Women’s Month, Sexual Assault, and The Bible

I’ve decided to revise and republish my post from last year regarding Women’s Month. My sentiments remain the same.

Let’s talk about Women’s Month. First, I don’t need daily reminders from advertisers or the news media lauding the accomplishments of women…for a month. Women know from whence we’ve come. And we’ve come a long way!

Moreover, ‘you go girl’ and high-fives for 30 days ring hollow when sexual assaults remain the most prevalent crime in the US. In fact, between 2016 and 2018, the number rose 146%.

Sexual Assault Stats

To begin, I want to share some jaw-dropping statistics. For instance, in the U.S, on average a rape occurs every 1-2 minutes. Ninety per cent of sexual assault victims are women. Shockingly, research has revealed that 1 in 5 women will be raped in her lifetime. Over half reported being raped by an intimate partner.

Appallingly, 3 out of 4 rapes are unreported.

Yes, keep your hoopla about women’s month, please. It would be much more gratifying to know that women’s voices are heard when they find the courage to speak out after being  assaulted by a man.

For instance, nearly every year there is a prominent case in the news of a sexual assault by a well-known figure. There was one last year, and the year before that…and the year before that.  We hear about political figures and sadly, religious figures, prominent men of power who have assaulted women, but who walked free to abuse, again.

Why? Because, as it has for millennia, rape continues to cover the victim with shame. Therefore, the vast majority of rapes or sexual assaults are guarded as painful secrets. These are the only crimes in which the victim is made to feel like the perpetrator…or as though she instigated the attack.

woman holding black leather handbag walking on the street
Photo by EVG Kowalievska

Picture it: A 110 pound woman is walking from her job to her car at night.  A 220 pound man passes and he discerns she must want him to rape her.

Ludicrous, right?

Yet, should she choose to press charges, the grueling process this woman will endure will likely cause her to wish she had never exposed herself to the additional shame and humiliation.

Shame is as old as the Garden of Eden. It is especially quick to wrap its tentacles around a woman, man, or child who has been sexually assaulted.

young woman turning face away
Photo by Anete Lusina

The Bible and Sexual Assault

Thankfully, Scripture does not shy away from the vileness of rape and its aftermath.

There are numerous stories in the Bible relating the abuse of women. However, I want to point out what Presbyterian pastor Ruth Everhart wrote, “Violence against women is used as occasion for blood revenge [in the Old Testament].” Indeed, not only man’s revenge, but God Himself brought consequences upon those who did the same, (see 2 Samuel 11-12.)

For our purpose, I want to focus on Tamar,  King David’s daughter, which is found in 2 Samuel 13:1-22.

Amnon’s Planned Rape

Now Absalom, David’s son, had a beautiful sister, whose name was Tamar. And after a time Amnon, David’s son, loved her.

And Amnon was so tormented that he made himself ill because of his sister Tamar, for she was a virgin, and it seemed impossible to do anything to her.

2 Samuel 13:1-2, ESV

Did you catch the last sentence? Amnon wasn’t planning on a marriage proposal for his half-sister. Here was a man of power, born in a house of power. He was accustomed to taking what he wanted.

After all, he and his siblings had watched their father, David, take another man’s wife as his own, despite having many wives and concubines. Furthermore, in his quest to have Bathsheba, David arranged for her husband to be killed in battle.

In spite of David’s repentance before Nathan, the prophet, a precedent had been set for his children. Sin has consequences, sometimes far-reaching consequences.

So, like his father before him, Amnon saw, wanted and took. Together with a friend, he devised a scheme in which Tamar would have to come to his house to cook a meal for him. He requested it of his father because Amnon deceitfully claimed he was ill. And like any good father, David complied.

One has to ask, did David not think it strange that his son wanted his half sister in his chambers? Apparently not.

Tamar’s Sexual Assault

Tamar did as her father commanded her. She went to Amnon’s house and prepared a meal. Afterward, he ordered everyone to leave, then ordered Tamar to bring the food to his bedroom…a most unprecedented, eye-raising move. Ultimately, he assaulted her while she pleaded with him not to violate her.

Amnon wasn’t listening. Tamar asked, “Where can I carry my shame?” (There it is, again – the shame.)

Tamar begged him to ask the king for her, instead. She assured him their father would agree. This woman put up a good fight and convincing arguments, but Amnon “would not listen to her, and being stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her,” (vs 14).

I could weep each time I read this line because it continues to happen today. ‘He would not listen to her, and being stronger, he violated her.’ How many females, from children to adults, have experienced the exact, same thing?

woman in blue denim jacket crying
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk

The Consequences of No Consequences

While this story is deeply tragic, there is more tragedy to come for David’s house. Tamar did not keep silent because she would now spend her life as a single woman, covered with shame. When David heard of the rape, he was “very angry.”

But he did nothing.

David took no action against his son, Amnon. He meted out no punishment, no consequences.

Sounds similar to today, doesn’t it?

To take action would have required a closer inspection of his own sins surrounding Bathsheba. In addition, taking action would require admitting how his sin had infected his household.

Absalom, however, seethed with rage at what had been done to his sister. When his father refused to act, he did. But he did so with cunning.

After two years of patient waiting, Absalom carried out his plan and murdered his half brother, whom he had come to loathe. Then he fled from the land.

In the end, David lost two sons, one to death, another to exile. He lost his daughter to celibacy and shame…a very costly sacrifice for his own sins – all for not addressing the sexual assault of his daughter.

The Painful Aftermath

The aftermath for a woman who has suffered sexual assault is often, among other things, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder- very much like a soldier who has been in war situations. Furthermore, if she suffered sexual abuse as a child, she likely suffers from Complex PTSD This is not something one can simply ‘get over’ or forget. Please, if you have not done so, I urge you to reach out for help to deal with your trauma symptoms. The hypervigilance, anger, and fear will not voluntarily disappear.

RAINN is a wonderful organization that offers assistance to survivors of sexual assault. Their hotline number is 800.656.HOPE (4673).

In addition, Called to Peace (CTP) offers help and assistance to trauma survivors.

To be completely honest, the road to healing is long, but with the Father holding you and friends beside you, healing from trauma and shame is possible.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34:18

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