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Sunday, September 10, 2006
Sex without her consent ...
... is found in the lines of and between the lines of the recorded biblical narrative. The stories are there. Their testimonies are there. Likewise, the stories and testimonies are here in the 21st century, including from our sisters in the faith. But where in our churches are these ancient and current stories of tragedy, of desperate need, of overcoming faith finding a place to come together? One out of six females have been sexually assaulted and the numbers only rise if one figures in those assaults that are never reported along with the trauma suffered by victims of attempted sexual assault. The highest percentages are with females under 30 and their victimizers are people they know. In a recent poll, one out of three college males indicated they would definitely attempt forced sex if they knew they wouldn't get caught.

Our voices must, absolutely must collectively arise in bringing this issue to the table of awareness and action in our churches. Biblical stories of ‘sex without consent” must be honestly identified, both those that are obvious and those with probability or possibility. We women must insist that this continued violation of human dignity be addressed and validated in our Sunday teaching/sermons and it must find a place in our junior and senior high biblical group studies.

Let me start our conversation with a possibility … Bathsheba. II Sam. 11:2-4 King David saw. King David probed. (M) King David sent for. (M) King David took. (M) Bathsheba came to him. (M) King David lay with her. She cleansed herself. She left for her home. My (M) represents where David’s ‘messengers’ were definitely involved carrying out King David’s orders. After the sex event, no more messengers. Sex without her consent … a definite possibility.

Is the emerging church's generous orthodoxy generous enough to let these stories EMERGE?

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posted by From the Margins at 5:54 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 9/10/2006 09:55:00 PM, Blogger Charlotte Wyncoop

    YEAHHHH! I have been checking this out as you developed the topic and been {cough} enthusiastically {cough} awaiting the post!

    You go girl!

    I am a woman who has personally experienced this topic first hand, I have a definite stand. Truth.

    It is the least painful in the long run.

    I'd be happy to share more, but my story is rather, ummmm, long, as Julie will attest.

  • At 9/10/2006 10:05:00 PM, Blogger juniper

    I agree that rape is a horrible thing and there are certainly stories of forced sexual activity in the bible, I don't think this is one of them. Coercion? Likely. Force? There doesn't seem to be a basis for believing that. I checked Josephus and there's no hint of it in his writings (in my limited understanding.) David arranged for Uriah's death to cover up adultery which is bad enough, I think. I wouldn't care to label David a rapist anymore than I care to hear Mary Magdalene labeled a prostitute.

  • At 9/10/2006 11:11:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    random thoughts...

    I've often heard that David may have been the one at fault and not the suppossed temptress Bathsheba. It is usually an interpretation that is ignored or settled with "they were both at fault". I have come though to see Bathsheba as I see Esther - a women forced by a powerful she couldn't refuse to have sex, but whom God blessed because of those circumstances. Rereading scripture in a way that doesn't paint all the women as the sinners/bad guys has really changed my perspective of God's special place for women and how God tries to correct/sooth the sins of men.

    and I fully agree there needs to be a place for these stories to be told (perhaps Char not in 4 hour marathon sessions... ;) ), but they must be told. I recall being of a panel a few years ago (actually exactly 5 since it was on Sept. 11, 2001). On this panel we were discussing and selecting articles to be published in a christian version of Readers Digest put out by a large christian magizine publishing house. One article was about a girl who was date raped at a Christian college, her shame, and the lack of support/belief she received. After a very short discussion, it was rejected as being uttterly inapropriate for christian audiences. I was outraged but didn't speak up (mainly because being on this panel was part of my candidating for an editorial position which ended up falling through anyway because of the stupid hiring freeze caused by 9/11... but I digress). truth needs to be told no matter how uncomfortable it is.

  • At 9/11/2006 07:13:00 AM, Blogger From the Margins

    J: I respect your opinion. I purposely started with a 'possibility' example (and in my opinion, a strong possibility.) One of my reasons for doing this is to suggest that we must open the stories for examination beyond the male dominated traditions. Josephus was a Jewish historian of Jesus' day, so his writings would reflect the Jewish historical traditions, which are exclusively from a male view.

