Reports state that more than 64 000 women are raped and sexually abused in South Africa every year. About 25 000 children are raped and abused annually. Our country was deeply shocked by the violent gang rape and mutilation of Anene Booysen a few weeks ago, who subsequently died of her injuries. What’s even more traumatizing is that this is not an isolated incident – rape and gang rape are common occurrences in South Africa.
The rise of dysfunctional homes, absent parents, drug abuse, pornography and drunkenness obviously plays a huge role in creating a social environment where sexual violence is common and familiar. The question our country is asking at the moments is, How do we stop rape? This of course is a complex question that must have an integrated approach that must include social cohesion, family relationships, good sex educational, strategic interventions, and creating a culture of respect for others, especially women and children.
Rape in the Bible
The Bible does not shy away from rape. 2 Samuel chapter 13 in the Old Testament contains the sordid account of Amnon raping Tamar. Despite rape itself being shocking, Amnon was Tamar’s half-brother, and they were both children of great king David. The abuse was by a family member – as in South Africa where most sexual abuse is committed by family members or friends. Tamar was a virgin and Amnon was filled with lust and forced himself on her. Amnon sinned and he will, like everyone else, be held accountable to God for his crime. But what’s scary to see is the sin of King David affecting his son Amnon.
First it was King David’ terrible example. David himself was filled with lust and committed adultery with Bathsheba. Many years previously David saw Bathsheba bathing and was consumed with lust. Lust in guys is a huge problem today, especially with the growth of internet pornography, adult chat rooms and sexting on phones. Uncontrolled lust leads to massive consequences, hurt and broken relationships.
Amnon had a bad role model when it came to women. Many of our homes in our country have fathers who are either absent or abusers themselves, and are bad examples to their boys.
Secondly it was David’s lack of discipline towards Amnon. 2 Samuel 13:21 says, “When King David heard all this, he was furious”. No doubt as their father David was deeply troubled and angered. But what did he do about? What punishment did he order? What discipline did he decide on? Nothing! It just says he was furious, but actually did nothing. That seems to be the summary of David’s parenting. He sinned as a parent. He didn’t discipline his children. I wonder if anyone has done research into the family backgrounds of rapists. Were they loved by their parents? Were they loved enough that they were lovingly disciplined for their own good? Were they punished for wrong and rewarded for right?
Sins of the father (and mother)
Our sin can have an indirect influence on others, even contributing to their sin or crime. Please don’t misunderstand me: Amnon still chose to rape his sister. No-one coerced him, forced him or made him do it. One day God will hold Amnon accountable for that crime, not David.
We must bear in mind that we in South Africa have come from a violent past were many people’s sins affected others. We live on a violent continent where battles were and are fought, where many families were and are displaced and where many children grow up in abusive circumstances. All this sin and social injustice has no doubt directly and indirectly produced criminals.
But the issue of rape runs deeper still. King David also had a bad example from his parents, and so did David’s parents from their parents. We can go right the way back to the Garden of Eden. God created Adam and Eve in an ideal world. There was no rape, no manipulation, and no hurt. Adam and Eve both lived under God’s rule and therefore where in a right relationship with God and each other. Disaster struck in Genesis 3. Adam and Eve rebelled against God and chose to run their own lives – exactly like people today. The Bible calls this sin and sin has huge consequences. When we don’t live under God’s rule our own desires become our master. This is exactly what happened in Genesis 4 when Cain killed Abel – the first murder. Genesis 5 onwards documents the escalation of sin in the world. Tamar’s rape was another example of sin.
Solution to rape
What then is the solution to the rape crisis in our country? Without wanting to over-simplify the issue as it is complex, I want to put on the record that the definitive solution to rape is the exact same solution to all sin. We need men’s hearts renewed and changed. This only happens when men – even rapists – come to faith in Jesus. (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11) When we come to Jesus as our king and stop treating ourselves as king, God forgives us our sin and makes us new creations with new desires and attitudes. We want to please God and live under his rule, as it was in Eden. Once we’ve done that we are equipped with the resources to live in harmony and peace with others. We don’t allow our lusts and desires to rule us, we live in obedience to Jesus.
Be the change
I’m making a plea to all men in South Africa: let us be good fathers to our children; let us show our boy-children how real men react to conflict and disagreements; let us respect our wives and sisters and daughters and mothers, never raising a hand or voice in anger; let us demonstrate to our girl-children how they deserve to be treated and teach them not to settle for anything less; let us be godly co-workers and friends to women, treating them with respect and always being ready to intervene or to help or to report abuse; let us help single parent families and invite the children of single moms into our homes and lives or to join us on camping trips; let us not be content with the sexual violence statistics of our country; let us seek to make even a small difference wherever and whenever we can; and finally and most importantly, let us pray for our country and our churches that God would graciously, for his glory and our good, grant many men repentance unto life. (Acts 11:18)
Then let us be courageous in speaking the gospel to these men.