“But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her. Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!”” 2 Samuel 13:14-15
The Bible is so full of violence, much of it happens in battle, or in hot-blooded rage, or even the coldness of deceit, but there is something unspeakably wicked about the violence done by one human to another in the act of sexual violation. Here in our text from the second book of Samuel, is the sad story of Amnon, who rapes his half-sister Tamar, ruining her life and paying with his own, for although he is unaware of it at the time, Tamar’s brother Absalom will later murder him for this act.
We saw yesterday how Amnon had become obsessed to the point of illness, and probably beyond reason. The attack is premeditated, and because his action is waiting to be played out, nothing Tamar can say will save her. A violation is not only one of the body, it is one of the will. It says, you do not matter, my will is more important than yours, my pleasure matters more than your pain, my desire is more important than your wellbeing, my actions negate you, and make you less than human.
When Amnon summons Tamar to his room he has already made her an object. He has doubtless made her an object in his imagination, and certainly in his plans. He has, therefore, no desire to listen to her, or treat her in any way like a human being. At the time of writing there is a news story about a father defending his son for sexually assaulting a woman at Stanford university. The father does not understand what rape does to the victim or the perpetrator, saying his son shouldn’t go to prison for “20 minutes action.” Whilst this is sickening, it is an example of complete ignorance that is deeply shocking. If that is what some men really think, no wonder they have taught no respect to their sons. They truly “know not what they do.” I hope and pray that we will all begin to understand one another’s humanity in such a way as to never inflict such huge pain on one another.
Let us not play this down. Rape is a most terrible thing. When you are no longer in control of what is being done to your own body, to your own sexuality, to your own private places, to the parts of your body that are supposed to be yours to give love to one special person, to have those places forced into a painful physical encounter than negates your worth, takes away your choices and makes you into a thing instead of a person, that is a horrendous, traumatic, deeply violent event that leaves long-lasting physical, emotional, mental and spiritual scars. As with any kind of assault, it stays with you, usually for life. Forgiveness and healing are terribly hard in this area, tied in as it is with innocence, betrayal, and the abuse of parts of us made for love.
And as with any violent act, the perpetrator is also damaging themselves. The scripture says that immediately, Amnon hated Tamar intensely. Of course, he is really hating himself. He is projecting his own vileness outwards, in just the same way that men do when they say a woman was “asking for it” or shouldn’t have worn certain clothing or should cover herself up. It is their own sinful natures that are being displayed in these cases, but it is much easier, much more comfortable to blame the object of our wrong or unwanted desires.
As for Tamar, the attack leaves her “a desolate woman.” I can say from my own experience that an assault, especially perpetrated by someone who claims to love us, shatters our trust, our confidence and colours all our ideas about love, leaving us feeling adrift in an ocean of pain and confusion.
Usually when I write these pieces, there is a glimmer of hope in the story, a cry of desperate praise hidden in the Psalm, something in the Scripture to give us a reason to hope for healing, for restoration. But sometimes it takes longer for the light to dawn in the darkness. The only hope I can find here is that “Three sons and a daughter were born to Absalom. His daughter’s name was Tamar, and she became a beautiful woman.” (2 Samuel 14:27 NIV) Tamar’s niece and namesake is therefore also given the gift of great beauty, and perhaps this is a kind of rebirth, or redemption. Maybe for some crimes and wounds, it will be on the other side of the cross that we eventually find restoration. But I am sure that it will one day be given to all who have had their bodies, hearts, or trust violated.
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4 NIV
Photo from morguefile
If you need to find help to do with rape or sexual assault, please do visit the Rape Crisis website in the UK. http://rapecrisis.org.uk/