Sexual assault is any type of sexual behavior where consent is not freely given or obtained, and it is accomplished through force, intimidation, violence, coercion, manipulation, threat, deception, or abuse of authority. At least one in four women and one in six men are or will be victims of sexual assault in their lifetime. Despite the difficult nature of the subject of sexual assault, as Christians it's important to raise awareness about this prevalent issue.
Sexual abuse has been a plague on society for thousands of years. Even the Old Testament of the Bible contains tragic stories of sexual abuse, rape, and incest. The Bible does not shy away from making a clear stance against sexual assault in all its forms.
Biblical Evidence Against Sexual Assault
There are explicit passages calling sexual assault sin. Deuteronomy 22:25-27 addresses non-consensual sexual acts and show concern for the welfare of the violated woman. The perpetrator is put to death by stoning, and it is stressed in the text the woman is innocent of any wrongdoing and no harm should come to her. The passage says: “But if in the open country a man meets a young woman who is betrothed, and the man seizes her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. But you shall do nothing to the young woman; she has committed no offense punishable by death. For this case is like that of a man attacking and murdering his neighbor, because he met her in the open country, and though the betrothed young woman cried for help there was no one to rescue her.” In this passage, God defends her innocence and ensures both her protection and her reputation. He shielded her from blame for the assault and from shame after it occurred.
There are also depictions of sexual acts that the Bible characterizes as sexual assault, resulting in emotional trauma. Passages such as Hosea 2:1-13, Jeremiah 13:20-27, and Ezekiel 16 and 23 demonstrate an understanding that such acts of sexual assault result not only in emotional trauma for the victim, but also in humiliation and a debilitating loss of sense of self. God understands the intense amount of pain these victims go through.
In 2 Samuel, scriptures tell us that Amnon, the son of David, forced to get his half-sister, Tamar, alone and have sex with her. The passage says,”But when she brought them near him to eat, he took hold of her, and said to her, ‘Come, lie with me, my sister.’ She answered him, ‘No, my brother, do not force me; for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do anything so vile!…But he would not listen to her; and being stronger than she was, he forced her and lay with her…Her brother Absalom said to her, ‘Has Amnon your brother been with you? Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother; do not take this to heart.’ So Tamar remained, a desolate woman, in her brother Absalom’s house.”
Even in those ancient days, victims were told to keep the abuse a secret. Interestingly enough, the Scripture continues to talk about the brothers, the father, and the consequences for them. Tamar’s brother Absalom killed Amnon, and incited a rebellion against his father, King David. However, not much more is said of Tamar. Scripture tells us that she remained desolate in her brother’s house. Here she is locked in the silence, shame, violation, and trauma of the abuse she suffered at the hands of her half-brother.
Go understands the intense pain these victims go through. The Lord promises to heal those who have been through such a terrible trauma, and gives them a chance to heal. He wants to pull victims out of darkness and silence and into the light where they can feel empowered to stand up for themselves. He does not want us to feel isolated and broken like Tamar did.
There are other accounts of rape and injustice towards woman in the Bible, that created such an uproar they caused nations to go to 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 out of revenge (Genesis 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 (Judges 19-21). These two tales show us how much the Lord truly is against sexual assault, and how He expects us as Christians to view it. It is never something that should be swept under the rug; rather it should be brought into attention. Rape was neither covered up nor ignored. Instead, it was answered and avenged. These women must be heard and they must be protected.
God’s Intent For Sex
God intended humankind to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28. This multiplying of offspring and exercising of dominion was to happen through the God-ordained sexual union between husband and wife (Genesis 2:24-25).God meant for sexual feelings, thoughts, and activity to be pleasurable and intimacy-building in marriage. In the Bible, sexual intimacy is also a reflection of unity and peace. It is a picture of two becoming one.
Sexual assault is a direct violation of what God intended for sexual intimacy. It is a complete distortion of healthy relationships, and a mockery of the original intent of being made for relationships with God and others. Sexual assault is a sin against God because the blessing of sexuality is used to destroy instead of build intimacy, and because it is an attack against His children.
The Bible neither covers up nor ignores sexual assault. The victim’s experience of assault is not ignored by God, minimized by the Bible, or outside of the scope of healing. God’s response to evil and violence is redemption, renewal, and re-creation. He will help the victim to find peace.