Rape is an act of power and control; it is unequivocally evil in God’s eyes. There is nothing a person can wear, or a way they can behave, that justifies or makes them deserving of sexual assault. Rape is never the assaulted person’s fault. If you are a survivor of rape, it was not your fault.

The Bible includes the stories of survivors of assault such as Dinah (Gen. 34) and Tamar (2 Sam. 13). Although these two examples are women, men may experience sexual assault as well. Rape produces fear and despair and often destroys one’s ability to trust. Its impact can spill over into every other aspect of life. It can leave those it touches feeling hollow and disconnected from the world around them.

People often imagine a typical rapist as a stranger in a dark alley, but rape is often perpetrated by someone the target already knows, at least marginally, well. Rapists may use their perceived authority, including spiritual authority, as leverage against their target, taking advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce them into sex.

Dealing with the results of rape begins with a safe person. Contact a friend, a pastor, or other trusted adult. It is important to report the assault to law enforcement. Taking a friend along to report the violation may make a painful conversation with law enforcement easier. The choice to report an assault includes a recounting of the details. This telling of the story is a lament to the violation as well as holding the attacker accountable. It also breaks the silence to reclaim a voice and protect another potential victim. Reporting the crime enables law enforcement and the court systems to hold the perpetrator responsible for their actions.

When it is time, talk about what happened. This can be a challenge for many reasons, including the stress of recounting the event, and the fear that no one may believe you. Find a counselor to talk to in processing the powerful emotions you will feel. It is okay to feel drained of emotion or even unsure of what to feel. These feelings are not something to feel guilty for. Anger can come to the surface as you are ready to begin healing. Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be angry, but do not sin” (NRSV).

Feeling angry, dirty, or alone are all normal reactions. Healing begins slowly. If you have trouble praying after you have been assaulted, know that at some point you will again begin to talk with God. For now, know that He is near and is big enough to handle this part of your life. Recognize that there is hope for life on the other side of rape, whether your story is believed or not. Rape is a shattering, devastating experience, but there is hope to live a life without its shadow. This event does not need to define your life going forward.

Both men and women need to be a part of confronting and preventing rape. It begins with recognizing that it does happen. It happens close to home, in neighborhoods, schools, churches, and communities. With open eyes, both men and women need to watch social interactions and speak up when someone’s boundaries are being violated. An advocate needs to speak the words to protect someone who is taken advantage of and forced into a sexual situation. This is following through on the admonition in Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”