Being Raped Can Be Fornication
The Watchtower teaches that a rape victim is considered to have committed fornication if they did not scream and do everything possible to resist, based on a single Scripture from Deuteronomy. By far the majority of articles on rape contain the sentiment that if a woman does not do enough to resist she has committed fornication and loses her clean standing with God. In recent years, this attitude has been toned down but continues to persist.
The Watchtower opinion of women and rape in the following articles is terribly disturbing; in particular the parts highlighted in bold. A reader cannot help but wonder what type of brothers wrote these articles and the unnecessary guilt it has placed upon Witness victims of rape.
This attitude is inculcated in Jehovah's Witnesses from a young age. In the online version of My Book of Bible Stories story 20 (18th Jan 2015), discusses the rape of Dinah, asking the question, "Why did Dinah bear a measure of responsibility for losing her virginity?"
My Book of Bible Stories Story 20
What sick mind would indicate a rape victim was responsible for "losing her virginity", let alone include such a concept in a story for children?
Blame for rape rests solely upon the rapist, and Watchtower comments that the victim shoulders responsibility facilitates the rapists rationalisation of their crime.
Both the 2019 and 2010 Elder's handbook, Shepherd the Flock of God, state rape is not porneia, but then says the elders must take into consideration "the circumstances that led up to the incident, and any delay in reporting." This is followed by reference to a 2003 Watchtower article that continues to put blame on women that do not protest enough.
Shepherd the Flock of God (2010) pp.59-60
The following quotes are chronological from 1964 to more recent times.
Watchtower 1964 January 15 pp.63-4 Questions from Readers
According to the Bible at Deuteronomy 22:23-27, an Israelite engaged girl threatened with rape was required to scream. What is the position of a Christian woman today if faced with a similar situation? Is she to scream even if an attacker threatens her life with a weapon?-M. U., United States.
According to God's law an Israelite girl was under obligation to scream: "In case there happened to be a virgin girl engaged to a man, and a man actually found her in the city and lay down with her, you must also bring them both out to the gate of that city and pelt them with stones, and they must die, the girl for the reason that she did not scream in the city, and the man for the reason that he humiliated the wife of his fellow man." If, however, the attack took place in a field and the woman screamed and thus tried to get away from the attacker, she was not to be stoned, since she was overpowered and there was no one to rescue her.-Deut. 22:23-27.
But suppose the man had a weapon and threatened to kill the girl if she failed to lie down with him? These scriptures do not weaken the argument or alter the situation by citing any circumstance that would justify her in not screaming. It plainly says she should scream; hence, oppose the attack regardless of the circumstances. If she was overpowered and perhaps knocked unconscious and violated before help came in answer to her screams, she could not be held accountable. The thought of the scriptures apparently is that the girl's screaming, by attracting neighborhood attention, would frighten off her assailant and would save her, even though he threatened her life for not quietly complying with his wishes and passionate desires.
Such Scriptural precedents are applicable to Christians, who are under command, "Flee from fornication." (1 Cor. 6:18) Thus if a Christian woman does not cry out and does not put forth every effort to flee, she would be viewed as consenting to the violation. The Christian woman who wants to keep clean and obey God's commandments, then, if faced with this situation today, needs to be courageous and to act on the suggestion made by the Scriptures and scream. Actually this counsel is for her welfare; for, if she should submit to the man's passionate wishes, she would not only be consenting to fornication or adultery, but be plagued by the shame. There would be shame, not only from the repulsiveness of the experience, but of having been coerced into breaking God's law by having sex connections with one other than a legal marriage mate. Not only that, but she might become an unwed mother, or she may contract a terrible disease from her morally debased attacker.
It is true that a woman faces the possibility her assailant will carry out his threat; but, then, what guarantee does she have that such a desperate criminal would not kill her after satisfying his passion? In fact, such a one, perhaps already hunted by the law, may be more likely to kill her after the attack, since she would then have had a greater opportunity to identify him and would therefore be in a better position to supply a description of him to the authorities. In such case, following the Scriptural counsel of screaming could well save one's life by attracting attention and driving the attacker away at the outset, instead of causing him to feel that he must get rid of his victim for fear of being identified later.
