General Teachings and Beliefs

Jehovah’s Witnesses Threaten Rape Victims With Shunning for “Fornication”

This post may be difficult for some read, and it’s also difficult for me to write. However, of all the repulsive, abusive, misogynistic, obscene, vulgar things that Jehovah’s Witnesses have said about, and said to, women, this subject ranks as one of the worst.

Over the years, Jehovah’s Witnesses have made statements about rape that have equated this vile, criminal act with fornication. They have actually set forth requirements for their female members as to how they need to respond to this crime. A woman who has been raped must meet with a judicial committee, a group of three elders, and recount the ordeal, so they (the elders) can determine if it was truly rape, and if she resisted enough to satisfy them. If not, she faces the threat of disfellowshipping, or shunning, from the congregation.

Consider some of the following statements they’ve made in their publications, with my comments:

Not Screaming Equals Consent

From the January 15, 1964, Watchtower Questions from Readers (bold added for emphasis):

According to the Bible at Deuteronomy 22:23-27, an Israelite engaged girl threatened with rape was required to scream. What is the position of a Christian woman today if faced with a similar situation? Is she to scream even if an attacker threatens her life with a weapon?-M. U., United States.

According to God’s law an Israelite girl was under obligation to scream … But suppose the man had a weapon and threatened to kill the girl if she failed to lie down with him? These scriptures do not weaken the argument or alter the situation by citing any circumstance that would justify her in not screaming … Such Scriptural precedents are applicable to Christians, who are under command, “Flee from fornication.” (1 Cor. 6:18) Thus if a Christian woman does not cry out and does not put forth every effort to flee, she would be viewed as consenting to the violation.

So they equate rape, a horrific act that is forced on someone without their consent, to fornication, or consensual sex between unmarried persons. That’s a huge leap in logic; the end result may be sexual contact, but the circumstances are very, very different. As a comparison, if someone walks up to another person and punches them in the face, is this the same as fighting? A fist met a face, but obviously the circumstances are different.

… if she should submit to the man’s passionate wishes, she would not only be consenting to fornication or adultery, but be plagued by the shame. There would be shame, not only from the repulsiveness of the experience, but of having been coerced into breaking God’s law by having sex connections with one other than a legal marriage mate.

A rape victim is “coerced”? No, a rape victim is forced, violated, overpowered, threatened. A rape victim has not “consented” to anything. Who are they to determine that she should feel “shame”? Shame over what, being attacked and panicked and terrorized?

Better Dead Than Raped

Note what the article says about the fear of being further attacked or even killed if you scream or resist:

if he carried out his threat and committed murder, he would face the likelihood of apprehension and conviction for this even more serious offense. Of course, there is the possibility that … the attacker may strike his victim or inflict a superficial wound to silence the screams, yet would not the endurance of such physical punishment be insignificant compared to the disgrace and shame of submitting to an immoral man? … A Christian woman is entitled to fight for her virginity or marital fidelity to the death.

So in their eyes, it’s okay if you’re murdered because then your attacker would more likely be caught. What a gross lack of value they put on the woman’s life.

From these words, they think that if she doesn’t fight to the death, then she consented, and seem to think a woman is better off dead than raped. It’s better to be beaten to death than to “submit” to an immoral man, and give up your virginity and marital “fidelity.”

I need to ask, if she’s married with children, would the children agree? They would rather grow up without a mother than have a man other than dad “in there”? In their eyes, they would rather attend mom’s funeral than visit her in the hospital?

What about the rest of the family; the woman’s parents, siblings, grandparents, and best friends would rather she be dead than not a virgin, or a rape victim? Again, what a gross lack of value they put on a woman’s life and rape victims in general; her virginity is more important than her survival.

This information was repeated in the June 1, 1968, Watchtower:

As a Christian you are under obligation to resist … Resistance is imperative, because the rapist is after, not just money, but your virtue. An issue of integrity to Jehovah’s laws is involved here. So by no means would it be proper quietly to submit to rape, as that would be consenting to fornication. -1 Thess. 4:3.

Would it be different if the man had a weapon and threatened to kill you if you did not submit? No, the Scriptures plainly state that Christians are under obligation to “flee from fornication.” (1 Cor. 6:18) It is true that you face the possibility of death in this case. But you have no guarantee that if you meekly submit, your assailant will not kill you anyhow to avoid identification.

Yes, the scriptures say to flee from “fornication.” They don’t say to never be the victim of a crime.

Again, they are stating that if you don’t resist, even if you have a weapon pointed at you, then you have “consented” to fornication. I can’t imagine any scenario involving a weapon that also involves a person’s consent; isn’t that why a person brings a weapon in the first place? If they had your consent, why would they need the weapon?

The Very Real Threat of Disfellowshipping and Shunning

The threat of disfellowshipping and shunning was brought out in the March 8, 1974, Awake, with a woman giving her personal account of facing a rapist:

She told him that marriage was honorable before God that if she did not scream she would ruin her relationship with Jehovah God and the Christian congregation; that then she would be disfellowshiped or excommunicated from it and that this would be worse than being killed as far as she was concerned.

This was repeated in another account in the October 15, 1980, Watchtower:

She explained that if she did not [scream] she would ruin her relationship with Jehovah God and the Christian congregation … A Christian woman is under obligation to resist, for the issue of obedience to God’s law to “flee from fornication” is involved. (1 Cor. 6:18) By no means would it be proper for her willingly to submit to being raped.

Here we have the phrase “willingly submit,” and the word “rape” in the same sentence. They apparently just don’t understand that a woman isn’t “willing” when it comes to rape, whether or not she screams or fights or tries to run away. Being terrified is not the same as being willing, yet the threat of excommunication and shunning are very real, as you can see from these experiences.

Rapists Ask Permission?

The most telling statement made by Jehovah’s Witnesses, when it comes to their vulgar misinterpretation of the act of rape, comes from the February 22, 1984, Awake:

… the situation is not the same as when a man simply is asking for money or other material possessions. A woman wisely would give him these. But the rapist is asking a person to break God’s law by committing fornication.

This statement is beyond vulgar, beyond obscene, and beyond stupid, but it really reveals why Jehovah’s Witnesses think rape victims should be shunned and punished. They actually believe a rapist is asking someone for anything?

Let me repeat that. A rapist is askingASKING?

A rapist does not ask a victim for anything, much less her permission. A rapist doesn’t walk up to a woman and say, “Hey, wanna have sex?” and then wait for her response.


This 76-year-old man was beaten in the face by another driver in an incident of unprovoked road rage. Using JW logic, I assume he would be disfellowshipped for “fighting.”

Sure, they may be isolated cases where a rapist hesitates to get up his nerve so the victim has time to respond, but in most cases, a rapist pounces on a victim, punches her, chokes her, grabs her by the hair, shoves her face into the ground, and does all of this within the first few seconds of his attack. What part of any of that would make a person think that the rapist is “asking,” or is concerned about her consent?

These statements are absolutely inexcusable. Equating rape with fornication, and threatening women with shunning, is obscene, and it only further victimizes them after having been through a most brutal ordeal. I would like Jehovah’s Witnesses to explain how they can equate these egregious, obscene statements and outright accusations against rape victims with their teaching that Jehovah is a god of love. And again, why should I worship this god? Why should I worship a god who would think to punish a victim after suffering such a horrific crime against them?

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