Rape: Trauma In The Crossfire
1 Comment Last updated: 2015-10-26 19:53:29
Rape: Retraumatization Rather Than Compassion
As a therapist who specializes in treating trauma, I have seen up close the devastating ravages of rape on the lives, not only of victims, but on their families, friends, and communities, often for generations.
As a committed Christian I believe that God is a God of love and compassion as seen in the life and message of Jesus. I know in my very being that this God of love, who has ultimate knowledge about all things, would be compassionate and loving toward the victims of rape.
Insensitivity toward the ravages of rape has occurred in male-dominated societies throughout recorded history. In the Old Testament, women were considered the “property” of their husbands or fathers. When rape occurred, it was a violation, more of the family than of the woman. After a rape the woman’s family was stuck with her for her lifetime because no man would ever want her as a wife [a]. The Laws of Moses provided little protection for women. A raped woman who was pledged to be married (therefore owned by another man) would be put to death unless she could prove that she screamed, [b].(At the end of this paper are the following scriptures that show how women were subjugated: Deuteronomy 21:10-14 [c]; Deuteronomy 20:10-14 [d]; Numbers 5:11-22 [e];Deuteronomy 22:13-21 [f] Leviticus 19:20 [g]; Genesis 19:30-38 [h])
When King David’s daughter, Tamar, was raped by her half-brother, Amnon, David was impotent to deal with it. This led to family division, revenge murder, and rebellion that almost caused David to lose his kingdom. (2 Samuel, Chapters 13-19). The status of princess was not enough to shield Tamar from disgrace. She was even willing to marry her rapist/half-brother rather than face the lifetime of shame. (2 Samuel 13:12-14 [a]).
The word rape does not even appear in the New Testament and Jesus never made any statements challenging the subjugation of women. Instead, he simply lived a life that ignored those cultural rules and treated women with respect and dignity.[j] Nowhere in the Bible are there any instances where Jesus ever disgraces, belittles, reproaches, or stereotypes a woman.
Now, two thousand years after Jesus demonstrated that women should be treated with respect, society is just beginning to get the message. Finally in most free societies women can vote, own property, teach men, etc. Finally women can work as professionals, managers, and even religious leaders. Rape is technically illegal in civilized countries, but rape victims are still treated with contempt and repression in many parts of society. Unfortunately many of those voices are here in America, the land of opportunity for all.
Rape is a devastating, life-changing experience regardless of the victim’s age, gender, or relationship to the perpetrator. The effects of this crime may be passed on for generations by damaged victims who are likely to struggle with relationships and self-respect. The physical damage from the experience is minimal compared to the reality that rape and incest damages the soul and undermines a victim’s sense of value, trust, and safety.
Nationwide police departments are notorious for letting thousands of rape kits sit on shelves for decades without even being analyzed. Unpunished, unfettered rapists continue to victimize. The devastating impact of sexual molestation against boys was totally ignored until centuries of abuse by Catholic priests came to light in recent years. The next generation of abusers and rapists emanate from a culture that seldom punishes rapists, leaves women and girls unprotected, and has shamed molested boys into secrecy.
The ravages of rape can be greatly decreased if the victim is treated with dignity and protected. Unfortunately, certain political leaders, in their effort to demonize all abortion, have established a culture of disregard for the needs, rights, and humanity of rape victims. This ignorance was reflected in a barrage of public statements during the last election. After the 2012 election politicians are better at keeping these outrageous beliefs to themselves, but the attitude still remains in their legislation, and causes grave harm.
These political leaders and public figures, who begin with the belief that abortion is wrong, face a dilemma when it comes to rape. In order to support their beliefs, they create facts, twist facts, or just deny reality. Insensitivity toward rape victims appears to have become collateral damage resulting from the politicization of efforts to make abortion illegal. The following are some of the absurd statements that were made about this horrific crime:
“RAPE AS A GIFT FROM GOD” On October 23, 2012, Senate candidate Richard Mourdock (IN) declared, “When life begins with that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen.”
On January 20, 2012, senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum (PA) said, “The right approach is to accept this horribly created — in the sense of rape — but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you.” (These are the exact words.) These warped opinions send this message to victims: “If God intended for me to have this gift of life, then God intended for the rape to happen?” It implies that to God it is okay for the unprepared, traumatized victim to be left in financial, emotional, and spiritual turmoil? What kind of God would not only sacrifice a woman or girl’s life and future, but would doom the prodigy of this unholy union to live a lifetime with the scars of this crime?