In most instances it is doubtless a matter of calling the assailant's bluff, since the girl's screams could result in his arrest for attempted rape. Also, if he carried out his threat and committed murder, he would face the likelihood of apprehension and conviction for this even more serious offense. Of course, there is the possibility that instead of fleeing immediately, the attacker may strike his victim or inflict a superficial wound to silence the screams, yet would not the endurance of such physical punishment be insignificant compared to the disgrace and shame of submitting to an immoral man?
A Christian woman is entitled to fight for her virginity or marital fidelity to the death. Just how best she can defend herself against anyone who wants to defile her depends upon her courage and quick wits. At least, as has been mentioned, she should first try to frighten off the would-be rapist by screaming and making as loud and noisy a spectacle of the matter as she possibly can, in order to summon any convenient aid. This being unavailing, then she has a right to defend her virtue by whatever means she can.
The morals of this generation have indeed sunk to an unprecedented low, just as Bible prophecy foretold for these last days. The fact that over 15,000 women a year, about one every half hour, are raped in the United States alone emphasizes this fact. It also serves as a warning to women that they should exercise care so as to avoid dangerous situations. Since women are almost always attacked when they are alone, they should arrange to have a companion along, especially when they are out after dark. And in localities where it is considered dangerous for women even during daylight hours, women should not go out alone but should take along a companion. God's Word says: "If somebody could overpower one alone, two together could make a stand against him. And a threefold cord cannot quickly be torn in two." (Eccl. 4:12) For a Christian woman to persist in going out alone in a city or locality where women are frequently attacked is to invite trouble and needlessly endanger life. It is the part of wisdom to give thought to what could happen in a given situation and then take the necessary precautions. The wise person foresees danger and takes steps to avoid it. "The shrewd one considers his steps."-Prov. 14:15.
Watchtower 1968 June 1 pp.345-50 The Christian's View of Self-Defense
If you are a Christian woman, what should you do if, in spite of all precautions, you are set upon by a rapist? If you cannot deter him by reasoning, or by calling upon the name of Jehovah, then what? As a Christian you are under obligation to resist. This resistance includes screaming and creating as much disturbance as possible to try to frighten off the attacker and attract help. If the attack continues and you cannot break free to flee, then you would be justified even to inflict damage on your assailant if necessary. Resistance is imperative, because the rapist is after, not just money, but your virtue. An issue of integrity to Jehovah's laws is involved here. So by no means would it be proper quietly to submit to rape, as that would be consenting to fornication. -1 Thess. 4:3.
The principle is like that set out at Deuteronomy chapter 22. There it states: "In case there happened to be a virgin girl engaged to a man, and a man actually found her in the city and lay down with her, you must also bring them both out to the gate of that city and pelt them with stones, and they must die." Why would the girl have died under that Law covenant? The scripture continues: "The girl for the reason that she did not scream in the city." If she did not make the effort to scream, she was viewed as consenting to fornication. But if the woman screamed and resisted and nonetheless was overpowered, then she was not guilty of complicity: "The girl . . . screamed, but there was no one to rescue her."-Deut. 22:23-27.
Would it be different if the man had a weapon and threatened to kill you if you did not submit? No, the Scriptures plainly state that Christians are under obligation to "flee from fornication." (1 Cor. 6:18) It is true that you face the possibility of death in this case. But you have no guarantee that if you meekly submit, your assailant will not kill you anyhow to avoid identification.
Christian women are wise if they do all they can to avoid making themselves targets for rapists. Knowing that the morals of this generation are sinking to new lows, take every precaution. In unsafe areas avoid traveling alone after dark. As Ecclesiastes 4:12 states: "If somebody could overpower one alone, two together could make a stand against him. And a threefold cord cannot quickly be torn in two." Also consider how you dress. If a woman adopts the provocative, suggestive styles of dress now so prevalent, she indicates that she is a woman of loose morals, and in so doing she may invite trouble.
