They Do Exist.

When Christians Blame You For Rape And Unwanted Sex

Editor’s Note: Today’s submission is Anonymous, due to the author’s position and the organization mentioned. Unfortunately, myself and many others I’ve spoken with have been dismissed or expelled from Christian organizations for ‘being stumbling blocks,’ – for our appearance, not even our behavior. At the end, the author asks how other Christians have treated you after abuse or being the victim of unwanted sex. Please share. Many church leaders read GWP and reference us as the true voice of their community, so that they can learn where they are failing. – Lauren

“Tell us in detail your sexual history over the past three years.”

His words dropped like nails in the pit of my stomach. I swallowed hard. The clock’s hands weren’t moving. Seconds felt like hours in the shadowy room reminding me of a psychiatrist’s office where only the craziest people went, with stacks of discolored paper. I looked at the heavyset man focusing on his fat fingers squeezed around the pen, ready to record my ‘sexual promiscuity’. The four sets of eyes watched me, as I shifted nervously in the metal-backed chair, which seemed to speak of my desire to run with that awful squeaking noise. I wanted to jump out the window, run down the stairs into the flooded streets of China – anything to make sure those sweaty hands wrote nothing on the yellow piece of lined paper.

Don’t worry. Its okay, you can share everything with us,” one of the women broke the silence and then added something about being in a ‘safe’ environment. She wrinkled her brow with a look of concern and then leaned forward in anticipation.

“There is really nothing to report. Last summer, I made out with a boy…and I had a serious boyfriend before that.” I clenched the sides of my chair, leaving creases in my palms.

Then added, “…but we never did anything more than kiss.” just in case they didn’t remember the extensive “sin list” I filled out before being accepted onto the mission field. I looked at the books on the shelf, The Heavenly Man, and The Master Plan of Evangelism, Let the Nations Be Glad, and Living Cross-Culturally. I had read every one of them.

Photo by Carli Wentworth / / Design by Lauren Dubinsky

“Did you want the boy to kiss you last summer? Or did he assault you, too?” one of the women asked.

There was a familiar heaviness in the room that constricted my thoughts, my movements, and even my breathing. The plastic, square clock on the wall was similarly overtaken, as its hands were frozen at the 3 and the 5.

“Yes, I guess…I wanted to kiss him. No, he didn’t assault me.”

My mouth tasted of green beans, as I remembered when Karen, the associate regional director, told me I needed to dress differently. She asked me to lunch and I almost couldn’t close my mouth when she spoke. “This is really awkward…it’s just that after our retreat several married men approached me about you. You need to be more careful, because you don’t want them to ‘stumble’. Sometimes we are all just shocked at what comes out of America.” I thanked her for letting me know and promised to dress differently, but if I’m honest, I felt dirty.

They asked me if I frequently had friends sexually assault me. They asked if I knew what appropriate boundaries with men were and if I knew how to say “no”. They asked me why I let my male teammate into my apartment that night. My answers floated about the room like balloons waiting to be popped.

I wanted to scream how they were blaming and punishing the victim. I wanted to threaten to sue their multi-million dollar missions’ organization if they did not let me stay. But all my hateful words and vengeance stuck in my mouth like thick paste. If they were calling me a whore, I didn’t want to fight back with anger.

I found myself starring at a stranger in the bathroom mirror. The hazel eyes looked weary and the olive skin faded. I didn’t understand how people and married men and my teammates turned that face starring back at me in the mirror into something of beauty. I thought about making a deep cut from my nose to my right ear, and then about shaving my head. Maybe then beauty would disappear.

Have you ever had Christians blame you for assault? Have you ever longed for beauty to disappear? It took years for me to sort through my various wounds from this experience.

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, my heart believed their accusations were true. That somehow the Christians had found out how dirty I really was – because after all, who gets taken advantage of twice? It must be something wrong with me. All those years, I hid and tried to scrub away the evil that boy heaped on my 8 year old body—and their accusations brought my most dreaded feelings to light: maybe I was dirty. Maybe it was me. I could pretend all I wanted to be a ‘good Christian’, but in the end, I was a bad little girl.