    Q: Why do we call this adultery ... on whose part? David had multiple wives and concubines at this time. Was it adultery everytime he took another?

    Observation: I find it tragic, to the point of never being able to reconcile the fact, that David's punishment would include 10 of his wives being raped in public for his one! If this wasn't a rape, then why did the punishment parallel such? How did these wives deserve this? Has anyone heard a sermon giving voice to these 10 women??

    Observation: Much like sexual assault victims' stories today, the immediate need after being raped is a need for a shower ... a cleansing attempt beyond measure. Interesting that the biblical writer records an immediate response of cleansing after the sex event. Do any other biblical stories record this response from women, something that would indicate this being 'normal?'

    Q: Why is it easier to accept David as a murderer (not a bad label??) than someone who has committed a sexual assault?

    CW: I'm sorry you have personal knowledge of this. But you are not the only one. Going down our 'membership' list, one in six of the women on this blog probably have a personal story to tell also.

  • At 9/11/2006 08:13:00 AM, Blogger lydia

    I'll post more later on this topic, but...

    one in six of the women on this blog probably have a personal story to tell also.

    I've been through a version of this story as well.

  • At 9/11/2006 03:03:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    I agree, this topic is so important. I have not been raped, but as a teen went through some borderline times. With the "not appropriate for Christian audiences" thinking that surrounded the topic of sex etc. in my raising, I had some difficult years. I struggled with sexual "issues" quietly for many years, in part because I never felt I could ask questions openly. Even now, I am still struggling with the "sex thing". I am trying to sort through what "is" taught in the Bible, where did ideas come from, etc.
    Women as victims and "objects" started long ago, and it is absolutely time to really bring these discussions out in the open!

  • At 9/11/2006 03:06:00 PM, Anonymous soldiermom

    Interesting topic. I have never experienced sexual assault, though I worked in a Rape Crisis Center over 20 years ago. The fact that many have experienced the same trauma does not diminish the pain of the individual's experience. Does this make sense?

    I am trying to understand the story line, but am confused with the significance of David and Bethsheba no longer needing "messengers". It is significant I am sure but that I am missing the point.

    Please refresh my memory. Didn’t David and Bethsheba get married after her husband was disposed of? Was that against her will also? I am seriously lacking in my Old Testament storytelling. Sorry…..

  • At 9/11/2006 03:06:00 PM, Anonymous soldiermom

    Interesting topic. I have never experienced sexual assault, though I worked in a Rape Crisis Center over 20 years ago. The fact that many have experienced the same trauma does not diminish the pain of the individual's experience. Does this make sense?

    I am trying to understand the story line, but am confused with the significance of David and Bethsheba no longer needing "messengers". It is significant I am sure but that I am missing the point.

    Please refresh my memory. Didn’t David and Bethsheba get married after her husband was disposed of? Was that against her will also? I am seriously lacking in my Old Testament storytelling. Sorry…..

  • At 9/11/2006 03:12:00 PM, Blogger Christy

    David was the king, and Bathsheba did not have the power to refuse him. It was far from a consensual affair. When there is that great a power imbalance, you don't need to use a knife or a gun.

    I have also experienced this topic first hand, and like charlotte, my story is rather long, so I won't get into it. But I will say that there have been studies that show that sexual abuse is MORE common in fundamentalist/very conservative Christian homes than in the general population. (Sorry, I can't quote the study off-hand.)

    Because of my history, I hear a lot of things, and that Christian college wasn't the only one to cover up a date rape. And sexual abuse by male clergy is most definitely not confined to the Catholic church.

    The Bible's got some ugly stuff in it, and women did not fare well in those times. The church has got some ugly stuff in it too, and part of dealing with that, is being willing to think of well-known Bible stories in new ways.

    Thanks for this post.

