There is help

If you are reading this today, a day that is especially difficult, and aren’t sure where to turn, or you are awakening to a world you knew nothing of and want more information and a path for advocacy please visit:

RAINN is a comprehensive resource for survivors as well as those looking to educate themselves on sexual violence. They also have a 24/7 hotline.


The Punch

If there’s a phrase I could ban from every orientation talk, every summer conversation between parent and child this summer, it would be this:


Don’t drink the punch.


Every time I hear it, it comes with a snicker, a smile, like it’s a joke.

And that’s what it is, but it’s a joke at the expense of women, one at the expense of sexual assault victims and survivors, and at the expense of every innocent college party.


When I hear that phrase, what I hear is “don’t be vulnerable. Don’t ever let your hypervigilant state down.”


It’s exhausting and scary and a reminder that I am physically weaker than most men, that not all people have good intentions towards me, and that people will find reasons to blame me for the actions of others. The worst part is that there is nothing I can do to make myself totally and permanently safe. Whether I wear a niqab or become a religious sister or never make male friends and avoid being around men alone, I will still never be totally permanently safe.


Even if I don’t drink the punch, my chances of being sexually assaulted don’t go away. And if it happens, whatever other vulnerability is present will be counted against me. If I went on a date with him, if I invited him to study at my place because he’s in my classes or club, if I wore the wrong thing. Don’t drink the punch is another reminder that I will be blamed for being vulnerable. I will be blamed for being a victim.



Part of what it means to be human is to be vulnerable. As a woman, I feel it more acutely. Everyone in a minority position of any sort- race, sexuality, economic status, religion, knows there is an extra vulnerability that comes with being part of the non-dominant power group.


Don’t drink the punch is another reminder of that. Of re-enforcing and setting the stage for blaming me for being vulnerable. Of, in this case, not having as much physical power and social capital. Of not having my worth be based on my “potential” but on my purity.


I am vulnerable. It’s part of my humanity. I cannot give it up. It will always be a risk. Every date, every hello, every yes and every no to every man I ever meet. It will always be a risk. Being vulnerable has led to some horrible, horrible places in my life. But it has led to the best places to. Asking for help more than 5 years ago led me on the path to my current career, which I love. Meeting a stranger at the farmers market turned into my husband. Saying yes to a lunch group with some women I barely knew (and frankly, I was totally intimidated by because of their awesomeness!) has turned into a life giving group of encouragement and healing and productivity.


If you want to say “what we mean is don’t get drunk”- then say that. You have the right, even if it will be poorly listened to. Even if it doesn’t actually help. Teach students about alcohol education for the sake of their knowledge and self-empowerment. Teach students what it feels like to be drunk vs. drugged, how much alcohol is in a beer vs. an everclear vodka kool-aid, and what different levels of alcohol feel like and do. Teach students the laws about medical amnesty, so they don’t fear calling for help. Write medical and safety amnesty policies, so we don’t contribute to the vulnerability we keep blaming them for. So we don’t keep exacerbating the problem. We don’t make ourselves safer by covering assault up with vulnerability-shaming and ignorance.


I’m a Christian, and the evangelical bones in my body still ask “what would Jesus do? How does God see this?” And I’ve yet to imagine Jesus telling anyone “don’t drink the punch.” The God who died for me did so with absolute love expressed through a physical and spiritual vulnerability that has changed my life. And when I meditate on that, it’s clear my vulnerability is not the problem. Vulnerability is not a sin. Taking advantage of the vulnerable is.


And I hope the conversation with your kids centers on the problems, and the solutions about sexual assault. Talk about consent. Talk about love and yes means yes. Talk about rape culture. Talk about fact-based alcohol education. Talk about ignorance and fear. But don’t blame vulnerability. Don’t blame the punch. It tastes gross, it’s probably unhygienic despite all that alcohol, but it’s not capable of committing any crimes. It’s a liquid in a cooler, not a person, not an institution, not a culture.


And those are our problems. Individuals who commit crimes, institutions that discount them and re-victimize women for being vulnerable, and cultures that care about winning football games or men’s potential more than they care about women. Cultures that think saying “don’t drink the punch” is the appropriate prevention tool against sexual assault. It’s not. It only makes things worse.


