Rape Culture, Sexual Violence, and Spiritual Healing by Gina Messina-Dysert

Gina Messina-Dysert profileRecently I had the great pleasure of presenting on the WATER Teleconference Series and dialoguing with women from around the world about how to promote healing in a rape culture. Likewise, in a previous post I discussed rape culture in the Church and its impact on victims of sexual violence and the greater community.  Within a rape culture, those who experience sexual victimization endure physical, emotional, and spiritual wounding. It is a victimization unlike any other, and one that we must continue to discuss in search of healing.

This topic is important to me for obvious reasons. As a woman, mother, and social justice activist, I am passionate about eradicating gender based violence.  This said, I also have direct experience with this brutality that plagues our society. Having worked with rape survivors for more than a decade, I have witnessed the suffering endured as a result of such violence.  My own mother died prematurely as a result of sexual and domestic violence; having come to learn of the horrors she lived through has greatly impacted my understanding of the deep spiritual wounding experienced due to our culture of shaming and blaming – our rape culture.

Han has become a key concept in the way I understand the suffering of the rape victim.  Continue reading “Rape Culture, Sexual Violence, and Spiritual Healing by Gina Messina-Dysert”

What We’ve Learned from Steubenville by Gina Messina-Dysert

Gina Messina-Dysert profileThe nation has watched over these last several months as the rape case in Steubenville, Ohio has unfolded in the media.  On March 17, 2013 the verdict was announced and the two teenage boys accused of raping a 16 year old girl were found guilty on all counts.   Although the verdict was just, all other circumstances surrounding the case, including the sentence, support the existence of a rape culture.  What we have learned from Steubenville is that the humanity of women and girls continues to be of little importance in today’s society.

To begin, the assault itself was horrific.  While two teenage boys took turns raping and abusing the body of Jane Doe, the other boys present took great pleasure in watching, taking pictures, texting, tweeting, facebooking, and video recording the brutality.  It was a scene out of The Accused (the film that recounted the real life rape of a woman while a crowd watched a cheered) all over again–this time with the “benefit” of modern technology.  Not only were those in the room witnesses to this gruesome attack, the entire world became voyeurs as video, pictures, and text went viral. Continue reading “What We’ve Learned from Steubenville by Gina Messina-Dysert”

Gendercide: Words and Poem by Bernedette Muthien

engender, Bernedette Muthien, gendercide, poetry, violence against women, patriarchy,


 it took a full week

of straitjacketing generations

of genocidal femicidal trauma

for the clay dam wall to explode

and flood me in torrents

of collective grief

a poet with no words

a lifelong activist struck dumb

i choke on love for the dead

thousands of beautiful women and children a year

i puke for my incested cancerous country

and gag grappling for compassion of

perpetrators and the morally blind

in this breathtaking country

so brutally drenched in the blood

of ordinary women and children

i discover anew

that i fail to


my spiritual cadaver

is dragged under by the concrete limbs

of victims perpetrators witnesses

majority blinkered burdens

too busy scrabbling for survival

to fight for justice

as i contemplate the imminent refreshment

of my childhood starvation

my hunger for food agency adventure

leads me to stare the dragon in its ambered eyes

like a mirror of my ever-present shadows

Demon! Patriarchy…

how can I love you to death…?

— Bernedette Muthien (15 feb 2013)

for the billion women martyrs around the world… Continue reading “Gendercide: Words and Poem by Bernedette Muthien”

Second Class Rape Victims: Rape Hierarchy and Gender Conflict

Deconstructing masculinity isn’t the key to solving social, sexual, and domestic violence across the world but it is a step worth taking when attempting to engage men in affecting change to stop these violent actions since men, statistically are the perpetrators of such crimes that both cause such outcry as well as perpetual silence.

johnThe most disturbing part of the 2006 documentary Deliver Us from Evil isn’t the fact that Father Oliver O’Grady is rewarded by the Catholic Church with a new congregation in Ireland after his short stint in prison for the rape of dozens of children in the 1970s, but rather the hierarchy of gendered victimization which is often created throughout the various rape cases that are both reported and unreported throughout history.

