Disclaimer: This post deals with the experiences of me and other young ladies who group up in fundamentalist churches. It is not indicative of all fundamentalist churches; however, I do believe that this post describes the general attitude of a lot, if not most, fundamentalists when it comes to rape.
The final straw in leaving fundamentalism for me came with the 20/20 story aired about the rape of Tina Anderson, and the subsequent trial and conviction of Ernest Willis. This program opened up my eyes to the fact that the things that I and others I knew had experienced in fundamentalism concerning rape were typical experiences, not abnormal ones. I had already become disillusioned with fundamentalism, but hadn’t had the courage to escape until then. I finally figured that if this is what fundamentalists thought of me as a rape victim, I didn’t want to be hanging around, and I didn’t want my daughter to be taught such things about herself.
And just take a look at the current fiasco surrounding Dr Jack Schaap, former pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana. He had sex with a 16 year old girl and the accusations are that she was a slut and she seduced him. You can’t tell me that a 54 year old man can’t resist the charm of a 16 year old young girl, even if she did seduce him. Sadly, in these circles, slut-shaming is the common defence; I believe they tried to do the same to Tina Anderson.
I say that to say this: the common ways that fundamentalists dealt with the rape of people I knew as well as myself were slut-shaming and cover-ups. A lot of us were even disbelieved entirely and were told that we were trying to tear down God’s work and God’s men.
Let’s start with the things I was told every time I tried to get someone in a fundamentalist church to care that I had been raped. I was first told that it was my fault because of what I wear (at the time I was fond of miniskirts and fishnet tights which granted, I would not wear today, but I had just hit the threshold of adulthood and didn’t have a clue). I was also told that I wasn’t raped; it was consensual, for the simple reason that I wore an anklet and I was told that wearing an anklet on that particular ankle was an invitation for me to “do me” and that that is the only reason any woman wears anklets on that ankle. I was even told that if I tried to get the rapist charged and it went to court, when the judge found out about the anklet, I would lose.
I was also told (and so were several others that I know) that because I didn’t “cry out” like the Bible says somewhere in the Old Testament, that meant the sex was consensual and I had committed adultery with a married man and that I was in rebellion. Women scared into silence while being raped made the sex consensual according to these particular pastors. And this is the very reason I cannot respect anybody who says that if a woman has a “legitimate rape” that it won’t end in pregnancy because her body will shut everything down. The ignorance surrounding rape is astounding really, and I’m sure if rape affected mostly men, people would have different attitudes towards it. If men were the main victims of rape, there wouldn’t be any slut-shaming, or any blaming of the victim and rape would be prosecuted more often and people would actually care about how the victim felt.
Both I and another woman I know were told that we weren’t raped, because we were supposed to submit to men, and, both of us being single and not living with our fathers, our authorities were the men in the church. Therefore, for us to not give consent to a man in the church that had “needs” was rebellion, and if we wouldn’t consent to the sex, he was entitled to take it by force because he had “needs” that women were created to fulfil for him. Yes, despite the fact that all these churches preach pre-marital abstinence, we were also told we should have submitted to the men.
So the churches sent double messages regarding pre-marital sex. Although, those of us who were considered “impure” by the church were regarded as sluts and nobody cared if sluts were raped, apparently we were asking for it because we were “easy” (even if we weren’t actually “easy” and that most of what people had heard was good old gossip).
Fundamentalist women who have been raped are often seen as “damaged goods” and so the virgin young men don’t want to date them because they are “impure”. I was actually told by a young man that he would not date me because he had “saved himself” and therefore he felt like he deserved someone who was pure and that God would give him someone pure.
Fundamentalist churches are all about the men. Their women are disposable and therefore every time a man sins, they will try to blame it on a woman. I know this has been the experience for many women, and I just want to clear up any misunderstandings that you might have been fed by certain fundamentalists.
1. Your rape was not your fault.
2. Your rape was not your fault, no matter what you were wearing.
3. Your rape was not your fault, despite what accessories you had on.
4. Your rape was not your fault, despite how many consensual sexual encounters you have had.
5. Your rape was not your fault, even if you had sex before marriage.
6. Your rape was not your fault, even if you were shamed into silence.
7. Your rape was not your fault.
And most importantly: You are beautiful, you are loved, and you are precious in the sight of God.