Carrying My Sexual Shame
A vulnerable woman is preyed upon by a powerful man. A second man shows pity, only to use the situation as an excuse for revenge. The two men are historic enemies, but it is the woman who loses.
I encourage you to read all of 2 Samuel 13 to better grasp the dynamics involved in Tamar’s story. What is unusual about this story is that all three characters are siblings and members of the royal family. Amnon (the rapist) plays second fiddle to Absalom (the revenger) who is the heir apparent to David’s throne. Tamar’s role is as the king’s virgin daughter and the victim of assault.
When Amnon decides that he is “in love” with his half-sister Tamar (v. 1), an adviser suggests a scheme to trap Tamar in Amnon’s bedchamber. The heart-wrenching verse above is Tamar’s plea with her brother. Not only is she trying to protect her physical and sexual self; she is also protecting her social self, which will be destroyed by this violation. What happened was exactly what Tamar had feared. After he raped her, Amnon hated her and refused to marry her, so Tamar ended up a “desolate woman” (v. 20).
The story of Tamar can break our hearts. It also reminds us that certain human stories repeat themselves. My own life echoes this story. Like so many others, I have been a rape victim. I read Tamar’s story and grieve, yet I am grateful that her plea is recorded in Scripture. Her words reverberate, the cry of a victim challenging the church: Where can we go in our shame?
Ruth Everhart is a Presbyterian pastor and the author of Ruined, which received a 2017 book award from Christianity Today. You can find her at rutheverhart.com, on Twitter at @rutheverhart, or on Facebook at RuthEverhartAuthor.