I am often troubled by the ways in which rape cases are discussed and deconstructed via mediums such as blogs, online communities, social media networks, the news, and popular culture.  No series of events troubled me more than the Jerry Sandusky trial, but more importantly, the ways in which the young boys and adult men who were subjected to Sandusky’s abuse quickly overshadowed the other rape cases that are reported on a daily basis, specifically those involving young girls and women. Continue reading “Second Class Rape Victims: Rape Hierarchy and Gender Conflict”

Les Miserables’ Fantine, Women’s Suffering, and Female Migrant Labor by Gina Messina-Dysert

Gina Messina-Dysert profileUpon the recommendation of several friends and colleagues I decided to see the film Les Miserables.  It is rare these days that I make it to the movies.  My life is generally over scheduled and spare time is nonexistent.  So with just a few days left until the start of the semester and with a pile of work on my desk, I decided to throw caution to the wind and head to the theater last-minute to see Victor Hugo’s masterpiece on the big screen.

First, can I say what a brilliant surprise the film itself was?  I wondered if Hollywood could do justice to Hugo; from the moment of the opening scene I was in absolute awe.  I left the theater experiencing a momentary resurrection.

Anne Hathaway / Les Misérables: © Universal Pictures.
Anne Hathaway / Les Misérables: © Universal Pictures.

While the entire film was amazing, I would have seen it for nothing else but Anne Hathaway’s performance as Fantine.  I felt her suffering in the depths of my soul and wept along with her.  In Fantine we see the suffering of Everywoman.  She represents the thin line between those virtuous and those fallen and mirrors women’s imprisonment within this dichotomy.     Continue reading “Les Miserables’ Fantine, Women’s Suffering, and Female Migrant Labor by Gina Messina-Dysert”

The Impact of Excommunication in the 21st Century (Part I) – Spiritual Redemption or Hegemonic Power by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

The Lord loves everyone and died for everyone, and He wants all to be saved…the best lesson that can be learned from everything that has happened is that one finds happiness, joy and satisfaction in obedience to the Church.”Bishop Bruskewitz

One of the most misunderstood concepts in the Catholic Church is excommunication.  Many believe that excommunication is a complete termination or separation from the Catholic Church.  To say this another way, if excommunicated, you are no longer Catholic or part (a member) of the Catholic Church.  None of these statements are true.  By baptism, you are a member of the Catholic Church and no one can take that away.

Much of the misunderstanding stems from the way excommunication was used in the Middle Ages; a means of coercion to control kings and other high ranking officials.  Obedience to the Church meant that you will spend eternal life in heaven.  Disobedience to the Church meant a complete separation from the Church; a ban against  receiving Eucharist, a banishment of your soul to the eternal flames of hell.  Excommunication was the highest form of punishment and the most meaningful (and effective) tools of control.  When a person was excommunicated, there was even a public ceremony –  a bell tolled for the excommunicant, as a bell that would chime for the dead, the Gospels were closed, and a (baptismal) candle would be extinguished.  This ceremony signified eternal darkness and death. Continue reading “The Impact of Excommunication in the 21st Century (Part I) – Spiritual Redemption or Hegemonic Power by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

Hitting the Trifecta in Women’s Issues by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

One did not have to watch the debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney this past Tuesday to know that Romney hit the trifecta in the area of women’s issues.  It was all over social media within minutes of statements being made that marginalized or treated women as “less than.”

The issue of contraception and rape is still a topic of debate.  Church’s post signs to “Vote for Religious Freedom” and hand out voting guides that help you gauge the moral candidate.  Bulletin boards stating that “Obama believes in abortion and gay marriage – do you? vote Republican” appear by the highway.  This issue will not be settled during the election.

If people in power set an example of bullying and/or oppressive behavior, this behavior becomes acceptable.  If women are treated “less than,” then their dignity as well as their humanity is compromised.

An extreme example of this de-humanizing treatment of women in American society appeared October 13th in Cincinnati.com.  A story was published about a flyer found in the men’s restroom of a co-ed freshmen dorm at Miami University.  The title of this flyer – “Top Ten Ways to Get Away With Rape:” Continue reading “Hitting the Trifecta in Women’s Issues by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

It’s Junk Science by Brian Froelich

Let’s be honest. It’s not about the junk science. There were some crazy things said recently but they were crazy with a purpose.

