Last week, I saw all the posts about Brock Turner and his father’s lament that “20 minutes” would ruin his life. I felt sick. I felt angry.
I thought of the many women I’d met through the years who lived with the sinking realization that they were sexually assaulted. I thought about friends for whom this “20 minutes” had forever scarred them, the way they saw themselves and their ability to trust men.
We see statistics about female genital mutilation in places like Rwanda and we think, “How can this happen?” We hear about war crimes of rape against women in Congo and wonder how this evil can exist.
But the same thing is happening here in the U.S.
America’s Rape Problem
There is a rape culture on college campuses across the U.S. where one in five women are sexually assaulted during college. Daughters, girlfriends, sisters. It’s likely many of the women in your life have experienced some form of sexual assault. And it’s likely that they hesitate to talk about it because of the shame, pain and indifference of so many who have refused to confront this evil.
Talking about rape makes us uncomfortable because it forces us to confront the evil in our own hearts. For men, it’s especially uncomfortable because directly relates to how men relate to women. As pornography has become commonplace and porn addiction runs rampant for men and women (inside and outside of the Church) we begin to see one another as objects for our own pleasure. Objects. Not people with families, dreams or fears. Things to be used and discarded once we have gotten what we want. People made in the image of God are desecrated.
Jesus once told the Pharisees when they were giving him crap about his disciples not washing their hands properly: “It’s not what goes into a person that makes them unclean—it’s what comes out.” (Matthew 15:11) Rape is an issue of being willing to acknowledge the evil that lies in each of our hearts—especially for those who use force and violence to rape someone.
Changing Rape Culture
There are things we can do to help foster a culture of honor and respect rather than rape—but no seminar, celebrity campaign or mandatory video for college students will change a soul. Those are all good things that will raise awareness about what it means to treat others well. And hopefully they would also create more stringent consequences for offenders and support for victims.
But it is Jesus who sees the evil in our hearts and chooses to love and forgive us in spite of it.
He invites rapists to come receive healing, forgiveness and restoration. The Gospel is good news for us because it cuts to the core of the issue—changing us from the inside out so that our souls are restored. When we live in this Gospel freedom, we begin to reclaim how God created men and women to honor one another. When we say yes to follow the One who took the evil of this world on Himself and died on the cross, we are able to receive his healing.
The power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that is able to change a rapist’s heart and heal a victim’s brokenness.
We need this power to treat each other differently. To live into the image of God we were created to reflect. And God willing as each of us confess our brokenness and invite Jesus to continue to heal us, our campus cultures will change into one of honor instead of rape.
Jessica Fick is the evangelism resources director for Stonecroft Ministries. She is also the author of Beautiful Feet: Unleashing Women to Everyday Witness.