Over the past couple of weeks, social media lit up with hashtags and comments by mostly women sharing that they too had been on the receiving end of sexual harassment.
It was no surprise to me that so many women had experienced sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment can be emotionally, mentally, and spiritually draining. The harassment might be physical, but it affects a person’s sense of well-being; especially if they keep their experience to themselves. Imagine carrying shame, embarrassment, and sometimes confusion on your own; it eventually becomes a mental burden.
One would think the church would be a safe place to seek help and share experiences, but sometimes it’s not. The bible, the very book that is used by Christians as a guidebook for godly living, is filled with horrific stories of the physical abuse and oppression of women, sometimes at the hands of godly men. Hello King David, I’m talking about you!
In the Hebrew scriptures, the stories of revenge against rapists is more about protecting the family name and their female property rather than respecting the woman herself.
In Genesis 34 Dinah’s rape was avenged by her brothers who killed all the men of Shechem and pillaged the village of items including women. On the surface this might seem like a victorious story, but it’s not. The women who were captured certainly didn’t need to be taken by men as a revenge prize. The capture of these women are equally as appalling as the rape of Dinah. In both cases women were violated. These women were seen as nothing more than possessions to be had by any means without any thought about how they might feel.
The story of the Levite’s Concubine can be found in Judges 19-21. It is a repulsive story of a traveling husband who offers his wife to a group of strangers to be gang raped. After being assaulted all night she manages to make it to the doorstep where she likely died. In the morning her husband finds her unresponsive and places her on donkey. Once at home he dismembers her body into twelve pieces and sends her body to different territories of Israel. There was no mention of a memorial, funeral, or burial. All we are left with is another story of a man who is angry that his property has been violated is no longer of any use to him.
As a person who has read through the entire bible, I have no memory of any verses and stories about sexual harassment against women that would be inspiring to a victim.
The bible clearly tells us that God is our rock, our strength, our protector; but I certainly wouldn’t encourage women to turn to the bible for any heroes or heroines of assault. A woman’s body belongs to her, not to her parents, nor her husband. Scripture will not inform you of this.
So… all this to say: When dealing with sexual harassment and sexual assault, don’t look for inspiration in texts of terror (as feminist theologian Phyllis Trible would call them). Instead, seek out verses that strengthen you, ones that remind of God’s love for you, those verses that remind you that while God did not stop bad things from happening to you, he is still with you. You are still his beloved daughter, you are not damaged goods. His love, mercy, and grace will bring healing to your life and your body.