God Heals Shame: Hope for Victims of Rape

God Heals Shame: Hope for Victims of Rape June 7, 2023

My first boyfriend raped me when I was a 14-year-old virgin. I wish I had known God heals shame, because being raped felt shameful. I should have told someone, because what he did was wrong.

If I had told just one person, maybe it wouldn’t have taken me 30 years to realize God cared, He did not blame me, and He wanted to heal my feelings of shame. Perhaps I wouldn’t have spent so long believing people would doubt my story.

God Heals Shame - Close-up of Chihuly glass bowl pattern represents shame
God Heals Shame – Close-up photo by Linda L. Kruschke of Chihuly glass bowl

Often people tell me I’m brave when I share my story of sexual assault, but I’m not brave at all. I was the opposite of brave when the rape took place. And I don’t want to be called brave. God’s imparts to me, through the Holy Spirit, the courage that keeps me talking and writing about the hard stories of my life.

A few years ago, I shared my story with a group of co-workers at a managers’ meeting. It was relevant to a policy issue we were discussing, though that policy issue isn’t relevant to my story here. As we were leaving the meeting, one of my co-workers thanked me for sharing. “My sister was raped,” he said. “I appreciate your honesty and bravery.”

Back in my office, his comment began to stir up disquiet in my soul. Why had he called me brave? And why did I have an intense anger welling up in my heart in response?

Processing through Poetry

I often process my feelings by writing poetry. Such was the case on this day, when I wrote this poem titled “What Is Bravery?

Why say I’m brave?
You don’t call robbery victims brave
when they tell

You don’t call shooting victims brave
when they tell

You don’t call mugging victims brave
when they tell

Yet your clouded view calls me brave
when I tell
I was raped

Our Culture Fosters, but God Heals, Shame

I realize now that my anger was aimed at a culture that teaches women that they are the ones who should be ashamed when they are raped. We come to believe that to reveal that shameful encounter takes bravery. Even Chanel Miller, author of the memoir Know My Name, expresses in her book the unexplainable shame she felt for having been almost raped by Brock Turner while she lay unconscious on the ground.

As a victim of rape or sexual assault, I should not feel shame. You should not feel shame. It is the violent perpetrators of these crimes who should be ashamed of their actions. But that’s not how it seems to work in our society. Chanel Miller’s experience attests to the stigma and confusion that plague even victims of stranger rape. Imagine the greater shame felt by women assaulted by a boyfriend, husband, a trusted family member, or friend.

In the Bible, God Blames the Rapist

It hasn’t always been that way. In Genesis 34, the daughter of Jacob—her name was Dinah—was raped by Shechem. When her brothers found out what had happened, they did not lay the blame at Dinah’s feet. They held the perpetrator responsible and determined nothing short of death was just punishment for Shechem’s actions.

In 2 Samuel 11, we read the tale of David’s infatuation with Bathsheba, who he sees bathing from the vantage point of his palace rooftop. He sends for her and sleeps with her. The story ends with God expressing is displeasure with David’s actions. David had clearly taken advantage of Bathsheba and God blamed David, not the woman.

Read more about the Bible’s perspective on who is to blame for rape in “God in the Active Voice,” an article I wrote for Fathom magazine.

God Wants to Shatter the Stigma of Rape

Women today shouldn’t have to be brave to say someone raped them. They shouldn’t wonder if they will be believed. It is the stigma surrounding this terrible crime that imprisons victims in a shroud of secrecy. My story is one step toward eradicating that stigma. I hope my openness is a step toward the day when no woman will be so afraid to speak the truth that they spend years in darkness and pain like I did. May everyone to know that God heals shame.

Closing Prayer

Heavenly Father, I pray for anyone reading this post who has been a victim of rape or sexual abuse, that You would remove any feelings of shame. I also pray You will change hearts and minds in our culture to shatter the stigma against victims of sexual crimes, and help us as a people put the blame where it belongs: with the perpetrator of the crime. Help us stand up for the voiceless. In Jesus’ name, amen.


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