CN: sexual assault, religion, clergy
I grew up with a rapist/ child sex offender. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was there. I was also very lucky to not have been his primary target. That doesn’t mean I escaped without my own wounds. For years, I had no idea what was wrong with me and why I viewed the world and relationships the way that I did. It has taken a long time to unravel the past and enter into the future.
When I discovered that Christianity Today’s publication, The Leadership Journal included a piece by a child sex offender and former pastor who uses the forum to discuss his first person account of how he made the leap from youth pastor to rapist and convicted felon, I was curious, then upset, then plain outraged.
That article is exactly like talking to the rapist/ child sex offender I grew up with. The unnamed man in the article, blames his wife and failing marriage for driving him to what he calls an “extra-marital affair.” Because, in his mind it was a consensual relationship, and therefore he didn’t rape her. That concept is probably upsetting and ridiculous to him. In his mind they were in love, and she “adored” him. Nowhere in this article does he take responsibility for grooming her, abusing her and leaving her destroyed in the wake of his “sin.” His biggest regrets seem to be having to leave his ministry, losing his family and going to jail. Not the girl, she’s not part of his regrets or his thought process.
The Journal gives five pages of space to a rapist to justify his actions. This man goes on about how everyone is temped by sin, and warns against giving into the temptation. Not because abusing a child wrong, or harmful to, but rather, the implication is, because you might get caught and lose everything. He is doing that thing that rapist do; he is assuming that all men think the way he does. He gives a half-apology for is actions, calling them simply, a “sin,” and negating all responsibility because he couldn’t help it, and the girl was willing, and wanted to be with him too. He discusses how they were both upset by the temptation and sin of their relationship. He puts the abuse back on her, as if it is at all her fault that a grown man in his 30’s, a respected man in her church, and friend of the family, groomed, seduced and raped her as child.
- Nowhere in this piece was the voice of the victim, or any victim, heard.
- Nowhere in this piece was the mention of consent ever discussed.
- Nowhere in this piece was the concept of victim grooming described.
- Nothing in this article was about taking responsibility or preventing this from happening again.
Rapists believe they are normal, and all men think like they do. Most of them are average looking members of the community with spouses, and families, and respected jobs. They are coaches, friends, neighbors and they are the one at the summer BBQ who makes that uncomfortable joke about women being objects to see if anyone will push back. When nothing happens, they give themselves a pass, after all, boys will be boys, and he couldn’t help himself, she was a slut anyway, look how she was dressed, she was asking for it…. need I go on?
We hear these comments in the voices of our friends and family and we let them pass without incident. We don’t want to believe that this person is capable of rape. So we laugh nervously, and change the subject or worse, agree. That is the same as permission in the mind of a rapist. Stop that people. When you see a comment of Facebook about “girls like that” and “boys will be boys” say something. When you hear it on the sports field, in the office, or at you dinner table, speak up. Let these men know that rape isn’t funny, and it isn’t sex and it isn’t a relationship, it’s sexual assault. Let the women around you hear you when you stand up for women and the boys and girls who get abused each day.
If you are a Christian, take the time to talk about this issue. Don’t blame the victim. Don’t talk about what the victim can do to prevent this from happening. Talk about consent. Use the words rape and abuse instead of calling it a “sexual relationship,” because it was neither sex, nor a relationship. Then talk about it again, and again and again. Don’t allow rape to be called a “sexual sin” or “moral failing”. This is not adultery. Don’t allow assault and abuse to be minimized in your homes, your churches or houses of worship.
This pastor, like the rapist/ child sex-offender in my life, used the story of David and Bathsheba as one of his favorite stories of the bible. David was a King, that saw a woman he wanted. He had her. When she got pregnant and the baby couldn’t be passed off as the husbands, David and had the man sent to the front lines of war to be killed, so he could take Bathsheba for himself . Nice. The narrative is from the point of view of David, one of God’s chosen men. Never in many years of hearing this story from the pulpit have I ever heard anyone consider if Bathsheba could have said no. David was a King, did he have consent? Could this woman have told the King no when he wanted her in his bed? How many rapists in the church will look to this story, see themselves, and use the favored status God had for David and tell themselves that it’s okay for them to rape/assault/molest women and children because they are just like David, and it’s going to be okay.
It’s not okay, it’s never been okay, and religious groups, like The Leadership Journal, need to stop making excuses for sexual crime, silencing victims and publishing stories like “the spiritual sin that destroyed [the rapist’s] life.”
The following ladies had some great things to say on this subject, I highly recommend a click through, and a Facebook link to their articles. I didn’t include a link to the original piece because I don’t want to drive traffic from this space to theirs.
If you are on twitter, send your opinions along with #TakeDownThatPost to @CTmagazine and @Leadership_Jnl.
“An Open Letter to Christianity Today” by Elizabeth Esther
“Christianity Today Publishes a Rapist’s Story” by Libby Anne
“Because it’s Time to Take Down That Post” by Tamara Rice
“On How the Church Discusses Abuse: Denying the Endorsement” by Dianna Anderson
“Because Purity Culture Harbors Rape and Abuse” by Suzannah Paul
“Why did a Journal for Christian Pastors Give a Platform to a Sexual Predator?” By Hännah Ettinger and Becca Rose
“Leadership Journal, Christianity Today and #TakeDownThatPost” by Samantha Field
*** Thankfully, not all men are rapists. There are many, many good and wonderful men in the world and I am thankful that they exist. They have a job to do beyond being a good guy. They are the ones women and children need most to stand up to their peers and stop the culture of rape and assault. It’s not enough to be a good guy alone in your own home. Be the voice in the office, in your school, on your sports team, in the locker room and at your church that stops the slut shaming, victim blaming and the slide into rape-is-funny banter. Rape isn’t a woman’s issue, it’s a cultural issue, and a men’s issue, and a children’s issue, and it affects everyone. Don’t stand by and be too polite to say something. You might save a life.