Rape and the role of the church

By Bishop Isaac Idahosa

Rape is a tragedy. Our attitude towards rape victims is no less a tragedy than the crime itself. As a pastor I have ministered to rape victims, and each time, the crisis has compelled me to participate in the hurt and the pain of the victims.
Even among my congregation, I can’t remember anyone ever talking about rape in any constructive manner, except to note the event as a “sign of the last days.”
Nothing can justify such callousness. Rape is the ultimate expression of sex abuse. In fact, a violent sexual act; and we have a pathetic picture of a chronic tragedy that plagues our society. Rape is not always the act of a stranger.
Rape can happen even within marriage. A husband often feels free to force his wife to submit to him. He might tie her up or even threaten her with a knife at her throat. A man cannot be prosecuted for marital rape.
He may face charges for other violence connected with marital rape, but not for sex without consent. Thus rape of any kind marital rape, date rape, or rape involving neighbours, casual friends, or strangers violates the personhood of the victim.
Then there is the added tragedy of unfair judgment on victims as if they caused the crime by dressing inappropriately or behaving in “a come hither manner,” thus inviting the violence perpetrated against them
Rape and society
Rape is a judgment on our societal norms and mores. We promote a culture that regards sexual activity more as an outlet of passion than as an expression of love. Movies and telecasts portray sex as a biological function indulged in casually without commitment.
Even when speaking of freedom and equality of women, we still harbour the myth that women are subordinate to men, they being the weaker sex.
Such social and gender-oriented myths contribute to manipulation of, and sexual violence against, women. Rape, as an act of violence and humiliation, causes in the victim an overwhelming fear for her very existence and an equally overwhelming sense of powerlessness and helplessness. This fear and helplessness are made even more threatening by the complex process of reporting a rape.
Biblical perspective
The Bible speaks forcefully against sexual exploitation.
Throughout Scripture, sexual relations are portrayed as holy, ordained of God at the time of Creation, not to be indulged frivolously, and certainly not to involve violent trampling of the rights and dignity of the marriage partner.
The seventh commandment is not simply a prohibition of adultery; it is a divine commission governing sexual relationships. Directives uplifting this model relationship abound in the Old Testament. A man who seduced a woman was required to marry her (see Deut. 22:13-29).
To have sexual relations with an engaged or married woman was a capital offense (see Deut. 22:22, 24).
Seducing an unengaged girl was a crime (see Ex. 22:16, 17). Incest was prohibited (see Lev. 19:29). Many Old Testament stories illustrate the intense rage expressed against rapists (see Gen. 34; 2 Sam. 11:12-14; 13:14- 33; 16; Judges 20:5).
Although the New testament does not speak specifically about rape, Christ’s teaching on adultery defines for us the high road of sexual relationships. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus defined adultery not just as an act, but as a thought that precedes the act.
“Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully,” said Jesus, “has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28, NIV). This pronouncement affirms the highest value and dignity of a human being and precludes the passions and lust that motivate rape.
Consider also how Jesus dealt with the woman caught in adultery (see John 8:2-11).
He turned the table on the men who likely were responsible for her act. Jesus focused on the thoughts of men toward that woman rather than on her actions or the accusation against her. “It is not the presence of a woman, but the sinful thoughts of a man, which makes the situation dangerous.”


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