Avoiding the Tragedy of Rape
PEOPLE can profit from experience. But when it comes to rape, how much better to learn from the experience of others, rather than personally being a victim. With this purpose in view, the following two real-life experiences are narrated.
The girl was an attractive teenager, a member of a large family living in a rural community. However, she was not satisfied with the company of her household. She was in the habit of going out by herself to visit some of the girls who lived in the area.
Just exactly what her motives were for these visits is not entirely clear. Evidently she was simply interested in cultivating new girl friends. Yet a young man there noticed her. Whether she had become acquainted with him earlier, and had done something to encourage his interest, is not known. On this occasion, however, he forced her to have sex relations with him.
That rape apparently was not premeditated, but the rape of another girl was. A young man had developed a passionate desire for his half sister. One day he pretended to be sick, asking his father to send his sister to his home to prepare some food for him. When they were alone, he grabbed her. Despite her fervent pleading, he overpowered and raped her.
Many of you previously have read about these rapes. The girls were Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, and Tamar, the daughter of David. The accounts are recorded in the Bible.—Gen. 34:1-7; 2 Sam. 13:1-14.
A RAPIDLY INCREASING CRIME
Rape has become increasingly common today. A major reason seems obvious. Sex and violence explode from TV and movie screens, from radio, newspapers, magazines and billboards. In the cities, in the rurals—almost wherever one goes—illicit sex and violence exist. And people practice what they see and hear. The Bible’s description of the world prior to the global flood indeed fits our day: “The badness of man was abundant in the earth . . . and the earth became filled with violence.”—Gen. 6:1-5, 11; Jude 6, 7.
The violence then apparently included sexual assaults, as it does today. “Rape is increasing at a faster rate than any other violent crime in the United States,” notes The World Book Encyclopedia. “Officials estimate that the actual number of rapes is at least four times the number reported.” Since reported rapes are about 70,000 a year, the actual figure may well be over a quarter of a million. That means a rape occurs every two minutes in the United States!
Yet some forced sex offenses are not even generally classified as rapes. Regarding this, sociologist Richard Gelles of Rhode Island University comments: “I can’t imagine a marriage where a husband beats his wife that doesn’t also include forced sex at times. There may be 400,000 violent marital rapes per year, but if you include rape by intimidation—the threat of violence—it would be more like a couple of million.”
But sadder still is the tremendous number of sex offenses against youths—often mere children. Tens of thousands are victims every year. In the recent book The Sex Offender, Bart Delin writes: “It is estimated that one in six girls will be molested before the age of sixteen.”
Jacob’s daughter Dinah apparently was only in her early teens when she was forced into having sex relations. Why does the Bible tell about such tragic crimes as that? The apostle Paul provides an answer, saying: “For all the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction.”—Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11.
What can be learned from such Bible accounts?
LEARN TO ACT WITH DISCRETION
Dinah failed to act with discretion. The Bible says that she “used to go out to see the daughters of the land.” (Gen. 34:1) The inhabitants of Canaan were immoral people, prostitution evidently being common. (Gen. 34:31; 38:21) Dinah apparently had no business being out by herself among them. Likely her parents had warned her about associating with the girls of the land. If they had, she failed to listen, and this led to trouble.
Similarly, many young women today are raped because of needlessly putting themselves in compromising situations. Hitchhikers do this. In Oregon’s Multnomah county a person reportedly is raped every day. And more than half of those raped are young hitchhikers!
Many men are just looking for someone with whom to have sexual relations, and they assume that a woman who hitchhikes is, in effect, offering herself for that purpose. This has become a rather common view. For example, a California judge, explaining why a rape conviction was overturned, wrote: “It would not be unreasonable for a man in the position of the defendant here to believe that the female [hitchhiker] would engage in sexual relations.” Such a view may seem callous and wrong, but it illustrates the realities of the world today.
Although a man has no right to force a woman to have sex with him, under any circumstances, women need to be discerning as to how their actions are perceived by men. The chieftain’s son who raped Dinah may have assumed that to venture out by herself, Dinah must have been a girl of easy virtue. He may have concluded that her visits were not just to see some girl friends, but especially to see him. So he may have believed Dinah really wanted what she got.
SHOWING DISCRETION TODAY
There is even greater need today for women to avoid behavior that men may misinterpret as an invitation to have sexual relations with them. Frederic Straska, who has studied and lectured extensively on rape, observed:
“Women indirectly tease men whenever they do anything in public view that might lead others to believe they’ve had or they’re having sex with someone. I’m talking mostly about public displays of affection, but there are other things that could give this impression.
“Nowadays, a lot of young men and women set up housekeeping without the benefit of matrimony, which is surely their own business. But there may be some men around who think otherwise. These men figure that any woman who’s willing to live with, and obviously sleep with, a man without marrying him is an easy mark.”
Because of your respect for God’s laws on morality, you doubtless would never agree to have sex relations with a man to whom you are not married. Yet other behavior could cause persons to think you are a woman of easy virtue. For example, if you went to certain bars or discos, where women of questionable morals go, men understandably might assume that you, too, are that type of woman.
Also, dressing in immodest, revealing clothes can serve as a tease or “come-on” to men. In this regard, the Bible has some very pertinent and valuable counsel. It advises “women to adorn themselves in well-arranged dress, with modesty.”—1 Tim. 2:9.
