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I’M WHAT?’S LEFT: A PRACTICAL MODEL FOR HEALING 
TRAUMA FROM SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN WOMEN 
TO PROMOTE HEALTHY MARRIAGE 


Ntatu N. North 


BS, Wilberforce University, 2006 
MS, Capella University, 2014 


Mentors 


Lucius Dalton, DMin 
Lisa Weah, DMin 


A FINAL PROJECT SUBMITTED TO 
THE DOCTORAL STUDIES COMMITTEE 
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS 
FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF MINISTRY 


UNITED THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY 
Dayton, Ohio 
May 2021 


United Theological Seminary 
Dayton, OH 


Faculty Approval Page 
Doctor of Ministry Final Project 


TM WHAT’S LEFT: A PRACTICAL MODEL FOR HEALING 
TRAUMA FROM SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN WOMEN 
TO PROMOTE HEALTHY MARRIAGE 


by 


Ntatu N. North 


United Theological Seminary, 2021 


Mentors 


Lucius Dalton, DMin 
Lisa Weah, DMin 


Date: 


Approved: 


Faculty Mentor: 


Associate Dean of Doctoral Studies: 


Copyright © 2021 Ntatu N. North 
All rights reserved 


CONTENTS 


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AC KINO WL EDGE MEIN TS site ec eaiaadp at eled caida d Saad te tcaseteat out a adase ta dyetaieel aad cbemcnites Vv 
DEDICATION 4s St et iach se aetertec lS cbatdal tol Beaethe Stace tahiti Roan tl eatin aad Seat fas Vil 
ETS OE ELT STRAT HONS sca teas veconaiaaccenetsdectacd ses chuy de taeeadpuseedens sau caeagnnende weenie neni ix 
INTRODUCTION i siivass cdeaveaccati tess scceiwaysccascgseiaasbesaciategauiaea sav aatemssideeeunaeae nda vavemenGeleas 1 
CHAPTER 
1. IMETINES BY POC US 5 Socage cuss sacar sated aa ee Rea aah 4 
2: BIBLICAL POUND ATIONS 2c Gi eee eae io Hae Bee 28 
3: HISTORICAL FOUNDATIONS . 00... ceeceeeesssecceseeeereeeeceneeaceeneeseeeeeeaees 56 
4. THEOLOGICAL-FOUNDA TIONS sec css sspeetseonsuctneiones aoa 76 
2, INTERDISCIPLINARY FOUNDATIONS. ....... ccc eeceeseeseceeeceeeeneeeneeeneees 102 
6. PROJECT ANALYSIS cc cauiaiva aceascauletoreiangsqeninchGcuaiecse anew 125 
APPENDIX 
A. PRE SURVEY wong eewiacy Sue ue Ga ae eee A at 161 
B POS TESUIRV EY, sivicariscaecsansiardscuttioigas, augue mae arateean eee 165 
C. INTERVIEW OUES TIONS 2. cajaacrbietedascueenotelan as 170 
D. CURRICULUM 6 icjscescctidccsassscaanisnsgaatasassaeniccsdensavonscans eadetaaasansenasedaneenannas 172 
ETO GR PIN cas ere caleach a daetaeiadias cadadnpit acacia cases as an Meet ha ay tena aecusnee 194 


ili 


ABSTRACT 


T?’M WHAT?’S LEFT: A PRACTICAL MODEL FOR HEALING 
TRAUMA FROM SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN WOMEN 
TO PROMOTE HEALTHY MARRIAGE 


by 
Ntatu N. North 
United Theological Seminary, 2021 


Mentors 


Lucius Dalton, DMin 
Lisa Weah, DMin 


The doctoral project context is The City of Promise Church, in Fairfield, Ohio. The 
objective of the project is to address the necessity of women having opportunities to 
resolve their trauma of sexual violence, in efforts to engage in healthy, holy, and 
wholesome marriages. The drive for the project is to empower women to seek out and 
utilize available resources, which will foster marriages that resemble marriage the way 
God intended it to be. The project highlights that resolution of trauma is necessary to be 


able to engage in this type of union. Women need opportunities to resolve their trauma. 


iv 


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 


Words cannot adequately express the gratitude and amazement that I have felt 
throughout this journey. First and foremost, I must give all honor and praise to God, for 
directing and ordering every step that I have taken on this journey. I began as a young 
woman who did not really understand my calling, or where God was leading me. There is 
no way that I would have even started this journey without God, let alone made it through 
without the divine purpose that God has placed on my life. For this, I thank God for 
provision and providence. Everything that I have been, am today, and will become is 
because of the sovereignty and favor of the Lord. Therefore, I am eternally grateful to be 
able to sit and pen this section to acknowledge my Savior, and to give a brief testimony to 
the awesomeness of God. 

I also want to thank my mentors, Dr. Lucius Dalton and Dr. Lisa Weah, along 
with my faculty consultant, Dr. Rhychie Breidenstein, for all of the guidance, leadership, 
and focus that you have provided during these six semesters. I recall on my first day 
where Dr. Dalton told us, “Trust the process,” and with this statement, I can say that I 
have honestly learned how to trust and believe in the ordained plans of God. Additional 
acknowledgements must be given to my Doctor of Ministry peer group, the Harold 
Hudson Scholars, for your continued love and comradery. We have learned so much from 


each other as colleagues, and I am grateful for this. 


Furthermore, thanks are in order for my senior pastor, Bishop Gary G. Hayles, my 
lead pastor, Pastor Andrea A. Hayles, and the entire City of Promise family. Specifically, 
those who participated in my project. I thank God for the authentic support and 
leadership of my bishop and pastor and for every participant, who all added worth and 
value to my project. I could not have done this without each of you. I also thank my peer, 
context, and professional associates for weathering each storm with me, for encouraging, 
comforting, and praying for me along the way. 

Lastly, but not least, I thank my family for being the support and encouragers that 
you have been. Lamar, I thank you for loving me, for always being a wonderful father to 
our children, and for picking up the slack when I needed you to. I appreciate everything 
that you have sacrificed to allow me to not just finish, but to finish strong. I also thank 
every family member and close friend who has filled in the gaps to help out in every way 
during these last few years. I speak blessings, favor, and peace over each one of you! I 
love you all and from the bottom of my heart, and I thank you! I am what and where I 


am, only by the grace of God! Glory! 


vl 


DEDICATION 


This Doctor of Ministry project is first dedicated to my father, the late Theodore 
David “Dauda” Brown. My father, who will always be lovingly known as “Poppa,” was 
one of my biggest supporters in everything that I did. He passed away before I began the 
Doctor of Ministry program, but he paved the way for me and our family by earning all 
the way up to his Doctorate in Educational Leadership, ABD. I know he would have 
been very proud to see me move this far academically. I know that he is smiling down on 
me right now and will be rejoicing in heaven once I receive my degree. Thank you for 
always being a true example of love, self-sacrifice, and dedication for me. I love you, 
forever, Poppa! 

Secondly, I dedicate this project to every woman. Specifically, I dedicate this 
project to every woman who knows and realizes that she has experienced sexual violence. 
To every girl, and every woman, young or old, I dedicate this project to you. May it 
encourage you to find the voice inside of you, whether it seems big or small, to speak up 
and tell your story. May it inspire you to seek out the help and resources that you need in 
order to begin your process of healing. May it challenge you to never lose hope, and 
know that God can do all things and that you are never alone! May you know that you are 
stronger than any trauma from your past, and that the work you do today will contribute 


to a greater tomorrow. 


Vii 


To every girl, and every woman, young or old, who has ever experienced any 
sexual violence, I dedicate this project to you. May you grow, may you heal, may you 
succeed. I stand with you, I cry with you, I pray with you, I feel with you. Iam YOU, and 


WE are what is left! Peace be unto you! 


Vill 


ILLUSTRATIONS 


Figures 
1 Diaralal) SEATS OP PANIC UAE oo cicessecentetoctateedtiec cad anseldecbeenncdlectdaeceance.adcoseceeneaasaace 145 
2 Women’s responses regarding sexual violence experience .........:.eeceesceeseeeeteeees 147 
3 __ Relationship satisfaction of participants (pre-SUIVEY) ..........eseesseeeseeeeeeeeseeeeeeees 149 
4 Relationship satisfaction of participants (POSt-SUIVEY) 0.0... eee eeseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeneeees 150 
a Participant responses regarding healing from sexual violence ............eeseeeeeeee 152 
Tables 
1 Changes in participants’ responses between pre- and post-survey .........:::0:e 150 


1X 


INTRODUCTION 


The project, “I’m What’s Left: A Practical Model for Healing Trauma from 
Sexual Violence in Women to Promote Healthy Marriage,” is the result of a contextual 
ministry analysis and my personal journey. The results of the analysis indicated that there 
is a need for women’s ministry in the church that thoroughly address the issues and 
concerns that women face. Most importantly, the intentional and profound development 
of women’s ministry will aid in fostering environments that provide healing and support 
for women as a whole. As stated, my passion in pursuing this project originated in 
personal experiences in the church. My current position as the Pastor of Women, bears 
witness to my desire and goal to work with women in ministry. Additionally, upon 
reflection of my childhood and experiences leading up to this point, I see the full benefit 
of having effective women’s ministry that encompasses a variety of issues and concerns 
that women face on a daily basis. 

When I took into consideration how important the concept of trauma was in 
assessing the vitality and efficacy of marriage, my current ministry context showed that it 
would benefit from further development in this area of ministry. The catalyst for change 
will be the development of women’s ministry that addresses trauma, and promotes 
healing from these traumatic events. With this healing, there will be a promotion of 


healthy marriage. 


This document attempts to create a replicable and sustainable blueprint for 
teaching the importance of healing from trauma in women. Moreover, it will ultimately 
have the ability to show the connection between healing from trauma and the 
development of healthy, holy, and wholesome marriage. 

Chapter one defines the ministry context where the Women’s Bible Study was 
implemented. The context for this project is The City of Promise Church. As I serve with 
the Pastor of Women, I have the opportunity to work with women who come from 
various backgrounds and who have had various experiences. The summation of this 
exposure has led me to see the appropriateness of this context as a basis for providing 
such a vital ministry. 

Chapter two allows the reader to understand the biblical foundations that 
undergird the validity of this project. After reading the story of Tamar, the reader will be 
able to see where this pericope shows an act of sexual violence to a woman, and how her 
inability to address this trauma affects her as a whole. 

Moreover, chapter three gives the reader a view into history by examining the 
African slave trade. This part of history shows the constant acts of sexual violence that 
were inflicted upon African women who became slaves in America. It sheds light on an 
age-old problem and trauma that needs to be eradicated. 

Chapter four is the theological foundations of this project. | examined womanist 
theology that looks into the importance of women having a voice and being able to write 
their own narrative. This was done through exploration of writings of this theology, 


research, and perspectives of various theologians, all correlating with the project’s focus. 


Chapter five, the interdisciplinary foundational, reviews the field of psychology, 
specifically Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), which has shown to be effective in 
people who have experienced trauma, specifically sexual violence. Cognitive processing 
therapy allows those who have experienced the trauma of sexual violence to understand 
the concept of trauma and its effects, to find stock points, work with events, thoughts, 
feelings, process the event, challenge problematic thinking, identify patterns of 
problematic thinking and beliefs, identify themes of trauma (safety, trust, power/control), 
review esteem, intimacy, facing the future, and processing intimacy through making a 
final impact statement. 

Finally, in chapter six, the reader will be exposed to the project methodology. 
This chapter outlines how the pre-and post-surveys, the Bible study on the story of 
Tamar, and the interviews indicate the participant’s responses to learning about and 
discussing the effects of sexual violence on women and their views in marriage. There 
will be an explanation of the field experience to communicate the results of the project as 
it was implemented. Lastly, the reader will gain insight into reflections, summary, and 


concluding remarks. 


CHAPTER ONE 


MINISTRY FOCUS 


Introduction 

There are many women who have experienced trauma in their lives, either in their 
childhood, as an adolescent, and or in adulthood. Often times, the same women who have 
experienced and endured varying levels of trauma are not afforded the opportunity to 
share their story, or even admit that they have actually had these types of experiences. 
Whether due to the fear of having to keep a “family secret,” pressure to pretend that they 
have lived a near perfect life, or a need or desire to forget what they experienced, a lot of 
women do not share their stories and may never tell anyone about the devastating and 
heart wrenching trauma that they have encountered. Many instances of trauma that are 
experienced by women may be sexual abuse; however, it can also exist in other forms. 