Lilly Leman, MDiv., George W. Truett Theological Seminary                                                     Pastor, First United West (UCC)

The World Turned Upside Down


It’s been 58 days since we gathered together in Elliston Chapel at Baylor University to say these words together:

Even though our grief may last for ages,

Our hope is never entirely lost.

We acknowledge that sometimes hope is a bright light

breaking through the darkness

and sometimes hope is a tiny flicker

barely visible in the dead of night.

Sometimes the most we can do is hope to hope.

There are times we cannot hold on to hope at all.

We lose our grip, and somehow the hope carries us

through the wilderness of our despair.

Sometimes hope is loud,

and sometimes hope is quiet.

Sometimes hope is as small as our next breath,

Sometimes hope is the gumption that rises

like beauty from the ashes of our past,

Sometimes hope makes us brave. Sometimes hope heals.


Today is a day we can easily speculate about the future of a football program, the future of administration, the future of recruiting etc. Let us not forget today is a day that people whose stories we’ll never know are listening to our responses. They will hear today that their voice caused Baylor to fall or that their experience was their fault. They will be called names and made to feel fear all over again.

Some will be happy, some will be sad, some will just want it all to end. But today, as Christians, our response should be mindful of those forgotten in this story. Those who suffered at the hand of negligence for far too long. We are responsible for the culture change that follows. We are responsible for teaching respect, teaching consent, teaching each other what it means to choose people over prestige. May we choose to hold ourselves to a standard beyond the law of the land.

Litany of Acknowledgementorg


10 ways every church ought to combat sexual violence and domestic abuse

An article from one of our own. Great resource.

10 ways every church ought to combat sexual violence and domestic abuse

Prayers for Survivors: A Liturgy in Protest of Sexual Violence


Georges Rouault, Miserere Plate 2


Silence for Reflection

We rejoice in the knowledge that there is love loud enough, bright enough, powerful enough to shine through the darkness. Love is seen in the support of allies, the gifting of survivor’s stories, the prayers of many. Allow this love to enter into our hearts, give us the ability to know it, and feel it, and allow it to do a work of healing.


Invocation Prayer – a communal version of Psalm 5:1-3

Give ear to our words, O God; give heed to our groaning.
Listen to the sound of our cry, O God, we’re calling out to you.
O God, we believe that you hear our voices; we plead our case to you, and watch.


Litany of Acknowledgement

We pause this day to recognize there are many among us who have been wounded by violence, exploitation, coercion, or manipulation.
There are many among us who are suffering and grieving.
There are many who need support and healing, who need their voices heard, and their stories acknowledged, and their experiences validated.

The weight of oppression is heavy,
and the effects of trauma are real and long-lasting.

We pause this day to recognize all of us are impacted by the culture of violence.
All of us are impacted by the culture of impatience and hostility in which we live.
By listening to one another, may we become instruments of justice and peace.


Scripture Reading – Romans 8:26-27

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.


Hymn – “When Sorrow Floods the Troubled Heart” – Celebrating Grace Hymnal, #544

When sorrow floods the troubled heart and clouds the mind with fears, 
affliction presses from the soul the bitter flow of tears.
God’s weeping children raise the prayer: “Almighty God, how long
till tears shall cease and silence break and grief be turned to song?”

The voice is stilled, no words express the pain that lingers on;
our prayer becomes a silent sigh; all mortal speech is gone.
The Holy Spirit groans in us with intercession strong;
when tears have ceased and silence breaks, the Spirit stirs a song.

The sting of death cannot forbid the child of God to sing.
The scars we bear may long remain, but resurrection brings
the healing of the broken heart, the righting of the wrong.
Our tears shall cease, our silence breaks in Christ the living Song.


Prayer of Petition

God. In a world that has little time for us,
     we want to believe that you have time.
In a culture that too easily dismisses us,
    we want to believe that you care.
Among institutions that are slow to come to our aid,
    we want to believe that you are eager to help.
You are our first and last resort.

