If Immodesty Caused Rape…

As I continue to read Rebecca Davis’ book, “Pure,” on purity culture she continues to lay out the devastating psychological consequences of being told, as a young teenager, that her body would cause other men to sin, and could even cause them to rape her.

“This is such utter nonsense!” I kept thinking, “Does anybody actually believe this?” As she gave example after example, I began to recognize some messegase that sounded all to familiar. Yes, we do communicate this message. Maybe not always in so many words: but women are often told in the church, “Be modest, or you might get raped!”

…but this is ridiculous!

If immodesty really caused rape, what we would see is:

  1. Rape happening all the time at public beaches, right out there in public. After all, men can’t control themselves, can they? But actually, strangely, we find that men can control themselves rather well when other people are watching.
  2. Rape would dramatically diminish during the winter time, and dramatically increase during the summer, due to the wearing of more clothing. Rather, it seems that it stays pretty stable.
  3. Rape would be virtually non-existent in in Muslim and Amish and other communities. Tragically, rape seems to be just as present in very religious communities.

…if we really cared about girls getting raped, here are some suggestions:

  1. Teach them basic safety, such as “don’t walk down dark alleys at night.” Seriously — do we even tell girls this in our religious subculture? Or are we afraid that it will be too naughty to say?
  2. Teach them basic self defence. Are we teaching girls that the best thing they can do is to hit an attacker hard in the groin? Or will they be confused in a situation of violence, frozen by hours of teaching about “turning the other cheek”?
  3. Teach them that their “body” is their best friend: often, that feeling “in your gut” that a person or a situation is not safe is your first and best defence. Teach them to listen to that and to never, ever, ever put yourself in a vulnerable situation with someone who makes you feel unsafe. …or are we teaching them that their bodies are evil, and their “hearts” are “deceptively wicked,” that “women are emotional, and emotions deceive people,” and that it is an act of witchcraft to “listen to your heart”?
  4. Are we creating an atmosphere of trust with our children, and giving them the vocabulary for the human body, and for healthy sexuality, so that they can determine what is appropriate and what is not? Or is “sex” a dirty word in our homes — and “penis,” “vagina,” and “breast” equally forbidden? Will she even know how to explain to her parents or a police officer what has happened? Can she explain her great discomfort with inappropriate conduct which may have preceded a rape? Or has she been gagged into silence by a culture afraid of their own bodies?
  5. Teach that most rape does not happen by a stranger, but by a trusted friend, authority figure, or family member. This should not lead to mistrusting everybody, but there should be discussions of what is normal and what is not normal for a man to ask a young girl. A man of any age, and no matter their status or relationship, should not seek to be alone with a girl. Period. Do they know that? Or have they been taught that “women are weak,” “women need men to help them make decisions,” and that a girl should (I have actually heard this taught) always listen to the oldest male in the room, as though he were giving her instructions from God.

…and if we really cared about young girls, we would teach them safety. Basic, common sense, idiotically simple safety.

Rape is not about temptation: any woman with a vagina is a temptation to a wicked man. Rape is about availability, and the belief that they can get away with it.

Let’s face it: this doctrine tends to make girls vulnerable, and makes it far less likely that they will successfully flee or report the crime.

And if we really cared about victims — knowing that despite our very best attempts, a very large percentage of girls will be violated before they reach adulthood — we would be sure to tell them that rape is never, ever, ever a girl’s fault.

Pathological shame and guilt follows all traumatic events. This is because traumatic events overwhelm a brain: it cannot cope. It stores the event in fragmented, terrorizing portions all over the brain. (I will write more about this in future posts). The brain become obsessed with thoughts like, “I could have done more,” and “how can I prevent this from happening again?” These thoughts are not a weakness, and they are not the fault of the victim. They are as a result of a basic survival instinct: it happens because when the brain feels as though it has come in contact with a , the most important thing is to figure out why that happened, and to stop it from happening again.

…but this shame is a profoundly destructive force. Many victims of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome report that when they realized that it was not their fault, most of the debilitating symptoms of PTSD diminished. They were able to find their peace with their trauma, without blaming and punishing themselves.

…and yet this horrendous teaching of purity culture not only locks victims of rape into a never-ending hell of PTSD, but it also seems to have the effect of traumatizing them before the fact, by presenting them with impossible situations.

…they are made to feel as though there is literally no way that they can avoid stirring up lust in others, and causing themselves to be raped.

This feeling of powerlessness, and hopelessness, and intense danger takes its toll. It is profoundly dangerous psychologically.

It is this phenomenon that Rebecca Davis continues to talk about, in her book “Pure.”

“Turn the other cheek” — Not a Reason to Allow Abuse!