IN THE DATING SITUATION
Use of discretion is especially important when it comes to dating. A large percentage of rapes, some say the majority, occur on these occasions. Why?
First of all, it is because the woman may go out with a man who does not have respect for the Bible’s standards of morality. She may assume that he is trustworthy because he attends religious meetings. But this, in itself, is no guarantee that he believes or practices what the Bible teaches. Even in the first-century Christian congregation there were persons who had wrong motives. Of such ones the apostle Peter wrote: “They have eyes full of adultery . . . and they entice unsteady souls.” (2 Pet. 2:14) So it is important to determine a young man’s true motivations before going out with him.
Furthermore, many persons view dating as a sort of game, rather than a means for becoming acquainted with a prospective marriage mate. But what often happens when a woman consents to going to an isolated place with a man, perhaps engaging in kissing and necking with him? For many men in today’s immoral society such preliminary sex play is a “promise” of sexual intercourse, and they will force a woman to keep that “promise.” Even if the young man intends to behave honorably, the sexual arousal of kissing and necking may override his good intentions and he may force himself on the girl.
What about the girl’s feelings in such a situation? What if you, as a young woman, allow yourself to become involved in such a situation with a young man you like? It could create such difficulties as rape expert Straska described: “Given the fact that you may not only be struggling to say no to the man but also to yourself, you may have a hard time deciding whether or not it was really rape. You may want to salve your conscience by telling yourself that it was.”
Do not assume that you can play at dating as a game, or in other ways put yourself into compromising situations, without bad consequences. Time and again young women, including members of the Christian congregation who thought they could handle the situation, have been terribly hurt. Be wise. Use discretion. Benefit from Scriptural lessons, and avoid situations in which you could become involved in illicit sexual relations.
Learn, too, from the sad experience of Tamar, the young woman who was maneuvered by her half brother Amnon into an isolated place where he raped her. This case illustrates the need to be aware, to be conscious of the attitudes and feelings of others toward you. If Tamar had earlier detected Amnon’s passionate feelings for her, she might have been able to avoid getting into the situation she did.
Of course, a woman simply cannot anticipate all possibilities. For example, a young woman spent a weekend at her girl friend’s home. In the morning, while she was still in bed, her girl friend and her mother went to do some grocery shopping, leaving her home alone with the father. He came into the room where she was resting and sat on her bed. When he told her he wanted to make love to her, she was so shocked and confused she put up little struggle.
Yet, what could the young woman have done? What can you, as a woman, do if someone tries to rape you? There are various things a woman can do.*
THE BEST AND PROPER COURSE
Above all, she should not allow herself to be intimidated. Right at the outset she should let it be known that under no circumstances will she permit intercourse. Representatives of the Toronto Star, after consulting a number of rape crisis centers in the United States and Canada, came up with this common theme:
“The most crucial time in a rape encounter is the first minute. If a woman doesn’t physically and mentally fight back at this point, her chances of avoiding sexual attack grow progressively smaller.”
The Cleveland Rape Crisis Centre explained:
“The rapist first checks out his victim to see what her attitude is likely to be. He doesn’t want trouble; he wants to intimidate the woman quietly. The more afraid the woman appears, the more vulnerable she is to assault. The longer she allows the encounter to go on, the more trouble she’s in.”
So the young woman mentioned above should have countered the rape threat immediately, in a firm, absolute manner, not as a passive individual groping for a response. She might have said something to this effect: “What would you think if this were happening to your own daughter? You know, some think your daughter and I look much alike.”
Even if that approach did not stop the aggression, if she, right from the start, had shown herself to be a difficult, aggressive opponent, the rape no doubt could have been avoided. Susan Brownmiller, a leading spokesperson on the subject of rape, explains:
“Rapists get courage as the encounter proceeds. They really do. In most cases, the assailant starts off with less security than the victim might believe. If he finds that he has thoroughly terrorized his victim, he gains more confidence.
Back in March 1974, Awake! magazine described how a man with a gun had held two of Jehovah’s Witnesses prisoner in a hotel room. As he reached for the zipper on one girl’s blouse, she exclaimed: “No! No! Not that!” She told him that if he touched her she would scream as he had never heard anyone scream before. She explained that if she did not she would ruin her relationship with Jehovah God and the Christian congregation. (Compare Deuteronomy 22:22-29.) Her firm demand: “Don’t you touch me or come near me” kept the rapist at bay.
This woman did the Scripturally proper thing, which actually is the best thing to do. A Christian woman is under obligation to resist, for the issue of obedience to God’s law to “flee from fornication” is involved. (1 Cor. 6:18) By no means would it be proper for her willingly to submit to being raped.
So about avoiding rape there is much that can be learned from the experiences of both those in ancient Bible times and persons living today. Since rape is the fastest growing crime in certain places, it is indeed wise for women to think about what they can do to resist!
For a more detailed discussion of this subject, see the July 8, 1980, issue of Awake!
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Dinah made friends with persons who did not serve God
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Tamar had the humiliating experience of being raped by her half brother Amnon
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Hitchhiking can be dangerous
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From the very outset, a woman should firmly resist a rapist, screaming if necessary