Awake! 1974 March 8 pp.13-16 Faced with the Threat of Rape
Scream! Scream! Scream! Is that good advice? It certainly is. Just how good this advice is can be seen from what happened on November 12, 1973, in one of Brooklyn's largest hotels.
Threatened with Rape
The rapist was a well-dressed man. He had the physique of a football player, being well over six feet tall and weighing about 250 pounds. He took the elevator to the tenth floor of the hotel and there began to molest a middle-aged woman tenant, who managed to escape his clutches by screaming. She at once called the police, who came but were unable to locate him in the building, he having fled to lower floors.
On the second floor he saw two fine young women housekeepers who asked him if they could help him. "Yes, you can," he said, and, pulling out a gun, ordered them into one of the rooms, upon which he double-locked the door. He assured them that they would not get hurt so long as they did not make any noise. He said that he needed a place to hide until things cooled off downstairs and that he would keep them there for an hour.
These two young women happened to be Christian ministers and they began to make conversation so as to release the tension. One of them asked him if they could read while they were waiting. He said Yes, and so she took a Bible study aid that was in reach, handed another to the other woman and started a Bible discussion on the subject of how long Noah had preached before the flood came, it being a subject that had come up the day before in her Christian field ministry. She noted that it must have been about forty years, but the man thought it had been about 200 years. From that discussion they went on to such subjects as the name of God, Jehovah, and the kingdom for which Jesus taught his followers to pray. They also told him that they were Christian witnesses of Jehovah and about the high standards of conduct the Witnesses have. The two women were not particularly frightened, for it seemed much like a typical Bible discussion that these girls often had, especially as the man kept expressing his own opinions on these subjects.
But after about forty-five minutes things suddenly took a disquieting turn. He looked at his watch and said that he would have to tie them up so as to give him time to get away. Although they assured him that it was not necessary, he ordered one of them to sit on the floor in a closet, upon which he tied her feet with a necktie, and her hands behind her back. He then turned off the light in the closet and closed the door. He ordered the other into the bathroom but then changed his mind and, warning her not to scream or yell, he reached for the zipper on her blouse. She exclaimed: "No! No! Not that!" and told him that if he touched her she would scream as he had never heard anyone scream before and that if he was going to shoot he might as well go ahead and shoot because if she did not scream she would be as good as dead anyhow.
She told him that marriage was honorable before God and that she was married, but that what he wanted to do was not honorable. Also, that if she did not scream she would ruin her relationship with Jehovah God and the Christian congregation; that then she would be disfellowshiped or excommunicated from it and that this would be worse than being killed as far as she was concerned. He looked puzzled. He did not understand and so asked her to repeat what she had said, which she did, scared and shaking though she was. As she later explained: "The situation sickened me and the mere thought of it all was so disgusting that I knew what I had to do." After all of this he again tried to put his arms around her, upon which she moved away, saying, "Don't you touch me or come near me."
This calls to mind a statement made by the Dallas, Texas, police department, namely, that "a woman's best defenses" are, among other things, "her wits" and "a scream."
Yes, this young woman in the Brooklyn hotel used her wits by courageously using her knowledge of the Bible, thereby diverting the would-be rapist from his evil intent. As a result, he pursued the matter no further with these two women but left after first ordering them not to leave the room for fifteen minutes.
Frustrated a second time, this rapist was not giving up. Coming out into the hallway, he saw another fine young woman and began engaging her in conversation, asking where the elevators were, the nature of the rooms on the floor, and so forth. Suddenly he moved close to her and tried to push her into one of the rooms the door of which was open.
What could she do? He was every bit a foot taller than she was and weighed at least twice as much. She did what the Bible indicates a young woman should do: she screamed, louder than she had ever screamed before. (Deut. 22:23-27) This was wholly unexpected by the rapist. Startled, he ran down the steps at the end of the hallway.
As the three young women told their story at the police station, their hearers, increasing from three to eight men and two policewomen, marveled at what they heard. They could not get over it that two of these young women had talked about the Bible to a would-be rapist. One of the women officers asked for more information about the beliefs of Jehovah's witnesses and stated that if more women took such a determined and firm stand there would be fewer such crimes.
