Questions From Readers
Why does the Bible say that a person should scream if threatened with rape?
Anyone who has not personally experienced the horror of being brutally assaulted by a rapist can never truly understand how it can shatter one’s life. The experience is so terrifying for the victim that it may trouble her for the rest of her life.a A young Christian woman who was attacked by a rapist some years ago relates: “Words cannot express the sheer terror I felt that night or the trauma I’ve had to overcome since.” Understandably, many prefer not even to think about this frightening subject. Yet, the threat of rape is a reality in this wicked world.
The Bible does not shy from recounting some cases of rape and attempted rape that occurred in the past. (Genesis 19:4-11; 34:1-7; 2 Samuel 13:1-14) But it also offers counsel on what one should do when threatened with rape. What the Law says on the matter is found at Deuteronomy 22:23-27. This covers two situations. In the first case, a man found a young woman in a city and lay down with her. Even so, the woman did not scream or cry for help. Consequently, it was determined that she was guilty “for the reason that she did not scream in the city.” If she had cried out, people nearby might have been able to come to her rescue. In the second instance, a man found a young woman in the countryside, where he “grabbed hold of her and lay down with her.” In defense, the woman “screamed, but there was no one to rescue her.” Unlike the woman in the first instance, this woman clearly did not give in to the actions of the attacker. She actively resisted him, crying for help, but she was overpowered. Her screaming proved that she was an unwilling victim; she was not guilty of wrongdoing.
Although Christians today are not under the Mosaic Law, the principles mentioned therein provide them with guidance. The above account underscores the importance of resisting and screaming for help. Screaming when threatened with rape is still viewed as a practical course. One expert on crime prevention stated: “If a woman is attacked, her best weapon is still her lungs.” A woman’s screaming may attract others, who can then assist her, or it may startle an attacker and make him leave. A young Christian woman who was attacked by a rapist stated: “I screamed with all my might, and he backed off. When he came toward me again, I screamed and ran. In the past I had often thought, ‘How can screaming help me when some big man grabs me with only one thing on his mind?’ But I’ve learned that it works!”
Even in the sad case where a woman is overpowered and raped, her struggle and screaming for help is not in vain. On the contrary, it establishes that she did all she possibly could to resist her attacker. (Deuteronomy 22:26) Despite going through this ordeal, she can still have an undefiled conscience, self-respect, and the assurance that she is clean in God’s eyes. The horrifying experience might leave her with emotional wounds, but knowing that she did all she could to resist the attack will greatly contribute to her gradual healing.
In understanding the application of Deuteronomy 22:23-27, we must realize that this brief account does not cover all possible situations. For example, it does not comment on the situation where the attacked woman cannot scream because she is mute, unconscious, or paralyzed with fear or is forcibly prevented from screaming by a hand or tape over her mouth. However, since Jehovah is able to weigh all factors, including motives, he deals with understanding and justice in such cases, for “all his ways are justice.” (Deuteronomy 32:4) He is aware of what actually took place and of the efforts the victim put forth to fight off her attacker. Therefore, a victim who was unable to scream but otherwise did all she could under the circumstances can leave matters in Jehovah’s hands.—Psalm 55:22; 1 Peter 5:7.
Even so, some Christian women who have been attacked and violated are incessantly pained by feelings of guilt. In hindsight, they feel that they should have done more to prevent the incident from happening. However, instead of blaming themselves, such victims can pray to Jehovah, ask for his help, and have confidence in his abundant loving-kindness.—Exodus 34:6; Psalm 86:5.
Hence, Christian women who are presently coping with emotional wounds resulting from an encounter with a rapist can be confident that Jehovah fully understands the painful feelings they are dealing with. God’s Word assures them: “Jehovah is near to those that are broken at heart; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.” (Psalm 34:18) Further help to cope with their trauma can come from accepting the sincere understanding and gentle support of fellow believers in the Christian congregation. (Job 29:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:14) Moreover, the victims’ own efforts to concentrate on positive thoughts will help them to experience “the peace of God that excels all thought.”—Philippians 4:6-9.
a Although this article speaks about female victims, the principles discussed also apply to males who are threatened with rape.