The Right Response to Rape
by Bob Maginn
Almost four decades ago, with Jimmy Carter running for President, I was a freshman in college at Michigan State University. I was part of a weekly campus ministry Bible study. Tragedy struck on New Year’s Eve of that year when another student in our Bible study was found raped and murdered in woods not far from campus. I can still see her face like the face of an angel. Her boyfriend who was also in our Bible study looked devastated.
The FBI called to interview me in my dorm room. They asked about her boyfriend. I assured the FBI that he was a Christian who met and prayed with us every week. A few months later this boyfriend was caught trying to rape and abduct another young woman. I felt duped and somewhat guilty that another woman might have been raped and murdered too by someone for whom I had given the FBI my assurance. An assurance based on his being in our Bible study and praying with us every week. I learned a lifelong lesson that year.
At that time decades ago we did not hear about sexual assault on campus very often. We assumed it was the rare and dramatic tragedy that our Bible study group had witnessed. But now we know this was not and is not the case. On November 19, 2014 I met and talked with former President Jimmy Carter who at the age of 90 came to Harvard University. He was there at the invitation of the Harvard Divinity School to give a major speech about Women, sexual assault and Violence, the subject of his latest book. With over 1000 people in Harvard’s Memorial Church, President Carter reported the now well-known statistics: one in five women suffer sexual assault on campus and one in ten is forcefully raped. Less well-known is the statistic that these assaults and rapes of women are committed by just 4% of the men. That is an average of 5 victims per perpetrator. The time to keep silent is over. But the cost to speak out is high.
In the Church, in the military, on the campus and in our society at large sexual assault has been with us a long time. What began as a trickle of news stories a few decades ago has now become a flood of stories growing by the day. Still the personal cost to speak out is high, but thankfully as more people venture forth others are encouraged to tell their stories too. Young women and young men, girls and boys are those most frequently attacked. We have learned hard lessons just as I did four decades ago. We must stop protecting the perpetrators to defend the reputations of our hallowed institutions especially the Church. Jesus Christ warned that many will come, saying Lord, Lord did I not do all these great things in your name and He will say depart from me you workers of iniquity. Jesus wants the truth because He is the truth.
The Catholic Church considered sexual abuse claims against about 3000 priests dating back 50 years but it was only after 2002 that media reports in Boston brought these horrible crimes to public light. Ten years before in 1991, the Tailhook scandal brought to public attention the problem of sexual assault in the military but it took new scandals in 1996 and 2003 in the military before serious action was taken. Even in 2012, of approximately 26,000 cases of sexual assault uncovered in a survey in the military only 3374 were reported. In 1992 President George Bush signed into law the Campus Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights but it took 20 years before colleges and universities were ready to confront the truth about widespread sexual assault on their campuses. Now even America’s favorite comedian is being accused by over a dozen women.
In the Church, in the military, on the campus and everywhere we turn we are now confronted by the truth: Sexual Assault is an iceberg of a problem. Often, the victims are blamed or silenced. The “powers that be” protect other interests at the expense of justice and mercy for those who have been attacked, often women and girls. Thankfully, these women and girls are now coming out in large numbers, in power and in truth to tell their stories. They seek to stop sexual assault before it claims yet another generation. And so it is that I find myself a husband of a wife who was raped while in graduate school two decades ago now forced to face this very question of public versus private disclosure.
For the last 3 years, my wife has followed the teachings of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 18:15-17. Here Jesus gave fair due process to follow regarding an accused party claiming to be a believer in Christ. She has told that horrible rape story in detail first privately to 4 pastors and to the now Christian man who raped her prior to his public conversion. But his continual denial finally forced her to do a polygraph test. The test provided clear proof of the veracity of her story as her test showed that she was absolutely telling the truth. A now prominent Chinese Christian pastor had committed the rape 24 years ago.
In the past 3 years, Ling had to face the cold and painful rejection that came from 3 of these Chinese pastors who advised her to remain publicly silent to protect the reputation of the prominent pastor. They had refused to believe that their famous brother in Christ could have been guilty of such an act as rape when he denied it. But after this man’s refusal to take a polygraph test in the witness of two pastors, last week, Ling went forward and took that polygraph test herself that proves her testimony is true. She also recently heard about some additional allegations of rape of one and maybe two women made against this same Chinese pastor.
Today, my wife has once again decided to bravely step into the public arena in an act of love, justice and mercy knowing she may face even more opposition than she has endured over the last three years. She did it 25 years ago in Tiananmen Square leading a hunger strike for freedom and democracy for which she received two Nobel Peace Prize nominations. She did it again when she published her memories A Heart for Freedom. She shared about her own painful abortions in love to bring light to this sensitive area that traumatizes women and babies. She founded All Girls Allowed---in Jesus’ name simply love her, to help women, to rescue baby girls and to stand up against the brutal One Child Policy and against male gender preference. In the past 4 years, God has rescued thousands of girls and mothers through this ministry and the brave men and women who work, pray and financially support this ministry. Now she steps out again to tell the truth about rape and sexual assault so other women and girls may find the courage to tell their stories too.
No matter who committed the crime, from a President to a priest to a commanding officer to a student in your dorm, women can hear the voice of Jesus, the good shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep, saying “be not afraid for I am with you even to the end of the age” as they press forward into the light. Only by going public can the small percentage of mostly men be confronted and stopped. And only if they are stopped and truly repent can they hope for life eternal in the kingdom of God. So it is an act of great love and courage to call these men to turn from their path to destruction and be redeemed before it is too late for them and their victims. When we speak out, then we know that the angel-faced young woman in my Bible study many years ago and others like her did not suffer or die in vain. Unto thee Lord we commend our spirits as we move forth in truth, in love and in confidence.
Now Ling needs your prayer, support and fellowship. No women, no child, no one should ever have to walk this journey alone. Will you stand with us and give us your hand?
Have a very blessed Thanksgiving!