LIES. LIES. LIES. I want to take a megaphone and shout: No matter who you are, how you dress, what you’ve done, or how beautiful you are – you did nothing to deserve what happened. The Christians who are blaming you are gravely mistaken, and God calls them ‘whitewashed tombs’. No one deserves to lose their right to choose – not the drunk girls, not the promiscuous ones, and not the missionaries.

My heart breaks for all the women and children who have sought refuge in the church and received nothing but condemnation. God is weeping with you. He longs to heal your weary soul. I challenge you to say out-loud (shout if you have to) : “It is not my fault. I lost my right to choose and God weeps with me.”

Anyone had a similar experience? How has the church responded to you after abuse? What sorts of messages do you think women in my situation need to hear?


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34 Responses

  1. What's so disconcerting about this is that none of your coworkers, let alone the leadership who should have known better (especially as professing believers) did what they _should_ have done for you: genuinely seek to listen, hear and understand YOUR side of the story on all this before making any decisions.

    The fact that zero compassion was shown, and only an verdict of "guilty" toward you says it all.

    May 18, 2012 at 9:25 am

  2. Maggie

    I love the honesty of this post. Keep writing. Keep speaking. Our voices need to be heard. You are beautiful in the eyes of God. Shine!

    May 18, 2012 at 10:08 am

  3. I have never been abused or assaulted–by the grace of God–but I have been in the seat of blame and condemnation. I went straight to sex and relationships to find my worth and value, because my parents didn't know how to teach me that, given their own awful upbringings. Once for a job interview, a couple of times when I was seeking leadership in youth groups, and the big one–the day I came back from my honeymoon–I was confronted about my past and how that somehow denounced my eligibility to fill any of these roles. Each of these came from leadership of a church, and the last one, came from my father-in-law, who is also a pastor of his own church. Each of these instances made me wear guilt and shame for where I had been, as if I had chosen to experience heartache and pain.

    I'm so sorry for your struggles with these kinds of issues, and having to see the church in the same way I have. I pray you find a place of healing and redemption to call church.

    May 18, 2012 at 1:05 pm

  4. ashley

    Hit the nail on the head. I parted with a missions organization last year for similar reasons. I wonder if we are talking about the same one. Thanks for sharing your voice.

    May 18, 2012 at 3:20 pm

  5. FaithChaser

    Stunningly written. Thank you for sharing.

    May 18, 2012 at 4:37 pm

  6. Thank you for posting this. It's a struggle I've always had with the church – and whether or not I even wanted to be a part of the church. I've decided that yes, I do want to be a part of the church, and I'm going to use my childhood sexual assault as a way to give voice to other women who have experienced sexualized violence in any form. I'm aiming to start collecting stories of these women, and women before these women, however they may come to me. Thank you for sharing your own story with everyone here – I'm positive there are many more women who relate.

    May 18, 2012 at 5:36 pm

  7. Noelle

    I did want my beauty to disappear.

    I cut myself, on my breasts, my arms, and my torso. On my thighs, near my vagina. I chopped off all my hair with a Swiss pocketknife. I stopped eating.

    I stopped talking, started trying to get out of any situation where I would be noticed.

    Anyone who feels that way is not alone. I pray for others who may be like me every day.

    May 18, 2012 at 5:42 pm

  8. marty

    I was told it was my fault. I could have outrun him. I could have screamed for help (he had a knife). I dishonored my mother by "allowing" my father to rape me. I "tempted" my father by wearing summertime clothing. I could not have a white wedding because i'd lost my virginity (to my dad). I would have to live at home as a spinster because no one would want me. I had told my teachers, my pastor, my grandparents, anyone who would listen that there were things going on in our home. Each time my parents found out i'd told someone else it was reinforced that we do NOT tell others what goes on in our home. When I finally gave up I drank heavily. I became promiscuous. I ate. Anything to drown the memories and the pain.