Here is our petition:
We ask for comfort and peace.
God, hear our prayer.
We ask for courage and strength.
God, hear our prayer.
We ask for your justice and healing.
God, hear our prayer.
We ask for compassionate listeners.
God, hear our prayer.
We ask for faithful advocates.
God, hear our prayer.
We ask for bold truth-tellers.
God, hear our prayer.
We ask for personal and institutional transformation.
God, hear our prayer.

In the space below, take a few minutes to add your own petitions:

We ask for…

God, hear our prayer. We need you to act here, to act now.


Litany of Commitment

As a community of faith we will not forget those who are hurting. We will listen carefully. We understand there are those among us who suffer in silence. And so…

We will not further silence our neighbor with platitudes or should-haves.
We commit to hold their pain gently.
We know we must continue to challenge the power dynamics in our world that make abuse prevalent, even when these dynamics and systems benefit us.

We will not worship ideas or institutions.
We will love God and love our neighbor above all else.
We struggle to understand how the world can be so broken, but we will not let this deter us from seeking justice.
We will not cease praying for your Kingdom come.
We commit ourselves to the journey ahead. Our friends will walk alone no longer.


For more resources and information, visit StrongWomenWrite.

Compiled by: Lilly Ettinger Leman, Sharyl West Loeung, Heather Mooney,
Kyndall Rae Rothaus, Rachel Toombs, Natalie Webb, and Emma Wood.


Bathsheba’s Story: A Sermon on Rape

The Four Women of Advent Series

Advent Four: Bathsheba Tells Her Story

Covenant Baptist Church, San Antonio 2014

Kyndall Rae Rothaus


“Tamar, I’m here,” I say gently as I enter her room. She is nonresponsive. I do not wait for an invitation but sit beside her. Her body heaves a sigh; her brow is furrowed in pain; she does not want to look me in the eye.

My feelings toward her are maternal. She grew up with my children, and they all share a father. I’ve never felt anything but affection towards David’s other children. Children deserve to be loved, no matter who their mothers or fathers are.

I’ve spent a lot of time with Tamar through the years, watching out for her when her own mother was busy with the king. Today I feel a stronger bond with her than ever. I want her to know I am here, in spirit as well as body, but I do not know how to bring up what has happened. I sit quietly. She returns silence with silence.

Finally I ask, “Do you want to talk about it?”

She doesn’t answer. Only laughs bitterly. “Did you know when I was a little girl I hated my name?”

First, I am caught off guard at the change of topic. Next, I want to tell her she should try being called Bathsheba, but I hold my tongue.

She is smiling in a disturbing sort of way. “What kind of mother names her daughter after Tamar?”

“Why, Tamar was in the lineage of King David!” I retort. I feel this discussion is irrelevant, but I am sucked into the argument in spite of myself. I’ve always felt a bit partial to the heroines of the Israelite faith, so I rise to the historical Tamar’s defense. “Everyone knows Tamar, mother of Perez. She is a revered woman. I’m sure your mother wanted to name you after someone special.”

“Why not Miriam? Why not Deborah? But no, I am Tamar. The woman who prostituted herself with her father-in-law. This used to upset me. I felt ashamed of my own name.” Tamar is laughing loudly, unnaturally. I give her a quizzical stare.

“Don’t you see the joke?” she chides. “I used to resent being her namesake, thinking myself so much better than her. I, the daughter of a king, deserved a better name. And now I am worse off than she! I have lost my honor forever. I will have no husband, no child. I am . . .” she falters “ . . . a spoiled woman. Any chance at a life is gone forever.” At last, the laughter halts, and Tamar shuts her eyes tightly, as if to block something out.

I reach to touch her shoulder, but she jerks away from me. I wait. Then I speak, with a heart full of tenderness for this wounded soul. “I . . . I know the pain you are feeling.”

She scoffs. “You know, huh? You know what it is like to be . . . to be taken, to be . . .” (she brings her voice to a whisper) “raped by your half-brother?”

I nod empathetically, “Not exactly.”

She is getting angry now, but the tears are streaming in earnest down her face. “Do you know what it is like to be raped, then have your own father do nothing? Nothing to uphold your honor! Nothing to reprimand the one who used you? Do you know what that’s like?! How it feels? How it aches?” The desperate loneliness of her grief seems to suck the room of oxygen.

I try to breathe. “Believe it or not, I do sorta know how you feel . . .” I let this sink in. “And Tamar? I think I know why the king does nothing.”