Regardless of the type of trauma that women face, roles and responsibilities of 
women often prohibit them from having the opportunity to process and ultimately heal 
from their experienced traumas, which in turn carries over into other areas in their lives. 
As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Pastor of Women, these roles have 
given me the opportunity to minister to many women, both in the secular and spiritual 
sense, who have had these types of experiences. Whether they have been able to admit it 
or not, their past traumatic experiences have had a direct impact on their current lives and 
the situations that they are in, their marriages or lack thereof, in particular. Many of them 


4 


) 


may even struggle to speak about their current contexts without being asked to look back 
into their past to revisit them, out of an avoidance of having to recall and recount events 
that they are not happy or proud to admit actually occurred. 

It is not easy to open up to others, and it can also seem rather impossible to speak 
up and admit to having experiences that no one would ever want to go through. One of 
the things that also makes it hard to admit and acknowledge situations that have caused 
hurt is that it can place the person in a position of feeling as if they have been defeated or 
are to blame for what they encounter. Nonetheless, it is imperative to have positive 
outlets available to those who have encountered these types of experiences so that there 
will be environments for true healing and fulfillment of the purpose that God has 
predestined for their lives. When women are given the opportunity to pour out their life to 
the Father in heaven, they are filled with a new love, fire, and fulfillment as they 


surrender to the sovereignty of the Lord. 


Context 

The City of Promise (COP) is a non-denominational ministry located in Fairfield, 
Ohio. COP is under the leadership of Bishop Gary G. Hayles, who serves as the Senior 
Pastor, and Pastor Andrea A. Hayles, who serves as the Lead Pastor. The biggest strength 
at COP is the sound doctrine that is being preached from the pulpit and the adherence to 
support of the vision and leadership of Bishop Hayles and Pastor Hayles. The ministry is 
loving and welcoming and has been working to increase the creation of new ministries, 
with special interest in increasing community outreach as well as being more inclusive of 


children and youth in Sunday morning worship. There are also a lot of gifts among both 


6 
the leaders and laity that are being used and expressed in efforts to build the Kingdom of 


God. The leadership and direction of Bishop Hayles and Pastor Hayles are undoubtedly 
phenomenal, as they truly seek to follow the directions of God and to lead by the 
obedience to God. 

The vision of COP is “No soul left unchanged,” and the mission is “Building 
Families to be Blessed.” While there has been progress towards adhering to the vision 
and mission of COP, with constant transition, shifting, and re-alignment in the ministry, 
one of the major areas of needed focus and attention is in the area of women’s ministry. 
Throughout my engagement with the ministry over the past seven plus years, there has 
not been consistent participation in or implementation of women’s ministry. While the 
ministry is predominantly female and the vast majority of those serving as leaders within 
the ministry also being female, there has not been consistent activities or ministry 
designed for the women of COP or an extension of ministry designed for women in the 
community. 

The community in which the church is located would allow for great impact and 
wonderful outreach opportunities for women and girls. Even within the context of COP, 
there are a lot of women with a lot of stories and past experiences that have adversely 
affected their overall well-being, their marriages, or their outlooks on the concept of 
matriage, in general. There are many women and girls of all ages that would benefit from 
positive interaction, engagement, and fellowship with other females within the context of 
ministry to learn more about God’s love for them and the importance of developing 
strong positive relationships with other females, all while attending to the wounds that 


often go untreated and are left open and unhealed. 


The development of women’s ministry is an essential missing piece at COP. 
Creating a consistent and useful environment that would foster growing relationships and 
bonding between women and girls would serve as a tool to eradicate a missing link in the 
church today, which is unity among women who have also developed strength and 
wholeness in their personal lives. There are many women in the church; yet there are also 
many women who lack positive ties and interactions with women in the church. There is 
often conflict between women in ministry for many reasons; thus, it is necessary to mend 
and build the relationships of women. One of the major focuses of women’s ministry 
would be to mend the brokenness that is often hidden by women due to fear of being 
pitied, misunderstood, judged negatively, or even further abused and mistreated. 

Moreover, in terms of women’s ministry, COP usually engages the women in a 
Mother’s Day outing with Pastor Hayles in the month of May, and also hosts a women’s 
weekend and or conference in the month of October. Aside from these two events, there 
are usually no other activities or formal initiatives to engage in or promote women’s 
ministry. The activities and events that have been implemented in the past have been 
fruitful and inherently positive; nonetheless, there needs to be an increase of ministry for 
women with set leadership and structure to engage women. 

In addition to women’s ministry promoting sisterhood and making the church 
more upfront and influential in the lives of women, the ministry would also foster 
structured and necessary forums for women to grow spiritually and to develop close 
personal relationships with God. The church cannot assume that everyone who is on the 
“roll” is saved or that they have a pure and authentic relationship with Jesus. As such, it 


is imperative that the women’s ministry at COP becomes at the forefront of the priorities 


8 
of the women leaders and laity, and disciples women outside of the ministry to participate 


in the various activities and events that will take place. 

Further, women are nurturers by nature and often serve these roles within the 
various contexts of their lives. Even as nurturers, women still need to be nurtured, and 
this is something that COP would truly benefit from due to the large population of 
women, in addition to the large population of young girls, adolescent girls, and young 
adult women who have not yet been married. This would help them to be able to develop 
such a love and overall commitment to wanting to live the way that God wants them to. 
This would also help them to become involved in healthy and godly soul ties which result 
in healthy, holy, and wholesome marriages at the God appointed time. 

The City of Promise needs to make a sincere commitment to positively impacting 
the lives of the women that fill the seats every week, and even serve in various areas of 
ministry. These same women may be able to put a smile on their face on Wednesday 
evening for Bible study, or on Sunday morning for worship. However, the rest of the 
week they are crying and struggling to maintain the joy and peace that God gives. Some 
may not even recognize or know that God is actually the giver of joy and peace. 

The masks that women wear, especially within leadership, exist. In an effort to 
remove these masks and to unveil the realness and the truth of where we are and what we 
experience, the church must actively engage in and address the needs of women in the 
ministry. While there are many responsibilities and roles that the church already plays, 
COP must implement women’s ministry to be fully involved in the needs and areas of 


growth and opportunity for the church as a whole. 


Ministry Journey 

My undergraduate studies were in the field of psychology due to my interest in 
the human mind and how the brain impacts the development and, ultimately, the behavior 
of people. I obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree in 2006 from Wilberforce University, 
and graduated Summa Cum Laude. After graduating, I worked jobs outside of the field of 
psychology for two years until I finally landed a job as a Child and Family Case Manager 
at Talbert House, a community mental health agency in Cincinnati, Ohio in 2008. I was 
happy to finally have the opportunity to use the degree that I had obtained, in order to 
work in the field to help people with their mental health concerns, which was always a 
major goal since high school. 

While working as a Child and Family Case Manager, I started to become more 
interested in the therapy and counseling tract. I applied and was accepted to Capella 
University in Minneapolis, Minnesota to obtain my Masters in Marriage and Family 
Therapy. I chose to do an online program, which was more conducive to my lifestyle. My 
supervisor at my job at Talbert House helped me to move away from the idea of 
continuing along the psychology tract. I had formulated new goals of becoming a 
therapist and or counselor, and I would have to obtain a Doctorate Degree to do so on the 
psychology tract. I was unsure as to whether I would actually go all the way with a 
Doctorate Degree, so I sought out the counseling tract, and after speaking with an 
admissions counselor at Capella, I decided that Marriage and Family Therapy was the 
right choice for me. I began graduate school in September 2010. I continued to work at 


Talbert House as a Child and Family Case Manager throughout my master’s program, 


10 


which is where I also did my internship as a therapist. Ultimately, I graduated with 
distinction in June 2014 with a Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy. 

Upon graduating with my master’s degree and obtaining a license as a Marriage 
and Family Therapist, I was promoted to a School Based Therapist position at Talbert 
House, in which I worked for about a year and a half. In this position, I worked with 
children and adolescents with mental health concerns primarily in the school setting. My 
clients ranged from the age of five to the age of twenty-one, with a variety of mental 
health diagnoses including Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress 
Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, and Dysthymia Disorder, to name a few. In this 
position, I had the opportunity to work closely with children, adolescents, and their 
families to address the impact of mental illness on the development of the child and 
adolescent, as well as how it relates to the overall functioning of the family. I also worked 
closely with the agency’s psychiatrists in helping to treat the clients by coordinating their 
cases and understanding their med somatic needs in addition to their therapy needs. 

Due to issues with my FMLA after the birth of the third child, I left Talbert House 
and sought a position as a therapist at another agency called Solutions Community 
Counseling and Recovery Centers (SCCRC). At this agency, my workload expanded to 
work with clients with mental health and substance use disorders. I had the opportunity to 
work with adults and adolescents. It was a new beginning, however; I was open to trying 
this new task. At Solutions, when working with adults, I gained a new perspective on the 
field of mental health and substance use. I expanded to work with people with diagnoses 
that I had not worked with previously, such as Bi-Polar Disorder and Schizoaffective 


Disorder. One of my other roles was working with adults with dual disorders, examining 


11 


how mental health and substance use disorders are related. I grew in my ability to 
diagnosis and treat substance use disorders and learned a lot about mental health in 
adults. 

In this role, I encountered a lot of female clients that had experienced a lot of 
trauma as children and or adolescents, or even in their early adulthood. I witnessed 
reports of how this trauma had adversely affected the relationships that they developed 
with significant others, including failed marriages, abusive relationships, or an avoidance 
of engaging in subsequent relationships. Some of my most effective therapeutic 
interventions seemed to be with my female clients, both adolescent and adult up to 
around the age of fifty. Many of my female clients verbalized a strong connection with 
me and reported that they had developed a strong rapport with and trust in me. While this 
was not the first time that I had received this type of feedback from clients, there was a 
difference in how effective I felt as a therapist when working with them. I believed that I 
was able to work with them in a way that I had not done previously. I developed a 
passion for working with women, particularly women ages sixteen to forty. 

At Solutions, God afforded me the opportunity to grow a lot as a therapist and as 
a person. I became more comfortable in my own shoes and learned to embrace my 
abilities and shortcomings. I became more confident in my skills as a therapist, and I 
received confirmation that this was what God actually wanted me to do, rather than it 
merely being something that I just wanted to do. At Solutions, I began to develop a 
passion for working with women, so I obtained a part time therapist job at a private 
practice, Positive Pathways, to continue honing my skills, in particular with women who 


had experienced trauma and hardships that had served as barriers and hinderances to 


12 


engaging in healthy and mutually beneficial relationships with others, particularly with 
significant others. I also enjoyed opportunities to work with couples who were either 
dating, engaged, or married. 

Moreover, I received a lot of positive feedback at Solutions from both my clients 
and management on my clinical skills, and the positive feedback that my clients gave in 
regard to working with me in therapy. However, one of the drawbacks of this job was the 
salary. Unfortunately, after working at the agency for nearly two years, due to the need to 
increase my income, I found myself in a position where I needed to seek new 
employment. When I was offered a new position as a therapist at another company for 
significantly more money, I asked Solutions to match the salary. They would not, so in 
July 2018, I moved on to another position as a therapist. 

I accepted a position at Family Solutions of Ohio, where I worked as a 
community-based therapist. After only months of employment at this company, I could 
already see the intentionality of God, and saw my leadership skills and high-quality work 
and clinical skills. Due to some concerns with the company, I obtained full time 
employment at St. Joseph Orphanage as an Intensive Home-Based Treatment (IHBT) 
therapist in March 2019, but stayed at Family Solutions as a part-time contract employee. 
During this time, I completed the process of obtaining my independent licensure, so that I 
would be able to ultimately start my own private practice. 

Working at Family Solutions, Positive Pathways, and St. Joseph Orphanage has 
given me a different perspective on what other things I may be able to do in the therapy 
field, including management. I was promoted to a Clinical Supervisor at St. Joseph 


Orphanage in November 2020, and I started my private practice, Purposed Journey 


13 
Counseling LLC, which will officially be up and running in mid-February 2021. In my 


positions as a therapist, I have particularly enjoyed working with my female adolescent 
and adult clients who have extensive and sometimes even severe histories of mental 
illness. 

I currently work with children and adults with mental health concerns. [am 
continuing to develop my clinical skills. I am leaning towards doing more intensive 
therapy services with women; particularly, as I begin working in my private practice. I 
enjoy working with clients who have a history of severe trauma, depression, and anxiety. 
I also appreciate the opportunities to be able to engage in the therapeutic process with 
clients who truly have a desire to engage in services, and to work to address and heal 
from the pain and hurt that they have encountered. 

