The Rape of Tamar, by Eustache Le Sueur (c. 1640), public domain.
Today, a friend shared a post on Facebook from Everyday Feminism, titled 25 Everyday Examples of Rape Culture. The author, Shannon Ridgway, discusses what rape culture is before giving a list of examples in everyday culture, from chants allowed at universities to the prevelance of street harassment.
(I recommend you click the link and read the explanation of what rape culture is in that post before you continue.)
I was glad to see a list of clear examples that I could share with my friends, but I found myself running into one problem: most of my friends who deny the existence of rape culture are Christians. They would look at Ridgway’s list and declare the problem to be “the world.” They wouldn’t recognize similar examples of rape culture in their churches, small groups, books, blog posts, etc.
So with the help of some friends who also grew up in conservative Christianity, I’ve put together a list of examples of rape culture within Christian culture. If the church is going to be a safe place for women, for children, for vulnerable populations, for survivors of abuse, we must confront the ways in which Christianity is unsafe, say “enough,” and root out the attitudes and beliefs that lead to rape culture.
1. Christian rape culture is equating education about consent with “risk reduction” while calling abstinence education “risk avoidance.”
This is a form of blaming the victim, because the underlying assumption is that if one avoids sexual activity, one will avoid the risk of assault, STDs, pregnancy, etc. One may still experience these things whether or not one chooses abstinence.
2. Christian rape culture is refusing to teach about consent because it might encourage kids to have sex.
This erases consent as a necessary component of sexual morality.
3. Christian rape culture is when wives are told they must always be sexually available to their husbands.
This not only ignores, but condones marital rape.
4. Christian rape culture is when pregnancies that result from rape are called “God’s will.”
What the victim hears is that their rape was God’s will, too.
5. Christian rape culture is when the false idea that pregnancy rarely happens from rape is perpetuated in Christian circles.
This opens the door for people to accuse people pregnant from rape as “wanting it,” since otherwise they would have been “too stressed out” to become pregnant.
6. Christian rape culture is when churches don’t do background checks on children’s/nursery ministry volunteers because “We know these people and they would never do that.”
Actually, most sexual assault is perpetrated by people close to and trusted by the victim. Perpetrators are experts at making people like them.
7. The way the church teaches “modesty” is rape culture.
It’s never okay to say that what a person wears determines how someone else will view them. Lust and objectification are choices someone else makes, not something that is caused by what a person wears.
8. Christian rape culture happens when prominent Christians publicly defend abusers.
Doing so sends the message to other survivors that the church will choose abusers over them.
9. Christian rape culture is when pastors and other spiritual leaders are believed over their victims, just because of their position of spiritual leadership.
Pastors are not immune to committing crimes, and statistics show the vast majority of reported sexual assault to be true.
10. Christian rape culture is any teaching that either explicitly or implicitly teaches male superiority.
Teaching that God is male, that men are spiritually stronger than women, that God gave men gifts he did not give women, etc.
11. Christian rape culture is teaching that woman was created to help and serve man.
This positions woman as a servant of man, including sexually.
12. Christian rape culture is when Christians argue for the removal of women from certain spaces (for example, the military) in order to keep sexual assault from happening.
13. Christian rape culture is when children are forced to give hugs or shake hands when they don’t want to.
This primes children to assume that adults get access to their body when they want it, instead of teaching them that they have bodily autonomy and adults can’t just touch them because they want to.
15. Christian rape culture is when words like “broken” and “diseased” are used to describe abuse victims.
16. Christian rape culture is when we suggest that victims might be “at fault” for their abuse.
The linked article has examples from workbooks from ATI, Bill Gothard’s ministry, which were used by the Duggars and have been used for a long time in homeschooling circles. This is just one extreme example, there are many more subtle examples, like suggesting that what a person was wearing, where they were, who they were friend with, etc. contributed to the abuse.
17. Christian rape culture is when abuse is called a “mistake” and people make excuses for it.
See: Josh Duggar.
18. Christian rape culture is looking at these examples and blaming it on “those other Christians.”
If you are a Christian and you are not speaking up when you see this happen, you’re part of the problem. Even if your church doesn’t teach these things, you probably have friends who love to watch the Duggars on TLC, or push modesty culture on their children, or…
You get the point. With stories of sexual abuse in the church coming out again and again, it’s time for all Christians of all stripes to start confronting Christian rape culture.
What examples of Christian rape culture have you seen? What ways have you found effective in confronting it?