Will Boys Continue to be Boys? (Jan-Feb 2008)

By Matt Dabbs

by Ron Clark
January – February, 2008

A young woman opens her eyes as she wakes up. It takes a few minutes for her eyes to adjust to the light and she rubs her forehead. Her head hurts and she realizes that she has a hangover. She doesn’t know why. She has never been drunk in the past and always kept her senses while at parties where alcohol was served. Yet this morning was different. As her eyes focus she realizes she is in a strange room, in a strange bed, wearing a man’s shirt. The bruises on her wrist and the inside of her legs as well as the pain in her crotch tell her she was raped. She doesn’t remember what happened. She remembers going with her friends to a party on the college campus. She remembers flirting with a few young men who were very good looking. She remembers taking a drink and dancing with her friends and others. The rest is fuzzy.

She sees her clothes strewn across the floor of the strange dorm room. She clutches them to her chest and quietly leaves the room hanging her head in shame. The long walk back to her dorm seemed to take hours. No one noticed she was humiliated, no one noticed the oversized shirt, and no one noticed that she fought back the tears. She walked into her room and immediately headed to the bathroom. She knew what happened and the thought nauseated her. Every time she thought about the party she became sick to her stomach. She spent hours in the shower soaping, scrubbing, and trying to clean the painful memories and images that began to flood her mind.

Her roommates knew what happened but said nothing. So no one else knew. No one else will know. She will take this horrible experience with her as she drops out of school and keeps her secret buried deep down inside along with her shame, guilt, and self esteem. Who could she tell? Would her parents judge her? Would her minister condemn her? Would the men who raped her come forward with their sin and crime? Would the University support her? Could she ever tell her future husband? She found comfort when she killed the pain with years of drinking and other drugs.

So she told me. Years later she heard me talk about God, suffering, and abuse. She heard me say that it was never a victim’s fault. She heard me say that “boys will be held accountable by men who respect and honor women who are also in God’s image.” She heard me tell the story of Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, and how her suffering was unjust. She heard me condemn Jacob for saying nothing over the rape of his own daughter. She said, “I’ve never told anyone this…”

I would like to say that this was the first step to her healing but I would be wrong. In most suffering the first step to healing is to admit a problem or hurt. However, sexual assault is different. Admitting to being raped invites more problems. People don’t say, “I’m sorry to hear that…”

People say:

“What were you doing there?”
“Why were you wearing that?”
“What were you thinking?”
“Are you sure you’re not exaggerating things a little?”
“Nice girls don’t get raped!”
“You must have sent mixed signals.”

Few say, “What happened to you was wrong and it was not your fault…”

It’s as if we don’t believe that men are capable of rape. It’s as if we don’t hold men accountable. It’s as if we don’t believe that men should step up to protect a young woman. It’s as if we believe that women who drink alcohol, wear certain clothes, or walk in certain areas of town invite rape. It’s as if we believe that men cannot control themselves. So, we blame the victim. Is it possible that we should be holding the men accountable for their actions? Don’t men have the ability to act out of compassion, empathy, and self control?

So she keeps silent. Studies have shown that rape victims who reveal that they have been assaulted and are not believed, are traumatized even more than when they were sexually assaulted. This is why so many women keep silent. This is why so many women hide their pain. This is why so many men continue to reoffend without being caught. Most rapists are not convicted, so why should a woman go through the painful process of testifying to being raped. In fact notice the language, women are raped—we don’t say that men rape women! It seems that the burden of proof is on the victim—so they keep quiet.

I have written and spoken on the rape of Dinah in Genesis 34. I have had women theologians (Christian and Jewish) come to me and say, “I can’t believe a man is willing to talk about this…” My response has always been, “It’s a men’s issue, we must talk about it.” Since men rape women (and at times other men) we have a vested interest. The women victims are our sisters, wives, daughters, girlfriends, and friends. Like Simeon and Levi we cry out, “Does he have the right to treat our sister that way?” Should we be silent in the face of such injustice, oppression, and disrespect of human life? Even more should we be silent while other men reduce male behavior to sexual lust, greed, and abuse? We are more than this. We are men, in the image of God, who also respect others created in that same image. Even more, rape is committed by a small percentage of men—how can we allow the few to create such fear in women.

In the story of Dinah, Genesis 34, Shechem takes the daughter of Jacob and has sex with her. I have been amazed at the discussion between commentaries on this story. Some say she wasn’t raped. Some say she had a love affair. Ancient commentators say she was violated, raped, or abused. Yet Dinah says nothing. She is silent, even though her Hebrew name means “justice”.