During graduate school, I had constant moments of God speaking to me and 
telling me that I was going to preach and was going to attend seminary. I fought this 
calling for about three years from 2014-2017. During this time, I served in ministry as an 
Ordained Elder, had the opportunity to teach Bible study and serve as a leader during 
prayer services and prayer calls during Sunday morning worship, and to be a spiritual 
overseer and advisor for people with my church ministry. While serving as an Elder, I 
began to break out of my shell as being “shy” and “quiet,” and began to allow God to use 
me, even in the forefront at many times, in order to advance the Kingdom of God. While 
serving in ministry since the age of two, I had opportunities to serve as a Worship Leader 
in the music ministry and as a leader in the Children’s Moment Ministry within my 
childhood church; however, God was shifting me in a different direction and developing 


me in different ways during these few years. 


14 
In April of 2017, I attended an Open House at United Theological Seminary due 


to encouragement from my mother, who received her MDiv degree from United in 2012. 
I decided to indulge her, and I agreed to attend only to keep her from bringing it up again 
in the future. I attended the Open House with an open mind; and although I had made up 
in my mind that I was not going to apply or enroll, it would at least benefit me to gather 
information so that I could say that I had accomplished that task. 

When attending the chapel service that day, a student danced to a song by 
Shekinah Glory called, “Yes.” I was moved beyond words by the message of the song 
that was saying, “There is more that I require of thee...will you say yes?” I could not fight 
back the tears as I realized that even though I somehow falsely thought that I could hide 
from God, I was incorrect. I soon realized that God was not letting me off the hook just 
because I did not want to be on it. So, in that very moment, I surrendered to God, and 
changed my former response of, “No, I’m not doing that,” to “Yes, God, I'll do whatever 
you want me to do!” 

Furthermore, when I returned home, I immediately started gathering all the 
information that I needed to complete the application process. I also contacted my bishop, 
also an alum of United with his DMin, and my pastor to let them know about my 
experience and my decision to stop running from my call. Not only was I going to 
seminary, but I told them that I had been called to preach. They both told me that they 
already knew, but they were thankful to God that I was seeking to be obedient to the will 
of God, rather than the will of Ntatu. 

With recommendations from my work supervisor, my bishop, and pastor, I was 


accepted at United, and entered into the pre-doctoral program, en route to the doctoral 


15 


program in the fall of 2017. I only needed seven classes for this program, so I graduated 
after two semesters in May 2018 with a Certificate in Theological Studies, with a 3.9 
GPA. Consequently, here I am as a doctoral student in the Harold Hudson Scholars 
group, allowing God to fully use me for the glory of the name of the Lord. 

I was licensed to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ on Sunday, November 25, 
2018 by my bishop. I completed our Ministers in Training Program and was elevated to 
serving as his Preaching Assistant. This was a complete surprise when our Executive 
Pastor approached me a mere three days after being licensed and told me this would be 
my new assignment. God is intentional, and while I do not completely understand what 
the next move of God will be, I am learning to embrace my calling to the ministry of 
preaching and serving within my ministry. On Sunday, November 1, 2020, even in the 
midst of the pandemic, I was ordained to serve as an Associate Pastor, as the Pastor of 
Women at COP. 

The woman of God that I am becoming strengthens why I have felt led in the 
direction of women’s ministry due to my personal growth and development. I particularly 
have a desire to work with and minister to women who have experienced traumatic 
events and have struggled to hear God’s voice amidst all the pain and chaos that 
surrounds them. I want to work with woman within the context of ministry to explore 
how their marriages or lack of positive views on marriage have been impacted by past 
negative experiences and interactions with others. 

The years of 2014-2018 consisted of a lot of contemplation, transformation, and 
surrender to the sovereignty of God’s will for my life. I have literally spent nearly my 


entire life simply doing what I wanted to do, living the way that I wanted to live, not 


16 
consulting with God about anything that I chose to do, say, or think. The pain from the 


trauma that I experienced early in my life made me think that I was not worthy of true 
happiness or love. I thought that the emptiness in my heart could never be filled because I 
had been left with a void that nothing or no one could fill. 

I wrongly thought that my life was over, so I thought that nothing that I would do 
would actually matter in the grand scheme of things. However, in all actuality, my life 
was just getting started. What was God asking of me? What could God do with me? I did 
not even know God for myself, and yet still God actually loved me more than I could 
ever have imagined. While I was desperate for the attention, acceptance, and approval of 
man, God had already accepted and approved me, and was attentive to each and every 
need. I just did not know how to allow myself to truly be in God’s presence. 

Many of the mistakes that I made in my life, particularly in my relationships with 
all of the men that I have been with, were from this expectation that I could create a 
“perfect situation” and put an imperfect man in it. As a young adult, my mom used to tell 
me that I always chose to be in relationships with men that I knew were not going to 
work out. That statement truly hit home with me after I came to the realization that I was 
clueless about what love was supposed to look like because I did not even think that God 
could love me because of how filthy and dirty that I was, especially within my 
relationships with men. 

After all these years, I finally have come to realize that I was trying to live a life 
that God never designed for me. I thought that I could orchestrate and create relationships 
based on theory and not reality. That resulted in not believing the patterns of behaviors of 


the men that I was with, and rather focusing on their apologies, ignoring and not 


Ly 


believing red flags, falling in love with potential rather than the man, not knowing my 
worth, and lowering my standards. I thought that I did not deserve a true healthy 
relationship and so it was easy to engage in relationships that did not resemble or embody 
the type of relationship that God wanted for me. Nevertheless, as God continued to show 
me God’s heart for me, the Lord had begun to heal my life from its core to the outside of 
me. Jesus has saved me from destructive behavior of self-reliance, insecurity, feelings of 
defeat, disobedience to God, and believing that I have the answers to the questions that I 
ask myself every day. 

As [have surrendered to God, I am seeking to hear the voice of God in everything 
that I do, and to be truly obedient to the will of God. Beginning to do this has revealed a 
lot about my decisions that if I am honest, I can say that I do not like because they have 
not been healthy, holy, or wholesome, because I have not been healthy, holy, or 
wholesome. I know that some of the things that I have experienced would not have been 
as difficult and stressful if I had sought God prior to making those decisions. Due to this, 
there are now some huge changes and transitions that I am going through for the 
betterment of myself and my children. 

I do strongly believe and know that everything is working for my good because I 
am becoming a better woman of God. I have stopped trying to rely on my own strength to 
manage life’s situations, but rather allow God to be in full control of my life, and to heal 
me from my own past trauma that has adversely affected me and my entering marriage, 
because it was never addressed. 

There are many factors that contribute to engaging in a positive and God-ordained 


marriage. The major issue here is that often times women strongly desire to be married, 


18 
yet they do not know how to seek God prior to deciding on their own to marry, thus 


clouding their judgment and resulting in marriages that God did not purpose or ordain. 
One reason for this is due to a cycle of bad relationships. With these bad relationships, it 
is often difficult to break the cycles that have developed due to past trauma that recycles 
brokenness and feelings of inadequacy, negating that God desires for greater within 
marriage. While some women avoid marriage altogether due to this, others will dive into 
marriage headfirst, but not God-first. 

Regardless of the motivation to get married, or even when God gives “the okay” 
for a union between a man and a woman, marriage is no easy feat. The moment-to- 
moment determination for a man and a woman to each put 100% of themselves into a 
marriage is a critical aspect of any and all marriages. Undoubtedly, most people would 
say that they never entered into a union with another person with the plan to later get 
divorced. Yet, far too many of those same people could also say that they never took the 
time to explore the importance of being whole and complete as an individual, to abort 
their determination to get married to feel “complete.” 

God is the only one that can make us complete, and because of this, it is critical 
that women learn to seek God first to help them to manage and process through the dark 
places of their lives and the effects that being in those places had on their relationships, in 
order to reflect the light of truth and spiritual wholeness in marriage. If the soul is sick, it 
is impossible to see and receive God’s favor. When the soul is broken, nothing God will 
say or do in one’s life will work. Therefore, there has to be an intentional and steadfast 


desire and move for women to no longer settle for being broken and stay in broken 


19 


marriages or avoid marriage altogether due to the fear of not being able to be healed from 
brokenness. 

There needs to be an elimination of the stigma that says that women who have 
been raped or have experienced some form of trauma are somehow to blame, or that they 
can never have the marriage that God has for them simply because of their past. Rather, 
women who have survived rape, various forms of abuse, and other types of traumatic 
experiences do not need to be beat down, but ought to be introduced to the love of Christ, 
which in turn will begin to heal them from the inside out. 

A cut with a scab cannot be healed without it being exposed to the light and 
receiving air. If you were to keep a bandage on a cut longer than it should be, it will take 
longer for the cut to heal. On the other hand, after the cut stops bleeding and the bandage 
is removed, then true healing can occur. A woman who has been hurt, bruised, and 
wounded will experience an outpouring of pain, which may cause her to want to cover up 
and mask the pain. However, in order for the woman to heal from the hurt, bruising, and 
wounds, she must unveil the pain and expose it to the light of Christ for true healing to 
begin. Women need the opportunity to experience this type of healing and the church has 
a responsibility to be agents of these opportunities. Women’s ministry is not only just 
needed in the general sense, but it also needs to move to a new dimension to fully be 
effective to break the cycles and generational curses of “marrying the wrong guy.” 

Through the doctoral project, Iam seeking to learn what women need within the 
context of women’s ministry at my church to begin the process of healing from past 
trauma in order to build healthy, holy, and wholesome marriages, because they have 


learned to develop these same characteristics personally. I want to learn how the church 


20 


can play a more active role in addressing these issues and to implement resources that 
will be useful for the building and uplifting of women. In the project, I want to explore 
the different types of trauma that women have experienced. At what point in their life did 
the trauma occur? Did it happen once or several times? What was the time span? Did they 
ever tell anyone? What was the response? Were they believed? Was there ever an attempt 
to address the trauma; why or why not? What is their perception of the history of their 
relationships? Do they believe that they are healthy? Is there an attempt to live holy? Are 
they whole? Is there a desire for a healthy, holy, and wholesome marriage? Have they 
ever been married? Do they want to be married, why or why not? 

Ultimately, I want to explore how God makes the path clear and how one can hear 
the voice of God when healing occurs. I want to learn how women can be open to 
obtaining the true authentic love that the Lord has ordained for their lives, and how even 
despite mistakes that they have made in their marriage(s), there is still a way for God to 
help them to correct past wrongs, and still provide the marriage that God intends to last. 
My goal is to show women that God can still restore a desire to obtain true love even 


after pain and brokenness. 


Synergy 
While serving in leadership over the last six years as an elder, licensed minister, 
and now an ordained pastor in my church, I have seen many women who are in need of 
empowerment and encouragement to not only be able to acknowledge incidents of the 
past, but also how these situations have inhibited them from moving forward to reaching 


their potential or how their self-concept and self-esteem have been shaped by their past, 


21 


whether in a positive or negative light. I have seen many women who fail to understand 
who they were created to be, as they become paralyzed by false perceptions of others. 
Some women believe that because they may have unresolved pain, they will never be 
anything or cannot grow beyond the place where trauma tried to stunt their growth. 

As I recently transitioned into the role of an Associate Pastor, as the Pastor of 
Women, I will have an even greater opportunity for collaboration in exciting new ways to 
present the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a contemporary context for women. I will also have 
the task of orchestrating and planning women’s conferences that will address relevant 
issues that women face. Allowing the Holy Spirit to lead and guide my endeavors to 
advance the Kingdom of God through ministry that focuses on women is pivotal, has 
great worth, and will serve to benefit the lives of many. 

The couple of events that our ministry has each year is a good start; however, it is 
necessary to incorporate women’s ministry on a regular basis with set leadership and 
structure. Thus, there is an incredible need for true ministry for women to come together 
on regular and frequent bases in order to build themselves from the inside out, and to 
address the core issues that are often overlooked and not addressed within the context of 
ministry. The church has a vital role and responsibility to be active within the lives of 
women, to survey the ministry needs of women to build their character, and to help them 
to identify needs, barriers, concerns, problems, and issues that exist within women that 
must be attended to within the context of women’s ministry. 

The church often turns a blind eye to the critical issues facing members of the 
body of Christ; and consequently, does not take action to address these issues. This may 


be due to oversight, lack of understanding of how to address and manage the issues, or 


De 


due to feeling as if they are not equipped with the tools to attend to women in this 
manner. With this in mind, conducting a project to help to address the ministry needs of 
women would build and uplift women who are involved in ministry as well as women 
who may not be directly involved in ministry but have a desire to know more about God. 
This project will allow women of various backgrounds with common issues to come 
together to work towards becoming the women that God wants them to be. This project 
will also provide a formal platform to aid women in addressing concerns at their core that 
have prohibited them from moving forward towards their destinies that have been defined 
by God. 

