This might sound like the start of a bad joke: What do a theologian (John Howard Yoder) and a comedian (Bill Cosby) have in common? More than you might imagine—and I’m not laughing. Both were major figures in their fields. Both were widely regarded and respected, even adored by many. Both were powerful men with a sense of entitlement. With impunity, both sexually abused scores of young women who trusted them for years. Both were shielded by their peers and colleagues from any meaningful accountability.
What is it that people don’t understand about consent in sexual relationships? Evidently a lot, given the staggering numbers of rapes in the military, on campuses, in marriages… and everywhere else. I remember a conversation I had with a young woman in a church youth group. She said that her boyfriend had asked her to have sex with him. She declined and didn’t give a reason. She just didn’t want to do that with him at that time. He didn’t force her to have sex; he ended the relationship. So even though he didn’t assault her, he punished her for saying “no, not now.” She didn’t want to end the relationship; she just didn’t want to have sex. It was a deal breaker for him.
A few years back there was a news article in California about the prosecution of a husband for marital rape of his wife. The wife had locked herself in the bedroom to protect herself from the abusive husband. He broke down the door and assaulted her. His defense at trial was that he was Roman Catholic and the church had taught him that once he married, he could have sex with his wife any time he chose; therefore his arrest for marital rape was a violation of his First Amendment right to exercise religion.
Last Friday marked the opening of “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary about rape on American college campuses, in which students share painful testimonies about sexual violation and frustrated hopes for justice. The film highlights the serious human toll resulting from the fact that roughly one in five women faces sexual assault during her college years... “The Hunting Ground” comes at an important moment in the public conversation about the epidemic of campus sexual assault in this country. While the movement to raise awareness about widespread sexual victimization of college women has continued to gain momentum, the countermovement that has emerged is fierce.
“As gun rights advocates push to legalize firearms on college campuses, an argument is taking shape: Arming female students will help reduce sexual assaults.” I will tell you exactly what will go wrong. Here’s how it will go. Undergrad Sally is given a handgun by her parents on her birthday. Sally attends an abbreviated gun safety class which includes target practice. Sally now carries her gun in her backpack on campus. She says she feels safer. Two possible scenarios:
“From Peaceful Homes to a Peaceful World” is the theme of 16 Days. Take a moment to reflect on where we would be if the vibrant, curious girls of the world had been able to develop and grow as God intended. Imagine the things they could have accomplished had they been spared their suffering. Celebrate the amazing things we have accomplished, despite it all.
Perhaps this is all we can do now. The story of the kidnapping of hundreds of Christian and Muslim school girls in Nigeria by the extremist group Boko Haram has outraged the entire world. And the misuse of Islam by Boko Haram leaders to justify their actions, claiming they are being directed by Allah, only magnifies the outrage. Boko Haram using the name of Islam in this way is like the Ku Klux Klan or Fred Phelps using Christianity to propel their actions of hate and violence.
The invisible war of sexual assault of female and male military personnel by their fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines continues even as the U.S. Senate holds hearings and presses for substantive changes in the way cases of sexual assault are handled. The Academy Award nominated documentary tells the story of survivors of rape and of an institution long on rhetoric and short on change.
The recent song, “Accidental Racist,” by Brad Paisley and LL Cool J got me thinking about how one accidentally oppresses other people. As a white woman raised in the South, I’ve heard the angst expressed before. I just don’t buy it. Yet it inspired me to write another version.
As I have continued to ponder and worry about the Steubenville, Ohio, rape case which I blogged about last week, I came across a two very interesting pieces. First is an open letter from Melissa Harris-Perry to the survivor of the Steubenville rape: “Dear Steubenville Survivor, I Believe You.” It is written from one survivor to another in appreciation for the courage of the young woman in coming forward in spite of knowing the response she would get. Please listen to it.
The fact that two teenage football players raped an intoxicated teenager is bad enough. They have now been convicted of their crimes. But the additional fact that other teens not only watched and did not intervene to help the victim but also took photos which they then broadcast with social media is even more disturbing.
The New York Times is right on this one. If politicians are serious about fixing the perception that they don’t understand or care about women, they would do well to move quickly to pass the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) immediately.
In the midst of the campaign, Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock was asked if abortion should be allowed in cases of rape and incest. He responded negatively with this explanation: “I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something the God intended to happen.” Apparently, Richard Mourdock knows the mind of God.
First, a confession: I have not read Fifty Shades of Grey nor do I intend to. When I choose a novel to read, I pay attention to reviews or suggestions of my friends. The thought of spending time reading second rate prose about dominant-submissive heterosexual sex just doesn't seem very appealing. Life is too short.
“Legitimate rape” has now been added to the lexicon of sexual assault thanks to Representative Todd Akin, candidate for the U.S. Senate in Missouri. One wonders about the definition of this new term; perhaps its synonym “real rape” and its opposite is “illegitimate rape.” It’s a mystery to me.
I am just writing to thank you for denouncing Sr. Margaret Farley’s excellent book, “Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics.” This is the best PR any author could possibly get and, as a result, the book has soared to the Best Seller list at Amazon overnight. I realize that God works in strange and mysterious ways, but this is too good.
So it is the season of marriage and my partner and I delighted in attending our niece’s wedding in Baltimore last weekend. It was a three day party bringing together family and friends in celebration of their love for each other, their hope for the future, and their commitment to journey together, come what may.
International Women’s Day was first celebrated in 1911 and has been observed each year since as a day to recognize women’s achievements as well as to lift up the issues of gender inequality such as violence against women that continue to plague the human race and diminish the lives of women and men.
The U.S. Department of Justice has updated its definition of rape. Now we can name more clearly what victims of rape have known for centuries.
This time last year I was on my way to Capetown, South Africa, to visit my friend, Elizabeth Petersen and the South African Faith and Family Institute (SAFFI). This was my first trip to this massive continent and, like so many people, I immediately fell in love with South Africa.