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?
THINK IT THROUGH
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.
AND COME SUNDAY MORNING?
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.
WHO ARE WOMEN?
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.