Content Warning: The following blog post contains descriptions of sexual assault and discussions of rape and victim blaming.
Picture a 13 year old girl in her school uniform coming home from school. She is followed off the bus. It’s daylight and mid afternoon. She is attacked by a teenage boy who sexually assaults her. She fights and screams and eventually he runs off calling her a “bitch”. She runs home and tells her Jehovah’s Witness parents what happened. If you were the young girl what would be going through your mind? If you were her parent what would you do? Let me tell you what happened.
The girl knew that she needed to fight. She knew that if she didn’t fight, possibly to the death, she would be equally responsible for any sexual assault that happened. She initially forgot to scream. If she didn’t scream she would also be equally responsible for any assault that happened. As soon as she remembered to scream, she did as loud as she could. The assailant jumped up and called her a “bitch” and ran off. The girl knew that she was possibly to blame. The boy had been sitting next to her on the bus. She must have done something to encourage him. Even though she screamed, it must have been her fault in some way. She hadn’t been properly chaste.
Her parents knew just what to do. They asked her what happened and asked if she would remember him again if she saw him. The girl thought that she would. Her parents immediately took her out and walked her around the neighbourhood to see if they could spot her attacker. When they didn’t see him, they took her home.
And that was that.
And the girl lived the rest of her life blaming herself for being so disgusting. To this day she blames herself for causing this attack. For being a temptation.
No, this isn’t some weird fictional short story. This actually happened. The girl had been brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness. She had been taught that it was very important to behave and dress in a certain way so as not to “inflame” the opposite sex. If the girl didn’t behave and dress in a modest and chaste manner she might end up partaking in immoral behaviour such as fornication. She knew if she was ever attacked and someone tried to rape her that it was better to die than to be raped. She knew that she must fight to the death, if necessary, and that she must scream. If she didn’t fight with the belief that she was willing to die to protect her honour, then she could be found guilty of fornication. She knew that if she was attacked and didn’t scream, that she could be found guilty of fornication.
“23 If a virgin is engaged to a man, and another man happens to meet her in the city and lies down with her, 24 you should bring them both out to the gate of that city and stone them to death, the girl because she did not scream in the city and the man because he humiliated the wife of his fellow man. So you must remove what is evil from your midst.” – Deuteronomy 22:23-24 (New World Translation of the bible).
If she was found guilty of fornication, she could be disfellowshipped from the congregation and shunned by her friends and family. She would lose the right to everlasting life in god’s New World.
Awake! 1984 February 22 pp.24-7 They Resisted Rapists
GENERALLY rapists try to get a woman in some isolated place where people are not around. At times they have a weapon and threaten to use it if the victim does not cooperate. Should a Christian quietly submit?
No, the situation is not the same as when a man simply is asking for money or other material possessions. A woman wisely would give him these. But the rapist is asking a person to break God’s law by committing fornication. Under such circumstances a Christian is obligated to resist. -1 Corinthians 6:18.
Her parents knew that they shouldn’t take her to the police because it could bring “reproach upon Jehovah’s name” if it was found out that the girl was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. So they took her around the area in case she saw her attacker. The girl wasn’t sure what they were going to do if they found him. She never had this question answered by her parents. Her parents never talked of this again and being a good and faithful servant of Jehovah and his organisation, she never questioned her parents.
Many years later and as a middle aged person, the victim of this crime is no longer a Jehovah’s Witness and wonders why she was seen as an evil temptress as a teenage girl, a child. Why was she taught that she was disgusting and her mere existence a temptation to potential attackers? Why was this her fault? Because a fundamentalist religious cult told her so. Because they had convinced her parents of this and because she was viewed as female and, therefore, a lesser being.
I am this person. I find it horrendously difficult to talk about this. The whole event dehumanised me. The whole attitude of the Watchtower organisation towards sexual assault and rape victims is dehumanising and blames the victim themselves. I am aware that they have softened their approach to this subject over the years but sadly many people have still been disfellowshipped and shunned for fornication when they have actually been sexually assaulted or raped. Including people who had been my age, i.e. children. This is due to the totally misguided view that there should be any circumstance where the victim shoulders any of the blame.
Thank you for reading my latest blog. This is going to be a long and arduous process for me to work through everything that happened to me, so I appreciate anyone who takes the time to read.