As such, the doctoral project will address groups of women within the context of 
The City of Promise Church, in efforts to note the efficacy of preaching forums, 
conferences, retreats, groups, and individual counseling sessions. As the Pastor of 
Women, I will work to plan, orchestrate, and implement women’s ministry that is 
designed to care for the spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical development of 
women. A major focus of the women’s ministry at COP will be to foster and promote an 
environment that is safe and conducive for women to be able to receive spiritual services 
to allow them to tackle and manage the often overlooked and unspoken issues that 
women face. COP’s Women’s Ministry will empower women to seek to be whole and to 
reverse the stigma that says that one’s trauma should not be shared with others, that 
experiencing trauma is a form of weakness, or that being a victim of trauma will prohibit 
the person from being able to live a productive life. 

The Women’s Ministry of COP will serve to build the church as a whole and 


strengthen an area where there can and will be significant positive growth and impact for 


23 


the women in the church and the community. It is anticipated that this ministry will 
broaden the efficacy of meeting the needs of the people within the church and upholding 
the vision and mission of COP. It will touch the souls of women, and will ultimately 
positively impact the family as women become whole in their engagement with their 
emerging families. 

Through the Women’s Ministry, women will experience healing and a newness 
that allows them to be able to move forward as they surrender their lives to Christ and 
long to live with the power of the risen Savior. The ministry will be designed to give 
women a chance to move ahead and not dwell on their past, but to allow the Holy Spirit 
to work in their lives in a manner in which it has never moved before. The aim and focus 
will be for women to allow themselves to transition from their old self, and to become 
new and reborn in the love of the Savior. Even when we are not paying attention, God 
moves in our lives and moves us to exactly where God wants us to be. The goal is to 
make women open and ready for this move of God. 

The model of ministry that is being developed and or shaped in me is in the 
format of preaching forums, conferences, retreats, groups, and individual counseling 
sessions to allow women to talk about their lives and not be ashamed of their experiences, 
but rather heal from them. There is an urgent need for this in ministry because women 
need to have empty spaces filled with God’s love in order to be mentally, emotionally, 
and spiritually available. My prayer is for this ministry model to grow and extend from 
beyond the walls of my church as a building to be impactful in other ministries within my 


city, state, or even nationwide. 


24 


Having the opportunity to work with women as a therapist both in ministry and 
the professional setting has birthed an internal and now an external passion to work 
closely with women to address the many issues that women face on a daily basis. I have a 
desire to work with women in various capacities to promote healing to help women to 
live healthy, holy, and wholesome lives, which in turn carries over into the relationships 
with significant others that lead to marriage. There are a lot of women who do not engage 
in healthy, holy, and wholesome marriages. A lot of these women would have an 
increased desire to actually engage in better marriages with encouragement and 
empowerment to deal with past issues, rather than ignoring, denying, or covering them up 
to hide them. 

Women both in and outside of the church have an array of issues and stories to 
tell regarding experienced trauma, whether known or unknown to others, which makes 
the role of therapists and ministry leaders very pivotal and impactful within the lives of 
these women. Serving women and working with them to explore their trauma and the 
impact that it has on subsequent events is rewarding and necessary. This is often 
overlooked, especially within the context of ministry, and while sisterhood and the 
uplifting of our sisters is often promoted in women’s ministry, at times, we fail to 
promote the concept of a woman being whole, in order to develop, attain, and then 
maintain this sisterhood with others. A woman must understand the necessity and 
importance of loving herself first before she can authentically love anyone else, much 
less have a positive marriage. This is a very essential piece that is often missing in the 
lives of many women. As such, it needs to be emphasized and implemented within the 


context of women’s ministry. 


2D 


From the place where I sit right now, I am almost at a loss for words for how God 
has constantly been shifting and transforming my life over the past thirty-five years. I 
think about that lost little girl who had her innocence taken away from her through sexual 
molestation, by someone who was supposed to love and protect her, to the grown woman 
who now counsels those who have had the same or similar experiences. I empathize with 
the young lady who was so concerned about the opinions of others, that she did not know 
her own opinion, and I celebrate with the grown woman who now is beginning to see 
who she is, not just in the mirror, but how God sees her. 

After my father died unexpectedly in 2014, there was a major transition from 
victim to victor. At that time, I had a personal encounter with God, which shifted my 
focus from religion to relationship, when I prayed and asked God to give me peace and to 
heal my broken heart after I knew that I would have to continue to live life without my 
father. In all the negative experiences that I had prior to this, I never really called on God. 
I never really asked God to help me with anything, as I really had no personal 
relationship with God. 

From the age of two, I would always serve in ministry, partially because I enjoyed 
it, and in part because it was the “right thing to do.” When my father died, for the first 
time in my life, I had a face-to-face encounter and experience with God, and God showed 
me true love and faithfulness just by being available, holding me, and providing exactly 
what I needed in that moment. It was then, at the age of thirty, where I truly became 


saved, entered into relationship with God, and exited religion. 


26 
Conclusion 


There is a clear and urgent need for this project because all women and girls need 
to have the opportunities to have empty spaces and voids filled with God’s love in order 
to be mentally, emotionally, and spiritually available to be used by God in the manner in 
which God desires. Each woman and girl would benefit from aspects of this project in 
different forms; thus, there would be a few different ways to implement the ministry 
model to fulfill the purpose of the project that has helped to formulate the hypothesis and 
overarching theme for the doctoral project. 

Having the opportunity to empower women and girls within the context of the 
church will be of great value spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. From the 
experiences that I have had in ministry, the work setting, and my personal life, I have had 
real and clear experiences that prove that healing is needed as well as the incorporation of 
a ministry model to allow women and girls the priceless opportunity to seek wholeness. 
The City of Promise Church is located in a geographical area where there could be great 
impact and change for women and girls. With strong leadership at COP and innovative 
ideas by the leadership, this doctoral project has the potential to be of great worth. 

Through this project, women’s ministry will be fully developed and implemented 
with the goal of reaching women to address the hurt, brokenness, pain, and trauma from 
which women often do not have the opportunity to heal. It will also serve to identify the 
ways in which these issues impact soul ties that ultimately lead to marriages that women 
develop throughout their lifetimes. The doctoral project will show that in order for 
women to engage in healthy, holy, and wholesome marriages, they must address, process, 


and heal from the wounds that trauma has created. 


pH 


My hypothesis is that unresolved trauma negatively impacts their subsequent 
marriages, thus women need to have opportunities to heal from trauma in order to live 
healthy, holy, and wholesome lives, and have this carry over and bleed into their 
marriages. As women begin to heal and move from being broken to whole, the voice of 
the Holy Spirit will resound in their spirits, thus allowing God to show them what is 
desired for their life, according to the perfect will and purpose of the Lord. 

Through the healing process that I have begun to go through, I have grown to 
know and understand my worth and know that I deserve true and authentic love that God 
has especially designed just for me. Moreover, I am fine with waiting for that to come to 
pass as I walk with God and trust that God will alert me of all of the turns on the journey. 
I now understand that it is necessary to acknowledge that without God I am nothing, 
because without Him, I never would have survived. I now understand that while I may be 
broken, Iam gracefully broken, and that means that I have the opportunity to allow God 
to put the pieces of my life back together to form the picture of what God has designed it 
to look like. I know that with healing I can impact the lives of women who are gracefully 
broken as well. I choose life, and life more abundantly. By God’s grace, I am stronger 
than my weakness. I will go further than my shortcomings. I can and will rise above my 
lowest points. I want women to grow to be able to utter these same words as they heal 
from the inside out and begin to collide with their destinies and the true and authentic 


love of Christ Jesus. 


CHAPTER TWO 


BIBLICAL FOUNDATIONS 


Introduction 

Sexual violation causes various reactions and responses. The story of Tamar 
found in 2 Samuel chapter thirteen raises critical themes that one should examine in order 
to gain a true awareness and a pure understanding of its context and impact. Much 
dialogue and study in regard to defining Tamar’s experience and encounter with her 
brother Amnon exist that seeks to identify and define the major issues from their 
encounter in the text. One of the major points of interest is simply in the verbiage that one 
uses to account for what happened to Tamar, and whether one should use the word rape, 
incest, or violence. Some made further assertions to connect these three concepts in one 
to conceptualize Tamar’s experience as a significant traumatic event. 

The story of the rape of Tamar is a vivid description of trauma through sexual 
violation. Amnon not only raped Tamar, but she was also a victim of incest and domestic 
violence. There are many issues and implications that the text raises that highlight the 
experiences of women. Persons often overlook, ignore, or minimize these experiences 
that women face, and the victim, the perpetrator, or both hide these experiences from 
others. While instances of biblical rape are few in number, this does not imply that rape is 
not a problem, nor does it negate the significance of the consequences including the short 
and long-term effects that rape causes. 


28 


29 
The mere necessity to be forced to face tension in conceptualizing the severity of 


what Tamar experienced proves the complexity in the concept of sexual violence as a 
whole. It serves as evidence that sexual violence is a topic that does not have one widely 
accepted definition; and furthermore, that sexual violence within the familial structure 
creates an even broader and deeper debate on how one should view, manage, or handle 
sexual violence. 

The rape of Tamar is replete with sexual violation and its aftermath. The writer of 
the text not only paints a picture of Tamar’s experience to understand what happened to 
Tamar during the act, but also how she was ostracized and became a desolate woman 
after the act. The crime committed against Tamar by Amnon is reminiscent of the same 
situations that women face in today’s society and prove that history repeats itself time 
and time again. 

Moreover, there are some important aspects of the text that one needs to consider 
when examining the text. In addition to the rape, sexual violation, sexual violence, and 
trauma within the text, other key components are patriarchal systems, incest/kinship, 
crime, desolation, and exile. Tamar suffered from all these components in her brief story. 
However, her story leaves a long-lasting impact on the reader and further sheds light on 
one of the issues that affect many women, whether they have, will eventually, or never 
will have the opportunity or desire to share their stories. 

The inevitable task is to make connections between the Bible and the issues 
present in the modern world, as the Bible gives accounts of every possible situation that 
people will encounter in their lives. The rape of Tamar is a prime example of how rape 


leaves women, particularly those raped by family members, to live in grief after others 


30 


shame the victim. The text in 2 Samuel 13:1-20 serves as a foundation for a critical 
problem that many women face, which is the inability for women to heal from trauma 
when they are forced to hide from it, deny it ever happened, forget about it altogether, 


and are left with sadness and grief. 


Historical-Contextual Analysis 

Three characters who dominate the books of 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel are the 
prophet Samuel, Saul (who became Israel’s first king), and David (known as the greatest 
and best loved of all who reigned in Jerusalem). This sequence highlights the transition 
from theocracy to monarchy. Sources judge the narrative of 2 Samuel as more than a 
continuous whole, especially chapters nine through twenty, which have become known as 
“the Court History of David,” while others describe it as “the supreme historical treasure 
of Samuel.”! Research suggests that someone who was a contemporary of David and who 
also knew first-hand the life within David’s court wrote these chapters. 

Joyce G. Baldwin writes that the rape of Tamar initiates a series of events that 
dominate the latter part of David’s reign and threaten to discredit him entirely, so that he 
almost loses his throne, together with any right to indicate which son should succeed 
him.” The writer details the close-knit account with many signs of first-hand observations 
and of vivid reminiscences. Interestingly, Amnon means “to be faithful,” although his 


character and his name were obviously not well matched.? 


' Joyce G. Baldwin, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, vol. 8, 1 and 2 Samuel: An 
Introduction and Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1989), 246-247. 


? Baldwin, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 246-247. 


3 Baldwin, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 246-247. 


31 


In 2 Samuel chapter thirteen, the narrator introduces Absalom and Amnon— 
Amnon being the oldest—who were the two adult sons of the king and both brothers of 
Tamar. Amnon was David’s eldest son by Ahinoam from Jezreel—the first woman David 
married after he left Michal. Tamar was known as the beautiful sister, tragic in her 
beauty, and a royal princess. Amnon, the crown prince was said to have loved his sister 
and while privileged, he found himself powerless to possess her. The text states that he 
fell in love with Tamar, but it also makes clear that love in any meaningful sense had no 
part in his actions. She was a virgin, which under other circumstances may have meant 
that he would have been free to marry her. However, since she was his half-sister, the 
possibility was dismissed. Whether Amnon intended to marry Tamar or planned to treat 
her as a casual liaison is unclear. However, he did not break the conventions that 
governed society in Israel in these matters. Instead, he made himself ill, to the extent that 
other people noticed the change in his appearance.* 

The story of Amnon’s sexual abuse of Tamar shows that he treats her solely as the 
object of his desires with no rights or value of her own. This directly follows the story of 
David’s abuse of his power. Mary J. Evans purports that Amnon followed his father’s 
example. She further states that there is no private morality for a parent, behaviors and 
attitudes have repercussions within the family, and repercussions of David’s actions 
manifested themselves.° 

Jonadab was a friend and cousin of Amnon, and was an important and influential 


counselor and member of the royal family. Baldwin describes him as a very crafty and 


4 Baldwin, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 246-247. 


5 Mary J. Evans, New International Biblical Commentary, vol. 6, 1 and 2 Samuel (Peabody, MA: 
Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2000), 192. 


