How your church can help victims of sexual assault find healing and hope.

Forcible rape is probably the most frequently committed violent crime in America today. More than 127,000 rapes were reported in the Uniform Crime Report’s latest annual statistics. However, most experts believe that if every rape victim spoke up, the number would be ten times that number. The FBI estimates that one in four women will be victimized by a rapist at some point in her life.

There are no simple explanations for the prevalence of this crime. Analysts cite a range of causes, including the proliferation of pornography, a culture that tolerates male aggressiveness toward women, and a legal system that reflects cultural biases and fails to deter rapists.

Christians, both individually and collectively, may contribute to the problem to a greater extent than they realize. In the church, myths about rape persist, and rape itself is considered unmentionable. Religious publishers have almost ignored the subject of adult rape. Adding to the confusion is a prevalent notion that rape is a problem only for those outside the church.

This neglect leaves Christians particularly vulnerable, because those who are less knowledgeable may put themselves at greater risk. It also leaves women who have been sexually assaulted, Christian or not, without help from a key resource: the church.

For ten years, I have worked as a rape-crisis counselor and a community-education specialist on sexual violence. Consistently, the church’s lack of interest has been one of the most frustrating and saddening aspects of my work. The rape-crisis center where I volunteer, which serves a city of more than one million people, receives hundreds of requests each year for speakers on rape ...

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