For more information visit the Facebook event page.
For more information visit the Facebook event page.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What is Rape Culture?
Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture. Rape culture can be seen in the normalizing of aggressive sexuality in movies and media, in the way women are portrayed in advertising, and in the gendered and sexualized messages that are prevalent in consumer products geared towards children. See below for some examples.
What is Victim Blaming?
Victim blaming occurs when the victim of a crime or any wrongful act is held entirely or partially responsible for the harm that befell them. In the case of sexual assault survivors are often questioned due to this phenomenon. Common statements that display victim blaming include the following:
Victim-blaming attitudes marginalize the victim/survivor and make it harder to come forward and report the abuse. If the survivor knows that you or society blames the survivor for the abuse, s/he will not feel safe or comfortable coming forward and talking to you. Additionally due to the prevalence of victim blaming attitudes in our culture victims often ask themselves these same questions or blame themselves for the abuse (i.e. I didn’t fight back, I shouldn’t have been wearing that, etc.).
What is the Just World Hypothesis?
The just-world hypothesis or just-world fallacy is the cognitive bias (or assumption) that a person’s actions are inherently inclined to bring morally fair and fitting consequences to that person, to the end of all noble actions being eventually rewarded and all evil actions eventually punished. In other words “good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people.” The Just World Hypothesis allows people to feel safe in their world and reduces their anxiety, due to the illusion that if they are a good person, something they can control, and then bad things will not happen to them. This hypothesis is false, however when an individual is raped people often blame the victim as doing something “wrong” or “bad” to caused the assault (victim blaming). In doing so one is able to avoid the anxiety of knowing that they may also be vulnerable to injustice.
What is an Ally?
An ally is an individual who joins with another for a common purpose. Allies are often people who support a community or people group while not being a member of that group. These are people who demonstrate by their presence and actions the importance of dignity and human rights for all people. To be a sexual assault ally it is important to understand the cultural issues, language, history and dynamics around sexual assault and violence.
What is a bystander?
A bystander is a person who is present when an event takes place but isn’t directly involved. Bystanders might be present when sexual assault or abuse occurs—or they could witness the circumstances that lead up to these crimes. You may have heard the term “bystander intervention” to describe a situation where someone who isn’t directly involved steps in to change the outcome. Stepping in may give the person you’re concerned about a chance to get to a safe place or leave the situation.
What is the difference between “victim” and “survivor?”
The word victim contributes a feeling that someone who has experienced assault is irreparably damaged, which can become, an image that replaces their true identity. Survivor imparts a sense of movement, of moving on beyond the event, and of reclamation, taking back your life. It’s a strong word and can help those who have been assaulted begin to regain the power that was taken from them. It is important to note that some affected by sexual violence feel pressured to “hurry up and heal” when others used the language “survivor.” As with any issue regarding labels and appropriate language it is important to defer to the individual directly affected to see what language they are most comfortable with.
How do people react following rape?
This varies from individual to individual. Many may display signs of Rape Trauma Syndrome, which include feelings of numbness and shock initially. Others may develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, Anxiety Disorders or other conditions. Any reaction that an individual has to their assault should be validated and normalized. It is often helpful for those who have been assault to recognize common symptoms which may be misleading or confusing them, such as inability to clearly recall the events surrounding the assault, or emotional numbness and detachment. Also, for loved ones it is important to know that some of the symptoms typically seen in an individual after rape include minimization (pretending ‘everything is fine’) and suppression (refuses to discuss the rape). These are not indications of whether or not the assault actually occurred.
What is the best thing I can say if a friend tells me they were assaulted?
“I believe you” is the single best thing you can say to someone disclosing abuse or sexual violence.
Brochure on Recovering from Sexual Assault from the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network: https://rainn.org/get-information/sexual-assault-recovery
National Sexual Violence Resource Center: http://www.nsvrc.org/
Stalking Resource Center: https://www.victimsofcrime.org/our-programs/stalking-resource-center
Male Survivor: Overcoming Sexual Victimization of Men and Boys: http://www.malesurvivor.org/
101 Resources for Domestic Violence Prevention: http://www.socialworkdegree.net/domestic-violence-prevention/
Emotional and Psychological Trauma: http://www.healingresources.info/emotional_trauma_overview.htm
Interactive Online Program to Help Students Deal with Traumatic Events: https://reactonline.loyola.edu/online/
Bass, E. & Davis, L. (2008). The courage to heal: A guide for women survivors of child sexual abuse 4th Edition. New York: Harper & Row.
This is a classic and well-known resource that follows a similar model as The courage to heal workbook (Davis, 1990) as it is written by one of the same authors. This book has less workbook-type activities but it does have some guided journaling. It may be useful to have the client read this book and then work with the workbook exercises in counseling sessions. What is unique to this book is that it provides helpful biographies of survivors that might be helpful for clients seeking role models; however the biographies can also be difficult and possibly painful to read, especially for more fragile survivors. This book also has a chapter addressing the controversy regarding the recovery of memories and the best and most comprehensive guide to resources for survivors and their allies.
Davis, L. (1990). The courage to heal workbook: A guide for women and men survivors of child sexual abuse. New York: Harper & Row.
This resource guides the reader through exercises to promote acceptance and healing of sexual abuse experiences. It has many excellent activities that can also be used in counseling sessions. The workbook first starts by teaching coping skills to support the client in her/his healing work. The book then leads the client through activities designed to remember the abuse; identify the effects of the abuse; work through grief, anger and shame; and move towards self-trust and resolution. The workbook also addresses survivor issues such as sharing their story, confrontation and creating a healthy sexual relationship. This resource can be used in conjunction with readings from The courage to heal (Bass & Davis, 1992).
Davis, L. (1991). Allies in healing: When the person you love was sexually abused as a child. New York: Harper Perennial.
Ledray, L. (1986). Recovering from Rape. New York: H. Holt.
Maltz, W. (1991). The sexual healing journey: A guide for survivors of sexual abuse. New York: Harper Perennial.
Walker, L.E. (1979). The Battered Woman. New York: Harper & Row.
Warshaw, R. (1988). I never called it rape: The Ms. report on recognizing, fighting and surviving date and acquaintance rape. New York: Harper & Row.
As eluded to in our About Us section, our meeting each other was somewhat of a collision. We are all connected in various ways, but until very recently had never spent time with each other. It feels providential then, a term we all use lightly, to be brought together at this place and time. As women connected to the Baylor community we have been heartbroken by the stories of survivors of sexual assault on campus. As ministers, the best response we know is to point others to God, to educate the church, and to offer space for grief, sorrow, anger, and the like.
We have chosen the medium of liturgy to accomplish our goals. We are all profoundly shaped by liturgy, and believe in the power of the communal experience. We have carefully crafted, the best of our ability, a responsive experience for church services, small groups, and personal reflection. We have agonized over every word, every connotation, and yet we know there is a possibility we have unintentionally caused harm. We prayerfully move forward, with all the courage we can muster, humbly offering this resource to our community.