32 


shrewd man. Baldwin suggests that, “The context dictates the exact nuance of the word, 
and here its usual ethical content is conspicuously lacking.” He was wise in the sense 
that he knew what he wanted and how to get it. Evans suggests that his friendship meant 
helping Amnon to gratify his passions rather than encouraging him to resist them.’ 
Jonadab observed and noticed what was wrong with Amnon and on discovering that he 
was “love-sick,” he proposes a plan that will not only bring Tamar to him, but will also 
make their father responsible for her coming.* He assumed that David would visit his 
beloved son when he was ill and also that his concern for Amnon’s health would allow 
for the dropping of normal conventions so that Tamar could visit. 

When her father requested visitation, Tamar would have no choice but to go to 
attend to her brother. David and Amnon see her feelings as irrelevant and therefore 
ignore them. Customarily, servants prepared a meal for the sick, after which Tamar 
would be left alone with Amnon after the servants’ dismissal. According to Jonadab’s 
plan, David summoned Tamar to Amnon’s home to convince the invalid to eat the food 
that she cooked for him. Baldwin further accurately and vividly describes the scene when 
Tamar brought her brother the food. Amnon is on his bed, in an adjoining room, but 
within the sight of Tamar as she cooks for him. Further, as part of the plan to show how 
“aI he was, he contrives to be left alone with Tamar. Amnon continues to play the 
invalid, who has no strength to feed himself. Tamar appears to be ignorant to Amnon’s 


plan and as she approaches his bed, he grabs and takes hold of her and overpowers her. 


© Baldwin, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 247. 
7 Evans, New International Biblical Commentary, 192. 


8 Evans, New International Biblical Commentary, 192. 


33 


Even as he does so, he calls her “my sister’ as if in a loving way, as “sister” is a term 
used figuratively of the “beloved,” though this shows some ambiguity since Tamar was 
his half-sister.° 

Powerless in her brother’s trap, she tried to reason with her brother. She refused 
his suggestion for three reasons: public opposition in Israel to rape, her lack of a future, 
and his lack of a future as others would regard him as one of the wanton fools. She tried 
to have him look at this situation from the perspective of one who wanted to become 
king, and how this act would adversely affect his ability to do so. She even went to the 
lengths of suggesting that Amnon should ask her father for her hand in the proper way, 
and marry her, and the king would not refuse him. Though the law of Leviticus 18:9 
forbade such a union, it was clearly preferred to rape. “The issue seems to be that 
fornication would lead to disgrace, although Tamar’s words could imply that the use of 
force itself was wrong.”’!° Nonetheless, all of her arguments and suggestions proved to be 
useless against his intense passion, which was a “travesty of love,” and he raped her.'! 

The sexual encounter was against her will, and there is no doubt that she did not 
consent to the sexual encounter. Amnon sinned against her as well as against the law. The 
text shows an abuse of power and Amnon followed his act of rape against Tamar with 
rejection of Tamar. After he satisfied his lusts for Tamar, he dismissed her and wanted 
nothing more to do with her. Evans parallels this to the way that David treated Uriah, 


clearly acting as if his life bore no importance. '” 


° Baldwin, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 248. 
‘0 Evans, New International Biblical Commentary, 193. 
"! Baldwin, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 248. 


2 Evans, New International Biblical Commentary, 193. 


34 
At this pivotal point in the text, there is a major shift and a reversal from love to 


hate and then the dismissal, as Amnon says “Arise, be gone.” This is not only cruel to 
Tamar but also in their revelation of Amnon’s inadequacy as a person. Baldwin writes, 

Amnon’s act of violence reveals him as someone incapable of contract and as an 

uncouth egoist. The worst for him is that there is a witness present, and Tamar is 

this very witness. From then on, he will no longer be able to see her, for such a 

meeting would be a repeated, extremely shameful unmasking and intolerable 

confrontation with his own shortcomings as a person.!° 
Notice that Baldwin uses the term “violence” to describe the encounter of Tamar of 
Amnon. This is critical in that it denotes the relationship between the concept of rape and 
violence, and that the act itself is violent, regardless of any additional physical violence 
that may accompany a rape, such as a physical beating. Rape signifies violence and 
Tamar was a victim of sexual violence because she did not consent to a sexual encounter 
with Amnon, and actually pleaded with him to stop. Despite the alternatives she offered 
as a way out of the situation, Amnon used his power and strength to engage in sexual 
violence with his sister. 

Again, in verses sixteen through seventeen, Tamar attempts to persuade her 
brother to see reason, as he rejected her after he pretended to love her. The term “bolt the 
door” was Amnon’s attempt to rid himself even of the memory of Tamar, whom he 
previously desired. The relationship, in whatever capacity in which it could be viewed, 
was now dead.'* Tamar was dressed as an unmarried daughter of the king, with 


distinction in her long robe with sleeves which was splendid in nature, but after Amnon’s 


servant bolted the door after her, Tamar also knew that the door to marriage was bolted 


3 Baldwin, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 248-249. 


'4 Baldwin, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 249. 


35 


against her for good.!> This led to a desolation that was very similar to that of mourning. 
Grief was easily seen by everyone that she encountered. Baldwin interestingly notes that 
at least she had no unhealthy repression of wounded feelings, though her future was 
bleak. Here, she acknowledges the necessity for expressing feelings after a violent and 
traumatic event. She put ashes on her head. That along with her torn robe and her loud 
crying was evidence of her grief and loss. She laid her hand on her head as a gesture 
mentioned in Jeremiah 2:37, but in reliefs and tomb paintings it appears to symbolize 
captivity. 

The mention of how Tamar was dressed “adds great pathos to the story.”!° 
Amnon’s treatment of her, apart from the trauma of the rape, means that others will not 
want her. Commonplace in the Old Testament are narratives that illustrate the attitudes of 
society toward women and that present an implicit critique of those values. The same 
Tamar who Amnon “loved,” was now viewed as “this woman” who needed to be 
dismissed. According to Evans, the writers of the text clearly show that Tamar’s distress, 
and the fact that she remained a desolate woman, were significant. ty 

Absalom did his best to comfort Tamar and he took his responsibilities toward her 
seriously. She took shelter in his house as a desolate woman. She was isolated from 
society and disqualified through no fault of her own from marriage. This outraged David 


but he would not discipline Amnon because he was his eldest son; and he loved him. 


Tony W. Cartledge notes that, 


' Baldwin, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 249. 
'6 Evans, New International Biblical Commentary, 193. 


'7 Rvans, New International Biblical Commentary, 193. 


36 


The story of Tamar’s rape and Amnon’s murder provides important background 
information for the ensuing chapters, helping the reader to gain some insight into 
Absalom’s abiding anger that led him not only to kill his brother, but to rebel 
against his father. It was not simply political ambition that set Absalom on the 
course of mutiny, but an outraged sense of justice.!® 
Cartledge further notes that, “Tamar entered the record as one of the most tragic victims 
of The Bible, even as Amnon established himself as a memorable boor.”!? The appalling 
scene, described with such detailed insensitivity and brutality from Amnon, forces the 
reader to question Amnon’s transition. He transitioned from being “lovesick” over his 
sister, to lusting after her, lying to her, violating and assaulting her, and then bringing her 
to shame by raping her and rejecting her. The hatred that Amnon expressed for Tamar 
after raping her has been explained in several ways. Cartledge offered one possibility, 


which was the psychological phenomenon known as ambivalence, in which both love and 


hate are felt for an intimate partner.”° 


Literary Analysis 
Word Biblical Commentary reports that some argued that although chapters 
thirteen through fourteen of 2 Samuel are a part of a larger complex, they form an 
episode complete in itself but not an independent story.”! This section has also been 
viewed as the prologue to Absalom’s rebellion in chapters fifteen through twenty, 


including the estrangement from his father and eventual death. One may suggest that 


'8 Tony W. Cartledge, Smyth and Helwys Bible Commentary, vol. 7, 1 and 2 Samuel (Macon, GA: 
Smyth and Helwys Publishing Inc., 2001), 533. 


'? Cartledge, Smyth and Helwys Bible Commentary, 537. 
0 Cartledge, Smyth and Helwys Bible Commentary, 538. 


1 Arnold A. Anderson, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 11, 2 Samuel (Waco, TX: Word Books, 
1989), 172. 


3) 
perhaps the events of his sister’s sexual violation and rape may have allowed him to 


experience secondary trauma. 

Anderson discusses the larger issue of succession that existed within the context 
of the Amnon-Tamar story. Both Amnon and Absalom were candidates for the throne of 
Israel, although Amnon was likely first in line since he was the oldest of David’s sons. 
People saw Absalom as the most handsome of David’s sons as well as the son of a king’s 
daughter and a man of some charm. With this in mind, Anderson suggests that it was 
plausible that, “Amnon’s love for Tamar was, largely, part of his plan to put Absalom and 
his family in their place.”** While this argument seems a bit far-fetched in some ways, it 
also holds some merit. 

Anderson further notes that in light of Genesis 20:12, there was no reason to 
doubt the words of Tamar regarding the fact that marriage between she and Amnon was 
legally possible. Additionally, Leviticus 18:9, Leviticus 18:11, Leviticus 20:17, and 
Deuteronomy 27:22 may have been written later during the Davidic reign, or maybe in 
Jerusalem or in the royal family the people did not practice these laws. Therefore, the 
problem may not have been that Tamar was Amnon’s half-sister, rather that she was 
Absalom’s sister. Thus, Amnon’s attraction to Tamar’s beauty may have been authentic; 
however, he hoped even more to gratify his sexual desires and to humiliate Absalom 
through Tamar at the same time. In this regard, verse fifteen shows the reader that 


Amnon’s hatred for Tamar was greater than his physical attraction for her. This argument 


22 Anderson, Word Biblical Commentary, 172. 


38 


could be valid if based upon Amnon’s pre-existent notions, and not as a result of a 
sudden change in his feelings for Tamar.”* 

Furthermore, Anderson highlights the significance of the first words of Absalom 
to Tamar in her distress in verse twenty where he asks, “Has Amnon, your brother been 
with you?” and comments “he is your brother” (2 Sam. 13:20). His emphasis on the 
brother-sister relationship may have been out of sarcasm or due to Absalom having some 
preconceived thoughts or even fears that Amnon would seek to hurt Tamar in this 
manner. Whether or not this is true, Tamar had no satisfactory legal redress. Thus, 
according to Anderson, “the overemphasis on the brother-sister relationship in verses 1- 
22 gives an ironical tone to the whole pericope, especially in retrospect.””* 

Again, in terms of the succession dilemma, perhaps David took no steps to 
remedy Amnon’s outrage because Amnon was his firstborn and therefore his obvious 
heir. If Exodus 22:17 is relevant to this episode, then Amnon might have been expected 
to marry Tamar and to give a marriage present; however, it could leave the question open 
of whether this would have been in line with Absalom’s plans. His family’s honor was at 
stake so Tamar marrying Amnon would not satisfy this. The root of the tension between 


Absalom and Amnon existed in the story of Tamar’s rape, and Anderson’s claim is that 


the bone of contention was ultimately the throne of Israel.”° 


23 Anderson, Word Biblical Commentary, 172. 
4 Anderson, Word Biblical Commentary, 172. 


25 Anderson, Word Biblical Commentary, 172. 


39 


The pericope of “The Rape of Tamar” has a chiastic structure, however, it is 


somewhat doubtful whether one could arrange in a neat pattern the component parts of 


the story without some arbitrary voice. The structure according to Ridout is as follows: 


A. 


B. 


iano) 


m 


v 


A 


Amnon’s desire for Tamar (vv. 1-2) 
Amnon’s predicament and Jonadab’s advice (vv. 3-7) 


Tamar at Amnon’s house (vv. 8-10) 


. Amnon’s advances and Tamar’s pleading (vv. 11-13) 


Tamar’s humiliation (v. 14) 


. Amnon’s rejection of Tamar and her pleading (vv. 15-16) 
. Tamar’s expulsion from Amnon’s house (vv. 17-18) 
. Tamar’s predicament and Absalom’s advice (vv. 19-20) 


. Absalom’s hatred of Amnon (wv. 21-22)76 


Detailed Analysis 


Robert Alter gives an account on the story of the rape of Tamar. In his 


commentary on verse eleven he states that the command from Amnon is a citation of the 


words of Potiphar’s wife to Joseph, “Lie with me.” He further notes how the word, 


“Come” has a slight softening effect, with Amnon attempting to have kinder and easier 


approach to Tamar prior to taking advantage of her.’ By calling her “my sister,” it is 


6 George P. Ridout, “The Rape of Tamar: A Rhetorical Analysis of 2 Sam 13:1-22,” in Rhetorical 
Criticism: Essays in Honor of James Muilenburg, ed. Jared J. Jackson and Martin Kessler (Pittsburgh, PA: 
Pickwick, 1974), 75-84. 


