Home Living Today Commentary What does the Bible say about sexual assault? By Katie McCoy

What does the Bible say about sexual assault? By Katie McCoy

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Never before has the issue of sexual assault against women seemed so ubiquitous. In January a Nashville jury convicted two Vanderbilt University students of aggravated rape and aggravated sexual battery when they assaulted a student in a dorm room in 2013. Amid widespread campus sexual assault, 80 percent of which goes unreported, many hope this strong ruling will communicate to other victims of rape that they, too, will be heard. The case is just one of many instances of on-campus sexual assault, some of which have gone unaddressed, despite being reported. And sexual violence on college campuses is not the only mainstream news story concerning rape. Last fall witnessed the staggering number of allegations of sexual assault committed by comedian and household name, Bill Cosby. According to these women, their assaults have been kept quiet for the better part of a lifetime. From college sophomores to senior adults, women are speaking out and seeking justice.

The Bible is not silent about rape. The accounts of sexual assault against women are heartbreaking, even gruesome. But they are not brushed under a rug or hushed up. In fact, of the three accounts describing a woman who was sexually assaulted, each of them precipitated civil war. When Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, was violated by the son of a neighboring ruler, Shechem, her brothers murdered him, his father, and the all of the men of his city in revenge (Gen. 34). After the Unnamed Concubine was gang-raped and left for dead by men in the tribe of Benjamin, the other tribes went to war against them upon hearing of her injustice (Jgs. 19-21). And after Tamar was raped by her half-brother, Amnon, her brother Absalom killed him, and incited a rebellion against his father, King David (2 Sam. 13). Rape was neither covered up nor ignored. Instead, it was answered and avenged. It was such a cultural convulsion that it was answered with outrage and further violence. The cases of rape in Scripture tell us something about the cases of rape we are hearing today: These women must be heard and they must be protected.

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