Every child deserves a chance at a stable home. Ideally new parents should be mature and established enough to provide for the child, physically and emotionally. A pregnancy from rape, however, is never planned or prepared for, and will likely throw a mother into emotional and financial crisis that may last for the child’s lifetime and may affect future generations as well. Even while in the womb, this child will be affected by the trauma that his/her mother endures, as the unprepared and traumatized mother’s life turns upside down.
Clearly, the rapist will not provide any support or assistance in parenting. Yet these children of rape and violence, like all children, will long for the love of both parents. These children of rape will believe that there is something wrong with them because the absent parent has abandoned them. Some mothers do not tell the child about this most fundamental aspect of his or her being, but most children get the message that something was very wrong. Others overtly blame the child, (especially if he looks like the rapist) and the child will grow up knowing that, “I was no more valuable to my dad than an abusive, violent act.” What is the possibility of that child growing up with a sense of value? Is that what a loving God would want?
ENTRAPMENT RAPE “'No' means 'yes' if you know how to spot it." This is just another of Rush Limbaugh’ ongoing rants about women. It came September 17, 2014 on his radio show when he was ridiculing Ohio State University's current definition of consent between sexual partners. "Agreeing on the 'why' takes all the romance out of everything!" he said. "Seduction used to be an art, now of course it's brutish and it's predatory and it's bad." He says that the new rules regarding rape are “just a lawsuit waiting to happen.”
Limbaugh seems to miss the good old days when rape was just a "misunderstanding.” Women who object to the man’s sport or art of rape are just trying to keep poor men from having fun, or worse they just want to take the poor men to court. Wow!
“LEGITIMATE RAPE” On August 20, 2012, congressman and senate candidate, Todd Akin (MO) proclaimed, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” While it is true that there are a few women who will scream rape to get back at a former lover or to create excitement in their mundane life, these are the exception, and DNA tests and better forensics can help to ferret out these frauds.
I wonder how Akin’s statement sounds to the millions of children who are products of rape and molestation. Did God betray them as well as their mothers? I once worked with a handicapped child whose father, grandfather, and great-grandfather was the same person. Reminiscent of the plot in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, this man raped his daughters and granddaughters all their lives.
“HONEST RAPE” On February 3, 2012, congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul (TX) said, “If it’s an honest rape, that individual should go immediately to the emergency room. I would give them a shot of estrogen.” When asked about jailing women for having an abortion he said, ‘If it’s illegal, it’s illegal.’” Even if the traumatized woman could manage to get to an emergency room; even if she could endure the trauma of an examination after her ordeal; even if there was no concern for HIV or other STDs; even if her only concern was the possibility of getting pregnant—what exactly is a shot of estrogen supposed to do? Dr. Paul is purportedly an ob/gyn, so he must know that a shot of estrogen will not do a thing to prevent fertilization and implantation.
What exactly makes a rape honest? What kind of evidence would a woman need in order to show lack of consent? Maybe a positive rape kit would be sufficient evidence, but unfortunately, rape kits routinely are left untested because of lack of funding and lack of interest by most police departments. Even if those kits were tested, it would be too late for Paul’s miracle estrogen to work.
My close friend, sixty-three years old and a dedicated Christian, was raped by a seemingly nice man she had dated. He slipped drugs into her water while visiting in her home. When she woke up the next morning, groggy, with horrific bruises and bite marks on her breast and genital area. She went first to the nearest ER, but was sent home by an incompetent ER doctor without instructions about the appropriate hospital to examine her. I took her to the local SANE unit (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners) where she received the proper exams and was treated with great skill and compassion. Unfortunately it took threats and complaints to the police supervisor before her investigator would even call for the rape kit to be tested. Then he reportedly sent it off to the wrong lab. This investigator, who only handled rapes, asked her, “Why are you so anxious to get this man arrested? He has not threatened you.” Finally the detective said he had enough compelling evidence to call the man in, but when the man told him he was going to call his lawyer the case was dropped and all of the evidence was conveniently lost.
“EMERGENCY RAPE” On October 15, 2012, senate candidate Linda McMahon (CT), seemed to confuse churches with hospitals when she said, “It was really an issue about a Catholic Church being forced to offer those pills if the person came in in an emergency rape.” Exactly how can rape not be an emergency? A woman’s very being has been compromised. She may never feel safe again. She may never be able to have sexual intercourse without intrusive flashbacks of the trauma. She may deal with this horror either by becoming promiscuous, so that she can feel some control of future sexual contact, or she may withdraw from any future sexual contact at all. Ms. McMahon seems to only be concerned about whether the hospital is obligated to provide a pill.
