Part six in a series by Joy Pedrow Skarka
Rape can happen to anyone, anywhere. An abuser can be an acquaintance, friend, spouse, date, or family member. In fact, the majority of victims know their perpetrators. Research reveals that 7 out of 10 rapes are committed by someone known to the victim. Most children and teen victims know their perpetrator. Of sexual abuse cases reported to law enforcement, 93 percent of juvenile victims knew their perpetrator. Rape is more common when it is with people known to the person violated.*
Anyone can be a rapist—even trusted family doctors. In 2018, Dr. Larry Nassar was convicted of sexually assaulting numerous young women on the national US gymnastics team. More than 150 victims publicly confronted him during a seven-day hearing and shared their stories of abuse, including well known Olympians Aly Raisman and Jordyn Wieber. Credit goes to Rachael Denhollander, a Christ-follower who first publicly made accusations against Dr. Nassar. She gave a powerful testimony during the hearing and now is a victim advocate, educator, and speaker on sexual abuse and justice. Dr. Nassar was sentenced to prison terms of up to 175 years for criminal sexual assaults of more than 150 young athletes.
We allow credentials to enable rape culture when we believe that a doctor can automatically be trusted—that he has to do what he is doing for medical purposes. In reality, Dr. Nassar groomed his victims and manipulated them into believing he was a safe person. One Olympic gold medalist gymnast, McKayla Maroney, explained in her speech at the hearing, “I had a dream to go to the Olympics, and the things that I had to endure to get there were unnecessary and disgusting.” One woman reported the crime to her school, and they responded by saying that she did “not understand the difference between sexual assault and a medical procedure.” People in powerful situations use their power to abuse others.
It happens on first dates, in long-term dating relationships, and in marriages. It does not matter if the person had consenting sex with the abuser in the past, rape is still rape. It happens on college campuses (Check out Part 11 of this series: Rape Culture and Colleges), even at Christian colleges such as Pensacola Christian College and Bob Jones University. It happens in apartments, behind dumpsters, at restaurants, on buses, in bars, even in the victim’s own home—rape happens absolutely everywhere inhabited by humans.
It even happens in boarding schools filled with missionary kids from around the world. At least 50 children were sexually and physically abused at a boarding school in Senegal, Africa in the 1980s. In 2013, New Tribes Mission (NTM) missionary Warren Kennel was arrested for alleged sexual abuse of children in the 1980s in Brazil. It happens in jails. An estimated 80,600 inmates each year experience sexual violence while in prison or jail. Sixty percent of all sexual violence against inmates is perpetrated by jail or prison staff.More than 50 percent of the sexual contact between inmate and staff member—all of which is illegal—is non-consensual.Rape doesn’t happen only in dark alleys—rape happens everywhere and usually the victim knows the rapist.
*Statistics from RAINN—the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization.