Rape Culture + The Church: What is Rape?

I remember reading an article recently about a woman who was raped and murdered while jogging in a park. Instead of people acknowledging this horrible act for what it is, they began making insensitive comments such as, “what did she expect?” because she was wearing running shorts and a sports bra.

More recently, I’ve heard some pretty disturbing statements regarding women that have made me not only cringe, but has made me feel concerned for our future.

As I sit here, thinking about the young girls I work with, it bothers me that they’re growing up in a society that coddles men for their inappropriate actions by saying things like, “boys will be boys” and “they just can’t control themselves” while in the same breath, shaming women for their appearance. Girls are accused of dressing too immodestly, thus implying that if someone decides that have the right to their body, they are enabled to. When finally mustering up the courage to admit they’ve been assaulted, they are immediately shamed and their past experiences are brought to the forefront of the case as if their past actions somehow justify being violated in one of the worst ways. These misconceptions and this issue has led me to want to provide some additional insight on rape, rape culture, what contributes to it, and why this should not just be a societal problem, but a church problem.

First, allow me to provide a little background on rape and rape culture.

Well what is rape?

Rape is a violent, dehumanizing act where the assailant forces themselves upon the victim without their consent. While there is some argument regarding what consent actually is, the clearest way I can put it is if she/he says yes, that’s consent. If someone says no or cannot verbally consent to the act, it’s assault. If you have to coerce the individual into doing the act by threatening them or their loved ones, or limiting their ability to escape, it is rape. It is unwanted, dehumanizing and objectifying.

No, it’s not because of what she wore

The victim is typically questioned about why she wore what she wore or went where she went while the assailant never gets asked, “why did you do it?” It becomes assumed that because he’s a man, he simply could not control himself because it was 96 degrees outside and she decided she wanted to wear shorts that day.

She is questioned regarding her intimate past, demeaned for not saying “no” loud enough or having the strength to fight back, while the individual who assaulted her is given a slap on the wrist for his acts.

While personally, I try to dress modestly because of convictions that I have, I cannot stress enough that dressing modestly does not prevent anyone from getting raped. Dressing immodestly does not make anyone more susceptible to getting raped. I’m sure that, unfortunately, many women can attest to being assaulted or harassed in puffy jackets and sweatpants in the winter.

There are more things than you realize that perpetuate rape culture and what someone is wearing isn’t one of them.

You know what perpetuates rape culture?

Pornography (post from a former addict discussing it’s harmful effects), where women are objectified for the pleasure of the viewer, and a culture that perpetuates the fact that someone could do such a heinous thing and get 3 months in prison for it.

The normalization of the act through inappropriate films and hard core videos that falsely portray it as something that’s enjoyable – despite the fact that even in these films many of them women are coerced, trafficked, forced, and threatened into these scenes that they do not enjoy.

Objectifying women through images, film, and songs, gloating about how many girls they have and labeling using them derogatory words while fetishizing cultures and ethnicities.

People that go around inappropriately grabbing women all in the name of “practical jokes.”

Making jokes, attempting to normalize the word  by making comments about how, “they got raped” in League of Legends or NBA 2K16.

Social cultures that promote one-sided modesty, implying that women should dress modestly only to keep a man from sinning, rather than encouraging it as a conviction from the Holy Spirit and an expression of our love and reverence for God.  

You know what keeps women from feeling safe enough to open up about when these things happen to them?

Individuals that would rather demonize them for their choice of clothing rather than acknowledge the act being wrong.

Getting a rape-kit done, which is also traumatizing to many women after being assaulted, only for the kit to remain untested.

Hearing their friends, loved ones, and peers make jokes about assault as if it’s trivial and isn’t something that completely changes someone’s life, forever.

Hearing of cases where victims went to get help only to have their entire past brought to the forefront as supposed justification for what happened to them.

The list sadly goes on.


Rape is about power and a false-sense of entitlement

Contrary to belief, rape is rarely, if-ever about (s) interest. It’s about power. While in some cases, there may be some attraction, the act itself is about power. The attraction is not the cause for it. Think about it. When assault happens, despite the victim’s inebriated state and/or requests to stop, the assailant does not. They ignore the pleads, the ignore their stiffness and not because they simply can’t control themselves as some people like to assume. In this act, they are demanding and asserting power through the assumption that they are entitled to take what they want.

Another example of this is a woman who got cat-called as they’re on their way to their destination, ignores the man trying to get her attention, so he takes it upon himself to not only verbally degrade her, but attempt to grab her or attack her. In this example, it’s about power. His ego has been bruised because she’s declined his offer, so he feels the need to redeem his “manhood” by degrading her.  This is beyond attraction and goes deeper into taking something that does not belong to you because you feel entitled to it.

This has nothing to do with the male being so attracted that he could not control himself.

Rape is a violent act – not an act based on uncontrollable attraction. It’s the deliberate degradation and violation of another person.

Inappropriate images and videos tend to perpetuate this because it’s been scientifically reported that viewing these things change your brain. After a while, you begin to view women as objects rather than actually people, so you begin to feel entitled to certain things or certain actions because that’s what viewing these things has been teaching your brain. That it’s about you and your needs – forget everyone else.

“Boys will be boys” perpetuates the culture

Something you often hear in response to a young boy hitting a girl on the arm is, “it’s because he likes you.” While there may be some truth to that, it’s our responsibility to make sure that we’re teaching them that this behavior is not acceptable or appropriate rather than sheepishly giggling about how, “he’s such a boy.”

I remember during my time tutoring at a previous school, I would see teenage boys hitting girls on the arm, back, and stomach whenever they were annoyed with them. In response, the girls would laugh, acknowledging that it hurt, but smiling and accepting these hits as if it were normal. I would often tell them both that this is not what a healthy relationship looks like, but they would assure me they were “just playing” and that it was normal.

Where do you think that behavior and belief came from?

These boys grow into men, maintaining the same belief that hitting a woman is acceptable.  

While I know it’s not intentional, what this teaches boys is that they can do practically whatever they want to, because they’re a boy and that’s how they are. When we respond to them hitting a girl on an arm, grinning and uttering this statement, we are teaching these boys that not only is it okay to hit girls, but that when you do, it’s because you’re a boy, so it’s normal. This also teaches those young girls who are getting hit that this is normal behavior. This normalizes inappropriate and harmful behavior that will further encourage bad decisions in the future.

In the next posts in this series, I am going to discuss what God has to say about biblically about rape and what I believe the church’s role should be in this. This is a topic that is especially close to my heart as I feel it’s such an issue in our world and I believe it grieves God’s heart. 

Just as a disclaimer, I acknowledge that women are not the only ones who are assaulted in this way. However, in this post I am going to discuss this from a female perspective, only because I unfortunately know very little about the experience of men who are assaulted. I grieve with them and I am incredibly angry at these injustices that occur to both men and women, but at this time I do not feel qualified to speak on it. However, I will later include references to great posts regarding rape culture in regards to men.

5 thoughts on “Rape Culture + The Church: What is Rape?

  1. Thank you for writing about this, this needs to be heard. I’m passionate about discussing rape culture as well.

    1. Thank you for reading and responding! I agree! It’s definitely a topic that needs to be discussed more as many people have unfortunately been victims of either rape or rape culture (street harassment, etc). I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this as well!

      1. anytime 🙂 Definitely I’ll be doing a spiritual series soon and try to be as inclusive as I can on topics that affect us all in some way 🙂

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