  • At 9/11/2006 04:19:00 PM, Blogger From the Margins

    SM: Good question ... in imagining this event, King D. 'messengers' were probably not UPS guys! :-) They were the King's Guard (I don't think eunichs went out of the court, it wouldn't have been any woman and I doubt if it was any prophet serving the court). So, as Christy so aptly stated, the context definitely represents a high degree of unequal power. Representing King David, highly unlikely Bathsheba had a choice. Her presence was commanded.
    Then after ... she's on her own. No escort home now. There are definitely 21st century counterparts to this, too.

    Christy, Lydia ... I'm so sorry that we, The Church, have not made for a safe place for your stories to be told. I'm honored both of you posted here for us to embrace and validate your story, one of injustice to the utmost degree.

    Christy ... you have spoken truth. I do have links to studies to prove that what you have stated about abuse in The Church is absolutely true. I believe you.

  • At 9/11/2006 07:18:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    If we are afraid to tell stories in the church then the evil has won. There will be more victims who don't get help. We need to make the church (or gatherings of women) safe places for truthtelling, painletting, and condemnation of evil. Shame on the women's part should have no place in our churchs, we should not even let the idea that its the women's fault gain a foothold. this is the huge reason we need a voice and we need power. not for the sake of the things in themselves but to be there to support and give aid as soon as its needed.

  • At 9/11/2006 09:48:00 PM, Blogger wilsford

    We need to make the church (or gatherings of women) safe places for truthtelling, painletting, and condemnation of evil.

    "church," as we understand it in our world, is not built to be a safe place of truthtelling and painletting.

    i would go so far as to argue that a community of people who gather together one, two, three times a week for worship and bible study should not be that place.

    however, "church" as the body of christ can provide that place in the form of a mutually agreed upon relationship in which healthy boundaries are established, honored and maintained. small group, specialized mission work, whatever structure works for someone.

    i'm not a big fan of thinking that the goal is to make an entire congregation be that safe place. i don't think that matches our human natures.

  • At 9/11/2006 10:29:00 PM, Anonymous soldiermom

    "Then after ... she's on her own. No escort home now. There are definitely 21st century counterparts to this, too."

    This is intriguing. Can you expound on this idea Sherri? What did it mean that she no longer had an escort? And what 21st century counterparts? I am sorry I am being so thick, this is all new to me.

  • At 9/12/2006 01:45:00 AM, Blogger sylvia skinner

    Very interesting discussion. Sheri, thanks for bringing it to the table.

    I once met a very young woman who was part of our congregation that had been date-raped at a conservative Christian college. She came home and showered and showered and felt the shame that is so commonly shared by women who have been raped. The saddest part of the story?--she sought out the counsel of an elderly woman in her faith community and confessed (albeit without her consent) that she had sex outside of marriage. She was told that, unfortunately, she must now marry this man. She did. But sex, now believed "sacred" becuase she was married was almost always forced, followed by repeated showers.

    You may think this happened a long, long time ago--I must be very old--the truth? It was the early 90's! The church??? Not so safe after all!

  • At 9/12/2006 02:25:00 AM, Blogger sylvia skinner

    I have a question...I went to Biblegateway.com and read this passage in several versions. The whole "cleansing" thing was very vague and kind-of random. I know you've looked into this more thoroughly, Sheri, so I'm wondering what you think about her showering to cleanse herself from an unwanted sexual encounter vs. the whole old testament law about purification? Your thoughts?

    It is interesting, though...is this really the only place where the cleansing is mentioned after sex?

  • At 9/12/2006 09:16:00 AM, Blogger From the Margins

    SM: Perhaps a 21st century example would be a frat house inviting women to a party, sending a limo to pick them up. But at the end of the evening, any women who have been sexually assaulted find themselves walking home alone ... Or a date rape ... are these victim's escorted home? Many are foced to call someone to pick them up ... or having to call a taxi or rape help number. The 'escort' that was there at the beginning of the night is now gone.