“EASY RAPE” Wisconsin State Representative, Roger Rivard said on December 21, 2011, “If you go down that road, some girls, they rape so easy.”
I wonder if Mr. Rivard is speaking from experience. And the implication is that somehow raped women are making themselves available, and –if it is easy for the rapist, then it must not be a problem for the victim.
“DESERVED RAPE” Fox News, Liz Trotta proclaimed, “Women in the military should expect to be raped. They are in close contact.” (see video)
So if a woman wants to serve her country, she should expect that her body, her safety, her honor, and her soul should be sacrificed? Maybe the military give out combat metals for women who have suffered rape? This is the attitude that has plagued our military since women joined the armed services. Only recently have any officers been held accountable. Women who reported rape were often shamed, disgraced, and drummed out of the service. The official policy said that women had rights, but the unofficial policy condoned rape even if it was violent or if drugs were used.
The other disturbing message in this statement is that men are helpless to control themselves if a woman is near. This reminds me of a 1977 Jack Jones song called Wives and Lovers, where women were warned that, “Men will be men” and it is the woman’s responsibility to rigorously woo her man so he will not stray. The Muslim hijab may be another attempt to say that women are at fault for tempting a man if he can see any part of her.
“FORCIBLE RAPE” The “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” was sponsored by Vice-Presidential nominee Paul Ryan, Todd Akin, and others. This bill would prohibit federal funding of abortions except in instances of “an act of forcible rape or, if a minor, an act of incest.” Watch Video How exactly is a rape not forcible? Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz objected to the bill saying, "Rape is when a woman is forced to have sex against her will, and that is whether she is conscious, unconscious, mentally stable, not mentally stable." This effort to soft-peddle rape appears to be a throwback to times when saying “No” was not enough? This wording suggests that there is some kind of rape when it would be okay to force a woman to carry the resulting pregnancy to term.
RAPE AS AN EXCUSE FOR AN ABORTION In August 2012, Idaho Senator, Chuck Winder said, "I would hope that when a woman goes in to a physician with a rape issue, that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage or was it truly caused by a rape. I assume that’s part of the counseling that goes on." First, Senator Winder reduces this life-changing trauma to an “issue”. That in itself is demoralizing.
And when a woman is most vulnerable and crippled, this lawmaker would suggest that she be interrogated and doubted like a criminal.
The kind of interrogation that Winder suggests would be a great way to reduce the reported rapes. A traumatized woman could go to her doctor for a rape kit and be re-traumatized by veiled accusations that she is lying or manipulating. This sounds like the Old Testament “drink the cursed water to prove innocence”[e] test. It implies that the reason women report rapes is as an excuse for abortions.
“ENJOYABLE RAPE” One of the most disturbing comments about rape occurred in 1990 when Texas gubernatorial candidate Clayton Williams said, “Rape is kinda like the weather. If it is inevitable, just relax and enjoy it.”
Wow! That one leaves me speechless.
This paper is NOT written to advocate abortion. It is about the reality of the ravages of rape and the need for protection of society’s vulnerable victims. Insensitivity to rape has become a bi-product of the abortion legislation debate. Some, perhaps well-meaning people have predetermined that abortion is immoral, and since that is true, they must create facts that support their truth.
This paper is written in defense of a loving God whose message has been distorted by insensitive and uninformed people who may really believe their dogma, but who nevertheless are distorting reality and imposing their distorted sense of an unjust God onto innocent rape victims.
I write for all the innocent children who lost their faith because God did not answer when they prayed that sexual abuse would stop. I write for all the victims who were told by the perpetrators, by their families, by ignorant professionals, or by well-meaning clergy that they should just forget the insults to their humanity and forgive their perpetrator.
Biblical references: [a] Even King David’s daughter felt she would be forever ruined by a rape: 2 Samuel 13:12-14 She answered him, “No, my brother, do not violate me, for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do this outrageous thing. As for me, where could I carry my shame? And as for you, you would be as one of the outrageous fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you.” But he would not listen to her, and being stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her.
[b] Law of Moses regarding raping a woman who is pledged to be married. Deuteronomy 22:23-25 If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, 24 you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death—the young woman because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife. You must purge the evil from among you. 25 But if out in the country a man happens to meet a young woman pledged to be married and rapes her, only the man who has done this shall die. Here the “pledged to be married” comment shows that the woman was already owned by someone else. If another man slept with her, whether or not she was willing, her value as property of the betrothed is diminished. We see this in the story of Joseph who was betrothed to Mary, the mother of Jesus. He could have stoned her, but planned to put her away quietly. Matthew 1:19)
The term “scared stiff” describes a real experience where the victim literally freezes in terror. This state of catatonia and involuntary paralysis called ‘tonic immobility’, is an evolutionary-based fear response that occurs in up to 88% of rape victims during sexual assault. The victim literally cannot scream. She may be in a state of dissociation, shock and mental confusion. (source: Heidt, J. M., Marx, B. P., & Forsyth, J. P. (2005) Even if she could scream, the rapist may cover her mouth, knock the wind out of her, or hold her in such a way that makes screaming for help impossible. Most rapes do not occur around people so there is no one to scream to. However, according to the Law of Moses the woman is presumed guilty because she was in town.
