On Monday, February 19th, 110 girls were kidnapped from their school in Dapchi, Nigeria. Four years earlier 276 girls were abducted from Chibok, Nigeria. The girls are abused, killed, or sold into slavery. This is only the latest incident of violence against women that have been prevalent in a world that still holds women as inferior to men.
Since the beginning of time, violence against women, especially rape, has been used as a weapon of war. Not only does it impact the victims but it erodes the fabric of a community in a way that few weapons can. Rape’s damage can be devastating because of the strong communal reaction to the violation and pain stamped on entire families. The World War Two Nuremberg trials condemned rape as a crime against humanity.
National attention was drawn to this issue of rape with the trial of Dr. Larry Nassar, the U.S. Gymnastics doctor, as victim after victim described her pain. He was allowed to continue his criminal actions because many girls were afraid to tell their stories and because adults including parents refused to listen to their daughters when they had the courage to share what was happening. The stigma of being abused or rape is strong in many cultures including ours.
Recently many women have come forward in the #MeToo movement; women who have been raped or molested by individuals with power over them and their careers. For years women did not come forward to report these incidences because of the ridicule or accusation of bringing it on themselves. It can become a he said/she said event and often, if the power figure says it just didn’t happened, the woman’s accusation is dismissed.
Why have women been subject to this kind of treatment for so many hundreds (thousands) of years? Because women are often considered less than men, subject to men, or the property of men. While the Scriptures say that all humans are made imago Dei, in the image of God, too often that image is only masculine. Women are somehow an afterthought.
Current media has brought into the forefront the treatment of women in war, in sports, and in the entertainment, government and business worlds. But there are subtle ways that continue to keep women below the level of men. Religions that refuse to let women in the sanctuary or the pulpit, businesses that pay women less than men, and women who refuse to hold men accountable for their actions all contribute. Slowly, very slowly women are making progress but we must continue to fight for the dignity we deserve.