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?