Then there is Jacob. He also is silent. The one man who could dispense justice and protect his daughter says nothing. He allows the rapist to negotiate and allows his sons to manipulate. He, knowing that they were deceptive, does not intervene. The sons slaughter Shechem’s village and victimize the city’s women and children, yet he doesn’t intervene. Some commentators such as Brueggeman suggest that his silence was a sign he was calm and rational, others ask, “What father would say nothing when his daughter is raped?”

Violence abounds in the text. Shechem rapes, the sons kill. Yet the two people who should have spoken were silent. One was a victim, the other a coward.

Few condemn Jacob for his silence. The Talmud condemns Dinah for being raped. It calls her a whore and claims she was wearing makeup—like her mother Leah. It states that she should not have gone out, but stayed home. The Talmud, like modern people, blames the victim for being raped. Women will be safe if they stay home, hide, and do not dress nice. Safety is the role of women, not men.

When I discuss this topic in trainings with mixed audiences I divide a chalkboard/easel board into two parts. I begin with the question, “Women, what are some of the things you do at night to protect yourself from being attacked.” One side of the board quickly fills with statements from the women ranging from not walking alone at night, to carrying their keys in their hand as a weapon. Next I ask the men what they do. I usually get one or two comments but mostly laughter from the men and puzzled looks. I then mention that most women live their lives trying to avoid assault from other men. Most men have no clue what a woman does consciously and subconsciously when she leaves her car or walks down a street. Women have been taught how to avoid being attacked. Men, however, have not been taught how to protect and respect women. Once again, we live in a world that places the responsibility for safety on women, not men. A small percentage of men have helped to create a climate of fear. Why are the majority of men so silent?

Jacob’s silence, over the rape of his daughter is not only disheartening—it is common today. Because Jacob was silent Simeon and Levi took the law into their own hands. Because we are silent we expect women to take control of this situation. When we say, “Domestic violence and sexual assault are women’s issues…” we are abdicating our responsibility to stand for justice and righteousness. When women say, “It’s a women’s issue…” they acknowledge that men have failed to be what God has called us to be.

However, in the story of Dinah there is a spiritual voice. The voice is the inspired narrator. He is passing judgment, one that is grounded in the nature of God. Have you read what the narrator wrote?

34:7 …because Shechem had done a disgraceful think in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter—a think that should not be done…
34:13 …because their sister Dinah had been defiled…
34:27 The sons of Jacob came upon the dead bodies and looted the city where their sister had been defiled…

The narrator tells us that what had happened was wrong, it was disgraceful, and that Dinah had been humiliated/violated. He was the one man who tried to validate Dinah. He was the voice of God. He was the one who called the spiritual community to and ethic of social justice. His voice is the eternal voice that states, “raping women is a sin…and God is not pleased.”

The narrator’s statements are a challenge to men. Even more they are a challenge to spiritual men today. They are a challenge to male leaders in our churches, youth groups, and Christian schools. The narrator writes the truth and calls all of us to make similar statements. Youth ministers need to challenge young males to respect women and learn to love females non-sexually. Preachers need to tell the story of Dinah and let the women in the churches know that they should be respected, honored, and loved as people in God’s image. While women have for centuries been working hard to protect and support other women, men must join them in validating victims and calling men to accountability. Women need to know that abuse is not their fault—abusers make choices. Men’s ministries need to address pornography, healthy male/female relationships, and dating not only from the position of sexual purity, but more from respect and honor for women. All women must be loved and treated with honor. All men must be taught to practice compassion, empathy, and self control.
Sexual assault is not a women’s issue. It is our issue!
New Wineskins

Ron ClarkRon Clark, D. Min., leads a church plant – Agape Church – on the west side of Portland, Oregon. He has served as president of Portland’s Community Against Domestic Violence (CADV) and directs their ongoing Clergy Abuse Workshop training program. He has led training seminars on relationship abuse for ministers, law enforcement organizations, and faith communities. He has recently been appointed to the Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task force to represent faith communities. Ron earned his undergraduate degrees from Central Missouri State University and his Masters of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from Harding University Graduate School of Religion. He is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature and has published articles on as abuse, theology, ministry, Hebrew textual, and Greek textual studies in a number of theological and counseling journals. His books include Setting the Captives Free: A Christian Theology for Domestic Violence (Wipf and Stock) and Good Shepherds: Elders Tending the Flock as God’s Servants (under review). Ron is also an adjunct Bible lecturer at both Cascade College and George Fox Evangelical Seminary, a co-founder of the Portland Center for Building Caring Families, and a member of the Multnomah County Early Childhood Education’s Grants Committee and the Portland Wrestling Officials Association. He blogs at [http://kokemushkeivogel.blogspot.com/ ] and at [the New Wineskins blog] as “KMiV”.

 

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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