I cannot imagine how terrifying it must have been for a woman of any age or marital status to go anywhere in those days if she knew that she was fair game to be raped-- then killed for it.
[c] Moses law regarding capturing beautiful women as plunder: Deuteronomy 21:10-14 “When you go out to war against your enemies, and the Lord your God gives them into your hand and you take them captive, and you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and you desire to take her to be your wife, and you bring her home to your house, she shall shave her head and pare her nails. And she shall take off the clothes in which she was captured and shall remain in your house and lament her father and her mother a full month. After that you may go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife. But if you no longer delight in her, you shall let her go where she wants. But you shall not sell her for money, nor shall you treat her as a slave, since you have humiliated her.
[d] Law of Moses regarding women and children as plunder: Deuteronomy 20:10-14 “When you draw near to a city to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it. And if it responds to you peaceably and it opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall do forced labor for you and shall serve you. But if it makes no peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it. And when the Lord your God gives it into your hand, you shall put all its males to the sword, but the women and the little ones, the livestock, and everything else in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as plunder for yourselves. And you shall enjoy the spoil of your enemies, which the Lord your God has given you.
[e] Test for unfaithful wife- From the Law of Moses: Numbers 5:11-31 11 Then the Lord said to Moses, 12 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him 13 so that another man has sexual relations with her, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected (since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act), 14 and if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife and she is impure—or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure— 15 then he is to take his wife to the priest. He must also take an offering of a tenth of an ephahc of barley flour on her behalf. He must not pour olive oil on it or put incense on it, because it is a grain offering for jealousy, a reminder-offering to draw attention to wrongdoing.
16 “‘The priest shall bring her and have her stand before the Lord. 17 Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water. 18 After the priest has had the woman stand before the Lord, he shall loosen her hair and place in her hands the reminder-offering, the grain offering for jealousy, while he himself holds the bitter water that brings a curse. 19 Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, “If no other man has had sexual relations with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you. 20 But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having sexual relations with a man other than your husband”— 21 here the priest is to put the woman under this curse—“may the Lord cause you to become a curse[d] among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell. 22 May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.”
“‘Then the woman is to say, “Amen. So be it.”
23 “‘The priest is to write these curses on a scroll and then wash them off into the bitter water. 24 He shall make the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and this water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering will enter her. 25 The priest is to take from her hands the grain offering for jealousy, wave it before the Lord and bring it to the altar. 26 The priest is then to take a handful of the grain offering as a memorial[e] offering and burn it on the altar; after that, he is to have the woman drink the water. 27 If she has made herself impure and been unfaithful to her husband, this will be the result: When she is made to drink the water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering, it will enter her, her abdomen will swell and her womb will miscarry, and she will become a curse. 28 If, however, the woman has not made herself impure, but is clean, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children.
29 “‘This, then, is the law of jealousy when a woman goes astray and makes herself impure while married to her husband, 30 or when feelings of jealousy come over a man because he suspects his wife. The priest is to have her stand before the Lord and is to apply this entire law to her. 31 The husband will be innocent of any wrongdoing, but the woman will bear the consequences of her sin.’” The curse would make her abdomen swell and her thigh waste away if she had committed adultery or if she simply could not tolerate the horrible concoction and the ordeal. In that era when medical treatment was almost unknown, the treatment could have resulted in her physical death and definately would have been a life sentence of shame and isolation. If she were pregnant at this time, the curse according to the scripture would induce an abortion. There was no similar magical test that a woman could require her husband to take if she suspected him of adultery. [f] Moses law when a man decides he doesn’t want the woman he married. Deuteronomy 22:13-21 (My comments are in parenthesis and indented) 13 If a man takes a wife and, after sleeping with her, dislikes her 14 and slanders her and gives her a bad name, saying, “I married this woman, but when I approached her, I did not find proof of her virginity,” 15 then the young woman’s father and mother shall bring to the town elders at the gate proof that she was a virgin. 16 Her father will say to the elders, “I gave my daughter in marriage to this man, but he dislikes her. 17 Now he has slandered her and said, ‘I did not find your daughter to be a virgin.’ But here is the proof of my daughter’s virginity.” Then her parents shall display the cloth before the elders of the town, 18 and the elders shall take the man and punish him. 19 They shall fine him a hundred shekels[b] of silver and give them to the young woman’s father, because this man has given an Israelite virgin a bad name. She shall continue to be his wife; he must not divorce her as long as he lives. (Wow, justice for this woman was that her violator/husband would have to pay a small fine to her family, and the violated woman would have to spend her life with this man who treated her like a piece of rubbish, violating her and trying to give her back. And, what about the evidence of virginity? A bloody rag?) 20 If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the young woman’s virginity can be found, (In other words, they could not find a bloody rag to show the town elders. You have to wonder how this bloody rag was gathered. In some cultures even today, the family waits outside the wedding chamber and gathers the bloody rag to verify that the act has occurred. This seems that it would be more of a showdown about reputation and standing in the community, than evidence. So brides from less reputable families were doomed.) 21 she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. She has done an outrageous thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father’s house. You must purge the evil from among you.