27 Robert Alter, The David Story: A Translation with Commentary of 1 and 2 Samuel (New York, 
NY: W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1999). 


40 


clear that this sexual assault is also incestuous, which adds complexity and further 
severity to the encounter between Tamar and Amnon. 

Anderson argues differently that the rape of Tamar was not incestuous due to his 
assertion that marriage between Amnon and Tamar was possible and that there was no 
indication in his sources that Amnon’s offense was regarded as a crime or capital offense. 
He further notes that many scholars argued against this claim, but he states that it is not 
possible to call this rape incestuous due to not knowing for certain what marriage 
prohibitions existed in David’s time and to what extent they were recognized in 
Jerusalem and in the royal family.”* 

Furthermore, Anderson states that the frequent use of sibling terms in the pericope 
does not necessarily point to incest, but rather to the lack of fraternal feelings on the part 
of Amnon. Thus, the suggestion here provides a “plausible alternative” in Anderson’s 
claim.”? However, despite the alternative by Anderson, Alter’s assertion is more accurate, 
and it is fair to describe the encounter between Tamar and Amnon as incestuous.*” 
Regardless if Tamar and Amnon could marry, the familial relationship and connection 
that the two have overrides the possibility of marriage. The fact that Tamar attended to 
Amnon in his “sickness” was due to their familial relationship as well as their connection 
through their father. 

Tamar’s response, “Don’t, my brother,” constitutes a “structural allusion to 


Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, for her, when confronted by the sexual brusqueness of her 


8 Alter, The David Story, 175. 
°° Anderson, Word Biblical Commentary, 175. 


30 Alter, The David Story, 175. 


4] 


terse ‘lie with me,’ also responds, in contrastive dialogue, with a nervous volubility in a 
relatively lengthy series of breathless objections.”?! The language here has been 
paralleled with the sexual episode in Genesis chapter thirty-four, the rape of Dinah. 
However, in Dinah’s rape, her rapist is viewed to come to love her after violating her and 
wants to make things good by marriage; whereas Amnon despises Tamar after he 
possesses her and drives her away. The rapes in both stories result in “murderous 
fraternal vengeance.’”** Tamar’s words are a precise echo of the plea of the Ephraimite in 
Gibeah to the mob of rapists: “Don’t, my brothers...don’t do this scurrilous thing” 
(Jdg.19:23). In this story, men gang raped the women to death, which led to bloody civil 
war, just as Tamar’s rape led to fratricide, and eventually, rebellion and civil war. 
Biblical law explicitly banned marriage between brother and sister. Yet perhaps 
Tamar used this option in her plea to Amnon to either get him to reconsider the vile act or 
to deflect him by offering a potential option that would allow him to enjoy her 
legitimately rather than by force. Nonetheless, he overpowered, abused, and bedded her, 
which Alter contends reflects the single-minded assertion of male physical force.*? 
Cartledge writes that, “Tamar’s words were eloquent and heartfelt, but her rational 
argument was designed to appeal to the mind, and in that moment Amnon was not 
thinking with his mind. Exercising his greater physical strength, he forced his sister to 
submit, and raped her.’*4 This shows how the assault of women by men is often an issue 


and struggle due to physical strength. While it is not fair to say that men are always able 


3! Alter, The David Story, 268. 
32 Alter, The David Story, 268. 
33 Alter, The David Story, 269. 


34 Cartledge, Smyth and Helwys Bible Commentary, 537. 


42 


to subdue women due to their physical strength, it is reasonable to state that when one 
reverses gender roles, the result is not always the same; men are often able to break free 
from the woman’s grip. For example, this is seen in the story of Joseph and the Egyptian 
woman. 

Dialogue and even discrepancies in people’s descriptions of sexual violence often 
exist. At times, the verbs that are used to describe these situations may minimize or 
negate the act of rape altogether. Alter addresses this by asserting that the verb 
represented as “bedded” is the same one used by Jonadab in verse five and in Amnon’s 
statement “lie with me.” Yet, he further notes that when it has a direct feminine object 
(instead of “lie with”), it suggests sexual violation, and this calls for a transitive verb in 
English.*> 

In verse fifteen, there is a psychological dilemma and transformation in the text 
where it states, “Greater was the hatred with which he hated her than the love with which 
he had loved her” (2 Sam. 13:15). This perhaps highlights the internal conflict that 
Amnon faced in the act of sexual violence towards his sister. One could question how 
someone could engage in such an act with their sibling and in such a forceful and 
inappropriate manner if they truly loved their sibling. Due to this, it would leave one to 
reasonably question: what is true and authentic love? How could an act of violence 
denote anything related to the concept of love? Why would the text state that Amnon 
loved his sister, hurt her, and hated her? What is the text suggesting about love and hate? 


When surveying the text, these are all likely questions to ask. 


35 Alter, The David Story, 269. 


43 


In this verse, Amnon used brutal language in telling her to “Get up, go!” and as a 
result blamed the victim, Tamar. This phrase includes the exact antonyms in reverse 
order of the two imperative verbs of sexual invitation he used before, “Come, lie.”*° This 
poses another noteworthy dilemma in the text in how Amnon’s interaction with Tamar 
was in direct conflict at different points in the story. He “loved her” but he “hated her;” 
he wanted her to “come” and wanted her to “go.” This type of conflictual interaction with 
Tamar causes the reader to truly question Amnon’s motive in wanting to have sex with 
Tamar. If he loved her, he was willing to hurt her, but if he loved her so much, he had no 
reason to hurt her and could have managed his “love” in a “loving” way. 

Alter states that there is a textual problem in the Hebrew in verse sixteen, which 
seems to say, “Don’t—about this wrong.” Some versions of the Septuagint read “Don’t, 
my brother” as in verse twelve, but this could reflect an attempt to straighten out a 
difficult text rather than a better Hebrew version used by the ancient Greek translators.’ 
According to Alter, in the phrase, “To send me away now,” the word “now” is added in 
the translation in order to remove an ambiguity as to when the sending away is done. 
“Sending away” is an idiom that also has the sense of “divorce,” which was something 
that the rapist of a virgin was not allowed to do in biblical law.°* 

Moreover, when considering biblical law, it is imperative to understand why 
being banished seems to Tamar worse than being raped. This was because marriage was 


considered to be a remedy to the rapist, although it may seem worse than physical 


36 Alter, The David Story, 269. 
37 Alter, The David Story, 269. 


38 Alter, The David Story, 269. 


44 


violation. Rape was a “dire fate,” but with marriage the violated virgin would be rejected 
and abandoned by the violator as an unmartriageable outcast who would in turn be 
condemned to a lifetime of “desolation.”*? 

Verse seventeen refers to Tamar as a “creature.” “This creature” reflects the 
stingingly contemptuous monosyllabic feminine demonstrative pronoun (“this one”). 
Amnon speaks brutally to Tamar in this story and even states that the door needed to be 
“bolted” behind her. This strategy was used to draw Tamar into the inner chamber where 
he could have his way with her. After the act of sexual violence, Tamar wore an 
ornamented robe/tunic, like Joseph did in Genesis when he wore a “coat of many colors.” 
Joseph’s coat was also torn by his brothers after they stripped him of it and tossed him 
into the pit, and it was soaked in a kid’s blood. Alter accurately suggests that Tamar’s 
robe may have well been blood stained too, if one considers what had been done to her.*” 

Tamar in verse eighteen puts her hand on her head which is a conventional 
gesture of mourning, like the rending of the garment and the sprinkling of ashes on the 
head. Tamar behaved like a mourner as if she were a widow. She also went weeping 
aloud as she went away. When her brother Absalom saw her, he asked her, “Has your 
brother Amnon been with you?” He addressed his screaming, tear-stained, and disheveled 
sister. Notice that Absalom identifies Amnon as Tamar’s brother, perhaps suggesting that 
if it had been anyone else that hurt her that he may avenge her honor. Nonetheless, since 


Amnon was their brother, Absalom asks Tamar to “hold her peace” so that she does not 


3° Alter, The David Story, 270. 


40 Alter, The David Story, 270. 


45 
speak about what happened, and he utters the phrase, “Do not take this matter to heart” (2 


Sam. 13:20). 

Bader gives an account of how Tamar neither confirmed nor denied his inquiry. 
Absalom did all the speaking. Tamar had no speaking voice after the rape, but after the 
rape, Tamar went away weeping aloud as she went (2 Sam. 13:19 NIV). Her silence was 
a vast contrast to her crying aloud, and her “keeping silent” had future implications: she 
was not to speak about what had transpired.*! By Absalom telling Tamar to not set her 
heart on the matter, he was essentially telling her not to think about what had happened, 
not speak on it to anyone, and to ultimately forget about what happened. As she was left 
dwelling with her brother as a desolate woman, she was left with no opportunity to speak 
about or to process her trauma. 

When Tamar carried her grief to her brother Absalom, she was in need of more 
than consolation.” The sexual violation that she experienced stripped her of her virginity 
and her previous status in the king’s house or the prestige of a potential political bride. As 
a result, she needed the protection and housing of her brother since she would no longer 
trust the protection of her father David after her encounter with Amnon. She likely felt 
that the only one she could trust was Absalom. She sensed that David would not be able 
to provide her with any relief or aid in the situation. David’s paralysis as the result of his 
conflicting emotions as shown in the text makes it possible that this was Tamar’s thought 


process. Cartledge states, “He did nothing to Amnon, and nothing for Tamar.”*? David 


41 Mary Bader, Studies in Biblical Literature, vol. 87, Sexual Violation in the Hebrew Bible: A 
Multi-Methodological Study of Genesis 34 and 2 Samuel 13 (New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., 
2006), 154. 

” Cartledge, Smyth and Helwys Bible Commentary, 539. 


43 Cartledge, Smyth and Helwys Bible Commentary, 540. 


46 


offered Tamar nothing, but Absalom consoled his sister and allowed her to live in his 


house, where she dwelt as a desolate woman. 


Synthesis 

Tamar was not complicit with Amnon and was not a consenting partner. She 
repeatedly and resolutely said “No!” to him (2 Sam. 13:12). She begged that he not rape 
her, but to no avail as he did not oblige her authentic request. Scholarly consensus exists 
that Amnon raped Tamar. While there was some differing information in regard to 
whether incest was involved, scholarly writings affirm that rape occurred and that the 
word “rape” ought to be used when telling Tamar’s story. 

Mary Anna Bader attributes the widespread agreement among scholars that 
Amnon raped Tamar to the context and content of the narrative, and not because of the 
presence of the word “rape.” She believes this due to his physical strength that enabled 
him to overpower her despite her pleading with him not to harm her. Thus, “The textual 
evidence points to rape.’ 

Tamar acted alone throughout the narrative. She was the only one of the three 
children mentioned in the narrative that did not have servants or attendants.*> She did not 
have anyone to look out for her or to ensure her safety. Consequently, she was left 
vulnerable to being sexually abused by her brother. Her brother was someone that she 


knew, loved, and trusted. To her, protection from his was unnecessary, and her 


vulnerability led her to experience a traumatic and unfavorable life experience. 


44 Bader, Studies in Biblical Literature, 23. 


4 Bader, Studies in Biblical Literature, 168. 


47 


Tamar was not violated by a stranger, or someone that she did not know. She was 
not sexually violated in a dark and lonely place or in a place that she did not recognize. 
She felt comfortable being around the one who was going to harm her, because she had 
no idea that she was going to be harmed. Amnon was her brother, and she was unaware 
of his hidden agenda and the lie that had been told to her about his “illness.” Lust and 
sensuality dominated Amnon. He was more interested in gratifying his own wants and 
desires than considering what his actions would cost him, his sister, or even his family as 
a whole. 

Kenneth L. Chafin gives an account of how Tamar probably felt after being raped 
by Amnon. She was no longer a virgin, and he states that she probably felt that she could 
not be married to one of her father’s potential allies due to what happened to her. “Rather 
than loving her and claiming her for his own once he had made love to her, the Scriptures 
record that Amnon hater her now more strongly than he had loved her before (v. 15).’*° 
This is a powerful statement as it shows how the rape of Tamar by her brother not only 
affected her in the moment after her rape, but also how it had an effect on how she 
viewed her future in regard to even her ability to marry and to be yoked to another man in 
a union that was ordained by God. 

Amnon made Tamar look like the one who committed the crime by throwing her 
out. This is not uncommon for the victim to be made to look guilty for crimes that have 
been committed against them. As a desolate woman, Tamar would not be able to live a 


“beautiful life” that matched her outer beauty that was compromised by her brother. 