    S: From my study: There is no Levitical law requiring women cleansing/purification after sex, only after the menstruation cycle. It was on a small 1/2 bath washing basin. And men were required to bath after a nocturnal emission. But nothing after sex for either gender.

    Knowing how important bearing a child was to the culture, it is very likely that washing after sex would have been either unthinkable or even prohibited because: 1. it would have dumped the male seed on the ground (not allowed) and 2. the entire life of a potential child was in the male seed and so it would have been 'held in' and protected for the best chance of becoming pregnant.

    Women were thought to contribute nothing except to be an incubator that was necessary for propagating the human race (On a sad note: many of our Christian forefathers lamented in their writings about this fact, saying how unfortunate this necessity was!)

    From my study, which is still in process, :-) I have not found another instance of this purification act being undertaken by a woman as a direct consequence of feeling unclean after sex.

  • At 9/12/2006 09:58:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

    Thanks Sheri...I am seeing that Bethsheba was alone after she was forced to give in to King David. Just like today, women who are simply looking for companionship are used, abused and then left to suffer alone. Gosh...I had not thought of it this way before. How incredibly sad. We were created to be in community. What an affront to our very nature.

    OK...here is my next "help me to understand" question. Why did God say to Solomon about David in Kings 3 "And if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life."? Did David know at the time that his behavior was wrong? Does it matter? Certainly God knew that taking a woman against her will was heck...not Godly...yet David was applauded for having the heart of God. Did women mean so little to God as they meant to man?

    Also, and my memory is sketchy, but didn't David buy a wife with the foreskins of 20 Philistines? Men die from that surgery today. I am sure many did not live to see another day with the bleeding that ensued from a forced adult circumcision. This was a horrible sexual assault to these men also. What does this say about us as a people and how does God over look this in David? My heart is just breaking for all humankind.

  • At 9/12/2006 10:03:00 PM, Blogger From the Margins

    Anon: The comment of a man after God's own heart comes when David was a young man and just being chosen (repeated in Acts 13:22.) Perhap's one lesson I 've learned by hearing so much of David's life story is that there's only so much leadership weight any human can bear. Maybe the real wisdom was what God begged first and foremost ... not to give them a king! What did God know? And yet The Grace Filled One accomodates people.

    Kings 3 is opposing Kings 2 where David is ruthless, passing on a deathbed mandate to his son to revengefully slaughter his enemies he was leaving behind ... taking their blood to Sheol! Yikes! Thanks Dad! The writer doesn't attempt to resolve the David of Kings 2 with Kings 3.

    A possible take: Perhaps I see God, (even before the Cross, no less) as being able to see the potential, Godly-image best in me, despite all my past huge goofs! Why should God drag up our past muck to our children? So from this example, I redeem it by faith and hope that The Merciful One says to my children too, "If you walk in My ways, keeping my statutes and commandments as your mother Sherri walked, then I will prolong your days."

    David knows he's wrong ...
    God has NEVER viewed women, childen or any human being as less valuable than being of equal value to Her/Himself! It's an Image Thing!

    I'm convinced God overlooks NONE of suffering humanity! The Trinity absorbs, identifies with and is in a constant Holy search for a means to save and redeem. THEY, didn't overlook David's multitude of sin at all ... in fact, THEY preserved it for us to find ourselves in the story to help us intersect with God in these Sacred Pages. I know that I meet God there. That's how I know S/He knows my pain ... They've seen it before.

    Anon: It's a Divine Moment when one's heart breaks in unity with Theirs over humanity's lostness. Or so I think.

  • At 9/12/2006 10:17:00 PM, Blogger From the Margins

    Okay .. I know I posted too long before this, BUT I CAN'T HELP PUBLISHING THIS:

    From this month's Hampton Roads Monthly Christian Newspaper:
    A multiple choice quiz of 'how much one knows of love and marriage beginnings from the Bible.

    Question #10

    What convinced David he was in love with Bathsheba, to the extent that he was prepared to commit adultery?

    Correct Answer: A
    "He saw her take a bath, and saw she was beautiful."

