Rape, as defined by Webster’s Online Dictionary, is an action someone participates in to “seize and take away be force”. In American cultural context, this word is directly tied to the act of overpowering someone to participate in nonconsensual sex. On September 18th, 2015 Lady Gaga released a music video for her song “Til It Happens to You” on VEVO as a partnership with The Hunting Ground to raise awareness of sexual assault on college campuses. Maybe it is because I have two sisters, or maybe it is because I know people who have experienced sexual assault, but I need to spend some time working through this topic from a christian standpoint.
According to RAINN – the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network – 1 out of every 6 American women have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Furthermore, women aged 18-24 are 3 times more likely to be victims of sexual assault than those of the general population. Women of the same age who are not enrolled in college are 4 times more likely than that of college women. These numbers are staggering and, to make matters worse, only 20% of college student victims report their sexual assault and 33% of non-student victims report theirs. While sexual assault is not limited to female victims, I want to spend this time to focus on the women who have suffered from something like this and how we, as males, can properly respond.
Returning to the definition of ‘rape’, what is it that is taken away? Sexual assault seems to be talked about in American colleges yet is responded to with a simple “that’s horrible”, “I can’t imagine”, or “why would someone do that?”. In the video we witness four different victims of rape: one at work, one in a bathroom, and two a party. Following the incidents we see the women struggle through daily life, depression, and loneliness. As “I am worthless” and “sometimes I hate myself”, inscribed on their bodies, flashes across the screen the viewer starts to be somewhat disturbed. In a way that I cannot understand, rape is the “seizing” of self-worth, personal agency, and the person as a whole. What we don’t seem to process when we hear the word ‘rape’ is the essence of the word itself: to be raped is to be taken ownership of. To experience personal loss in a way that can only be understood from personal experience, hence Lady Gaga’s lyrics “’til it happens to you, you won’t know how I feel”.
Given all of this, what is there to do? How do we respond to this type of violence that sneaks under our noses so unexpectedly? When I am challenged with topics like this, my only answer is to turn to Scripture. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus and His disciples are gathered together and Jesus begins recounting the final judgment on mankind. Jesus tells of what God will one day say to those who were righteous and faithful to Him. As He saves them He says:
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did to me’”.
Why is this significant? Jesus here gives both a warning and a commandment: if we are to act like Christ, claiming Him as our Lord and Savior, we must treat those in suffering with support and love. Specifically, when He says “least of these”, He means those in our world who are persecuted, oppressed, and abandoned at the evil hands of the world. But we are still left with the unanswered question: what can we do?
As a white, twenty-something male, I cannot understand entirely what women feel when they are victimized in such a way. However, that is not to say I cannot help. As men, we are commanded by God to serve and protect those around us. We are to protect our brothers and sister in Christ, as well as those who do not know Christ. Christianity, at it’s core, is about the love that Christ demonstrated when he took on our earthly sin, dying on the cross, to allow us to experience eternal life in Heaven. We are to serve those in our lives who suffer without apparent solution. People ask “Why would God allow so much evil to happen in the world?” or “where is God in this?”, and the answer, embedded in Scripture is us. God did not send Jesus to make an example or to cause an uproar, but, rather, because “He loved the world, He gave his only begotten Son, that we may experience eternal life”. Jesus came, lived a perfect, blameless life, teaching us to live like Him, died for us, and then sent the Holy Spirit to guide us and fight against the evils of this world.
This all sounds very cerebral and mythological, but the simple answer is this: men and women alike suffer from inexplicable evils all over the world, however, God gave us the answer to fighting this evil through the work of His Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross and bestowing the Holy Spirit on us. Our response is not to ask, “where is God in this?” but should be “how can God work through me in this?”.
If you are interested in learning more visit ItsOnUs.org.