46 Kenneth L. Chafin, The Communicator’s Commentary, vol. 8, 1, 2 Samuel (Waco, TX: Word 
Books, 1989), 317. 


48 
Amnon had “conquered her” and as such, he had no more use for her. She was reduced to 


being a widow who had never been married and went into mourning. 

The story of Tamar is a story of lust, lies, and love. Amnon lusted after his sister 
Tamar, and even though he called it “love,” the text proves that there was no love 
involved in the act of sexual violence that he committed against Tamar. The true essence 
and definition of the word “love,” does not embrace the hurt of another person and would 
not allow someone to take something from another person out of selfish ambition. 
Amnon’s actions hurt his sister Tamar not only physically, but also mentally, 
emotionally, and spiritually. Amnon was not at all concerned about how Tamar would 
feel or respond to his initial desire of her physical body and forcing himself upon her. 

In the text, the reader sees that Amnon did not even attempt to give Tamar the 
opportunity to consent to having a sexual encounter with him. Throughout the 
development of the text, it is implicit that Amnon plotted to engage in the activity of 
sexual violence with Tamar. The entire story was a set up against Tamar, thus Amnon’s 
actions were premeditated. Amnon conspired with Jonadab and planned to harm his 
sister. The plot against Tamar led her into his presence using the lie that he was sick and 
that she needed to attend to him. This made it easy to lure her to him out of her love, care, 
and respect for her brother. She was blinded by her own devotion to him and had no clue 
or forewarning that this situation would seek to ruin her life, both present and future. 

Further, notice that Amnon was not apologetic or remorseful in any way when he 
saw how much his actions hurt his sister. Instead, he shamed her and put her out even 
when knowing the ridicule that this would cause her. True love and care for a person does 


not delight in pain and wrongdoings. After Amnon hurt his sister, he still had an 


49 


opportunity to show remorse and to admit or acknowledge that he sinned and allowed his 
“love” for his sister to shine through the lust of his actions. Nonetheless, this did not 
happen, and instead of showing the true embodiment of pure love, he proved that the rape 
of his sister was out of pure lust, and a desire to have his physical desires fulfilled even at 
that expense of her virginity, innocence, vulnerability, and purity. Amnon did not act out 
of the spirit of love towards his sister, but she did act out of the spirit of love towards her 
brother. Once she knew her fate, she begged Amnon to consider marrying her to spare 
them from the act. This had to be an expression of love for her brother. Yet, he did not do 
such a thing, and made her leave. 

In addition to looking at the concepts of lust, lies, and love in the text, another 
critical aspect from the reading was the verbiage that Tamar used when she spoke to 
Amnon. The reader ought to consider the messages that Tamar tried to communicate to 
Amnon throughout the story. Anna Carter Florence lists seven critical messages that 
Amnon attempts to communicate to Amnon in 2 Samuel: 

1. No. I’m saying no. 

2. You’re my brother. 

3. We don’t do this in Israel. It’s not who we are. 

4. This act has an adjective: vile. 

5. What would happen to me? I would have nowhere to go. 

6. What would happen to you? You would be one of the scoundrels in Israel. 


7. Ifit has to happen, if it’s really about to happen, at least talk to Dad first— 
because we both know he won’t with hold me from you.*” 


47 Anna Carter Florence, “Listening to Tamar: Pay Attention to the Verbs and Who Controls 
Them,” Christian Century 135, no. 16 (2018): 27, https://www.thechristiancentury.org. 


50 


Tamar gave Amnon more than one opportunity to choose another option to rape, and 
gave him an out from engaging in sexual violence. Tamar was on the verge of being 
violated but tried to give her abuser the chance to alter his course of action, and to make a 
better choice that would not be to his or her detriment. Once she became privy to 
Amnon’s hidden agenda, she tried to reason with him and allow him to change his plans. 
She pleaded with him to save herself from the agony that he chose to inflict on her, which 
proved that she had strength in her words to plead her case. However, his physical 
strength overpowered her, and she was not able to subdue him due to her own lack of 
strength. 

After Amnon raped her, Tamar sought the aid of her brother Absalom. As much 
as he tried to be of assistance to her and did not try to behave as if he did not know what 
happened to her, he did not act in a way that was fully helpful to Tamar. This situation 
left Tamar to reside in Absalom’s house as a desolate woman who was to remain silent 
about what had happened to her. She went into mourning and her identity was shifted out 
of no fault of her own, and there was no one, not even her father, which spoke out on her 
behalf. She was instead, left to withhold the voice that once was her strength, and to be 
quiet. She was no longer a virgin but was not given the opportunity to choose to share 
this experience with a husband whom God would ordain the union. She would not be able 
to experience the bond of marriage that God intended for her to have due to the act of 


sexual violence that occurred against her. 


51 
Reflection 


When an act of sexual violence occurs, one often places attention on the 
perpetrator of the crime, and one focuses on how the perpetrator harmed someone. While 
it is imperative in this story to note that Amnon must be held accountable and responsible 
for his actions and that his guilt need not be alleviated, it is still necessary to pay attention 
to Tamar. Amnon undoubtedly was the antagonist and the villain in the story. One cannot 
ignore or overlook Tamar’s pain and agony. One must take the time to imagine how 
Tamar felt and what she thought in the moment that she knew Amnon tricked and lied to 
her; and that she was going to be violated by someone whom she trusted, whom she 
loved, and for whom she cared. Tamar, in that moment, was not able to defend herself 
from what was about to happen to her, nor was she able to advocate for herself after. 

A critical aspect of this story is that although Amnon raped Tamar, she attempted 
to seek solace and comfort in Absalom. However, neither he nor her father, David, was 
able or willing to provide what she needed. Absalom was willing to give her a place to 
stay and even ultimately avenged her rape by killing Amnon, but this was not what 
Tamar needed to be able to move forward in her life and to ultimately heal from what 
happened to her. The trauma that she endured is one that far too many women experience 
and is often one that those same women are not given opportunities to speak about and 
seek counsel on the experience in order to process and to live through them. 

Whether or not Amnon raped Tamar because he knew how much it would hurt 
Absalom, he thought he could get away with it, or because he truly and deeply desired 
her so much that he would hurt her to have sex with her, this single encounter with 


Amnon impacted Tamar’s entire existence and livelihood. She would no longer be 


a2 


identified as a “beautiful woman,” but rather a “desolate woman.” The ashes on her head 
for her and within her context symbolized a state of brokenness, pain, agony, shame, and 
trauma. The last thing that one reads about Tamar in verse twenty is that she lived as a 
desolate woman in her brother’s house, and in verse twenty-two that Amnon disgraced 
her. There is no follow up that she was able to overcome her experience, or that she 
ultimately healed from her despair. The pericope does not vividly show much hope, and it 
actually points out that trauma, which in itself is hopeless in nature, ostracizes people. 
Nonetheless, there is still hope in this story. God exposes things when needed, and 
there is value in knowing that even when the world tries to silence the broken, God still 
hears the silent cries and does not forsake those who are broken, even broken women. 
Isaiah 61:1-3 is a text that speaks to Tamar’s story, and provides help and healing for this 
text. This passage of scripture reads as follows in the New Living Translation (NLT): 
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to 
bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to 
proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be free. He has sent me 
to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, 
the day of God’s anger against their enemies. To all who mourn in Israel, he will 
give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive 
praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that 
the Lord has planted for his own glory (Isaiah 61:1-3 NLT). 
This text in Isaiah shows the power of the Spirit of God, and how the Spirit alone can 
anoint and change one’s context and outcome. The Spirit of God mends broken hearts, 
frees slaves, and exchanges the mourning signified by ashes for a crown of beauty. Thus, 
mourning is turned into joy, and there is praise instead of despair. The Spirit gives hope 
unlike any other hope or peace that is sought in people, who in and of themselves are 


unable to heal others who have been hurt. The Spirit can literally flip a situation on its 


head and alter the circumstances by doing a complete 180-degree turn. This saves a 


a3 
person from feeling as if the person’s life is over, that there is nothing for which life is 


worth living, and that they should give up. The presence of the Spirit of God upon its 
people is the ultimate healing and saving power from desolation. 

Although Tamar wanted to find comfort in her brother Absalom, she needed the 
indwelling of the Holy Spirit who was able to do everything that she needed in order to 
heal from an unspeakable and earth-shattering pain inflicted on her by Amnon. In the 
Spirit, there is liberty, and true freedom from any and all situations. In the Isaiah passage, 
in verse three, it states that the Spirit will give a “crown of beauty for ashes.” The ashes 
that Tamar placed on her head to signify that she was in mourning would be negated, and 
her beauty would be restored by a crown that would give her peace and joy to return to 
living and not allow her to succumb to shame and trauma. This crown of beauty for ashes 


is the hope in the text and shows what everyone needs to overcome and be healed. 


Conclusion 

The story of the rape of Tamar includes various themes and topics that embody 
the essence of the story. It is a story of rape, sexual and domestic violence, sexual 
violation, incest and kinship, trauma, patriarchal systems, crime, desolation, and exile, 
and the Spirit of God, who gives beauty for ashes. The twenty verses of scripture 
introduce the reader to the main characters Amnon, Tamar, and Absalom who are all 
siblings in a situation, that while told in biblical times, is still a story that has relevance 
and still occurs today. 

Rape and sexual violence within the family system remains an all-too-common 


experience. Women often experience sexual violence by family members and receive 


54 


little or no support from others in helping them to process and manage the trauma as a 
result of the event. Whether this is due to fear of discovery by others outside of the family 
system, others viewing the perpetrator as a criminal, or the attitude of “what happens in 
this house stays in this house,” many women remain silent about these types of 
experiences. Their own vulnerability that makes it easy for them to become a target by 
someone who they trust, also makes them vulnerable to repeated abuse. They are often 
made to feel as if they are the one to blame for their experience, or even shamed by being 
exposed to such violence and ostracized by their family. 

Tamar’s rape by her brother not only affected her as the victim, but it also 
adversely affected her family. Even as Absalom did not specifically speak up as her 
brother, nor did David as her father, they both were privy to what had actually occurred 
between Tamar and Amnon. Yet, Tamar was not given the opportunity to see hope in 
healing from her traumatic experience with her brother. No one sat and spoke with her 
about what happened, asked her how she felt, comforted her in her pain, validated her 
feelings, prayed with her, or empowered her to keep living. No one helped her to 
understand that even in her trauma, God still loved her and would restore her even in her 
circumstances. She succumbed to mourning and living as a widow, although she had 
never been married. She would never have the opportunity to embark upon a healthy, 
holy, and wholesome marriage with a man who truly loved her all because of what her 
brother did to her. 

This story is all too real for many women who become paralyzed and overtaken 
by the effects of unaddressed sexual trauma and the stigma that it brings to its victims. 


When a woman does not have a strong support system or does not feel as if anyone will 


aD 


listen to her, she more than likely will become silent and not share her story. This was 
exactly what Tamar faced. She had Absalom who knew what happened to her; however, 
through her interactions with Absalom she was not strengthened through the hope that 
she was still worthy of the love of God, even if her earthly father was not going to 
advocate for her. 

Through the intercession of the Holy Spirit, Tamar would have the opportunity 
for the powerful hand, grace, and mercy of the Lord to touch and heal her. When the 
Spirit falls upon the children of God, the Spirit heals them, and God is able to wash away 
all tears, and fill any void that may exist because of brokenness, pain, and trauma. Not 
even rape could separate Tamar from the love of Jesus and the joy and peace that the 
presence of Jesus brings. The love of the Savior breaks down all walls and brings revival 
to those things that appear to be dead and reveals the glory of the Lord. 

A replacement of beauty for ashes means that Tamar no longer had to walk 
around in mourning or as a victim stricken with the fate of a life of desolation. God never 
forsakes the children that were created in the image of the Creator. Her ashes on her 
forehead that symbolized mourning and despair would literally be replaced with a crown 
to show that she was indeed royalty because she was the daughter of the King of Kings. 
Through redemption by the Holy Spirit, Tamar, the sister of Amnon, and all of the 
Tamars of today can be healed from the act of rape through the indwelling of the Holy 


Spirit who is able to do all things. 


CHAPTER THREE 


HISTORICAL FOUNDATIONS 


The enslavement of Africans in America is a major part of the history of the 
United States. The African slave trade was one of the most monumental periods of time 
and dismantled the culture of a people who had their identity, freedom, and uniqueness 
stripped from them. African slaves in America were not only taken from their native land, 
but they were not allowed to bring their native culture with them into their “new land.” 
They had no power, and anything that they would do that went against what their master 
told them to do could cost them everything, including their lives. 

