Contrary to those who argue Scripture normalizes violence by including narratives of war, pillaging, and sexual assault, it’s more likely such passages are included to compel God’s people to confront the uncomfortable realities of sin and brokenness in our world.
During my past six years serving as a college pastor, some of my most disturbing conversations have been with unrepentant sexual assault perpetrators and their defensive Christian parents. In their attempts to justify their actions, too often I would hear from the perpetrators (and their parents), “Have you seen her Instagram account? Do you know what she’s like at parties? But she made the first move. Well, she asked for it. She has a history.” And so on.
With more than 20 percent of female undergraduate students experiencing some form of sexual assault or misconduct, these tendencies to blame the victim have led some to demand action or even walk away from the faith. But does Scripture remain silent to the injustice of victim-blaming? Does God remain silent to the cries of victims for redemption from their shame?
According to Harvard Law School’s HALT website,
Victim-blaming is the attitude which suggests that the victim rather than the perpetrator bears responsibility for the assault. Victim-blaming occurs when it is assumed that an individual did something to provoke the violence by actions, words, or dress. Many people would rather believe that someone caused their own misfortune because it makes the world seem a safer place, but victim-blaming is a major reason that survivors of sexual and domestic violence do not report their assaults.
Concerns of false reporting by victims should also be tempered by the fact that only 2 percent to 10 percent (the same rate for other crimes) of rape allegations turn out to be untrue. Hence, ministry leaders—especially those serving college students—must be hyper-vigilant in listening to their sheep, reporting suspected abuse, and protecting the vulnerable from perpetrators.