Why the Increase?
The foregoing experience in a Brooklyn hotel last November is but one instance of this social crime that is increasing on every hand. And that increase is very real. As the editor of America's Campus Law Enforcement Journal said about this increase: "It's not just a question of more women reporting it. It has happened."
No doubt one of the main reasons for rapes has ever been the extreme selfishness of men who refuse to control their mating instinct. As Dr. Ralph Garofalo, of Massachusetts' Center for Diagnosis and Treatment of Sexually Dangerous Persons, put it: 'Normal men find a socially acceptable outlet for their desires, while the rapist loses sight of all moral or legal considerations.' But why the great increase of rape in modern times and in recent years?
Discussing the reasons, a Seattle, Washington, police official in charge of the city's sex-crime investigation department stated: "Our whole moral climate, our attitudes toward sex and the dress of the women have to be causes." He also stated that the 'increased exposure to pornography has contributed to the rise in reported rapes.'
Womankind must share the blame. To begin with, until the age of five or six years, the most vital period, little boys have their personalities molded largely by women, their mothers. And as they grow up, it is usually the mother that has the most opportunities to inculcate in her son respect for womankind, both by word and by example. But far too many mothers have come short in this regard. Especially and specifically blameworthy are those female relatives, such as an aunt or even a mother, who have used boys as sexual playthings, thereby starting them on a road that leads to their having aggressive feelings toward women.
A new American motion picture star who aims to occupy the place once held by America's previous sex symbol brags about her charms and about her ability to arouse men by displaying herself in motion pictures. Such actresses must also share in the blame for the increase in rapes, for after men have seen them on the screen they frequently go out and attack a woman who may be a paragon of virtue. ...
The New York Times, November 26, 1973, told of two fifteen-year-old girls being forced, shortly after midnight, into a store by an employee of the store who kept them for four hours and repeatedly raped one of them until the police came and rescued the girls and arrested the kidnapper and rapist. But what business did two teen-age girls have on the streets around midnight?
And never should a single woman, or even two, for that matter, take a chance on hitchhiking with a strange man. Many have done so, to be not only raped, but even murdered.
Further, in view of the way that many men think, each virtuous woman should be careful to dress modestly. According to the Seattle, Washington, police lieutenant in charge of the department dealing with such crimes, women who "reveal everything" in the way they dress make themselves more vulnerable to rape. "You can't advertise a commodity and expect no buyers . . . A little modesty," he holds, would prevent some rapes.
Watchtower 1980 October 15 p.7 Avoiding the Tragedy of Rape
Back in March 1974, Awake! magazine described how a man with a gun had held two of Jehovah's Witnesses prisoner in a hotel room. As he reached for the zipper on one girl's blouse, she exclaimed: "No! No! Not that!" She told him that if he touched her she would scream as he had never heard anyone scream before. She explained that if she did not she would ruin her relationship with Jehovah God and the Christian congregation. (Compare Deuteronomy 22:22-29.) Her firm demand: "Don't you touch me or come near me" kept the rapist at bay.
This woman did the Scripturally proper thing, which actually is the best thing to do. A Christian woman is under obligation to resist, for the issue of obedience to God's law to "flee from fornication" is involved. (1 Cor. 6:18) By no means would it be proper for her willingly to submit to being raped.
Awake! 1980 July 8 pp.5-6 The Growing Terror of Rape
How Most Victims React
Understandably, a woman faced with the threat of rape may be terrified. In fact, two Boston College professors, after interviews with 80 rape victims, noted: "The primary reaction of almost all women to the rape was fear." And the problem is that such fear can be paralyzing.
The illustration was given by a rape victim: "Did you ever see a rabbit stuck in the glare of your headlights when you were going down a road at night? Transfixed-like it knew it was going to get it-that's what happened."
Often coupled with the fear is confusion and uncertainty. For example, a 19-year-old explained: "I never physically fought him off in any way, partly because I was frightened, mostly because in my navet I thought a girl has to do what she's told. . . . I was overwhelmingly confused and defenseless against the whole suddenness."