    May 18, 2012 at 6:38 pm

  9. marty

    CONTINUED FROM ABOVE – When i began seeking out help as an adult, my pastor told me I was looking for attention and I just needed to forgive all the men who had abused me. Praise God for those who had compassion and were willing to listen and not condemn, love me when i needed it most and refused it the hardest, and for his grace that brought me through. If other church workers are really reading this please take to heart that IT WAS NOT MY FAULT and i'm not a bad person. I live in a fallen world where bad things happen. It does not define who i am. I am hidden in Christ, I am loved and safe. LISTEN to the victim and listen to the Holy Spirit. That's how God brought me healing. _

    May 18, 2012 at 6:38 pm

  10. Lisa

    Oh my heart. How can this be??? I want to hug every single one of you behind these comments and this post and tell you that you are beautiful and loved. God sees you and hears you and weeps for you. I do too.

    May 18, 2012 at 10:57 pm

  11. Emmy

    My mother was raped by our pastor. Raped, hushed, threatened, blackmailed and shamed. Praise God that we got away from that ‘church’ before it could get to me or my sisters. But the damage had been done. In comparison, the next church we went to was a haven, but there we still got the finger-pointing, the forgiveness sermon.

    None of that helps.

    We KNOW that we need to forgive,
    We KNOW that we can’t change all that happened,
    We KNOW that God can use any situation for good.

    But none of that helps. It’s like calling out ‘it’ll be okay!’ to someone who’s fallen down a well, and then just walking away.

    Sometimes all you need is for someone to sit with you while you cry. Someone to LET you feel the pain, to say ‘that sucks, I love you and this breaks my heart,’ not try and brush it over or patch it up with Christian catch-cries.

    So, ladies, we’ve all got our histories, we’ve all got our pain. God is good and he does bring healing, but also, sometimes it just hurts, and it sucks, and that’s okay. Don’t let the idea poison you that you have to be happy all the time. There is a time for mourning; be the first to extend compassion to yourselves, it’s okay to hurt. My heart breaks for all of these stories I’m reading, and though I don’t know you all, my heart also beats with so much love for each of you.

    You’re precious.

    Xx.

    May 18, 2012 at 11:44 pm

  12. Amber

    I spent my entire childhood being molested; by my grandfather, three uncles, my older brother, even boys in my neighborhood. My grandfather was a pastor for many years, my uncles were raised in his churches, my brother and I also grew up going to church two times a week.

    I never spoke of my history of abuse.And then during freshman year of college my secret was revealed. My world shattered. I was sent away for a weekend of intense "council" with two wives of the pastors from my families church.

    They lectured and questioned me until I was so confused and exhausted. I tried my best to be cooperative, to speak the words I had never spoken, because I believed they were trying to help me. They were determined to find the "truth". What had happened, why I hadn't tried to stop it, and why I had kept it a secret for so long.

    They went as far as to ask me what I might have done to cause these men to act in such a way, and they demanded that I take responsibility for these actions. And then they forced me to write APOLOGY LETTERS to each man claiming my responsibility and ASKING FOR THEIR FORGIVENESS!!

    I don't even remember what I wrote, but I remember how wrong it felt to write them. I was so desperate to feel as though God loved me that I was convinced it's what I had to do. To this day I feel sick to my stomach thinking of it. I get furious thinking that I was forced to apologize to the men who ruined my life because it was what God required of me.

    Thank you so much. I loved what you had to say.

