Beyond SlutWalk: A New Conversation about Sexual Assault
Last month thousands of women took to the Toronto streets dressed in lingerie and miniskirts. Calling their movement SlutWalk, they were protesting a police officer's statement to college students, after a wave of sexual assaults at York University, that "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized." Organized mainly through social media, SlutWalks have now occurred throughout Canada, the U.S., and Europe. The goal, say organizers, is to debunk the belief that victims of sexual assault are responsible for the assault because of their clothing—or for any other reason.
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Christian singer Rebecca St. James, discussing SlutWalk with Sean Hannity on Monday, put to words this entrenched belief. The newly married St. James said, "Women are asking for sex if they are dressed immodestly." While she said "there is never an excuse no matter how a woman is dressed for a man to abuse a woman,"
I mean, I love the t-shirt modest is hottest. I absolutely believe it. I got married two weeks ago to a holy hunk. I have lived out purity …. I think there has to be a responsibility though for what a woman is wearing, personal responsibility …. Purity and modesty go hand in hand. I think when a woman is dressing in an immodest way, in a provocative way, she has got to think about what is she saying by her dress?
If SlutWalks and "modest is hottest" t-shirts sum up the current public conversation about sexual assault, then we need a better conversation. That's why Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault (Crossway Books / Re:Lit) comes as a breath of gospel-infused fresh air.
Authors Justin Holcomb and Lindsey Holcomb are uniquely gifted to write this book. Justin is a pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle and director of the Resurgence, and has taught classes on sexual violence at the University of Virginia. Lindsey worked at a sexual assault crisis center, then at a domestic violence center, before serving as a deacon at Mars Hill, where she counsels SA victims. Together they provide a theologically rich and meticulously researched resource for women and men who have suffered any forced sexual conduct or behavior—which is an estimated 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men in the U.S.
The Holcombs' goal is to show SA victims that the gospel directly and clearly heals the psychological pain of sexual assault. For an SA victim to hear that they are pure, accepted, blameless, affirmed, and made new in Christ, they say, is far more transforming and true than the self-help messages that are normative in secular counseling models: "What victims need are not self-produced positive statements but God's statements about his response to their pain," they write.
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