The Verdict is in.

This first appeared three days ago on the OCN Soundings Blog. I’m reposting here because I think it’s important and because some people couldn’t access the Soundings site:

The two young men who were accused of raping an unconscious 16 year old woman during an August party in SteubenvilleOhio have been found guilty.

There are a lot of things wrong with the entire shameful episode. The rape charges, the trial and the conviction barely even scratch the surface. What stands out for me is how so many of us insist on blaming the young woman for what happened, because she was drunk.

We are all broken. Sometimes, even those of us who are devout and good Orthodox get drunk. Sometimes some of get so drunk we pass out. Some of us struggle with alcoholism, and still try to find our way to God. Who are we to blame her because she drank too much? Who are we to blame her for acts which she couldn’t consent to, or prevent because of her drunken stupor?


Can we stop and think about this for just a moment? Sex was given to us by God as a way of affirming the loving bond between a man and a woman who were united in marriage. It’s a way of expressing not only the love they feel for each other, but the love that God feels for them, for the good and holy thing their union has made – a family. It’s a physical expression of the icon of Christ that their marriage is.

Who taught these young men who raped her and the people who filmed her, tweeted about her and stood by while she was so abused that a woman was simply a thing to use for their momentary pleasure – that the physical release and humorous titillation they got from what happened is so much more important than another living, breathing and feeling human being? Who taught them that it was okay to pleasure themselves with her body, when she was as weak and helpless as it is possible for a person to be?

We teach our daughters ways to avoid or reduce the chances of being raped or assaulted. This is sensible, this is good, and as parents we need to do this, because we live in a dangerous world, a world in which people hurt others, especially the weak and powerless.


I wonder something about those young men and the boys who filmed and tweeted about the abuse she suffered. How many of them showed up in church the next day without a single twinge of guilt or shame over what they had done and what they said about her? How many of those turned up at one of the three Orthodox churches in the city?

What about teaching our boys and young men, too? Teach them that rape is wrong, and that it’s wrong to blame the woman for it, no matter how drunk, how promiscuous and how broken she is. That to treat someone like this debases not just the victim, but deadens the soul of the perpetrator. Teach our boys that knowing a woman sexually, even in marriage, has to be a loving, consensual and holy act that affirms God and the Holy Spirit.

We have to teach our sons that every single woman is a human being, not an object to use for lust, derision and humiliation. Teach our boys and young men that women are equal to them before God and before the law and before each and every other person. Not better, not worse. Not greater or lesser, not more moral or purer than men. Equal. Equal in our brokeness, equal in our capacity to love, honour and follow God. Equally human, equally fragile, equally strong.


Women are not degraded and less than human simply because they’re women. We need to teach our boys that just because a woman, whether old or young, weak and confused, hurt and broken, puts herself in a vulnerable position, that does not entitle anyone to abuse her, humiliate her and then blame her for their actions. It’s not a reason to treat her as anything other than the icon of Christ that she is.

That’s true whether she is your best friend’s sister, and stands beside you in choir, or someone who is so totally secular she thinks sex is like shaking hands, and Saturday night’s party is not a success unless you can’t remember what you did. It doesn’t matter if she’s not Orthodox or even Christian. Her soul and her body, regardless of what she does to it, were given to her by God, and because she is loved and wanted by God, no matter how she denies or rejects it, she is therefore an icon of Him in the world.

Those men and those bystanders didn’t just rape and humiliate and degrade a young woman. They raped and humiliated and degraded Christ. And as long as we don’t teach, preach and live as if Christ is in every other single human being, so did we.



The Next Big Thing

It’s been another long while since I’ve posted, and I actually have something about my own writing to talk about today. You see, I’m participating in something called a “blog hop” that my writer friend, Katherine Bolger Hyde invited me on. Thank you Kate! Here, I talk about my writing and then I point you at other writers, who are also talking about their “next big thing”. Go off and read theirs after you’ve read mine and see if you’re interested in what we all have coming up.

1: What is the working title of your book(s)?

The Laughter Thief. Which will hopefully change when it comes out, because I don’t like it, but haven’t yet thought up a better title.

2: Where did the idea come from for the book?

It was a fund raiser for our church. We had a silent auction. I offered to write a story featuring one of the kids of the parish as the main character. This is the result.

3: What genre does your book come under?

As closely as I can pin any of my work down, it’s an updated fairy tale. Baba Yaga has always fascinated me, and I love the idea of the modern day world connecting to the traditional fantasy/fairy tale stories, so I took a traditional character from a set of fairy tales and put her into the book. I also played a bit with the fact that Baba Yaga comes from an Orthodox culture and tried to tease that element of the story out a bit more.

4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

mhamilton baba yaga

Margaret Hamilton for Baba Yaga, but without the green makeup and with more warts and flyaway white hair.


For Sage? No clue. She’s based on a real person, so that’s who I think of when I think of the character.

And Teghin? Judy Holiday – a brilliantly intelligent 1950s actress who did “dumb blond” perfectly.judy holiday

5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Modern Orthodox girl meets ancient evil witch on her own turf. Look out Baba Yaga.

 6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?

It’s at a traditional, royalty paying publisher’s now, waiting for the editorial board to meet. I should hear soon.

 7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I started it in August of 2012 and finished it by December – the little girl who is the main character received a good copy of the manuscript for Christmas.

 8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I don’t really know – it sort of fits into the general “magic in the normal world” genre, but the religion in it is overt, and the characters do travel to another land. Sage is a faithful Orthodox child but I haven’t read any that are quite like mine.

9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?

It started out as a picture book, because that’s how old the girl is. But once Baba Yaga appeared in the book, it became an early reader, and once she showed up, I couldn’t resist playing with her and the whole fairy tale concept. The personalities of the real people the main characters are based on drove a lot of the book.

10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Besides an evil witch or two, it’s got a fairy godmother, a talking mouse, a two-headed argumentative insulting parrot and riddles. And maybe a saint.

And that’s what my “Next Big Thing” is. Besides stopping by Kate’s blog, be sure to visit these writers, and see what their next big thing is:

Charise Olson writes what she calls California fiction – “It’s like Southern fiction, but without all the humidity.” In other words, contemporary fiction with a humorous voice but with underlying serious spiritual and emotional issues.

 Katherine Grace Bond’s latest book is a YA spiritual journey/romance, The Summer of No Regrets. She also teaches TeenWrite workshops where teens interact with each other as their characters.