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Pastoral

As church leaders we often find ourselves confronted with any of a wide range of pastoral issues where we feel we lack expertise.  The features in this section will give you many suggestions for what you might do (at least until the experts arrive!)

You can see the full range at livingleadership.squarespace.com/growing-in-pastoring-

Rape and sexual assault

[Your Name Here]

Written by Peter Hicks

You can download the PDF of this resource here.

 

What is rape?

Rape can be defined as sexual intercourse involving any form of penetration forced on a non-consenting person, generally with the use or threat of violence. The victim is usually (though by no means exclusively) female; a high proportion are in their teens; only a minority are raped by strangers; a considerable number of rapes occur within marriages.

As a technical definition, sexual assault covers any form of invasion of sexual privacy. Frequently, in its effects it is the equivalent of rape without penetration. The suggestions below can be applied equally to victims of rape and of serious sexual assault.

Powerful elements of our culture, including some music, some aspects of the media, and pornography, tend to link violence and sex, and give the message that a man has the right to gratify his need for dominance and sexual intercourse. In contrast, rape and sexual assault are a denial of the basic Christian principle of love, that honours and puts first the other person, and they are rightly seen as serious criminal activities.

There is a lot of pressure on a victim of sexual assault or rape to remain silent. She may be afraid that she will not be believed, or be blamed for leading the rapist on. There may be threats from the rapist, or he may be a friend or family member whom she wants to protect. There will be fear of publicity and all the complexity of possible consequences, including becoming involved in a criminal trial. Sometimes pressure is applied by close family members who wish to avoid scandal. However, there are three strong reasons why she should not remain silent: she needs help in getting over the experience; a serious crime has been committed and she is required by law to report it; and failure to take action will only encourage further rape.

Helping a rape victim

Listen. Accept her. Make it easy for her to tell you. Even if her story is incoherent and inconsistent and doubts arise in your mind, still accept it. Details can always be checked out later if necessary.

Encourage her to see a doctor, the police and a counsellor, and if possible contact a specialist rape centre (see www.rapecrisis.org.uk/Referralcentres2.php ). Go with her where appropriate.

Take what comes. In the first few days of shock this may be a sense of unreality, emotional outbreaks, inability to concentrate, excessive fear, or emotional dullness. Encourage the expression of her feelings such as anger or fear. Help and support her through it all.

Help her to resist the self-blame and self-rejection that many victims feel. Where the rapist was someone known to her, help her deal with the sense of betrayal, and the issue of her future relationship with him.

Where necessary, take steps to support the family as well as the victim. Remember that the parents of a teenage girl who has been raped may well respond with denial or excessive anger. Help them through these things.

Watch for any effects that develop in the long term, such as low self-image or obsessive cleanliness, and encourage her to get help from a counsellor.

If a pregnancy should develop, stand by her and help her as she works through the issue of an abortion (see our feature in this site on abortion).

What could I say?

Rape counselling organizations that can help you straightaway include:
Lifecentre Rape Crisis Service (a Christian charity), 
helpline: 0844 847 7879, 
text: 07717 989 022
email: help@lifecentre.uk.com
Rape Crisis, helpline 0808 802 9999
Victim Support, helpline 0845 3030 900

Working with a rapist

Whatever our personal feelings, those who have committed rape or sexual assault urgently need help. In giving it we are in no way whatsoever condoning what they have done. Indeed, we are taking it so very seriously we feel we have to take action to prevent it ever happening again.  But what could we possibly say?

Peter Hicks

This is a chapter from Peter Hicks, What Could I Say?, published by Inter-Varsity Press UK, www.ivpbooks.com,

© Peter Hicks, and used by kind permission of the author and publisher.