A Rape Victim’s Problem with Fifty Shades and the like

The Fifty Shades series isAs a Christian woman, I shouldn't have to say anything about not to reading or watching them, but as a rape victim and a mother, I felt I need to.

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The Fifty Shades series is just the newest, shiniest example of racy romance novels turned into movies. As a Christian, I shouldn’t have to say anything to other Christians about not to reading or watching them, but as a rape victim and a mother, I felt I needed to.

A lot of wonderful pastors have written tremendous articles about the dangers of Christians watching movies like Fifty Shades of Grey and Fifty Shades Darker.

I can’t add much to such an excellent Christian commentary. I can only offer the purity standard I try to maintain for our home.

Philippians 4:8 ESV / Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Probably not achievable this side of heaven, but I have never regretted ‘breaking up’ with favorite shows that didn’t meet Christ’s standard.

So why read the rest of this post if I’m not adding to the “Christian” commentary on the film?

Because I can add my personal perspective on Fifty Shades as a date rape victim.

Movies like this that twist sex and violence aren’t harmless entertainment. They shape our views of sexuality. And affect the attitudes and behaviors of their viewers.

The Fifty Shades series is just the newest, shiniest example of racy romance novels turned into movies. As a Christian woman, I shouldn't have to say anything about not to reading or watching them, but as a rape victim and a mother, I felt I need to.

Read my perspective on Fifty Shades as a date rape victim. NO starts with what we watch. Click To Tweet

Films like these depict intense, sexually-charged content, which pushes viewers to seek more exciting, more forbidden sexual content.

And often viewers act on these fantasies, which is destroying healthy views on sex and sexuality.

Fight the New Drug  discusses studies that looked at the effect of graphic sexual media on teens, concluding people expect what they see of sexual relationships, for better or worse.

Movies like Fifty Shades show a man manipulating a woman into believing she will be sexually gratified through dominance and violence, and makes it seem romantic and fulfilling.

Violent sex isn’t romantic.

As a survivor of date rape, I find it tremendously troubling women have made this series successful. We are financing the spread of the pervasive media lie that women want to be forced into submissive sexual roles defined by pain and violence.

We are contributing to a rape culture because we learn to accept this twisted view of sexuality as normal in the name of embracing our sexuality.

Violence, pain, & force aren't healthy parts of sexual relationships. Say No to 50 Shades. Click To Tweet

My generation was the first with VCRs and access to porn right in their homes. Many boys I knew watched it and expected girls to match their movies, including believing that saying no was a game of “persuade me.”

I was a thing to be used, not respected or valued.

Many studies show ANY pornographic content affects the way we think about human sexuality. Even after viewing non-violent graphic sex, men were more likely to view women as less equal and believe NO only when accompanied by a slap.

This climate created the date rape culture that made me a victim.

Rape left a jagged wound in my life that will never completely go away. God has healed much of my hurt and used my experiences to help others, but I cannot ever completely erase the impact from my mind.

Sexually graphic media perpetuates a culture in which women are objectified not valued. Click To Tweet

Most days I walk around completely forgetting it ever happened. However, in a flash, rape raises its ugly head in the middle of a conversation, a usually tame television show, or a movie scene I didn’t anticipate.

While I don’t blame myself, I can tell you that my rapists’ sexual sin is like a poisonous weed that I can never completely eradicate. My rapist perpetrated violence against me on the inside, affecting more than just my physical body.

Rape is a crime against more than the body.

I can’t tell you how destructive it is to the true, God-honoring intimacy of marriage to have these mental and emotional flashbacks of my victimization.

Thankfully, through Christ and inside a loving marriage, the impact weakens. Yet, even when everything is perfect and good, I have found myself weeping because the shame and pain from my past poisoned what God has given us for joy.

So what does this have to do with Fifty Shades?

