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Rape is Rape is Rape . . .

Jan 26, 2012 — Categories:

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.

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.

In Chapter 19 of the book of Judges in Hebrew scripture, there is a story about a man and his concubine who are traveling on their way home. As night falls, they wait in the village square for someone to offer them lodging per the custom of the hospitality code of the times. A man takes them in giving them food and safe shelter.  During the night, a gang of men upon hearing that there is a stranger in town, come to the house and demand that the stranger be given over to them “so that we may have intercourse with him.” (v. 22) The host refuses because he is obligated to protect his guest. He instead offers the concubine and his own daughter in lieu of the guest. The gang refuses the offer, demanding the guest. Finally the guest, in his terror at the prospect of being raped, throws his concubine out the door as a sacrifice. The men rape and beat her and leave her for dead. If they couldn’t do harm to the stranger, at least they destroyed his property.

This is the same story that we hear in Genesis 19; here it is set in the evil city of Sodom. The strangers are two angels; the host is a man named Lot. The narrative is the same: the gang threatens the strangers; Lot offers his two daughters; the gang refuses because they want to harm the stranger. Lot and his family are saved by the angels but Sodom is destroyed because of its inhospitality and violence. [You are probably remembering by now that someone taught you that these passages are about the condemnation of homosexuality. This is not true. In fact both passages are about rape of men and of women.]

The rape of men is the last stronghold of silence in our society’s willingness to address sexual violence. Joe Paterno in discussing his hesitation and confusion when his assistant described the alleged sexual assault of a child by Sandusky in the shower said, “...I never heard of, of rape and a man.” We don’t want to discuss it because it is shrouded in issues of “manhood” and homophobia. We don’t know how widespread it is because we haven’t been counting it.

In fact, men are raped, usually by other men, “...usually by people they know, including acquaintances and intimate partners, but occasionally by complete strangers. They are raped as part of violent, drunken or drug-induced assaults; war crimes; interrogations; antigay bias crimes; and hazing rites for male clubs and organizations, like fraternities, and in the military.”

The update of the definition of sexual assault means that sexual violence against men will be included in the statistics gathered by the FBI Uniform Crime Report.

For many years, the operative definition was “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will” which covered only forcible penetration of a woman’s vagina by a penis which isn’t even adequate to define the rape of women. But the new definition actually describes what rape looks like for women or men: “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.”

Although legal definitions differ from state to state, the use of this national definition will enable a much more accurate count of the victimization of both men and women. Hopefully this will encourage a more open discussion and the possibility that victims/survivors will come forward and find support from their communities.

Rape is as old as human history. It is a weapon of terror directed at the outsider and the vulnerable, regardless of gender. It isn’t about sex. It is about power and the desire to harm another. In scripture, it is rightly placed in the context of a profound violation of the hospitality code which mandated the protection of those who were vulnerable. The host in Judges pleads with the gang: “No, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Since this man is my guest, do not do this vile thing.” (v. 23) But then we cannot overlook the painful irony in these stories: the daughters and the concubine are offered in order to protect the guest. Was the rape of a man more vile than the rape of a woman?

Hopefully in our time, we are now able to affirm that rape is rape is rape and that it is a sin against persons regardless of their rank or status.

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute
www.faithtrustinstitute.org

Sexual Violence: The Sin Revisited

Sexual Violence: The Sin Revisited by Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune

Originally published in 1983 as Sexual Violence: The Unmentionable Sin, this book is an updated combination of Fortune's experiences as a church educator, advocate for sexual abuse survivors, and pastor that answers a difficult question--How do we respond to sexual violence?

"Hopeful, helpful, and still needed. Insistent in its prophecy, inclusive in its solutions, faithful in its presentation--a book that helped create the foundation for a field of study, now revised, helps to transform it."
--Carol J. Adams, author of Woman-Battering, a guide for ministers and caregivers

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This Book

Posted by Simone Travis-Tate at Jan 30, 2012 02:38 PM
Hi Dr. Fortune, I use this book as a resource for my restorative care sessions with adult female survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Thank You so much

Excellent

Posted by Mary E. Hunt at Feb 16, 2012 09:15 PM
Telling it like it is. Excellent per usual. Thanks, onward, MEH