culture it seems much easier to discuss abuse issues, rape, domestic violence etc. 
Within church culture many are embarrassed to use words that could refer to anything about any type sexual activity. There is  the fallacy that nothing 'like that' could ever happen in our congregation. Add to this the tendency to blame the victim in so many ways and  the easy lie that survivors just need to forgive the abusers and everything will be okay!
I would like to see our churches get to a place where they can say first.
"I am so sorry this was done to you"
"What can we do to help?"

Sexual assault on college campuses remains a huge problem. The White House has recognized the problem in a report and also by launching the "It's on us" campaign. Find out more about it here . A film about sexual assault on college campuses entitled The Hunting Ground, was one of the top ten buzzed about films at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Find out about the film here.

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