If a family member sinned against me in a sexual manner (and still won’t admit the wrongdoing) and living at home with that person does not feel safe and puts me in an uncomfortable and unhappy situation, is it possible to forgive but to not give a second chance? Is it a matter of time until I can tolerate that person while taking security measures or should I just move out? What are your thoughts on this, J.S.?
(Edited for privacy and details.)
Warning: This post is slightly graphic and is NOT meant to be legal advice. If you have been sexually harassed or violated, please don’t wait to call the proper authorities and to seek protection. I’m aware this is a serious subject of which I am inadequate to cover all the bases.
My dear friend,
I really appreciate your honesty and I find it highly commendable that you want to forgive, but please please please, you absolutely cannot let even a family member get away with something like this.
Sometimes we’re not sure if we’ve really been violated, so we stay silent. Accusing someone of sexual harassment is also a big deal and can never be undone, so it shouldn’t be taken lightly — but if your space has been inavaded, it should be dealt with immediately.
If you’re not sure if you’ve been violated, then —
1) Did the other person obtain permission before engaging in the activity?
2) Was there an attempt, whether completed or not, at sexual contact or behavior?
Justin Holcomb, the author of Rid of My Disgrace (perhaps the only good Christian book I’ve read on this topic), offers a clear definition of sexual assault: Any type of sexual behavior or contact where consent is not freely given or obtained and is accomplished through force, intimidation, violence, coercion, manipulation, threat, deception, or abuse of authority. This also means that even if you were aroused, the victim can still not be blamed.
Any continual invasion into your privacy is disturbing behavior, especially if the offender is older and should know better. If you are a minor: tell your parents, tell their parents, and alert those in authority. Don’t be afraid, if necessary, to file a police report and press charges. These things have a way of escalating if a predator feels he can exploit you without consequence.
See: I used to be part of an Asian community where a handful of guys would regularly get girls to binge-drink, and then they would date-rape them. One of my former best friends became pregnant this way, and the guy pretty much left the country back to Korea. A girl I once dated maybe ten years ago was raped twice by two different guys on two occasions, in the same house, with a camcorder in the closet recording the whole thing.
You’d think she would’ve learned the first time: but I understood the enormous social pressure she was under as these group of guys smooth-talked and manipulated her into a dangerous situation. Her female friends ridiculed her into sleeping with the guys, but then belittled her after she did it both times. Some people said it was somehow her fault — but is it really “her fault” that our culture perpetuates this kind of conquest mentality?
The thing is, I never reported these guys. It was accepted as the norm. No one reported them. And my deepest regret of this phase of my life is that I didn’t go to the proper authorities to lock up this damn rape-circle. I let it happen. It haunts me at night sometimes, enough to punch myself in the head.
Why didn’t I report it? Because I was scared of the ramifications. I would’ve lost friends (none of whom I am friends with now anyway). I would’ve lost my reputation (which hardly matters since I’m mocked for being a Christian anyway). I would’ve probably upset the girls who were raped too (even though they’re still living in fear now anyway). I was a coward.
I am not telling you this to guilt-trip you or to equally call you a coward. I am saying: You have the power right now to speak up and reverse the course of both the offender and his future victims. The offense you mentioned (which I omitted at your request) was pretty bad, but it’s still a long way from rape. I’m not saying he is guaranteed to be a rapist either. However, you can nip it in the bud right now and expose this person’s wrongdoing, and he might still have a chance to learn about the dignity of women.
I don’t mean to sound so dramatic. But when I think of this rape-circle so many years ago, I’m sure it began the same way: the group first just talking about it, then gaining confidence as they tested boundaries, people just dismissing it as flirtation, someone saying “These girls must want it,” and then one of the guys crossing over and doing the unthinkable. If only I had done something.
At the very least, sit down with your family or your pastor or a mature friend and tell them everything. Pour out your heart. It’s great you contacted me, but you will need people eye-to-eye who can be present in your situation. Make them take you seriously. Ask them about your options, whether to move out or to set up safe boundaries or to get the law involved. Don’t let anyone escape the conversation, including yourself, no matter how awkward it gets. Then make a decision. I will throw you a prayer. Love you, dear friend.
If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
— James 4:17