When Violence Is
It was early in my ministry when a survivor of acquaintance rape first came to see me for help. At some level I realized that she was entrusting me witli her very fragile soul. At the time, however, it felt less like an honor and more like a view into her own private hell. I knew that God was in the midst of her nightmare, giving her the courage and the power to wake up each day, but I was unclear about my place in that drama. In my years of work in pastoral care there have been issues that have turned my head, but none as much as acquaintance rape. I have not experienced tlie first-hand horrors known by survivors. I do, however, know anger at rapists, anger at slow legal processes, anger at abrupt law enforcement officials, and yes, even anger at survivors. And I have felt the shame that goes along with feeling ill-equipped to help. More than once, I have listened to a woman after she was raped and wanted to make either a swift difference or a sudden exit: all or nothing. The trauma of rape can do that to a caregiver. Of course, neither efficiency nor denial is a realistic goal for pastoral care.
When violence is no stranger, a woman can be raped by someone she knows, trusts, and loves. Such a brutal incongruity violates her physically, relationally, sexually, and incarnationally. Acquaintance rape has the power to shatter a woman's psychospiritual environment, destroying her ability to make sense of her world. She experiences this brokcnness as betrayal, self-blame, desecration of the body, loss of normalcy, confusion about the violence, and loss of a redemptive community. Speaking the