Republican Rep. Todd Aikin (who is a policy blood brother to Republican Reps. Paul Ryan and Chris Smith) effectively said a woman’s subconscious can determine if she gets pregnant. He said as a result of a rape a women’s body can shut down its reproductive mechanisms. Of course this is junk science. And Republicans quickly reacted to the predictable public uproar by castigating Rep. Aikin and seeking his resignation from the race. (Two interesting exceptions to that list were former Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and current Congressional candidate Rep. Chris Smith. Huckabee by his stout defense and Smith by his silence.)

But this had nothing to do with Republicans’ regard for science. In fact science is held in very low regard in the Republican party. This is best exemplified by the fact that the Republicans appointed Rep. Aikin to the Congressional Science Committee. Continue reading “It’s Junk Science by Brian Froelich”

Is the Republican Party Platform Truly Pro-Life? by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

As many feminists invest their life fighting for women’s rights to be the center of attention – no one could predict the occurrences of this election year.  In my previous post “Rape is Not a Political Platform – Rape is a Violent Crime!” Carol P. Christ made a comment about women’s issues and politics:

 “I have been waiting all my life for women’s issues to become central in an election campaign, but I guess I should have been more specific in my wish: this is not the format I imagined…”

Christ’s reaction is like so many others in the election; no one could have imagined such a bizarre and backwards slide being lobbied against women’s rights.   Issues being bantered around continue to be rooted in a purported pro-life stance.  This ranges from trans-vaginal ultrasounds, definitions of “legitimate” rape, and now using an Ob/Gyn’s “best guess” to define the gestational age of a baby from the time of a woman’s last period.  This is not a game – this is semantics, this is politics, this rhetoric, and frankly, this needs to stop. Continue reading “Is the Republican Party Platform Truly Pro-Life? by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”


Where patriarchalism trumps love, when push comes, shove often follows. The underside of love patriarchalism is hatred of the independence of women. 

We are told that it is the duty of a loving father and husband to protect his wife and children.  In exchange, good wives support their husbands and good children obey their fathers.  The bottom line of patriarchy is control.  The fight over abortion is a fight about men’s right to control women.

I have spent much of the past few weeks wondering why so many Republican men hate women.  Why do they want to deny the right to an abortion to a 12 year-old girl raped by her father, to a 21 year-old college student gang raped at a fraternity party, to a 33 year-old woman who submitted to a violent boyfriend she did not know had poked a hole in his condom, or a to a 41 year-old woman who offered a cup of coffee to the man who came to her house to fix the electricity, but who said “no” when he assaulted her.

I have also wondered why Republican men would deny the right to an abortion to 28 year-old married woman who got pregnant while taking the pill, to a 15 year-old girl who got carried away with her boyfriend, or even to a 35 year-old woman who got drunk one night and had sex without protection. We are all human aren’t we?  Birth control sometimes fails and sometimes women make mistakes. Apparently women are to be punished for both! Continue reading ““LOVE PATRIARCHALISM”—ITS UNDERSIDE IS HATE by Carol P. Christ”

Christian Responses to Akin? by Kathryn House

Where are the virtual facepalms, open letters, memes, ironic but heartfelt Tumblrs, and You Tube counter-protests from Christians who found Akin’s views unfathomable?

With gratitude for Michele’s astute and moving blog on Thursday, I have also wrestled with Rep. Akin’s statements last week. Michele’s passionate post is one of several that have helped me to understand how these comments provide a window into a more disturbing and dangerous framework for evaluating women’s experiences, intelligence, and well being. In addition to the incredible piece from Eve Ensler that Michele referenced, I will not soon forget Shauna Prewitt’s brutal honesty and courage in recounting her experience of rape, the child she chose to have, and of her activism now as an attorney. Nor will I forget the considerations of race and class raised by the Women of Color Activists. The recent outcry and counter-protest from Christians horrified by revelations about Chick-fil-A’s investments gave me hope for a plethora of theologically framed responses.