    May 19, 2012 at 1:25 am

  13. mom2bba

    after 9 years of marriage and 3 kids, my (now ex-)husband told me that he was addicted to pornography, and had been cheating on me throughout our entire relationship. he had always been cold and distant, but i thought it was my own fault, that i was driving him away, that i was unlovable… and he, knowing that i was blaming myself, let me continue to believe that…

    when i told him that i wanted a divorce… our church shunned me. i had been a leader in that church. i had led the junior high group, taught sunday school, taught the women's Bible study, i was on the music team and the worship committee, i ran the drama ministry… and i was shunned.

    my friends stopped talking to me. families stopped allowing their children to play with my kids. no one visited us in the hospital when my youngest was admitted. the pastor yelled at me and told me that everything was my fault and i should suck it up and take my husband back. one woman showed up at my door unannounced and yelled at me for an hour, telling me that i wasn't living "in the redemptive power of the cross" and how i didn't have a right to feel hurt and betrayed because it had never seemed to bother me in the past. (my shame during the marriage, because my husband didn't want me, kept me quiet. it "never seemed to bother" me because i chose not to talk about it.)

    for his part, my ex was encouraged by the pastor, who told him, "i have the same habits. lots of men in our church do. but as long as you're not lusting in your heart, it's not a sin." my ex now works in the church as a youth leader and worship leader…

    and i am not allowed back…

    it took a year before i could even set foot inside a church after that. i was filled with shame and fear and guilt, and it destroyed my soul. but i have finally found a community that loves and accepts and nurtures and loves me, that doesn't condemn me for what happened, and where i am healing and learning what relationship is supposed to be like.

    May 19, 2012 at 9:06 am

  14. Dawn W

    I'm stunned, but not surprised. I'm so sorry to all of you that have gone through circumstances like this. The church today is it's own worst enemy and very often the exact opposite of the love and grace God pours out to us daily.

    Don't hide your beauty; embrace it.

    Don't listen to the doubters; reject them.

    And whatever you do, don't carry the burden of those who hurt you. Their mistakes are not yours to apologize for. Do not spend your life trying to fix theirs.

    Pick up the pieces of your shattered heart and walk on. I have superglue if you need it.

    May 19, 2012 at 1:42 pm

  15. Janey

    This beautifully written story and some of the replies are truly heartbreaking. I am continually astounded that Followers of Jesus and leaders in his church can be so judgemental and unsupportive of those in pain. Keep sharing these stories and brothers and sisters throughout the world will weep and grieve with you. Love and prayers.

    May 19, 2012 at 1:50 pm

  16. anonymous

    I wish I could read this story and think "Oh, but this is an anomaly….that doesn't happen that often". But it's just not true. I have lived it. I have watched friends live it. I know about 25 women right now who are in the process of leaving emotionally, verbally and sexually abusive husbands and ALL of them have been chastised and disposed of by their churches. All. Of. Them.

    Somehow…in the process of leaving my abuser I also lost the church that I loved. This part actually felt like a loss. After 10 years of having my heart shattered, I did not miss my husband. In fact, this was freedom for my far too long oppressed and beaten down soul. But to lose the CHURCH….bluntly put, that hurt like hell. Yet, somehow I also found Jesus. A new Jesus, completely different than the one I had known for the past 30 years. A Jesus of scandal. A Jesus who gets down in the dirt and loves us, no matter what. A Jesus who chose as His closest female friend, a woman who used to be a prostitute. A woman who He KNEW if he was close to her – people would talk. A Jesus who's heart longs to free the oppressed, heal the hurting and bind up the brokenhearted.

    Jesus takes VERY seriously the abuse and violation of His daughters.

    May 19, 2012 at 3:23 pm

  17. Pamela

    Oh my gosh. Your replies and comments are heart breaking.

    I hope that sharing my story might offer some hope, that not all churches are bad, and some are amazing.

    I had been seeing a psychologist for a month, and after one session I went home and spent some time in prayer, writing a “hurt list,” or a list of all the things I could remember that had hurt me.

    As I was writing, I remembered being abused by a girl in my grade in year 3. Something I had completely forgotten until then. I was stunned, and I approached my youth pastor, asking if we could chat.

    She sat down with me in her office, and asked what was up.

    I swallowed hard, and began to tell her what happened. At the end I told her I was confused, because I didn’t know whether to call it abuse or not, because I didn’t say no, and the girl was the same age as me.