I have forgiven my rapist inside myself and in prayer, but never had personal closure. I don’t know what created the violent, sexual person he was so young. But I never want to support an industry or media that creates the widespread acceptance of sexual sin.

1 Corinthians 6:18 ESV / Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.

Love and sex are already confusing in our sexualized culture. Kids are exposed to images of sexuality in hamburger commercials. Raising our children to be disciples of Christ in a society that ambushes their purity is hard enough.

Loving and satisfying sex within marriage is the true ideal.

Proverbs 5:18-19 ESV / Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.

We need to create a culture for our children that honors appropriate sexuality for ourselves and our children.

Hebrews 13:4 ESV / Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

So, I would ask you to learn about the very real links between watching (or reading) content like Fifty Shades and violence. I would ask you to consider changing the channel during the commercials for the film or writing to letters to the networks that air them.

We need to do more than not watch them, we need to change the culture for our children.

My daughter deserves a marriage with beautiful intimacy fueled by real passion for each other. I don’t want her to experience the pale reflection our sinful culture tries to appropriate.

That starts with us refusing to financially support ANY media that portrays graphic sex.

And that starts with you today.

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What Rape Did to My Life

Rape left a jagged wound on my life, but God has reminded me how He has redeemed my darkest story and continues to use it to reach into the lives of others.

Rape left a jagged wound on my life, but through the media bombardment since the horrifyingly lenient sentence for Brock Turner, God has been reminding me how He has used my darkest story to minister to brutally wounded girls.

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Even though I’m reliving bits and pieces of my own story, I can’t look away. Its like I’m standing in solidarity with her by acknowledging the truth of her story; she was not exaggerating, not being dramatic, not lying.

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So, I’ve quietly read the articles and the letters: first, from his victim, trying not to let her eloquent words reach too deeply so I don’t break down three feet from where my daughter is playing cowgirl.

Then I read the plea from his father who said his son didn’t deserve to have his whole life ruined.

and I tried not to let anger consume me, knowing I need Jesus every bit as much as Brock Turner does.

But he stuffed pine needles and other foreign objects inside her. . .

. . . and I mentally inhale as if icy water has shocked my flesh.

It wasn’t sex. It was power. He sat over her and gratified every sick and twisted desire he could until he was caught.

A lot of experts can spout statistics and theories, but I can tell you, even when it’s two kids kissing, and the boy gets ‘carried away’, it’s still rape; it’s still about power. It is ‘I can’t control myself, so I’ll control you instead.’

I’ve tried to tell myself I don’t need to tell my story, but I really, really do, even though it breaks my heart.

Because this is one way I can reach into the silent scars we carry, and bring the discussion into our schools, our homes, and our churches.

It is a forever kind of hurt.

A boy my dad didn’t like, didn’t like the word no. I was so innocent I didn’t even understand what he wanted as he roughly forced me around the car in our high school parking lot between ninth period and badminton try-outs.

To this day, I don’t know why I didn’t fight him harder; I felt disconnected and frozen. When I finally controlled my panic, I gathered all my strength, pushed him and screamed; he stopped.

I was bleeding from where he stole my virginity, but later he left a note in my locker saying nothing had happened, calling me a crazy liar.

I thought it was my fault because I had wanted this cute, popular boy’s attention. And I liked kissing him; maybe it was my fault for kissing him.

The secret places inside my head held that spaghetti ball of lies and guilt and shame for a long time.

My life kept moving forward, but in my immaturity I believed the rape had destroyed my entire identity as a Christian because I lost my purity. (The church’s silence on this issue to our youth is deafening.)

I can’t erase the image of the well-meaning youth pastor demonstrating how sex binds us together with two pieces of glued construction paper, which ripped as he peeled them apart, shards of my pink innocence stuck to the black.

I was supposed to wait until marriage. Wasn’t I supposed to stop him!?

Rape left a jagged wound on my life, but since the media storm over Brock Turner, God has reminded me how He has redeemed my darkest story.

