The other day I happened to go through some old writings from college and I stumbled upon something. It was a reflection I wrote in a Theology class where we had discussed the “texts of terror.” “Texts of Terror” is a term created by Phyllis Trible to refer to four narratives of disturbing violence against women that are depicted in the Old Testament. The class was, understandably, triggering for me. I had never heard these stories before. After the class I wrote a reflection to process.
Around the world, 1 in 3 women have experienced some form of abuse from a male intimate partner in their lifetime. In the UK the number of women who have experienced domestic abuse since the age of 15 is comparable. And a survey conducted by the CDC reported that 1 in 3 women in the U.S. experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime.
This is arguably the largest human rights violation of our time. And yet – despite this prolific reality being mirrored in the church, we have largely remained silent on this life-altering experience so embedded in our homes and neighborhoods.
The truth is that you know a victim of abuse. It might be your mother, sister, aunt, friend, or a teenager in your church youth group. The chances are she hasn’t felt safe enough to reveal the terrible pain she has suffered in the privacy of her relationship. Domestic abuse is easy to hide, but can be challenging to identify. In this post I go through how the Bible informs our understanding of domestic abuse.
Recently, the phenomenon of “locker room talk” among men about women has made national headlines. This has kick-started a new wave of awareness about the pervasiveness of sexual assault against women. All this has provided an occasion for me, and I am sure many other women, to relive a moment when a stranger grabbed me in exactly the way described in this “locker room talk.” I was twelve and walking with my Mom and older sister. As a group of older teenage boys walked by, one of them pretended to bump into my shoulder and as he did, he grabbed me between the legs—not an accidental brush but a deliberate, unmistakable grab. My mother and sister had no idea and we just kept walking. I was too stunned to respond. But I had already learned that this was the kind of thing boys do.
There are many articles written by Christians trying to pick apart why it is that so many women, both in and out of the church, are flocking to see 50 Shades of Grey, after buying 70 million copies of the book (sales divided equally among professing Christians and the American adult population ). Secular and religious experts are discussing the repercussions of rape culture, feminism, the innate need for love, and the search for the divine as explanations for the popularity of the books and movie.
As I look across American culture in general, and American Christian culture in particular, I am left wondering, “What else did we expect?” 50 Shades of Grey is simply a mirror to the experiences of women. Regardless of what side of the church walls they grew up on, women both in secular society and in Christian subculture are consuming the books and film because the underlying ideology of the story is what so many are familiar with, only it has been exaggerated and sexualized in form.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and I hadn’t intended to write about it. Aside from helping a friend through a horrible situation years ago, I haven’t had any experience with this, so didn’t think there was much I could say. But I was compelled to write for these reasons:
In case you missed it, there was an enormous outcry from protesters last week when Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal posted an article titled “My Easy Trip From Youth Minister To Felon.”
The article was written by a former youth pastor now serving jail time for his sexual abuse and predatory rape of one of his students. He describes the circumstances of the progress into abuse and outlines some reasons why he feels it happened.
The editors of Leadership Journal posted the article, which was more than five pages in length, on Monday and eventually replaced it with an apology on Friday evening after a flurry of protest on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, the article page itself and in letters to editors and advertisers.