In this post I talk about the horrific way that Jehovah’s Witnesses address rape victims, saying that if they do not scream and physically resist, they have committed fornication, even if they are terrorized or threatened with a weapon. Women face disfellowshipping or shunning if elders determine after her ordeal that she did not resist the attack enough to satisfy them.
Not only do Jehovah’s Witnesses equate rape with fornication, but they have also blamed women for raising rapists and for being raped in the first place. Consider the quotes below from the March 8, 1974, Awake magazine.
Women Are to Blame for Raising Rapists
No doubt one of the main reasons for rapes has ever been the extreme selfishness of men who refuse to control their mating instinct. As Dr. Ralph Garofalo, of Massachusetts’ Center for Diagnosis and Treatment of Sexually Dangerous Persons, put it: ‘Normal men find a socially acceptable outlet for their desires, while the rapist loses sight of all moral or legal considerations.’
The article starts off well and good, blaming men for their lack of self-control, but then dissolves into blaming women, first for raising rapists:
Womankind must share the blame. To begin with, until the age of five or six years, the most vital period, little boys have their personalities molded largely by women, their mothers. And as they grow up, it is usually the mother that has the most opportunities to inculcate in her son respect for womankind, both by word and by example. But far too many mothers have come short in this regard.
They talk about “until a boy is about five or six” and refer to this as being “the most vital period.” Do you even remember anything that happened before you were five? They really assume that what a boy learns about how to treat women when he’s four is going to be more important than what he learns at fourteen?
They also say that the mother has the most opportunities to inculcate in their sons respect for womankind. Well, where is the statement about what men teach little boys about women and respect for them?
I personally don’t know what makes a man decide to rape a woman; chances are it’s a combination of violent tendencies, lack of respect for women in general, sexual perversions, and a host of other factors. But, let’s assume for a moment that it goes back to the parents. Whom do you think would be more responsible, the mother, or a father who watches violent pornography, makes degrading comments to women about their bodies, and is violent and abusive to the wife in the home? I’m not saying all fathers are like that, but my point is, why don’t they bring up or suggest these scenarios? Nothing is said about what role fathers might play in raising a rapist; absolutely nothing. It’s all about women and their failings.
Here is another glaring problem. While Jehovah’s Witnesses put this responsibility for teaching respect at the feet of the women, they also don’t allow women to leave or even speak to their husbands when he’s disrespectful and downright abusive! Note this post, about women who are told to tolerate a husband’s abusive and neglectful behavior, and this post, about the domestic violence that I commonly saw within the congregation. In this post, you see how women are encouraged to stay with violent and abusive men. How can a woman teach a little boy to be respectful of women if he sees such gross disrespect and violence on a daily basis, and is taught that women are expected to just tolerate this behavior?
Especially and specifically blameworthy are those female relatives, such as an aunt or even a mother, who have used boys as sexual playthings …
This comment is also confounding. Yes, women do abuse children sexually, but the ratio of male to female pedophiles is very disproportionate.
Here they are being very hypocritical, as Jehovah’s Witnesses have a horrific track record in how they handle charges of pedophilia within their own congregations. Elders and other men have been caught raping little boys; wouldn’t this teach those little boys that rape is okay, and teach them how to rape and be violent? Again, they don’t mention or suggest this scenario, but talk only about sexually abusive women.
What is also noteworthy is that the first paragraph, putting the responsibility for rape at the feet of the men who commit rape, is quoting an expert on the subject, a doctor who works at a center that studies rapists. Jehovah’s Witnesses quote no experts, no studies, no outside sources for putting the blame on women for raising rapists. It’s as if they simply made up these statements on their own.
Blaming Women for Being Raped
A new American motion picture star who aims to occupy the place once held by America’s previous sex symbol brags about her charms and about her ability to arouse men by displaying herself in motion pictures. Such actresses must also share in the blame for the increase in rapes, for after men have seen them on the screen they frequently go out and attack a woman who may be a paragon of virtue.
Two things; one, where is this study that says that men who watch sexy movies “frequently” go out and rape women afterwards? They don’t quote any sources for this; no rapists who admitted after the fact that a steamy movie made them lose all self-control and rape someone.
Two, if this is a problem for them, who says these men need to be going to these movies in the first place? No one forces them to watch steamy movies or porn or anything else.
The New York Times, November 26, 1973, told of two fifteen-year-old girls being forced, shortly after midnight, into a store by an employee of the store who kept them for four hours and repeatedly raped one of them … But what business did two teen-age girls have on the streets around midnight?
When I was 15, my mother wouldn’t allow me any food in the house and didn’t buy me clothes, school supplies, or anything else. I needed to work to buy basic necessities, and the only job I could get was at a movie theater. Sometimes I got out after 11:00 at night or even later. If I had been forced into a neighboring store while walking to the car and raped, would this be the response I should expect from god’s “loving shepherds”?
According to the Seattle, Washington, police lieutenant in charge of the department dealing with such crimes, women who “reveal everything” in the way they dress make themselves more vulnerable to rape. “You can’t advertise a commodity and expect no buyers … “
Do they not understand the difference between buyers and thieves? Buying something involves the owner’s permission; stealing something means you don’t have the owner’s consent. Despite what Jehovah’s Witnesses think about rape, the act does not involve the woman’s consent. The “commodity” isn’t being bought; it’s been taken from her forcibly.
As far as the woman’s dress is concerned, this view is extremely outdated, but I’ll add my comments. What exactly is “modesty”? Is showing your knees or neck immodest? What about an elbow; am I allowed to show an elbow without asking to be raped? A woman in shorts is “advertising” to be raped? A tank top, short sleeves, a skirt with a slit?
Are Jehovah’s Witnesses expecting women to walk around in burqas? This would be pointless because women in Eastern countries who wear these head-to-toe garments are also raped.
Is this thinking applied to men who have things stolen from them? If you take your car out of the garage, you should expect it to be stolen? If you take your wallet out to pay for lunch, you can expect your money to be stolen, and it’s your fault for “advertising” your wallet?
I would need to ask Jehovah’s Witnesses, do you still feel this way? These statements about women being to blame for raising rapists have never been rescinded or corrected, so do you still put this at the feet of mothers? I also have yet to see any statements about the role fathers and other adult men play in creating rapists, so am I correct in assuming JWs still think it’s all the fault of women?
How do I justify these horrific statements with the thought that Jehovah is a loving god who thinks of women as equals and who is concerned about my well-being, not to mention a god who supposedly hates violence and crime? This message is that Jehovah isn’t mad at the rapists as much as he’s mad at women for bringing this problem on themselves, and shame on a woman for feeling bad about being raped since she is to blame in the first place.
In this article and so many more like it, rape victims and their feelings are callously dismissed with an accusatory attitude. Rather than showing concern, compassion, and sympathy for victims, Jehovah’s Witnesses sneer at women and blame them more than you even blame the rapists themselves. Please explain how I can possibly love a god who says things like this, and why I would want to in the first place.
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