Continue reading “Christian Responses to Akin? by Kathryn House”

Rape is Not a Political Platform – Rape is a Violent Crime! By Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Just when you think you have heard it all, here we go again – another politician with “open mouth-insert foot” syndrome.  Discussing his zero-tolerance policy for abortion, Missouri Representative Todd Akin made the following statement last Sunday about pregnancies that result from rape:

“from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare.  If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.  But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something.  I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”

In an inadequate attempt to apologize and clarify his words, Akin stated that he meant to say “forcible rape.” This clarification fares no better nor does the fact that he later acknowledges that women “do become pregnant” during a “forcible rape.”  It is interesting to note what Akin considers to be “rare.”  According to the Washington Post, approximately 5% of rape victims become pregnant.  Akin reduced this to a statistic – 1 out of 32,000 women.  This, for Akin, is a rare occurrence.

Stating that a woman’s body is capable of preventing pregnancy in the case of “legitimate rape” demonstrates how out of touch politicians are and further (re)affirms the bigotry that exists within our political system.  The same politicians who have waived a “war against women” this year, try to promote policies that exercise control over what a woman can and cannot do with her body; policies that are  based on ill-advised misinformation.  Decisions politicians make for a woman – what she can and cannot do with her body – are rooted in personal faith beliefs, party-line agendas, and supporters (campaign financing dollars and lobbyists).  This year, a woman’s body has become a platform for votes.

Inasmuch as I would like to think Akin’s statement is an isolated event, Garance Franke-Ruta points out that this is not the first time a politician made a statement about rape victims and pregnancies: Continue reading “Rape is Not a Political Platform – Rape is a Violent Crime! By Michele Stopera Freyhauf”


Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and renowned Jewish thinker, believes that no one can ever truly understand the profundity and tragedy of the Shoah unless one experienced it.  For him, silence is the best way to express the events since words fail to do justice.  The principle of letting silence speak, when words no longer can, when pain is so real it debilitates and when tears flow more freely than thoughts, is not original to the twentieth century.  The Bible contains many events and personal stories in which this is the case.

Judges 19 begins with two characters: a Levite and his concubine.  The concubine has recently run away to her father’s house, when her husband decides to visit her there trying to win her back.  He seems to have only good intentions in mind.  After leaving her father’s house with his wife, the Levite discusses his future plans with his servant who apparently accompanied him on the journey.  He still has not spoken a word to his wife.

The servant and the Levite decide to spend the night in Gibeah, a Benjaminite city.  The three of them sit in the city’s square waiting for someone to take them in but no one arrives until evening.  At dusk, an old man comes by and offers to take care of the needs of the entire party, including the donkeys, as long as they promised not to spend the night in the city square. Continue reading “JUDGES 19: A BRIEF PAUSE FROM JUSTICE-WORK TO BE WITH HER IN THE SILENCE BY IVY HELMAN”

Reproductive Justice by Gina Messina-Dysert

Following the testimony of Sandra Fluke on the lack of availability of contraception and the appalling remarks by Rush Limbaugh that took place in early March, 2012, much discussion around issues of reproductive justice has emerged.  Among these conversations, Mary Hunt recently shared her thoughts in “Contraceptive Controversies” on the issue on FSR-Inc., and graduate students Katie German and Linda Claros organized an event at Loyola Marymount University to invite faculty members, students, and interested persons to engage in dialogue on reproductive justice.  I was honored to have the opportunity to participate in that discussion and would like to share my thoughts here in an effort to continue that dialogue.

To begin, I understand reproductive justice as the call for the social, political and economic ability to make responsible and healthy decisions about gender, sexuality, and procreation for ourselves and our communities with the goal of transforming power inequities and bringing about systemic change.  The denial of reproductive justice in the Catholic Church is a symptom of the larger rape culture.  When I use this phrase I am referring to a culture that not only perpetrates rape, but all forms of sexualized violence against women and girls. Continue reading “Reproductive Justice by Gina Messina-Dysert”

Life Must Always Be Protected by Bridget Ludwa

Women’s dignity has often been unacknowledged and their prerogatives misrepresented; they have often been relegated to the margins of society and even reduced to servitude… Then too, when we look at one of the most sensitive aspects of the situation of women in the world, how can we not mention the long and degrading history, albeit often an “underground” history, of violence against women in the area of sexuality? At the threshold of the Third Millennium we cannot remain indifferent and resigned before this phenomenon. The time has come to condemn vigorously the types of sexual violence which frequently have women for their object and to pass laws which effectively defend them from such violence. Nor can we fail, in the name of the respect due to the human person, to condemn the widespread hedonistic and commercial culture which encourages the systematic exploitation of sexuality and corrupts even very young girls into letting their bodies be used for profit. – Pope John Paul II