Well, I felt ruined now, dirty and used. The rape shredded to tatters the scrappy remnants left of my self-esteem after years of rampant, vicious bullying.

My sense of self had forever become compromised around men. Rape victims often respond by avoiding all male contact or seeking more male attention, craving protection or becoming promiscuous to lessen the pain somehow by desensitization.

I had the attitude of why wait now? Look what NO had done. If I said yes, at least I wouldn’t be raped again.

But I was, in college, because the college rape culture was (IS) so extreme that drunk meant it didn’t matter, “I’m so drunk . . .” was the 80s equivalent of “What happens in Vegas . . .” (shouldn’t this have changed by now?)

Movies like “The Accused” tried to start the conversation about changing the way we legally and culturally approach rape, but it was so horrifying to watch the way she was re-victimized by the legal process and the press, that I knew I’d never be able to press charges.

So I lived with this albatross of rape hanging around the recesses of my mind. Believing I was worthless, I sought relationships that treated me cheaply. I lived with cruelty and even abuse, afraid I’d never be loved.

Every relationship I had after rape, was shaped by the wounds. Sex was forever razor-wire tied to hurt, rejection, abandonment.

I didn’t get help for a long time, when I did, it wasn’t enough. Therapy taught me the words ‘it wasn’t your fault’ but couldn’t make them ring true in my heart.

And that’s why I have to tell my story.

Because 30 years later we’re still having this conversation.

We have to start acknowledging, publicly and legally and spiritually, that sexual assault affects every minute of our lives after it. We’ve got to learn to give our girls (and boys) ways to peel it all back as far as it goes, and really deal with it.

Especially as the church.

We need to do a better job of preparing our youth for sexuality: controlling strong physical urges, taking responsibility, maintaining accountability, respecting themselves and each other, seeking God before any pleasure of this world.

The church also needs to vocally reach out to other victims and survivors, protecting them and validating them, and giving them back an identity even better than the one they lost.

Because there is hope in Christ, even after rape.

Even though I still hurt, I know God is slowly helping me heal, by renewing my worth in Him, by exposing my hurts to the Sonlight.

Therapy taught me the words, 'It wasn't your fault' but couldn't make them true, only Jesus did. Click To Tweet

Today, I know that nothing in my life was wasted.

Romans 8:28 ESV  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

God took terrible events that happened because of the lost nature of this world and used who I am to help others.

I have been able to help reach into the broken lives of many young women because I understood. One student couldn’t even tell me what had happened as she cried in my classroom, tears spilling onto a missed spelling quiz.

I looked into her eyes and just knew. By showing I did understand, she was able to finally talk about it with me and her counselor, and eventually the police. She was safe that night for the first night in four years, and so was her eight year old sister.

If I hadn’t been there  . . .

Would I change what happened to me knowing all the girls who have needed my understanding in the years since?

No, I really wouldn’t.

God has given me this incredible ability to persevere and used this experience as a witness and testimony to the healing power of God.

I wouldn’t have had the bravery to share this before. But now I know I don’t have to cling to the shame of this. My poor decisions didn’t give anyone the right to hurt me.

I still have moments that it hurts. I look at my beautiful daughter and worry that she is too pretty, too friendly. It’s not fair that I have to prepare her for the violence sin perpetuates in this world.

I’ll do my best to teach her how to be safe, but I can’t be there for her every minute, only God can, and I know nothing will ever happen to her that He can’t heal if she surrenders it.

And that is my last point. No one and nothing is beyond God’s redemption. His word is full of redemption stories, even murderers who God mightily used after their repentance.

The next step of my healing is learning to pray for the boys like my attackers, like Brock Turner. There is peace in the forgiveness that comes when I can pray for the salvation of those who hurt me.

They are not beyond His love and healing either, though their earthly consequences may continue, like mine do. God can offer peace and healing if they come repentant and humbled as I once did.

The church needs to take that message to them, too.

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