The biblical mandate to fight rape

February 29th, 2016

In 1944, Mrs. Recy Taylor was walking home from church with some friends in Abbeville, Ala., when she was abducted by Army Private Herbert Lovett and six other men. They took her to a secluded area in Abbeville and gang-raped her. After threatening her life, they left Mrs. Taylor in the woods to find her way back home.

Mrs. Taylor, who is still alive at about 96 years old, was 24 at the time. She was a wife and mother. But because she was a black woman in Jim Crow Alabama, she never had the benefit of seeing justice served to the white men who raped her.

"Wasn't nothing done about it," Taylor, now 91, told The Root in a 2011 interview. "The sheriff never even said he was sorry it happened. I think more people should know about it … but ain't nobody [in Abbeville] saying nothing."

Her rapists were never prosecuted. And it was 71 years before any state entity addressed this travesty by apologizing to Mrs. Taylor.

Sadly, the heinous, ruthlessness of rape is not a modern phenomenon, nor does it target only one race. Judges 19 tells the story of the gang-rape and murder of a woman that is so brutal, it would get an R-rating if Hollywood made it into a movie. To make sure that readers wouldn’t miss the point, verse 30 says this in the New King James Version: “No such deed has been done or seen from the day that the children of Israel came up from the land of Egypt until this day.”

And then it closes with this mandate for the children of Israel — and I would argue for those of us who claim to be the body of Christ today: “Consider it, confer, and speak up.”

Consider it — acknowledge the reality of these atrocities. Stop being deniers and excuse-makers. Stop ignoring troubling statistics such as these:

  • Approximately 1 out of every 6 women in our nation has either been raped or had a rape attempted against her.
  • Girls under 12-years-old constitute 15 percent of rape and sexual assault victims.
  • Females between the ages of 12 and 34 are more likely to be raped than any other age group.
  • Females 16-to-19 years old are 4 times more likely to be raped, have a rape attempted against them, or to be sexual assaulted than the general population.

Confer  start having discussions in our families, churches and communities about rape and sexual assault. We should make sure that survivors find their voice and can speak their truth. We should also make sure our young people are quite clear about what does and doesn’t constitute consent — and that they always have the right to say “no,” and to report it if someone doesn’t honor their wishes.

Speak up  we must become the voices of those survivors who won’t or can’t speak up. We must become their allies, crying out for justice and doing everything in our power to curb the prevalence of rapes and sexual assaults.

The men in Judges 19 devalued the women in the story. They treated them as nothing more than commodities to be bartered.

We who claim a belief in Christ today know better. So where we have devalued women, or allowed them to be devalued, we must repent. Where we have allowed a national culture of rape to go unchallenged, we must stop and begin to fight it.

Judges 19 spells out the evil and its solution. We have no excuse. 

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