 If the Vatican desires an unambiguous message of concern for women, then it needs to address the acts of violence committed against women’s bodies.  In focusing on the end result of sexual violence, aborted pregnancies, and not addressing the violence itself, Vatican leadership fails to communicate this concern for women’s bodies. Continue reading “Life Must Always Be Protected by Bridget Ludwa”

Is Baptism a Male Birthing Ritual? By Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Quite a number of years ago I had a conversation with one of my professors, a feminist theologian, who posed the question “Why do I need a man to purify my baby with the waters of baptism?  Is there something wrong or impure about the blood and water from a mother’s womb – my womb?”  Before you jump and shout the words Sacrament or removal of original sin, this question bears merit in exploring, especially in today’s world where women are taking a serious beating religiously, politically, and socially.  In today’s world, violations and rants are causing women to stand up and say STOP!  This is MY Body.  This outcry was provoked by chants of ethical slurs against women– Slut! Prostitute! Whore!  The cry got even louder when the issue of religion and government was raised in the fight of healthcare coverage of contraception. The cry got even louder with the enactment of the laws in Virginia and Texas (and many other states to follow suit) that forces women to undergo transvaginal ultrasounds in early stage abortions.  The mandatory insertion of a wand into a woman’s vagina (mandated by the government, mind you), is a violation and has women crying RAPE!

The memory of this conversation did not re-appear by chance, it was prompted by a book I read for my History of Sexuality Class – Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Context by Anne McClintock who addresses the notion of baptism through origins, property, and power.  So many things are currently being taken away from women and reading McClintock’s assertion regarding male baptism is perplexing.  She believes that male baptism or baptism by a man takes women’s role in child bearing and diminishes it.  These are the same men who historically treated and regarded women as vessels.  She further asserts that this act is a proactive removal of creative agency with respect to a woman’s ability to have the power to name.  That is, the last name of the child belongs to the husband.  A point that supports the notion that patrimony marks the denial of women.  Anyone doing genealogy encounters a perplexing struggle to identify mothers because their names are essentially erased from memory and rarely attached to a child’s name. Continue reading “Is Baptism a Male Birthing Ritual? By Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

Get Your Laws off my Body! by Elise Edwards

After considering Virginia’s Transvaginal Utrasound Bill in light of the womanist critique, I wonder if religiously-motivated lawmakers considered that they alone do not have access to God’s intentions, but that the divine spirit is operative in a pregnant woman as well, would they be so willing to negate her moral agency?

On Tuesday, the senate in Virginia approved a law that would require women to get an external ultrasound before an abortion.  This is a scaled-back version of an original bill that mandated transvaginal ultrasounds prior to abortions. According to this Washington Post article, opponents like Sen. Janet D. Howell describe the measure as “state rape,” since it is the state, not the woman and her doctor who decides that she must undergo this procedure  requiring the insertion of a probe into the vagina.  Although proponents of the bill say that it is designed to give women more information about a fetus’ gestational age and development, most would agree that it is ultimately intended to discourage the women from having an abortion.  This is why bloggers like Kendra Hamilton believe that religion is the moti­va­tion behind this and the other 5 abortion-related bills introduced in the Virginia General Assembly connected to issues of women’s sovereignty over their bodies.  Yet, as I heard about these bills, another religious response came to mind – one that expresses horror and condemnation of coercive practices regarding women’s childbearing. Continue reading “Get Your Laws off my Body! by Elise Edwards”

Women being “Raped too much?”: Fox News, Liz Trotta, and Rape Culture by Gina Messina-Dysert

I may be a bit late to the conversation, but it is impossible for me not to comment on the infuriating statements made by Liz Trotta on Fox News about the staggering 64% increase in sexual assaults against women in the military since 2006.  Responding to reports from the Pentagon about women serving in combat, Trotta complained that money is being wasted on women in the military who are “raped too much.”  The statements by the Fox News pundit well demonstrate the existence of rape culture within our society and the continued problem of victim blaming and double victimization experienced by women who have been raped.

