Tag Archives: cultural prejudices and rape

A Theology of Rape

New York Times: ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape

A Yazidi girl from the New York Times article: ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape

The article linked below appeared in the New York Times this morning and describes the development of a human trafficking network within ISIS and the theological justifications used by their leaders to condone rape of women and girls. In it, escaped Yazidi captives tell their stories. I was shocked, disgusted and disturbed by the treatment of these girls and especially so because their rapes were surrounded by acts of prayer and justifications from the perpetrators that, in essence, blamed the victims–if they had not been infidels, they would not be treated so.

Then I reined in my outrage and asked myself: is this anything new? Once a person/group decides that another race, religion, or gender is less than human, he can justify whatever he does. It happened in this country in our own slave history–owners repeatedly raped their slaves. It still happens in this country–not just in other parts of the world, but here too, lest we be tempted to point fingers at these “barbaric” people as if we’ve evolved above such things. Unchecked, hiding in the shadows, humans are capable of all manner of atrocities in any country, anywhere. One need only scan a few days’ worth of news article to see that.

Yes, ISIS’s deeds are horrible. Yes, Boko Haram commits cowardly inhumane acts. I am not diminishing the horrific nature of their crimes. My emotional response: I would love nothing more than to see their own barbarity turned back on them. But there is a bigger picture here. These groups have developed a “culture” around their behavior that makes it socially and morally–even theologically–acceptable for them to commit these heinous acts. If someone raped one of their little sisters, they would probably behead him. The difference: the captives are not considered human, they’re property. And it is no different for the wealthy Coloradan, whose purchased domestic worker is his to rape at will. We, as a combined human race, must say that NEVER is it right for one human to do this to another, that no religious conviction, no social conviction, no caste system, no economic condition can justify the brutality of rape. This requires a basic understanding that all humans have the right to be treated as humans, not chattel, even if we dislike them or don’t agree vehemently with them.

So, even though my emotions would like to see the barbarity returned onto the perpetrators in kind, my moral and ethical code says they must be treated as human beings, deserving of due process and respect. We need to process these actions as war crimes in the world court.



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Male Victims

I’m reblogging this because it fits with some comments I made two weeks ago about this silent population. Male victims require just as much support as female victims. And the silence needs to be broken.

the notepad

When people discuss human trafficking, the usual stereotypical imagery is evoked: an international young woman trafficked across borders, a group of children forced to harvest distant crops, an inner city brothel exposed as exploiting dozens of young girls and women. But rarely do we read of the male victims of human trafficking. Men typically occupy the role of the perpetrator in these stories, but this does not mean that male survivors of trafficking should be denied their status as victims.

Yes, perpetrators of sex-trafficking usually target society’s most vulnerable members (women and children). However, research proves that men are forming an increasingly larger percentage of the victims. An alarming statistic ina 2008 US State Department report on human trafficking reveals that between 2006 and 2008, the percentage of adult male victims of human trafficking jumped from 6% to 45%. In the UK, it’s a similar story: men account for…

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A tough start

I was propelled out of my procrastination and fear of starting this blog by an article I read this morning from the New York Times by Sohaila Abdulali that set my thoughts to swirling. Ms. Abdulali was gang-raped in Bombay 32 years ago. She was stirred to write this article after the recent events with the girl in New Delhi who died following a gang-rape.  The link for Ms. Adbulali’s article and the one she wrote 30 years ago are at the end of this post.

I would like to think that in thirty years there has been a great deal of growth in awareness and understanding of rape and the survivors of rape, and I suppose that is true in some cultures. But in far too many countries around the world, the victims are still being stigmatized and blamed. The shame and isolation they endure is crushing. Even in the U.S., victims continue to be revictimized by the system.

Ms. Abdulali said in her culture she was taught that the horrible thing about rape is the loss of virginity/virtue and that loss of virtue brings shame on the family, particularly the male relatives. So what about married women who are raped who have no virginity to lose? It is still considered a shame to the husband, why?  They are not shamed because they did not protect their daughters or wives. No, they are dishonored as if the girl had done something wrong, as if she brought it upon herself. This is not only true in India, but in many places around the world.

What the articles did not address, and this is where my mind started whirling, is what happens to boys and men who are raped in these cultures. What is the significant loss for them (according to the same sources)? What are they told? How is the shame transferred to these male victims? I have no doubt that men and boys are raped in those cultures. I’m not sure there is a people group where they are not. I don’t have any study to cite but looking at the human trafficking statistics for males, it is easy to see that sexual predators exist worldwide and will use their power to exploit regardless of gender.

All societies, including the U.S., are still fairly silent on the rape of males. I’m sure a great many go unreported so statistics are skewed.  But the truth is, the damage from rape is the same whether male or female: one’s body is violated and controlled by another; one’s power to choose is taken away; one’s sense of personal wholeness and safety is damaged; and for most, no matter how unfair it is, they will bear the burden of shame. A shame that belongs on the perpetrators. A shame that belongs on the powerful who misuse their power. A shame that belongs on authorities that turn a blind eye. A shame that belongs to societies who want to pretend these problems don’t exist and close their hearts to victims.

I honor Sohaila Abdulali for being a bold woman and speaking out, for taking her life back and finding joy again. I honor all survivors of sexual assault, and do my small part in bringing awareness. Let’s begin to put the shame where it belongs.





Filed under International Issues