    Speechless in the Margins!

  • At 9/13/2006 08:18:00 AM, Anonymous soldiermom

    Wow... that is good stuff Sheri. Thanks for taking the time to lay it all out. I love the idea of the Trinity continually searching for ways to redeem. That is such a more inclusive ideology than the Trinity always looking for ways to punish. Amen sista…

    So from your original post, what would you want us to talk about in our women’s groups? What issues do you see as the central focus so that we can raise awareness in our little part of the world?

    I appreciate your thoughts and insight!

  • At 9/13/2006 08:39:00 AM, Blogger Doxallo

    Was Monica Lewinsky raped?

    I have not read the entire thread here, but am wondering about power positions and the ability to refuse, or if there is even a desire to do so, is the 'power' a sex appeal and draw unto itself?

    I think its wise to not forget there ARE to wills involved and many facets to the emotions and dynamics.

  • At 9/13/2006 08:40:00 AM, Blogger Doxallo

    Should have read TWO wills involved. SORRY! Trying to play a lot of catch up today....

  • At 9/13/2006 01:16:00 PM, Blogger Sarah Notton

    My friend Maurice just blogged about Bathsheba and her story. I'm so impressed that a guy would (on his own!) look at the story from her perspective and encourage others to do likewise.




  • At 9/14/2006 01:54:00 PM, Blogger From the Margins

    Sarah ... hope you might forward our discussion of the topic to him as well. I really appreciated his 'otherness' thinking and feeling. He takes it one step beyond where we went and talks about the 'after-the-event' context. Good stuff.

    I find it very note-worthy to see that Nathan/God seem to understand something of Bathsheba's pain and the injustice done and so 'They' remember her and her son when the time comes. Nathan/God initiates a whole big plan .. is it evidence that justice finds some reward in assuring Bathsheba's son the heir to the throne?

    SM: My thoughts about what we, as feminine theologians in the making :-), can do is to become more intentional about viewing and discussing the biblical narrative from an equal perspective, not leaving out the storyline of those in the margins. If we all did this in whatever context of bible study we are in, then the biblical stories would begin to take new life, color, texture, applicability, etc. It could be transformational.

  • At 9/17/2006 10:35:00 PM, Blogger Cary

    I realize this topic is a week old, so maybe I'm too far behind to be commenting. But...here goes.

    I think something we need to look at is not only our need to address our lack of discussion of the topic of rape and provide a format for its victims to speak about their pain. As a preventative measure, we really need to discuss two issues more often and more clearly.

    The first is the importance of women in God's eyes. If David had had a God's view of women rather than just his culture's view (as more of objects than people), the whole incident might not have happened. Maybe if the young men in our churches understood our place as Image-bearers, the numbers in Christian communities would diminish.

    The second issue is that sex within marriage is a good gift from God, not something to be whispered about in dark corners with a sense of shame. I was so saddened to hear from a friend of how she had been ashamed of her pregnancy (while married, mind you), because she knew that it was physical evidence for everyone to know what she and her husband had done. When I think of the complete joy and anticipation I felt when I carried my boys, my heart breaks for her that she was robbed of that by a church with low views of sex.

  • At 9/19/2006 08:40:00 AM, Blogger From the Margins

    Cary ... great points! I agree with you on the importance of teaching from early on that women are also image-bearers of our Creator.

    I must admit that your second example I can hardly comprehend. I have heard from a reliable source that Martin Luther had someone in the room on his wedding night to make sure that he didn't "enjoy" the sex ... that would have been a sin in his eyes.

    You might be interested in this link that was just sent to me by a friend this past week that is on this subject.


  • At 9/22/2006 02:18:00 AM, Blogger Charlotte Wyncoop

    I think the issue of power is very telling. Who would Bathsheba complain to? David's policemen? Her husband, one of David's mighty men? A priest? Practically, what would happen to her?

    She is a woman with a husband at war - was she being summoned to hear news of her husband?


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