Tamar is surprised. She was expecting sympathy perhaps, but not information. “What do you mean? What about it? Do you mean he does nothing because Amnon is his favorite son?”

“I . . . I could be wrong, but I believe there’s far more to it than that. That’s why I came to see you today. So you would know. So you could understand your father’s silence.”

Tamar is intrigued. I am uncomfortable. I doubt whether I should ever have come here. I dread what I am about to say. But if anything I say could help her . . . I spend so long second-guessing myself that Tamar prods me. “What is there to understand?” she wants to know.

“First, I must tell you a story. It begins many, many years ago, before I met your father. Tamar, I am a widow. Did you know?”

Tamar is incredulous. She has never heard about this part of my life, which is no surprise. Such stories do not get repeated. I continue.

Before David, I was married to Uriah, a Hittite who served in the king’s army. He was faithful, trustworthy man, and we were passionate about one another. I ached badly for children, but we had trouble conceiving.

 Every month, my body’s blood would flow out, and my hope of a child was thwarted again. At the end of every cycle, I would imagine the ritual bathing to be a scrubbing away of the lingering disappointment. Stepping out of the water was starting fresh. I was new with possibility.

One month, Uriah had left for war when disappointment hit again. The blood came, and reliably, so did the tears. When the time for bathing came, I could not work up the courage to make it hopeful. Maybe it was the fact that Uriah was gone and may not return for months. We couldn’t try again for a baby for who knows how long. My tears mingled with the warm water. No matter how I scrubbed, the grief stuck with me. I lingered there, full of sadness.

 To my surprise, I had just finished wiping my body and my eyes dry when a messenger came to the door. Said the king wanted to see me. What could the king possibly want with me . . . unless perhaps —God forbid it!—to tell me that Uriah had been wounded in battle or worse . . . I would not let myself think of it. I frantically searched for alternative explanations for this unexpected summons. Perhaps Uriah was being honored for bravery in battle! He was, after all, faithful to a fault. Such loyalty, and in a foreign man at that! Perhaps he was finally being recognized! I tried to believe this, but with every step towards the palace, my heart was sinking lower and lower into my stomach, felt as if it might just drop right out of me and plop like a stone on the ground.

On entering the palace and being greeted by the king, I was caught off guard by his amiable smile and friendly ease with me, as if we’d been childhood friends. I had expected the great, honorable, legendary king of Israel to be more . . . I don’t know . . . aloof and stately. He was casual, personable. I was confused. Surely he was not about to tell me my husband was dead—not with that kind of smile on his face. It was almost a smirk, as if we were playing a game only known to him.

 I kept waiting for him to bring up Uriah and news from the warfront, but he did not. Instead he asked about my day, complimented my dress, told me about his recent accomplishments, made jokes, teased me until I blushed. You would not have thought a war was going on at all, not with the way he seemed to be enjoying conversation.  I tried to laugh as best I could, but it all seemed so strange that my laughter was forced, my smile wooden, but King David did not seem to notice my unease. I felt very uncomfortable, and I wished Uriah were with me. He would know what to do, what to say to a king.

 At one point, the king reached up and brushed his hand across my face. I blinked in confusion. “Bet you’ve never seen the home of a king?” he was saying, and he grabbed me for a tour. Before I knew what was happening, the king was showing me his chambers, and then he was picking me up like a child and placing me on the bed, laughing. I began to panic. The king wouldn’t do anything wrong, I tried to tell myself. But why was he touching my hair? I wanted to ask what he was doing, but he was the king and I could not find my words. Next he was lifting up my skirts. I was shuddering, and I was crying, but he did not notice.

 I went home straight after in a disheveled mess. I didn’t eat for days. I couldn’t sleep. When I tried to get up and carry on with life as usual, I found I was so sick I could barely function. Before long, I discovered I was pregnant.

Pregnant! What would I do now? It seemed like a cruel trick—all that trying to conceive and suddenly I was with child after one unsolicited encounter. Oh how I moaned and wept.  Uriah would know immediately the child was not his. But how could I tell him the truth? The truth about his king, the man he so loyally served? Would he even believe me? Would I be risking my life, to tell such a tale about the king himself? It’d be his word against mine . . .