In her rant, Trotta claimed that women want to be “warriors and victims at the same time.”  She argued that women who want to serve in the military should expect to be raped and not raise such a fuss about it. She also alleged that “feminists” have demanded too much money to fund programs for sexual abuse victims.

“I think they have actually discovered that there is a difference between men and women. And the sexual abuse report says that there has been, since 2006, a 64% increase in violent sexual assaults. Now, what did they expect? These people are in close contact, the whole airing of this issue has never been done by Congress, it’s strictly been a question of pressure from the feminists… You have this whole bureaucracy upon bureaucracy being built up with all kinds of levels of people to support women in the military who are now being raped too much.”

First, I must ask, is there an acceptable amount of rape?  Trotta’s tone is outrageous as she implies that we should expect rape to occur if women and men are going to be in such “close contact” with each other.  Rape is not about sex; it is about violence.  Thus, the disturbing notion that men in the military rape because they cannot control their sexual urges is one that is ill-informed (not to mention a major insult to all men!). Continue reading “Women being “Raped too much?”: Fox News, Liz Trotta, and Rape Culture by Gina Messina-Dysert”

Hagar: A Portrait of a Victim of Domestic Violence and Rape

This week Twitter has been a flurry with information for victims of   domestic violence and rape.  This ranges from the U.S. redefinition of rape to include men to Nigeria’s first anti-rape toll free hotline for women.  There is even a male movement to stand against rape.  This problem is an ongoing issue, one that shows no sign of diminishing or going away.  According to Amnesty International, one in three women worldwide have been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused and their abuser is normally someone they know.  As I contemplate this very difficult issue, I am reminded of the Biblical Hagar in Genesis 16. The story of Hagar and Sarai is abundant

Men Can Stop Rape (http://www.mencanstoprape.org/)

in ethical situations that draw in the reader and presents complex issues that can be very troublesome.  If you take the text hermeneutically, through an ideological examination in its English translation, we have an Egyptian woman, who is also referred to as slave or concubine, forced to engage into sex with her owner’s husband for producing an heir.  Here the abuser is a woman with a docile and obedient husband portrayed by Abram.  What can we  glean from such a story for today’s battered women?  Hope or horrific defeat? Continue reading “Hagar: A Portrait of a Victim of Domestic Violence and Rape”

The Harlot Shall Be Burned with Fire: Biblical Literalism in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Sarah Sentilles

(spoiler alert)

Against my better judgment, this past weekend I went to see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, directed by David Fincher who’s best known for Fight Club and The Social Network. I didn’t like the book; it unsettled me that a novel filled with sexual violence against women—a novel that seems to take pleasure in the violence, to offer it up for readers to consume—became such a sensation. But I’m a sucker for a trailer and a good soundtrack, and I was curious, so I bought a ticket.

The plot revolves around a missing girl and the serial killer believed to have murdered her who uses the Bible like a handbook. He takes passages from Leviticus—21:9 for example: The daughter of any priest, if she profanes herself by playing the harlot, she profanes her father. She shall be burned with fire—and enacts them on women’s bodies. On Jewish women’s bodies.

Please click here to continue reading this article at Religion Dispatches.

Sarah Sentilles is a scholar of religion, an award-winning speaker, and the author of three books including A Church of Her Own: What Happens When a Woman Takes the Pulpit (Harcourt, 2008) and Breaking Up with God (HarperOne, 2011). She earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale and a master’s of divinity and a doctorate in theology from Harvard, where she was awarded the Billings Preaching Prize and was the managing editor of the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion. At the core of her scholarship, writing, and activism is a commitment to investigating the roles religious language, images, and practices play in oppression, violence, social transformation, and justice movements. She is currently at work on a novel and an edited volume that investigates the intersections of torture and Christianity.


January 11th is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day

This information was originally distributed by WATER:

January 11th is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Human trafficking, referred to as modern-day slavery, is the fastest growing and second most profitable criminal industry in the world. More than 27 million women, men, and children have become victims of human trafficking for labor and sexual exploitation. Trafficking can and does occur in all parts of the world, including the U.S. Large sporting events like the Super Bowl attract human trafficking, especially for sexual exploitation of women. Read Mary E. Hunt’s new article on human trafficking entitled “Women and Children First.”