She reacted as many others have under similar circumstances. She submitted. Few are prepared to resist-to resist for all they are worth. Elizabeth R. Dobell, writing in the magazine Seventeen, made the surprising revelation: "In only one of the 4,057 rape cases reported in New York City in 1974 was there an act of resistance. . . . Profound terror in the face of physical threats simply renders most women helpless."
Watchtower 1983 March 15 pp.30-1 Honor Godly Marriage!
What do we understand here by "fornication"? The Greek word in this text is porneia. ... A male or a female who is forcibly raped would not be guilty of porneia.
Awake! 1984 February 22 pp.24-7 They Resisted Rapists
GENERALLY rapists try to get a woman in some isolated place where people are not around. At times they have a weapon and threaten to use it if the victim does not cooperate. Should a Christian quietly submit?
No, the situation is not the same as when a man simply is asking for money or other material possessions. A woman wisely would give him these. But the rapist is asking a person to break God's law by committing fornication. Under such circumstances a Christian is obligated to resist. -1 Corinthians 6:18.
'But could not resistance be dangerous?' someone may ask. Yes, it could be. Yet it may well be more dangerous not to resist, as a teacher of rape self-defense notes: "He just may kill you when he's done so you can't identify him later."
The comments of a leading spokeswoman on rape are noteworthy. She said: "Despite the popular myths of male violence and the alleged safety in submission, it has never been demonstrated that resistance on the part of a rape victim in an attempt to escape 'provokes' an assailant to commit an act of murder." The following experience illustrates this.
Two young women were in a Laundromat when a man came in and at gunpoint herded them into a room in the rear of the building. He ordered them to undress. They refused, praying aloud to Jehovah God for help. Finally, they told the now-confused gunman that they were Jehovah's Witnesses and that it was against their religious belief to do what he was demanding; they would not do it even if he shot them. Result? The frustrated gunman fled.
Treat Him Respectfully
The intended victim should remember that the rapist is a human. No doubt there are circumstances in his life that have precipitated his behavior. So although a woman should not cower in fear and permit a rapist to intimidate her, at the same time she should treat him understandingly, as a fellow human. A woman who lived in a housing project in New York City writes:
"I usually am careful when going into elevators. As usual, I checked this one out before entering, and all was OK. However, just before the door closed completely, a big man grabbed the door and opened it to come into the elevator with me. As he entered he threw a six-pack of beer at me, and I caught it. It took me by surprise.
"As the door closed he turned his back to me to do something with his pants. Then he turned around and faced me. I didn't look down at his pants but looked him in the eyes. I threw his six-pack of beer back to him, and said, 'Here is your beer.'
"At this moment, before he could do anything, I started to talk. I said I was one of Jehovah's Witnesses and was going up to the 13th floor to have a Bible study with a family who was waiting for me. I just kept talking and told him about our Bible educational work. We were half way up to the 13th floor by now, and as I kept right on talking I showed no fear, looking him straight in the eyes. Then a funny thing happened. He began to say that he loved the Bible and that he was from the South and his family loved God too.
"Meanwhile, we had reached the 13th floor, and he opened the door to let me out. He asked me if I would do him the honor of shaking his hand. I did, and he practically shook it off. Then he said he wanted to thank me because I was the first white woman that hadn't looked at him with scorn in her eyes, and that I was sincere in talking with him. He then said good-bye and wished me good luck on my Bible study."
Resisting in One's Home
Rapes that occur in one's own home can be particularly traumatic, since the surroundings are a constant reminder of the event. How much better, therefore, for one to resist! A mother who was able to avoid being raped in her home in Detroit, Michigan, tells how she did it.
"It was 5:30 a.m. when I was awakened by the sound of footsteps. At first I was unsure from which direction they were coming. I looked at my watch and saw that it was too early for my oldest daughter to be getting ready for school. My husband is a traveling musician and was away. I had been asleep downstairs. Since I knew no one was upstairs, I decided the sounds were coming from the front porch. So I turned on the porch light. Immediately I heard footsteps run down the stairs, and when I turned, there stood a strange man.
