Political Justice

#Me Too – Religious and Legislative Repercussions

According to National statistics on sexual violence, one in four women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime. The breaking of silence has begun. Many women have found an arena to voice their stories while others may die silent. They may be traumatized by the experience or shamed by going public. Sexual violence or rape is not a new phenomenon. Loathing for the flesh has had its origins in ancient times and among people of all faiths. It can never be justified and was given a platform in the majority of ancient courts. In fact, British law provided the basis for many American rape statutes. They referred to the term rape “raptus or rapere” as a nonsexual crime of violent theft. It was referred to as theft since it robbed a virgin of her virginity or a married woman of her honor. It was considered an assault on a woman’s body and dignity and it was dealt with according to the socio-economic status of the victim and her courage to speak up.

During Biblical times, women were referred to as property Exodus 20:17, but they were not punished for being raped Deut. 22:25-27. It is the assailant who was put to death. The Holy Spirit inspired that if the victim was a virgin, the perpetrator should marry her for life. In the 1800s in the United States rape was considered a crime only when it happened to a chaste white woman. Black female slaves could not refuse to have sex with their Masters. They were considered legal property. Ironically, all married women were also considered men’s property in many states and spousal rape was not considered illegal in all 50 states until 1993.

According to Islamic exegesis rape is considered a crime and the aggressor must be severely punished. In some cases, the death penalty may apply. God urges the protection of innocent women and when a woman is assaulted, she is freed and her attacker is punished. The wife, on the other hand, in reference to Adam, was created from man’s soul so that he might dwell in security with her. They offer each other comfort and the wife must never be disrespected, sexually assaulted, or mistreated in any way.

In the 1920s in the United States, men who were in positions of authority blamed the victim or dismissed the accusation of rape altogether. In January of 2015, Brock Allen Turner was sentenced to six months jail and probation after he was caught raping a half-naked woman behind a dumpster. To the fury of many, the judge, prompted by a letter from Turner’s father took into consideration Brock’s future as an Olympic swimmer and gave him a light sentence. Similarly, Michigan State University student Tiffany Thomas Lopez’s complaints of Larry Nasser’s abuse were left ignored. She and many other young girls have now adopted the conversation and became part of the “Me Too” narrative.

I am glad that actress Alyssa Milano became the last straw and the founder of the “Me Too” movement. She courageously used ‘two word’ tweet. I commend her and urge every woman, young or old, to find the fortitude to speak up. It’s never too late for a woman to assert herself and to change the pattern of history. Sometimes it takes centuries for an earthquake to disrupt the state of affairs, but when it does, shame will no longer perpetuate silence. The legal rights of sexually assaulted victims are evolving and most are putting an end to business as usual. There is no such thing as legitimate and illegitimate rape as stated by Congressman Todd Akin when he argued against abortion in 2012. Rape is “rape!” It’s time for all victims to speak up. You should never cower with shame. What you bring to the forefront can be fixed or resisted.