 After much agony, I decided to write the king and tell him of my condition. Maybe, if he knew there was a child, he would see fit to intervene . . . to, to help somehow. I didn’t know what else to do. Maybe the king would know how to fix this. Maybe he could explain things to Uriah . . . I was holding out hope for a miracle . . . but nothing could have prepared me for what happened instead.

 Within days of my sending the note, Uriah was dead. They called it a war casualty, but of course I knew better. I was stunned. I was devastated. I was distraught. I was bewildered beyond all reckoning. What human being could do such a thing to an innocent man? How could that be the way to “fix it”? Some days I blamed myself. If only I had not written that note to the king, perhaps my husband would still be alive. I tried to console myself that I never could have guessed such an outcome. Despite what had happened to me, I still believed it would help things to tell the king, that God’s Chosen One would surely come to my aid . . .

Eventually King David made a public show of comforting the poor widow of Uriah, the Hittite, who’d been slain in battle, and invited her into his home. The people found it romantic. My friends were delighted I would be a queen. I was despondent. What choice did I have?

None of course. I had no choice. No more choice than you do, my daughter, Tamar. For what has happened to you cannot be undone, and you are not allowed any recompense for your sorrows. I know this, because I have lived it.

I have been so intent on telling my story that I just now focus on Tamar’s face, to see what is thinking. There is shock there, also, pain. Empathy too, which makes my eyes water. Her compassion makes me feel as if a huge weight has been lifted from my body. I am not as sure about this next part, but I feel I must say it, and her kind eyes give me permission to continue.

“I tell you all this, my sweet Tamar, because I know why the king does not confront Amnon. The king is thinking, like father, like son. He cannot bear to confront the animal inside himself by confronting the one inside his son.”

“He was repentant once, you know,” I add, “when challenged by the prophet Nathan. But he does not have the courage to be Nathan to his own son because he knows he’s got blood on his hands. He cannot endure facing the truth about what happened to you, his daughter, because he cannot endure knowing that he has created more men like himself.”

Tamar is reflective. “How do you know this?”

“I just . . .  know. Sometimes women know things.” After a moment’s thought I add, “I imagine for him this whole tragic affair with you is a little like entering a brothel and finding your own daughter among the women of the night. You like to think of these women as willing participants, but when it is your daughter, you cannot help but notice the dark circles under her eyes, the bruises on her arm, the defeated look in her eye, the cry for help that is etched between the wrinkles on her brow. But what can you do? Who can you beat up in her honor? For she is among the women, but you, you are among the patrons. There would be no business for her violations if you were not a customer. You are a customer, breeding more customers with your silence, but to speak up would be your ruin.”

Tamar shakes her head. “Sometimes a man needs ruining.”

I take her hand. “I wish the king was willing to be ruined for you.”

She squeezes my hand in return. “I wish the same for you!”

I look into her eyes. “Tamar, we need a better king.”

Tamar: “Isn’t that the truth? God have mercy!”

Me: “I pray for one every day. May God send a new king.”

Tamar: “Maybe someday.”

Me: “We can only hope.”

“How long O Lord?!” Tamar cries passionately.

“How long indeed?” I echo. Spontaneously we erupt in priest-like prayers and woman-like moans. Between our rhythmic groans we cry, “How long, O Lord, must be wait? How long will you forget? How long must we bear pain in our hearts and sorrow in our souls?”

Tamar laments, “No one even knows what happened to us! My father will be remembered for his battles and his victories, but no one will remember us.”

I tell her, “But my child, I remember. I know what happened to you. And you know what happened to me, because now I’ve told you. Now that I’ve told someone, perhaps we should never stop telling. Perhaps someday the world can be a different place. Perhaps someday, God will come to our aid. Perhaps God will hear our prayers and send a savior.”

And it is with that hope that we continue to pray all our days, and with the passing of time, we begin to feel our hope is not in vain. We do not know where this assurance comes from. We do not know how or when, but we feel it, know it deep within that someday, somehow God will send a very different kind of king. We can only pray the world will be ready to receive him. He will be a man willing to be ruined on behalf of the people. If only the people will respond in like courage. Amen.