A Christian Perspective on the Crisis of Rape
A Christian Perspective on
The Crisis of Rape
©2009 Sis. Kimberly Hartfield, B.S., M.S.
Rape is the non-consensual penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth by the penis or any other object the perpetrator chooses to use. Rape is an act of sexual violence that is primarily about anger, revenge, and control of others rather than sex. This violent act has a significant impact on the victim, affecting her in physiological, psychological, and spiritual ways. Victims of rape often have severe difficulties overcoming a rape due to their sense of a loss of control over their own bodies. Many have been physically threatened, and were afraid of not living through the experience. Many wonder why God allowed this to happen to them. Some have even lost their faith after having been raped. The Christian Church has a responsibility to address this issue in an appropriate manner, though it has largely ignored it or hidden evidence of it in the past, especially when a clergy member was the perpetrator. Some clergy who have been found out have simply been sent to a new unsuspecting church, rather than being truly disciplined. The Church has clearly been indicated in untold numbers of abuses and rapes of children, both in the Catholic branch and in the protestant branch of the church.
Victims are often blamed by society, as well as by the church and its members for having been raped, even when there is absolutely no evidence to support this idea. The vulnerability of the victim is often the deciding factor on who is or is not raped. Women and children have been raped from as young as a few months old even to the eldest of the elderly. Women have been raped who are beautiful and not so beautiful, and from thin to severely obese. In a severe rape, a three month old baby girl was raped by a live in boyfriend of the baby’s mother, who had left the child with him to care for. Rape is clearly about anger and control, not how sexy the victim is or is not. Though some women have been accused of being promiscuous and leading the rapist on, most authorities today have dismissed this idea as completely untrue.
A connection has been noted by some authorities between a history of childhood sexual abuse and a later rape, due to the ineffective boundaries of the victim. The victim often dismisses legitimate danger signals as just being paranoid due to the earlier experience of abuse. She often downplays important facts that would normally indicate she was in danger, thinking that it’s just her being too suspicious, when she is clearly in a vulnerable situation.
Rape is not just an issue of females either. Young boys have often been victims as well, though they often never tell anyone of the experience until much later. The victim’s first sexual encounter usually has a related affect on how their later sex life is experienced, especially if the perpetrator is someone the child loves and respects. Older male homosexuals have been known to rape underage young boys, which only produces a confusion of the victim’s sexuality, and often encourages a later choice of a homosexual lifestyle. Some of these young boys grow up to have trouble maintaining an appropriate sex life with an adult female, and often turn to underage children, whether boys or girls, which only exacerbates childhood sexual abuse patterns. About a third of all children subjected to childhood sexual abuse or rape will later become perpetrators of more rape or abuse.
While rape is sometimes carried out by a stranger, often it involves someone the victim knows in some community or family context. Rape can be perpetrated by someone the victims knows from the home, the school, the church, the neighborhood, or any other context. Date rape takes place when the victim is in a limited dating relationship with the perpetrator, who then coerces or forces her into sexual intercourse in an involuntary context. Drugs and alcohol are often involved in some way.
Christians need to be informed of the true nature of rape, and should be the first to offer help to victims in any way that they can. When a Christian woman or child is raped, often the spiritual repercussions are the hardest ones to deal with. They need to be embraced by the Christian community and ministered to just as any other victim of a violent act would be. If the victim is looked down on by the church or its members in any way for having been raped, then the victim will inevitably turn away from the church, and sometimes even from God. The masculine ideas of the Godhead by the majority of the Christian community often adds to the problems associated with the initial rape and the ultimate rejection of God. The shattered faith that results has left untold victims in a spiritual heart of darkness.
The response of those closest to the victim can be the determining factor of how well the victim heals psychologically and spiritually. Victims usually face an immediate situational depression, which will either spontaneously heal over time or can become a prolonged pattern of a depressive disorder. Victims should not be allowed to isolate themselves for a long period of time, but rather should have a good support system to rely on while recovering. It is imperative for those helping victims to give her a sense of control in all aspects of her recovery. The victim should never be subjected to any aspect of a program that removes consent.
A compassionate ministry to victims of rape is needed both in the Church and the Christian community as a whole. Rape crisis counselors, often trained volunteers and previous victims, can be an integral part of an effective Christian ministry for rape and sexual abuse victims. Child abuse awareness programs can also be an important preventive part of a Christian ministry for children. Churches can provide educational awareness programs to its own members and others in the wider community. Churches can also provide training opportunities for volunteers who want to become rape crisis counselors in the church’s ministry.
Churches can provide a support person or group to reassure the victim that she is loved and cared for. This person or group should keep a list of programs and phone numbers of resources available, if the church itself does not provide an avenue for healing and help. Support group meeting times and places should be made available to victims, as well as the names and numbers of recovered victims who have volunteered to support recovery efforts. The support person or group can provide the much needed prayer and assistance that new victims need while in the recovery process. Often victims don’t feel comfortable with a male pastor in addressing these types of issues, so this should be a woman’s ministry. To help victims who are hurting, and restore them to a sense of physical and spiritual wholeness, requires the most genuine sense of compassion and understanding from the Christian community.