“Spiritual Rape”

I was married to an Army commissioned officer in the 1990s. As a Pagan at that time, I was involved with the Military Pagan Network, a group seeking fair treatment of Pagans in the military. Therefore, even though I am no longer attached to the military in any way, when I heard about your organization, I was happy to support it and share information about your cause.

Then I saw your website and your references to “Spiritual Rape.” I am now a sexual assault victims’ advocate, working to help prevent sexual assault and to help sexual assault victims understand their options, navigate the criminal justice process, and find needed resources. Rape is the violent and sexual invasion of the most intimate part of a person’s body, usually accomplished by force or threat. I find your use of the word “rape” to describe what is happening to those you represent to be problematic and harmful. I do understand why one might make such a comparison, however, the ramifications of using the word “rape” to describe non-sexual assault situations trivializes the trauma rape victims endure and supports rape culture by devaluing the meaning of the word.
The following is a list of common experiences in the aftermath of rape. How many of those the MRFF represents experience these as a result of proselytizing by a superior officer?

Short-Term:

physical injuries
sexually-transmitted infections
pregnancy (and the struggle of having to choose abortion or giving birth, keeping the baby or adoption)
secondary victimization (additional trauma caused by inappropriate responses by medical, law enforcement, mental health, clergy, media, and other organizational personnel as well as friends and family members)
uncontrollable intrusive thoughts about the rape, re-experiencing the violation
social withdrawal
intense and unpredictable emotions
exaggerated startle response
both sleeping (nightmare) and waking flashbacks
difficulty sleeping
difficulty concentrating
panic attacks
hyperarousal
hypervigilance
feelings of shame
feeling as if they are to blame for the assault
lost time from work
being fired because of symptoms

Long-Term (can be life-long):

physical disabilities
sexual dysfunction including painful sex, uterine fibroids, and sexually-transmitted infections
PTSD
obsessive-compulsive disorder
dissociative identity disorder
borderline personality disorder
panic disorder
agoraphobia
major depressive disorder
eating disorders
self-injury
suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, or completed suicide
inability to trust even in everyday social situations
increased likelihood of substance abuse
hyperarousal
hypervigilance
difficulty with decision-making
feelings of shame
feeling as if they are to blame for the assault
inability to find enjoyment or feel pleasure
persistent feelings of hopelessness
decreased self-esteem
lost time from work
being fired because of symptoms

Please reconsider the use of the term “Spiritual Rape” and remove it from your website. Issuing an apology to rape victims would also be a compassionate and valuable choice on your part.
Thank you,
(name withheld)


Dear (name withheld),

MRFF’s Founder and President Mikey Weinstein has read your email and asked me to respond on his and MRFF’s behalf. Thank you for your support of MRFF’s cause and taking the time to share your first hand experiences in dealing with the extremely significant issues being addressed by both of our organizations along with your concerns regarding the use of the term Spiritual Rape.

Mikey will never use the term Spiritual Rape lightly, any more than the use of the term National Security Threat when he describes the devastating impact of religious predators operating within the U.S. Military. I appreciate your understanding of the apt nature of the comparison engendered in the term Spiritual Rape. However, Mikey and MRFF strongly disagree that the use of this term either trivializes victims of sexual assault or supports a rape culture. As you are obviously aware per the extensive list of short/long term effects of rape, the impacts of rape are manifested both physically and psychologically. MRFF’s clients as a group have experienced all of the psychological effects listed and a few have been subjected to physical effects as a result of aggressive religious proselytizing. Mikey himself was brutally beaten twice as a result of rampant religious intolerance and bigotry while attending the U.S. Air Force Academy. Indeed, there are even further outrages. We are quite aware of documented cases where female military members who have been sexually assaulted and/or raped have been told by the fundamentalist Christian military chaplains they desperately sought out for assistance and succor that they, first and foremost, needed to understand that “it was God’s will” that they were so savaged.

Although not a critical factor in Mikey’s and MRFF’s decision to continue using this term when and where appropriate, the concept of Spiritual Rape is not exclusive to MRFF and has been expressed by many individuals regarding their personal feelings and treatment by others. A collection of case studies was presented, involving the use of this term/concept, by Dr. Ronald M. Enroth, Professor of Sociology, Westmont College:

Churches That Abuse, Ronald M. Enroth. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 1992, 227 pages.

-reviewed by Maxine Pinson, Publisher/Editor of Savannah Parent
(http://www.csj.org/pub_csj/csjbookreview/csjbkrev92churches.htm)

-reviewed by Margaret Thaler Singer, Emeritus Adjunct Professor of Psychology, University of California at Berkeley (http://www.csj.org/pub_csj/csjbookreview/csjbkrev101churches2.htm)

…a more recent application of this concept:
I’ve Been Raped by a Church: A Christian Recovery Guide for the Wounded, Vicky Lynch, April 2013, Conquest Publishers

Thank you once again for sharing your experiences and concerns. While we cannot expect nor demand your agreement with Mikey’s and MRFF’s continued use of the term Spiritual Rape, your consideration of our position is greatly appreciated.

Respectfully,
Andy Kasehagen

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2 Comments

  1. florence marie

    i am a psychic medium lesbian my i need your help i am experiencibg spiritual rape please help me gdc no 1063383 i am on probation for forgery….deklab co wants me in jail per officer johnson due to poor admin work in jan no community svc hrs thn some in febn march….amen jesus name helpe please,,…..amen

  2. Kevin

    I don’t believe the use of the word rape is inappropriate at all.

    I’ve been physically raped, sexually abused in other ways and also known spiritual rape. Still do – trying to recover from the belief I was/am – ‘intrinsically evil’.

    I find recovery from the spiritual aspect of rape – as all rape affects us most at that profound level anyway – relationally, with ourselves and others – more difficult.

    It is NOT an inappropriate use of the term and no apology should be made. If anyone should apologise – it’s you.

    It doesn’t devalue the word, idea, concept or reality.

    It just shows your ignorance and complete incapacity to empathise. You are the one trivialising. How dare you !! You should be ashamed of yourself and not advocating for anyone so vulnerable.

    Maybe you should go back to worshipping trees.

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