    She looked at me and said “It’s not your fault. At that age you don’t understand what’s going on, so you don’t know how to say no.”

    She prayed with me and hugged me.

    There’s been other times that I’ve spoken to her. When I was 16 I confessed to her that I was struggling with same sex attraction. She responded with grace, and love, and truth. When I told her I had a pornography addiction, she responded with grace, and love and truth.

    She’s celebrated the victories with me, and shown me grace and compassion in my failures.

    I pray that each of you women who’ve been so hurt by Christians getting it wrong, would find a woman like my pastor in your lives.

    And if that’s a long way off, know that Jesus welcomes and loves everyone.

    May 20, 2012 at 8:13 am

  18. Erica

    I am so naive, so clueless. I had no idea that pastors and churches treated people like this. As a teacher, I'm trying to imagine my boss calling me in to discuss my sexual history in a focus group or to council me to take false responsibility for an assault committed against me. If it would be disrespectful and unprofessional and dishonoring in that context, why would it not be the same in the context of a church? May God forgive us all for this. May the healing of God go out to everyone who has experienced this kind of abuse. May the truth that It Was Not Your Fault and You Are Still Loved And Worthy And Redeemed bring freedom and healing and restoration to each of you who have suffered in this way.
    God have mercy on us all.

    May 20, 2012 at 8:21 pm

  19. I have been angry at the church regarding this very thing. I felt like they just stood by and watched not wanting to get their hands dirty. I wrote a post about how imperfect the church really is, until Jesus steps in (http://havemyword.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/chruch-is-no-perfect-place/). What hurt more than the church doing nothing, was my boyfriend at the time making it feel like it was my fault. The man I believed God had ordained to be my husband, deemed it my fault. The one relationship where love was meant to restore, drove the nail deeper. Dirty. Used. Flawed. Bad. "Why didn't you stop it?" "How could you not say anything?" "What did you do that made him do that?" I know now that only Jesus can fix this. And only His love can completely restore.

    May 22, 2012 at 3:25 pm

  20. I was sexually abused during my childhood (which was spent in church, as a pastor's kid.)

    Three months ago, I was raped by a non-Christian coworker in a totally secular environment.

    After my childhood experiences, and all the blame therein – I can't use the word "grateful" to describe any part of my recent experience, but I feel something resembling relief that this occurred in a secular environment. If I can be grateful for anything, I am grateful that, on top of everything else, I don't have to deal with twisted, totally warped and horrible "theological" issues of responsibility and blame, and shame, and "purity" as a card to fold or hold.

    I thank God that those who know about my recent experience have been nothing but supportive of me. And I am grieved that this reaction has been true for me outside of the Church, and that the opposite was true for me within the Church. I am angry. So, so angry.

    May 23, 2012 at 12:08 am

  21. Crystal P

    I became a Christian several years ago. I has a similar experience with my church. The church that listened to me cry EVERY Sunday because my husband was abusive to me and our children turned their back on my when I took my children and left, even when I had to get a restraining to order to protect us. I was an outcast for leaving my marriage.

    Fast forward a few years and the fall out from my divorce was over I decided to give church another chance and found a church that loved me even though I was divorced and broken. I was blessed to have found such a wonderful place to heal!

    June 23, 2012 at 1:05 pm

  22. woundedheart

    Someone happened to post this site and it has been a few months since my rape…to someone I knew and thought was a Christian themselves. I was told that the rape was a consequence to my actions of choosing to hang out alone with the guy. I have struggled for a month with myself for about a month of if I deserved this. I knew I didn't want it and I didn't expect it. After awhile, I realized that my choosing to hang out with someone I trusted shouldn't mean that he rape me and it definitely doesn't mean it is a consequence. I still struggle with my pastors telling me that it is a consequence of my actions. That means that it is wrong to hang out alone with someone of the opposite sex. As this post has stated, no matter my condition I still had a right to choose! Thank you for this.

    January 7, 2013 at 5:03 pm

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