Stories of Trafficking
Excerpted from www.polarisproject.org

Amanda learned that her cousin was with a pimp who was advertising her for commercial sex on various websites.

A teacher became concerned about one of her students, a 14 year-old girl, and spoke with classmates who directed the teacher to multiple postings advertising the young girl for commercial sex on backpage.com. Continue reading “January 11th is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day”

Football as a Ritual Re-enacting Male Domination Through Force and Violence By Carol P. Christ

Carol P. Christ is a founding mother in the study of women and religion, feminist theology, women’s spirituality, and the Goddess movement.  She teaches in the Women’s Spirituality program at CIIS and through Ariadne Institute offers Goddess Pilgrimages to Crete. Her books include She Who Changes and Rebirth of the Goddess and the widely used anthologies Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions.

The other day when Paula McGee asked on this blog how Penn State students could rally in support of Sandusky, I was also reading a student paper quoting Rianne Eisler’s opinion that peace and environmental justice cannot be achieved in dominator cultures. Xochitl Alvizo commented that we should not be surprised by the reactions of the students as we live in a “rape” culture.  I would add that we must examine the culture of male domination through force that is “football,” one of the “sacred cows” of American patriarchy, just as we need to examine the culture of hierarchical male domination of the Vatican in the context of child-rape by priests.  Continue reading “Football as a Ritual Re-enacting Male Domination Through Force and Violence By Carol P. Christ”

Confronting Sexual Harassment Ten Years Later: Speaking Out, Empowerment, and Refusing to Accept Defeat By Gina Messina-Dysert

Much of my research and activism thus far has centered on rape culture*, sexual violence, and spiritual wounding.  This being said, I have given little consideration, and have shared even less, of my own experience of sexual harassment perpetrated by a professor at the end of my undergraduate career.  Although I had called myself an advocate for women who had been victimized by various forms of violence, sexual included, I was unable to advocate for myself when confronted with my experience.  What’s more, although I have called for a speaking out of one’s experience of sexual violence in order to challenge the rape culture and begin the healing process, I have not been able to do this myself.

My professor sexually harassed me during my final semester of college in the very last course I needed to graduate.  The first time he approached me he asked me to stay after class.  Initially I was nervous thinking I had done something wrong; however I was surprised when he began to ask me personal questions.  I was engaged at the time and Dr. X commented how lucky my now husband was.  He then reached out, hugged me, and stroked my hair.   I didn’t move, I was scared and wondered what was happening. After a few moments, I forced myself out of his arms and with my head down, unable to look him in the eye, I said I had to leave and darted out the door. My initial reaction was to downplay his inappropriate behavior and I convinced myself that I must have misinterpreted the situation.  Continue reading “Confronting Sexual Harassment Ten Years Later: Speaking Out, Empowerment, and Refusing to Accept Defeat By Gina Messina-Dysert”

Rape Culture and the Church By Gina Messina-Dysert

Rape culture – a culture where violence against women and victim blaming is the norm –  is alive and well in our society.   Women are taught from a young age that rape is the worst thing that could possibly happen in our lives.  As a patriarchal institution, the Church supports rape culture.  Although texts, traditions, and teachings can be a resource for women who have been victimized, they can also serve as a roadblock and encourage further victimization.

There has been a long history of women and girls being taught by the Church that their lives are of little value once their hymens are broken.  Citing the rape of Roman matron Lucretia, Church father Jerome stated that rape is the one exception for suicide. In fact, according to Jerome, “Although God is able to do all things, he cannot raise up a virgin after a fall.”*  Although he argued that at the time of the resurrection of the body every affliction and mutilation would be healed, Jerome claimed that not even the power of God could repair a broken hymen.  Likewise, Tertullian commended Lucretia for her suicide and claimed she was an example for Christian women.

Harmful ideas about women, rape, and victimization have been promoted by biblical rape texts and their interpretations.  These “rape texts” of the Bible have been utilized to typify how “real” rape victims behave and suggest that women who claim rape are suspect.  From the story of Ms. Potiphar (Genesis 39), that offers the image of a woman crying rape as one not to be trusted, to the story of Susanna (Daniel 13) that presents the notion that a rape victim should be silent, biblical texts set forth images of women and sexual violence that support rape culture. Continue reading “Rape Culture and the Church By Gina Messina-Dysert”

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