"Because the man had his hand inside his coat, as if he had a gun, I said, 'If you are going to kill me, do it.' He said he had a gun and would shoot me if I did not do everything he commanded. He told me to turn off all the lights and sit on the couch. I turned off the lights but refused to sit on the couch. He said he would kill me if I did not let him rape me. Then he started pushing me to the couch, so I quoted Matthew 16:26, which says: 'For what benefit will it be to a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul? or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?'
"The man stopped pushing me and asked what the scripture meant. So I explained that if I resisted him and remained faithful to my God and my husband, and was killed for this faithfulness, I would have a hope of being resurrected to a Paradise earth and everlasting life. But if I gave in and he raped me, I would eventually die and have no hope of a resurrection.
"The intruder knew he was not going to talk me into letting him rape me, so he started pulling at my clothing. I remembered the scripture at Deuteronomy chapter 22 that says if you are attacked in the city and do not scream it is considered the same as consenting. I then said very loudly, 'Stop! Please! No! Don't do that! Mister, please leave my house!'
Awake! 1984 June 8 p.28 From Our Readers
I was deeply disturbed by the article "They Resisted Rapists." I am very upset that anyone would even consider a victim of rape guilty of fornication. The scripture at Deuteronomy that you quote only requires that the woman scream, not fight to the death! C. W., Indiana
Your article "They Resisted Rapists" disturbed me very much. I was raped by a man who attacked me with a knife. I could only scream once because of being choked and having a large hand pressed against my mouth. I fought until I was unconscious. Because I survived, it disturbs me that it is fornication on my part. You say to show a rapist respect. These men show no respect for their victim. They don't care that they are shattering a woman, leaving in her memory horror for the rest of her life. Unless you have personally experienced the horror of this crime, you can never truly understand. A. G., Massachusetts
For the victim to be considered guilty of fornication there would need to be proof of willing consent. Apparently the requirement of Deuteronomy 22:25-27 for the woman to resist by screaming would clear her from any suspicion of such consent on her part.
Awake! 1986 May 22 p.23 "Now You Are Going to Die!"
Why you should resist an attacker from the first moment:
1. Attacker may be startled and leave you
2. You may incapacitate attacker and be able to flee
3. Attacker may lose sexual urge or tire out and retreat
4. You can attract others to assist you
5. Your conscience will be clear. (Even if you are raped, you will not sacrifice your self-respect or cleanness before God)
6. Injuries you inflict on an attacker will help police identify him later (for example, bits of his skin under your fingernails)
Awake! 1986 September 22 p.28 From Our Readers
Thank you for your article "Now You Are Going to Die!" (May 22, 1986) I might note some concerns about the advice given, however. Some rapists are very angry and sadistic in their approach and come armed with weapons and the intent to use them if there is the least provocation. Our Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault suggests resistance, but if the woman is paralyzed by fear or her instincts tell her not to resist, we recognize that as appropriate . We would rather have someone live through the experience than be killed or seriously mutilated. P. R., United States
The Bible does support the thought that a woman attacked by a rapist should scream and resist. True, the woman has to respond according to her assessment of the danger to her life, and we believe that is covered in the advice given in the box on page 23 (May 22, 1986). It should be kept in mind that submitting to rape gives no guarantee that the victim will not be beaten or killed afterward. See the article "They Resisted Rapists" in our issue of February 22, 1984.-ED.
Awake! 1989 August 22 p.24 RapeProtected by What She Read
WHAT should you do if confronted by a rapist? There is conflicting advice. Some claim that resistance only goads on an attacker, yet the Bible indicates a woman should resist. (Deuteronomy 22:23-27) What is the best advice?
A new study published in the January issue of The American Journal of Public Health suggests resistance. The article says: "The empirical research converges to support one important conclusion: resistance reduces the probability of an assault being completed." What happened last September to a woman in Japan illustrates this. She had just returned late at night to her home, where she lives alone. She explains:
"A rapist came into my house and locked the door. Because of being taken by surprise and being so terrified, I completely froze. The man tried to pull me into the bedroom, but I grabbed a pillar and resisted him.
