"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Friday, February 17, 2012

Torah and China: On Marrying Your Rapist

So I was reading No Tears For Mao by Niu-Niu this morning (my second book on China this week) and came across a chapter that reminded me of a disturbing section of the Old Testament about men who rape women being commanded to marry them.  Like any woman who has just been violated wants to marry the scum bag.  (So she says from her 21st century perspective ...)

I remembered when David's son raped his half sister and when he sent her away after the rape, she cried out that this was even more wrong!  My Bible's study notes read:

Though Tamar was no longer a virgin, Amnon could spare her some humiliation if he would own up to what he had done to her. By Israelite custom she would be forced to remain unmarried for the rest of her life. She therefore sought to be married to Amnon which, because of his sexual assault, was her right (Deut. 22:28-29).

pg. 437

It's kind of disturbing that patriarchy is so AWFUL that marrying your rapist is a right for women.  (So she says from her 21st century perspective...I know, I know.)

Or that women are considered so invaluable that having been violated meant she had to remain single the rest of her life.

The book I was reading was talking about the mid-seventies. As in not even forty years ago..so yeah 1976 to be exact. 

And this is in China so not exactly Jewish Law here either. 

Well, the story is that this woman was sent into the countryside for reeducation and when she refused to marry a "brutish" and "coarse" party official, he took his revenge by raping her.

Then he did "the most humiliating thing you could do to a woman" which was "forcing her to appear before a self-criticism session with a pair of shoes around her neck" signaling she was "damaged goods" in a sexual sense.

The young lady demanded justice, but due to this man's power, no one dared oppose him. So he "became even more arrogant and abusive: ... stripping and raping her in front of a group of intimidated peasants."

All sorts of injustices happened after that, but this is what reminded me of the Old Testament passages.

When the woman's family found out, they tried to get some justice for her, but the judge said there was no way of finding out if it were rape or consensual sex.

"Feeling completely desperate, my uncle realized his daughter's life was ruined since no young man would want to marry her; the only solution was to marry her to the man who had defiled her.  Lien-hua had reluctantly agreed to this. It was the only way for her to have a home and to expiate her shame, save face and, consequently, lead a normal life. The entire family was on its knees - begging this creature, promising anything that he demanded.  My uncle offered to give him his savings, so that they could buy furniture and whatever else was needed to set up a household, but the rapist continued to balk."  (pg. 165)

Oh my word. Can you imagine your parents and cousins begging a brutal rapist to marry your precious relative in order to save face and live a normal life? 

I declare, people, we are so so so so blessed to not be born in some cultures.  These books about Chinese women are eye-opening.

I suppose if this were the status of women of the world thousands of years ago, making rapists obligated to care for their victims was a step up. It seems bad for me looking backward, but if your sole purpose in life was to have a husband and children and having been defiled meant no one would marry you ...

*whew*  I wonder if much has changed in China regarding women's rights in these last 40 years.

I hope so.


Amber said...

It's really disturbing to think that there are some places where the attitude toward women hasn't changed that much in 6,000 years. I'd like to hope that things have changed somewhat in the last 40 years in China, but I have my doubts.

And really, even though we legally our rights here, the attitudes of so many people are still terrible in their thinking towards rape victims. There's an underlying idea that the victim has done *something* to put themselves in danger. Worn provocative clothing, gone to a 'dangerous' place. It's disgusting. Not everyone thinks like that, but I know that I've encountered it in enough people to believe that it's more prevalent than we'd like to admit.

Susanne said...

yes, good points. I wonder why we are so intent on blaming victims. :(

observant observer said...

Wheeew....what a terrible story!
This makes me question whether it's true that people do have similar moral compass in their mind, being same human beings or that people actually are just product of environment and society. There were a notion in someone else' blog some time ago saying we didn't actually have the "free right to choose" and people do not bear the burden of sin that they don't recognize. Anyhow...we have to really push the level of thinking of people anywhere, especially in the area where people who don't think that there are other better options that what's dictated by society and culture, so that we can move forward to a better future. That happens in history, that should be able to happen again if we have faith and courage.

Susanne said...

Interesting thought about how much are we products of our environments...now I'm going to have to ponder this! :)

Thanks for your comment. Yeah, awful story, huh?

sanil said...

For about the past couple months, I've been reading the women of Genesis for a women's Sunday school class I'm leading. Oppression and power is a really common concern in marriage and sex for them, so for me the whole issue of rape in the ancient world has changed a lot. Is there any such thing as consensual sex in the ancient world, really? It seems like legitimate expression of sexuality in that world is a man coercing a woman to have sex so she will be slightly more than a slave, and an illegitimate expression of sexuality is coercing/forcing a woman to have sex without offering her the slight change in status. Put that way, it's actually pretty clear why not marrying her and therefore denying that status change is wrong and harmful. It seems like sort of the same thing is at play in the Chinese culture you discuss, though I don't really know anything about it so there's a lot of speculation there.

Obviously we don't have that much injustice in our culture, and I don't really want to make the comparison as if I understand having to live in that. But at the same time, I wonder if the attitudes are still a part of our own culture too. It's not only that extreme behavior that's the problem, but also the more subtle issues of how society values men over women and tends to still treat us differently. Women are sexualized and objectified over here in our modern, "equal" culture, and yet we're surprised when we see women treated as objects rather than people in other cultures. There's a much bigger and more widespread problem that we all have to deal with even if we're not in these extreme areas.

Susanne said...

Sanil, as always, a thought-provoking comment. I wonder why society values men over women. Do women play into this objectifying culture by willingly dressing a certain way, posing a certain way, taking money to pose nude on magazine covers? You bring up good points and I found your comments about the OT way of life very interesting.

Has there ever been a time when women were valued or are we always to be second-rate to the mighty man?

Wafa' said...

Do you know that in some middle eastern countries if a rapist marries his victim then the charges will be dropped !! so scary .

Susanne said...

No, i didn't know that! Woooow! thanks for sharing

Becky said...

As what Amber and Wafa' said, sadly, this way of thinking still hasn't changed in some parts of the world.

In a very few cases, it has been used by young couples though, when they weren't allowed to marry if he "raped" her, then they might be allowed to marry, as she then couldn't marry someone else.

In terms of why we are so intent on blaming the victim, I read a fascinating article a while ago. The author explained, that it's to do with our need for the world to be "fair" and "just". We want to believe that bad things doesn't happen to bad people, because it's the only way for us to feel safe. This won't happen to me, because I'm a good person. When we then hear about something bad happening to a person, if we assume he or she is a good person, well, then we are just as much as risk as they are, and we can't cope with that. So we try to come up with explanations as to why they "deserved" it, because then we are still safe.

Susanne said...

Ah, that is an interesting explanation, Becky. Thanks for sharing it.

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