Rape. A four-letter word with worse effects than four letter profanities. At the mention of the word, an entire atmosphere shifts. From hostility to indifference to empowerment to advocate, the pendulum of “rape” swings. Causing division and creating bonds, the topic and act of rape has had major impacts on the American culture. Not to mention the forever altered lives of the people who have been raped. Today’s statistics show that 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted. Less than half report their rape, and only a fraction of assailants are ever imprisoned (Rainn.org). Most people I’ve personally spoken with know little about rape: what it is, what it’s not, and what rape culture is. I believe it is our duty as Believers to seek wisdom in any regard. With that being said, Christian men should know the difference between nonconsensual and consensual sex. Ok, I understand that unless you are married you should not be having sex at all. But even married couples can experience nonconsensual sex. I’ve heard of spousal rape; a husband or wife forces their spouse to commit sexual acts on them even when the spouse does not want to do so. Sorry, that’s not a spousal duty, that’s rape! The bible is clear when it says “[Love] does not demand its own way,” (1 Corinthians 13:5 NLT).
So, let’s see what the term “rape” actually means, shall we: “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim” (Department of Justice). I would say that this is a pretty clear definition but let’s see what Merriam-Webster says: “unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury [or coercion] against the will usually of a female or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent—compare sexual assault, statutory rape”. Another term that’s broadly used is “sexual assault,” which defined by the Department of Justice states: “Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.” Rainn.Org defines sexual assault as: “a crime of power and control. The term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim. Some forms of sexual assault include: Penetration of the victim’s body, also known as rape. Fondling or unwanted sexual touching.”
Now with all this information about rape out in the web universe, why is it that people still do not agree on what is or is not rape? Could it be that people are just self-preserving because by admitting what rape is, they incriminate themselves? There seems to be a cloud of allusion covering the eyes of many men and women who believe victims hold responsibility for their rape. Amid political figures, clergy, athletes, celebrities, and even neighbors getting caught in rape and sexual assault scandals, it’s hard for the masses to agree on who to believe. Of course, there’s a chance that the woman was lying but doesn’t it seem more likely that the perpetrator would lie? If a person commits a crime, especially a violent one, do you really think they would own up to it? Only 2-8% of reported rape cases are falsely reported (Stanford.edu). So, that means that the rest, the 92-98%, are not false allegations. In other words: They happened, and it’s up to the justice system to prove it. In many cases, sadly, it is rare for an offender to be convicted and imprisoned. Out of 1,000 cases, only six offenders will ever see prison time (Rainn.org).
Today, there’s a new celebrity scandal that has surfaced. R. Kelly. If you are unaware of his past sexual relations with underage girls please google his marriage to then 15-year-old (now dearly departed) Aaliyah back in the early 90’s. Fast forward a few years, and he’s being sued for having sex with another underage girl, otherwise known as statutory rape. Videos of more underage girls surfaced over the years, yet the man has always denied any wrongdoing. I mean, why would he, he produced Aaliyah’s album calling it “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number.” Which clearly shows you how little he really cares about this country’s laws on age of consent. Return back to current day and you’ll find a slew of articles tracking the man’s history all because of a story that just broke. Terrified parents report their daughter is being held against her will in a cult under the guise of being a girlfriend of R. Kelly. The woman may be of legal age of consent, at 19, however, it’s skeptical whether she’s consented to staying in his home without access to her family along with many other restrictions. Reports are going out left and right, attacking both the parents and the woman’s story as fake and attention seeking. I’ve heard several men say to “leave that man alone,” as if to say he’s done nothing wrong and he’s completely innocent. I almost lost my tongue from biting so hard, it wasn’t the time nor the place and I’m better with words on the proverbial paper.
I believe that this deeply rooted seed of rape culture is now a blossoming tree full of rotten and poisonous fruit. Even some women have eaten from the tree and it won’t be long before we’re all being kicked out of the garden. It’s maddening that there are people who still do not understand how people with power or fame can use said power to take advantage of others. There have been plenty of studies out there for my fellow Psychology and Sociology buffs that express how people will do just about anything when a person of perceived authority tells them to do so (Milgram, etc.). Milgram’s studies can be applied to various scenarios such as believing and going along with a lie to actually causing pain to others. It’s disturbing, but not surprising. For example, I know men that say rape is awful and wrong but still question the woman’s sobriety or clothing attire if she claims rape, all because society continues to say so. Oh, and God forbid the man accused is an athlete or celebrity. She must be lying just to ruin HIS career and take his money. Right. Just because one or two people have done it in the past does not mean that all men accused are innocent. Again, refer to statistics above regarding false reports.
The problem I seem to encounter the most is indifference. Many men, and some women, don’t care about rape, the victims, families, the accused, or guilty. That is, until it happens to them or a loved one. I dare those to ask their sisters, their mothers, their daughters, their wives, and their friends what they were wearing when they got raped, how drunk they were, or what she was doing, ask her if she asked for it. I dare you.
The bible tells us in all our getting, to get an understanding (Proverbs 4:7). I beg you to get an understanding of this issue; don’t continue to turn a blind eye to those in need of compassion, having endured a traumatic experience, yet only finding shame and guilt and victim-blaming. If you refuse to listen to people’s story about rape and sexual assault just understand you’re a part of the problem. If you’re tired of hearing traumatic stories, then look at yourself. Look at your brothers, call out rape culture, call out injustice. This must change. The change starts with you.