[g] Slave women are exceptions to the rape laws. Leviticus 19:20 “If a man lies sexually with a woman who is a slave, assigned to another man and not yet ransomed or given her freedom, a distinction shall be made. They shall not be put to death, because she was not free.”
[h] After the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s daughters purportedly molested their father. Genesis 19:30-38 “Now Lot went up out of Zoar and lived in the hills with his two daughters, for he was afraid to live in Zoar. So he lived in a cave with his two daughters. And the firstborn said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of all the earth. Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father.” So they made their father drink wine that night. And the firstborn went in and lay with her father. He did not know when she lay down or when she arose. The next day, the firstborn said to the younger, “Behold, I lay last night with my father. Let us make him drink wine tonight also. Then you go in and lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father.” This would have been physically impossible. A man who is passed-out drunk could not function sexually. This is the same man, just a short time earlier, who that had offered these virgin girls to be gang raped by a riotous crowd outside his home. These women had fled to a cave near Zoar, a neighboring community. They knew that there were other men who could bear children to them. They knew if they became pregnant out of wedlock, even if it occurred as a result of your father offering you up to a riotous hoard for gang rape, was a shame on the woman. This whole story appears to be a poor attempt to explain how these two young virgins got pregnant with only their recently widowed father present. [i] Jesus showed by his manner and conversations with women that he valued them, which was totally contrary to the culture of his day. Women were clearly present all during His ministry. There are no recorded instances where Jesus ever disgraces, belittles, reproaches, or stereotypes a woman. Lee Anna Starr writes in her book, The Bible Status of Woman, that of all founders of religions and religious sects, Jesus stands alone as the one who did not discriminate in some way against women.
Examples include: Jesus had a theological conversation with a Samaritan woman at the well, even though it was improper to do so because she was an outcast, a woman, and a Samaritan. He even revealed to her that he was the Messiah (John 4:4-42). He had another theological discussion with his friend Mary after her brother Lazarus had died (John 11:21-27). Such a conversation with a woman was frowned upon. When a sinful woman anointed the feet of Jesus with her tears and perfume during a dinner party, Jesus treated her with compassion and forgave her of her sins (Luke 7:36-50). When a woman was caught in the act of adultery and was about to be stoned, Jesus said, "He who is without sin cast the first stone". Her accusers left. Jesus then told the woman that he did not condemn her (John 8:2-11). In order to explain about the nature of the kingdom of God, Jesus told a parable about a woman sweeping her house to find a lost coin. He called attention to a poor woman who was giving two copper coins in the Temple, and said that she was an example of the true spirit of giving (Luke 21:1-4). Women were a prominent feature at the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus. After he rose from the dead the first person he spoke to was Mary Magdalene, a woman who had been with him throughout most of his ministry, . Women reported about his appearance, and were there in the upper room where the disciples gathered after he was buried.
In a culture that treated women with such disregard, it must have been refreshing for the women to have an advocate like Jesus. It also was very threatening to the men, especially the religious leaders who thrived on their superiority.
HudsonValleyMark at: 2014-12-31 11:15:04Yes, I think their problems with reality begin well before they reach rape, but rape foregrounds them.
(Not that it's important to your diary, but just to elaborate slightly on my previous comment: if Life Begins At ConceptionTM, then the number of "unborn babies" that never even reach implantation far exceeds the number of abortions — which I suppose would make God objectively "anti-life." Whatever one thinks about the Bible, if one can find LBAC there, then one can find just about anything.)