"It was then that I remembered the scripture in Deuteronomy chapter 22. It says that if a woman does not cry out when attacked, it indicates she is submitting to the man and is committing a sin against Jehovah. Also, I remembered what I read in the Awake! article 'RapeHow Can You Protect Yourself?'October 8, 1980, Japanese edition; July 8, 1980, English edition.
"Anyway, I thought: 'I have got to scream and resist him for all I'm worth.' So I shouted: 'Jehovah, help me!' over and over again and kept it up. When the rapist pulled my hands to the right, I pulled to the left. When he pulled me forward, I pulled back, and when he covered my mouth to try to stop me from screaming, I bit him. At any rate, I kept on resisting him.
"Gradually I got tired. It was getting difficult for me to breathe, and I thought my heart was going to stop, but I continued to do all I could to resist him and kept on calling out to Jehovah to help me. As a result, the rapist gave up, walked hurriedly to the door, and went out.
"I believe that I was able to avoid being raped because of Jehovah's help and because of applying what I had read in Awake! Had I not read the Awake! article, I think that out of fear I would have kept quiet and most likely done just as the criminal said. Thank you very, very much."
Awake! 1993 March 8 pp.4-5 The Reality of Rape
Rape myths create a false sense of security. In other words, if you can find some fault in the victim's behavior-she dressed in tight clothing or she went out alone at night or she really wanted to have sexual relations-you or your loved ones will be safe if that conduct is avoided; therefore you will never be raped. The alternative, that rape is a senseless act of violence that can happen to anybody, regardless of how she is dressed, is too terrifying to accept.
One woman, raped by someone she thought of as "nice, respectable," pleads: "The worst possible thing you can do is believe it won't happen to you."
Rape Myths and Realities
The following are some of the long-held misconceptions about rape that serve to blame the victim and to perpetuate attitudes that encourage the perpetrators:
Myth: Rape happens only when a woman is attacked by a stranger.
Fact: The majority of women who are raped are assaulted by someone they know and had trusted. One study found that 84 percent of victims knew their attackers and that 57 percent of the rapes happened on dates. One out of 7 married women will be raped by her own husband. Rapes are violent and emotionally traumatic whether the attacker is a stranger, a spouse, or a date.
Myth: It's rape only if a woman afterward shows evidence of resistance, such as bruises.
Fact: Whether they physically resisted or not, few women show visible evidence, such as bruises or cuts.
Myth: A rape victim bears part of the blame unless she actively resists.
Fact: Rape by definition takes place when force or the threat of force is used to gain sexual penetration, of any kind whatsoever, against a person's will. It is the rapist's use of force against an unwilling victim that makes him a rapist. Thus, a rape victim is not guilty of fornication. Like an incest victim, she may be forced to submit to an act she doesn't want because of the perceived power held over her by another person. When a woman is forced to submit to a rapist out of terror or disorientation, it does not mean that she consents to the act. Consent is based on choice without threat and is active, not passive.
Myth: Rape is an act of passion.
Fact: Rape is an act of violence. Men rape, not solely for sex, but to feel power over another person.
Myth: A woman can tease or lead a man on to the point that he can no longer control his sexual urges.
Fact: Men who rape do not have a stronger sex drive than other men have. Rather, one third of all rapists were unable to complete the sex act. In most cases rapes are planned acts, not spontaneous urges. Both stranger and acquaintance rapists usually set up their victims-the stranger by stalking the victim until she is alone, the acquaintance by arranging a situation where she is isolated.
Myth: Women lie about rape to get revenge on a man or because they feel guilty about having sex.
Fact: False reports of rape occur at the same rate as for any other violent crime: 2 percent. On the other hand, researchers agree that rape is grossly underreported.
Myth: A woman can "ask" to be raped by wearing provocative clothing, drinking alcohol, letting a man pay her way, or going to his home.
Fact: Using bad judgment, being naive or ignorant, does not mean that a woman deserves to be raped. Rapists bear sole responsibility for the rape.
Watchtower 2003 February 1 pp.30-31 Questions From Readers
Why does the Bible say that a person should scream if threatened with rape?
