*** warning: graphic subject matter ahead ***
As brought out in posts under the Rape category, Jehovah’s Witnesses actually take a stand against rape victims in their congregations. Women are required to scream and fight back, or face disfellowshipping (excommunication) and subsequent shunning from everyone they know. Elders are told that “discernment is needed” when a woman claims to have been raped, and an elder can just decide for himself that a woman is lying and, again, she can be disfellowshipped and shunned.
If these practices are not difficult enough to comprehend, consider the advice given in the February 22, 1984, Awake magazine regarding rape, under the subheading, “Treat Him Respectfully”:
The intended victim should remember that the rapist is a human. No doubt there are circumstances in his life that have precipitated his behavior. So although a woman should not cower in fear and permit a rapist to intimidate her, at the same time she should treat him understandingly, as a fellow human.
“The Rapist is a Human”
A rapist may have a heart and lungs, but I wouldn’t call such a violent, disgusting person a human. A rapist is someone who acts out of anger, and who humiliates and hurts a victim in the worst way possible. Rape often includes physical assaults (punching, choking, pistol whipping) and binding or tying up the victim. The victim may also be threatened in a terrifying manner, especially as a way to force their silence.
The sexual aspect of rape can also be horrific; it is typically more than just “intercourse,” and obviously it is anything but gentle and loving. A rape victim may be penetrated with fingers or objects, or have their genitalia cut or slashed as a way to humiliate them. They may be forced to perform oral sex or be sodomized either by the rapist himself, or with foreign objects. Some rapes occur over the course of hours, with victims being brutalized again and again. Beatings may also occur during the sexual aspect of rape.
Rapists also do not target just young, sexy women, as many people assume. Elderly women are raped, often as part of a home invasion. Homeless women are raped, as are female prisoners. This is because rape is not only about sex, but about power, violence, and anger. Women who are raped are assaulted, except the weapon is a penis, not a fist. Rapists are lashing out in anger, or are taking advantage of someone who is powerless and doing so in the most horrific way; they aren’t simply forcing someone to have sex with them.
No, the men who would do this to someone else are not human. Not in the least.
“Circumstances in His Life”
There are two questions I might ask about the phrase, “No doubt there are circumstances in his life that have precipitated his behavior.”
1. Is the implication that these are all circumstances for which the man is not responsible? The man can only be the victim of the circumstances that have led up to his decision to rape and terrorize another human being?
What about circumstances he’s chosen, for instance, if he makes the choice to watch violent and degrading entertainment that fuels his sexual perversions and rage, or his choice to allow hateful thoughts against women to fester in his mind? What about his choice of associates who joke about rape, or who talk about how women deserve it, or his choice to drink and take drugs that lower his inhibitions?
Jehovah’s Witnesses have also outright blamed women for raising rapists and for being raped, saying that mothers fail to teach men respect for women, and that they shouldn’t be out at night or dressed immodestly; see this post. Rather than talking about the circumstances that this man chose to surround himself with, all this information seems to blame everyone and everything else in the man’s life for making him this way, including women themselves.
In other words, the real victim here is the rapist, not his intended victim.
2. If a man had circumstances in his life that led up to him becoming a rapist, does that somehow absolve him of responsibility for his actions? I’ve had terrible circumstances in my life that make me very angry, mostly at elders who are Jehovah’s Witnesses, so would they treat me respectfully and understandingly if I were to walk up and punch them in the head? Really, many people live through abuses and horrific circumstances, but choose to handle things without becoming a violent rapist (or punching people in the head).
I might also point out that the bible gives no leeway for blaming others when it comes time to face judgment for one’s actions, so this statement is not only confounding and obscenely misogynistic, it’s also not supported by scripture.
“Treat Him Understandingly”
When should an intended rape victim show a rapist this understanding? While he’s punching her in the face or pistol-whipping her? While he’s tying her up with electrical cord so tight it cuts through her skin? When he’s penetrating her vagina with his gun while threatening to pull the trigger? When he shoves her head into the ground and viciously rapes her anally?
Should it be after the attack, when he forces her to shower and scrub herself while he watches so she removes any trace of his DNA? How about when he says he’ll track down her mother or sister and do the same thing to them if she calls the police? Are these the right times to “treat him understandingly”?
A rapist is not a stray dog who only needs a pat on the head to learn how to play nice with others. A rapist is a grownup adult person who chooses his violent and disgusting course of action. Saying that he deserves understanding or sympathy, or anything but punishment, is an obscenity.
Keep in mind also that many rapists commit this vile act repeatedly, even after having served time in prison, even after having gotten “counseling,” and even after having had to face their previous victims in court. They are given every opportunity to realize the inexcusable nature of their behavior, but they choose, instead, to go out and brutally violate women again and again. If you want to “understand” anything about a rapist, knowing that he’s probably committed this act before, and will probably commit it again, that he typically has no remorse or regret or feeling for his victim, and may escalate his brutality to even more horrific crimes such as murder, is a good place to start.
Another confounding problem with this advice is that a woman who is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses is required to scream and resist, and even fight to the death during an attack. Consider this dilemma. She is required to scream, but treat her rapist respectfully. She must resist, but treat him understandingly. Fight, but remember that he’s a human being.
Do Jehovah’s Witnesses have any idea how ridiculous this is? You can’t scream and fight and resist someone that you also treat respectfully and understandingly. So, which is it?
What About the Victim?
Really, what about the victim in all of this? She is counseled to show respect and understanding to her brutal attacker, but where is the respect and understanding to her? Not from her rapist, and, unfortunately, not from Jehovah’s Witnesses. Rather than having an ounce of understanding when it comes to how horrific these attacks are and the damage they do, they instead tell her to respect and understand a man who would assault her so violently. Then, after her attack, they expect her to sit with three men from her congregation and explain the incident detail by detail; if she didn’t scream and fight enough to satisfy them, or if they think they’ve “discerned” something about her mental disposition or how long it took her to report the incident, she may be disfellowshipped for “fornication.” How is that respectful or understanding of her? How does that treat her “like a fellow human”?
Interestingly, the vast majority of information from Jehovah’s Witnesses includes counsel to women on what is required of her when she is brutally attacked, and how to determine if the woman herself deserves punishment afterwards. Very little information talks about how to treat a woman after an attack in a positive way, such as how to get her counseling, how to reassure her and make her feel safe, and so on. As a matter of fact, this information about treating a rapist “respectfully” and “understandingly” is more reassuring than any counsel given to elders about how to treat a rape victim. They are never given instructions to treat her “respectfully” and “understandingly,” or to try to help her at all, but are told to immediately use “discernment” to determine if a woman was even really raped in the first place.
Saying that a rapist deserves respect and understanding is disgusting enough, but doing so with the same mouth that treats rape victims like sinners and shows them little regard makes it even worse. Really, why should I belong to a religion that does this, and how can anyone justify these words and this counsel?
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