Jesus said to “turn the other cheek.” Here are twenty reasons why that does not mean that a spouse or child should overlook physical abuse.
1) In the original context, Jesus was speaking to men, in a world of men. The implied audience was people who had the ability to strike back, not women or children.
2) Jesus told His followers to flee from persecution and physical danger.
3) Jacob, David, Abigail, and many other saints fled from authority figures, when they became physically dangerous.
4) Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. A temple was the most sacred possible place in anceint times: your body is THAT precious! God promises to destroy anyone who destroys your body (1 Cor. 3:17).
5) Jesus said, “let the little children come to me,” and “if anyone causes one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he be thrown into the sea.” Children need to be protected from harm. So do you.
6) “I’m sorry…you just made me so angry” is not an apology. It is a lie that their evil actions were the fault of their victim. If a person is not able to restrain their violence unless people around them “walk on eggshells,” that person should not be around vulnerable people until they find help.
7) “I’m sorry, I just couldn’t control myself,” is a lie. After all, they controlled themselves just fine in public.
8) “This is normal/all men do it/everyone slips up” is not true. Most spouses do not hit or abuse one another. The Bible tells us to love and care for our spouses as we would our own bodies (Eph. 5). Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, and laid down His life for the church. Care is normal, harm is abnormal.
9) “You have to forgive me,” is a lie. You do not need to forgive them if they do not repent. (Luke 17:3…notice “IF he repent…”) Repentance means bringing their actions to the light to people who can provide tough accountability (James 5:16). It means getting help, and making sure that it does not happen again.
10) “The Bible says ‘forgive and forget'” No it does not. This verse does not exist. You can release bitterness in your heart while still remembering. Memories are there to remind us of danger, and to keep us safe.
11) The Bible says, “Do not be deceived, whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” The natural consequence of violence is the loss of intimacy. “Do not make friends with an angry man, and do not associate with a hot-tempered man” (Prov. 22:24)
12) “This punishment is unreasonable! I miss you! I need you! People will be mad at me if they find out!” …is exactly what Cain complained to God after he murdered his brother. Truly repentant people (like David, Peter) are sad about their sins. Evil people (like Cain) are sad about the CONSEQUENCES of their sins. Know the difference.
13) “I love you….” saying the words, “I love you” does not mean the person loves you. Love is patient, kind, and unselfish. It is not provoked, does not hold a grudge, and does not act unbecomingly (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). If their words say “love,” but their actions say “hate,” that is hypocritical love (Rom. 12:9). “Let us love not in word and speech, but in action and truth.” (1 John 3:18) “You will know them by their fruits.” (Mat. 7:16)
14) “The Bible says don’t gossip.” That is true. Gossip is untrue or uneccesary tidbits, spread around to harm someone. But telling appropriate authority figures about abuse is exactly what Jesus told us to do (Mat. 18:15-17)
15) “You have to keep our secret.” Is impossible. The Bible says that all sins will be brought to light (1 Tim. 5:24). One of the hallmarks of a dysfunctional family is secrecy. “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” (John 3:20) But “the truth shall set you free,” (John 8:32). Good people have nothing to hide.
16) “I don’t trust the police/social workers/authorities.” …is a telling statement. “rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing.” (Rom. 13:3-4)
17) “You are wrecking the family!” is a lie. The one who is unrepentantly harming others, and not seeking help for their issues is wrecking the family. Those who protect themselves and others are salvaging what remains of the family.
18) “You hurt my feelings when you told me that I abused you. You always complain so much! Why are you so negative? You are always so mean to me. YOU should apologize to ME.” …is a gaslighting. Gaslighting is a technique of changing the facts, in order to confuse the victim. A typical attack is blaming the victim for the actions of the abuser. This is a form of psychological abuse: it is an attempt to break down your mind, confuse you, and weaken your most powerful defence: your trust in your own sanity. If reading this post causes you to feel dizzy, confused, anxious, an upset stomach, extreme fatigue, a headache, or an unexplained ache in a part of your body, you may have been a victim of psychological abuse.
19) “You can’t report this because I am your spiritual head,” is a lie. People in positions of leadership are held to a *higher* standard in the Bible: “judgment begins with the house of God” 1 Peter 4:17, and “If a church elder continues in sin despite being warned, rebuke him in the presence of all so that others will be warned not to sin” (1 Tim. 5:19)
20) “God forgives me, so should you” is not true. Nowhere does God forgive unrepentant sinners. God also does not forgive people who use grace as an excuse to continue sinning. Neither should you. (Hebrews 10:26-27)
If you believe that you are the victim of physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, or financial abuse, please find a safe person and/or the appropriate authorities with which to share your story. If you believe that you are in physical danger, please leave now or call the police. Yes, Christians are allowed to call secular authorities: in fact, I would recommend that you start there.
You were meant to thrive, not just survive. And the Bible was never meant to keep you in a cage!