Anyone who has not personally experienced the horror of being brutally assaulted by a rapist can never truly understand how it can shatter one's life. The experience is so terrifying for the victim that it may trouble her for the rest of her life.* A young Christian woman who was attacked by a rapist some years ago relates: "Words cannot express the sheer terror I felt that night or the trauma I've had to overcome since." Understandably, many prefer not even to think about this frightening subject. Yet, the threat of rape is a reality in this wicked world.
The Bible does not shy from recounting some cases of rape and attempted rape that occurred in the past. (Genesis 19:4-11; 34:1-7; 2 Samuel 13:1-14) But it also offers counsel on what one should do when threatened with rape. What the Law says on the matter is found at Deuteronomy 22:23-27. This covers two situations. In the first case, a man found a young woman in a city and lay down with her. Even so, the woman did not scream or cry for help. Consequently, it was determined that she was guilty "for the reason that she did not scream in the city." If she had cried out, people nearby might have been able to come to her rescue. In the second instance, a man found a young woman in the countryside, where he "grabbed hold of her and lay down with her." In defense, the woman "screamed, but there was no one to rescue her." Unlike the woman in the first instance, this woman clearly did not give in to the actions of the attacker. She actively resisted him, crying for help, but she was overpowered. Her screaming proved that she was an unwilling victim; she was not guilty of wrongdoing.
Although Christians today are not under the Mosaic Law, the principles mentioned therein provide them with guidance. The above account underscores the importance of resisting and screaming for help. Screaming when threatened with rape is still viewed as a practical course. One expert on crime prevention stated: "If a woman is attacked, her best weapon is still her lungs." A woman's screaming may attract others, who can then assist her, or it may startle an attacker and make him leave. A young Christian woman who was attacked by a rapist stated: "I screamed with all my might, and he backed off. When he came toward me again, I screamed and ran. In the past I had often thought, 'How can screaming help me when some big man grabs me with only one thing on his mind?' But I've learned that it works!"
Even in the sad case where a woman is overpowered and raped, her struggle and screaming for help is not in vain. On the contrary, it establishes that she did all she possibly could to resist her attacker. (Deuteronomy 22:26) Despite going through this ordeal, she can still have an undefiled conscience, self-respect, and the assurance that she is clean in God's eyes. The horrifying experience might leave her with emotional wounds, but knowing that she did all she could to resist the attack will greatly contribute to her gradual healing.
In understanding the application of Deuteronomy 22:23-27, we must realize that this brief account does not cover all possible situations. For example, it does not comment on the situation where the attacked woman cannot scream because she is mute, unconscious, or paralyzed with fear or is forcibly prevented from screaming by a hand or tape over her mouth. However, since Jehovah is able to weigh all factors, including motives, he deals with understanding and justice in such cases, for "all his ways are justice." (Deuteronomy 32:4) He is aware of what actually took place and of the efforts the victim put forth to fight off her attacker. Therefore, a victim who was unable to scream but otherwise did all she could under the circumstances can leave matters in Jehovah's hands. Psalm 55:22; 1 Peter 5:7.
Even so, some Christian women who have been attacked and violated are incessantly pained by feelings of guilt. In hindsight, they feel that they should have done more to prevent the incident from happening. However, instead of blaming themselves, such victims can pray to Jehovah, ask for his help, and have confidence in his abundant loving-kindness.Exodus 34:6; Psalm 86:5.
Hence, Christian women who are presently coping with emotional wounds resulting from an encounter with a rapist can be confident that Jehovah fully understands the painful feelings they are dealing with. God's Word assures them: "Jehovah is near to those that are broken at heart; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves." (Psalm 34:18) Further help to cope with their trauma can come from accepting the sincere understanding and gentle support of fellow believers in the Christian congregation. (Job 29:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:14) Moreover, the victims' own efforts to concentrate on positive thoughts will help them to experience "the peace of God that excels all thought."Philippians 4:6-9.
[*Footnote] Although this article speaks about female victims, the principles discussed also apply to males who are threatened with rape.