The timeline of slavery in America is 1619-1865, beginning with twenty Africans 
being brought to Jamestown who became the first slaves to be imported into Britain’s 
North American colonies, to the abolishment of slavery and the Thirteenth Amendment 
to the United States Constitution outlawing slavery. Within the context of this time 
period, slavery can be defined as the state or condition of being a slave; a civil 
relationship whereby one person has absolute power over another and controls his life, 
liberty, and fortune for the subjection of a person to another person. 

Among all the things that were taken away from slaves that were intended to 
break them mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically, there is nothing more 
devastating than one’s freedom. One’s freedom and ability to make decisions about life is 
a critical and essential component of being able to fulfill one’s goals and aspirations. To 


56 


OT 


be absent of personal freedom is to be without an essential component of living a 
fulfilling life. Slaves were not brought to America; rather, Africans were brought to 
America to become slaves. Africans were not slaves until they were stolen from their 
home and brought to a foreign place which they never desired to see or experience. 

When Africans were taken from their homes and forced into slavery, they were 
separated from mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers and were torn from extensive 
kinship networks. Enslaved in the British colonies of North America or the free states of 
the American Union, the ability of Africans to reestablish nuclear families and familial 
support systems depended on many factors, including the needs and desires of the slave 
owner. As the circumstances of slavery changed across time and place, the opportunities 
for slaves to marry, have children, and create stable family units fluctuated. 

One of the most common interfering aspects of the familial system was that of 
masters’ interactions with slave women. Many masters took sexual liberties with slave 
women and rewarded obedient slave behavior with favors, while rebellious slaves were 
brutally punished. Slave women were not only the property of their masters in how they 
were to take care of the needs of his home, they were also “bed warmers” for them when 
their masters wanted to be pleased sexually. Women were not given the ability nor the 
option to say “no,” or to turn down the sexual advances of their masters. They were 
viewed as property in every sense of the word. 

Slave women were forced to comply with sexual advances by their masters on a 
very regular basis. Consequences of resistance often came in the form of physical 
beatings; thus, an enormous number of slaves became concubines of these men. Most 


often the masters were already bound in matrimony, which caused tension and hatred 


58 


between the slave and the mistress (wife) of the house. Many “mulatto” or racially mixed 
children also resulted from these relations. Because the “status of the child” followed that 
of his or her mother, the child of a white man would not be freed based upon patriarchal 
genealogy. These children also became a sore reminder for the mistress of her husband’s 
infidelity. 

The slave husband also had little control over master-female slave sexual 
relations. Although a conjugal bond existed, the slave wife could still be used to fulfill 
the master’s desires. The husbands must have felt helplessly hostile in these situations. 
Sometimes the relations would become so striking that the husband would release his 
anger on the master in the form of violence. Undoubtedly, the family structures in both 
the slave and master’s lives were gravely impacted by the sexual relationships that were 
demanded by the masters of slave women. 

Moreover, despite the frequency and intensity of the sexual relationships that 
existed between slave women and their masters, it is imperative to note that these 
relationships were still non-consensual. While slave women may have complied with the 
sexual demands of their masters and would engage in sex with them with daily 
frequency, these women were sexually engaged with their masters out of obligation and 
without choice, whether or not they desired to participate in the sexual relationship. 
When focusing on the quality of the sexual relationships, slave women were coerced and 
mandated to have sex with their masters, and would suffer brutal consequences if they 
did not. There was also a lack of respect within the sexual relationship from the masters 


to the women. 


39 


In the context of just relations in sexual relationships, women were not freely 
giving their bodies to their masters and were fully informed that they were not able to 
choose, because of their situation, whether or not they wanted to be sexually intimate 
with their masters. There was pure manipulation, abuse, and exploitation in these sexual 
relationships. Sexual activity requires consent, and it is important to know what consent 
is and is not. When there is no valid consent within a sexual relationship, it begins to 
become classified as rape. Rape is not sex; rape is violence. To appropriately classify the 
type of sexual interactions that existed between slaves and masters, one must know the 
difference between sexual activity and sexual violence. 

There was also no trust by slave women that their master would not betray or 
intentionally injure them. On the contrary, slave women knew full well that the master 
could intentionally beat or whip them for not complying with their demands to engage in 
sexual relations. Slave women also did not freely and with full knowledge choose to 
interact with their masters. These women had no freedom, nor did they have any power in 
their relationships with their masters; thus, they were never given the choice of whether 
or not to interact with their master in any way. The masters had the freedom and all the 
power to impose sex within their interactions with their female slaves. As a result, there 
were significant acts of rape and sexual violence that existed between slave women and 
their masters during slavery in America. 

The rape of enslaved black women during the era of slavery was commonplace; 
however, it remains a feature of American history that is ignored. The fact of the matter is 
that routine rape occurred, and sexual violence against black women by white men 


remains one of the least examined topics within slavery and the experiences of black 


60 


women. The role of sexual violence against enslaved black women has yet to be fully 
analyzed and examined in order to understand the way in which rape was used to 
perpetuate privilege and oppression. The laws ultimately protected white slave owners 
from the legal ramifications of raping enslaved black women, and they even had rights to 
kill those women who tried to resist sexual violence from their white slave owners. 

Based on the way that it is commonly ignored, one could believe that rape was 
rare during the times of slavery. There have been various changing definitions of the 
concept of rape as well as the lack of legal protection afforded to slaves, and a hesitancy 
among individuals and historians to refer to incidents as “rape.” Thus, the magnitude of 
sexual violence carried out by white men against enslaved black women has been widely 
overlooked. 

Rachel A. Feinstein notes that in addition to the varying definitions of the word 
“rape,” there was also the emphasis on modesty which allowed males to evade the 
responsibility for sexual coercion and rape.' There was also terminology used that placed 
the blame on enslaved women instead of the white men. Such terms were “concubine,” 
“prostitute,” “jezebel,” “wench,” and “mistress.” Such euphemisms not only provided a 
strategy for concealing white men’s sexual behavior and responsibility for sexual 
coercion, but they also assisted in the concealment of rape and added to the complexity 
involved in studying the rape of enslaved black women by white men. 

Enslaved black women were exploited and regularly experienced forms of abuse 


and oppression that were very different from that of their black male counterparts. The 


' Rachel A. Feinstein, When Rape Was Legal: The Untold History of Sexual Violence During 
Slavery (Nashville, TN: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, 2019). 


? Feinstein, When Rape was Legal, 6. 


61 


status of black women was largely framed and developed by this exploitation. The effects 
of the legal and cultural foundation shaped the experiences and racial framing of black 
women today, who are often viewed as sexualized commodities to be used for the benefit 
of white men and undeserving of protection from the courts from violence and rape. 

The rape and sexual violence of enslaved black women began on the slave ships 
from Africa to America. This was done to break enslaved women into submission before 
arriving in North America and the Caribbean. These women endured sexual violation, 
and some were even tortured and murdered as a means of instilling terror and compliance 
in others. The rape of these women was a constant presence and became accepted among 
the white men on board the slave ships. Sexual violence against enslaved black girls (as 
young as ten years old) and women was widespread and became normalized as white 
slaveholders exerted power, control, and sexual domination. 

The Works Progress Administration’s slave narratives offer insight into the 
collective awareness and prevalence of rape experienced by enslaved women.? Interviews 
were conducted in which enslaved women were bashed and blamed for not standing up 
against the white slaveowners who raped them. It was noted that they should have been 
more open to turning them down and telling them that they were not willing to engage in 
sexual activities with them. However, these notions are refuted by the fact that enslaved 
women were not given the ability to be outspoken and open about their desires. They 
were viewed as property, and again, had no power over their lives or their bodies. 

Due to the constant rape of these women, there were also a lot of children who 
were born from the sexual relationships of white slaveowners and enslaved women. 


3 History.com Editors, “Works Progress Administration,” History.com, 
https://www.history.com/topics/great-depression/works-progress-administration. 


62 
White men felt a sense of entitlement to the bodies of enslaved women and would exert 


their sexual dominance to an “alarming extent,” as this was viewed as a significant form 
of interaction between white men and enslaved black women.‘ The alarming instances of 
the sexual dominance of slave owners over women made it very difficult for these 
women to reveal their abuse. 

In 1868, Elizabeth Keckly published Behind the Scenes: Or, Thirty Years a Slave 
and Four Years in the White House. The memoir detailed the fifty-year-old Keckly’s 
three decades as a slave, how she secured freedom for herself and her son, and her 
friendship with the Lincolns during the Civil War. Also, within the pages of her book was 
Keckly’s public revelation that she had been routinely raped by a white man when she 
was a young woman. Although revealing the abuse, Keckly chose to “spare the world his 
name.”° She was open to reporting that she had endured such treatment by a white man; 
however, she was not open to identifying the perpetrator of the rape. There are a lot of 
questions that could be raised in regards to why she may have avoided doing this, but it is 
clear that there were a lot of reasonable circumstances that more than likely caused 
Keckly to avoid sharing the identity of her rapist. 

Privately coming forward as a survivor of any sexual or physical abuse is 
definitely no easy task; thus, for a survivor to openly and publicly identify the abuser may 
even lead to very dangerous consequences. Legal prosecution of the offender is not 
certain; economic and or physical retaliation is a possibility; and public scrutiny, if not 


shame, is often a certainty. Nonetheless, it is still imperative that victims of rape and 


4 Feinstein, When Rape Was Legal, 19. 


> Elizabeth Keckly, Behind the Scenes in the Lincoln White House: Memoirs of an African- 
American Seamstress (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2006), 79. 


63 


sexual violence become open to publicly disclosing their sexual abuse. The #MeToo 
Movement of the twenty-first century is likely related and influenced by Keckly, who 
tried to awaken the American conscience on slavery and sexual assault over 150 years 
ago. 

In an article titled, “The Loathsome Den: Sexual Assault on the Plantation, 
#MeToo of the 19th Century,” Curtis Harris asserts that perpetrators of rape and sexual 
violence during slavery times and even now “have used economic coercion and physical 
force to subdue victims; they demonstrate a brazen entitlement to the bodies of others; 
and rely upon threats of retaliation and shame to silence victims.”° 

Harris writes about today’s term “open secrets,” as they were described by white 
Southerner, Mary Chestnut in 1861 as “the thing we cannot name.”’ Chestnut continued 
by noting the delusion needed to ignore sexual misconduct: “[E]very lady tells you who 
is the father of all the Mulatto children in everybody’s household, but those in her own, 
she seems to think drop from the clouds or pretends so to think.””® 

Harris further notes that abolitionists worked tirelessly in the mid-nineteenth 
century to bring public attention to the plight of the sexually assaulted on plantations. 
Prominent in the abolitionist campaign were the stories of people who had experienced 
slavery and were thus harmed by sexual assault, whether directly or indirectly. Frederick 


Douglass, born in Maryland sometime around 1818, exemplifies how the direct harm of 


© Curtis Harris, “The Loathsome Den: Sexual Assault on the Plantation, #MeToo of the 19th 
Century,” President Lincoln’s Cottage, 2017. 


7 Harris, “The Loathsome Den.” 


8 Harris, “The Loathsome Den.” 


64 


sexual abuse quickly spreads indirect “detriments.”? Douglass recalled in his first 
autobiography the uncertainty surrounding the identity of his biological father: 

My father was a white man. He was admitted to be such by all I ever heard speak 

of my parentage. The opinion was also whispered that my master was my father; 

but of the correctness of this opinion, I know nothing; the means of knowing was 

withheld from me.'° 
As in the past, there are also current situations that resonate with secrets that exist when 
rape is behind the birth of a child. This has a significant impact on the mother of the 
child, which must not be overlooked. Much like believing an underage person could 
consent to sexual relations with an adult, the notion that an enslaved person could consent 
to any sexual relation with a master is ridiculous and completely unreasonable. The 
plantation system dismantled any notion of consent by the enslaved, so it is impossible to 
state that any slave could have consented to sexual relations with their master. Slaves had 
no ability to go against the system that was inherent on the plantation, and even if they 
tried, they risked being harmed, beaten, sold away, or even killed. 

There was a black teenager in Missouri named Celia, who killed her master, 
Robert Newsome, in self-defense. Newsom purchased fourteen-year-old Celia in 1850 
and routinely raped her over the next five years. Despite the attacks, which resulted in 
Celia bearing one of Newsom’s children, the teenager had no legal defense or recourse 
toward the man. Due to not feeling that there was any other recourse, Celia killed 


Newsom in 1855. However, while she was acting out of defense of her body, she was 


arrested and later executed by the State of Missouri for the crime. Here, there was a 


° Harris, “The Loathsome Den.” 


'0 Harris, “The Loathsome Den.” 


65 


powerful message sent that at no time did an enslaved woman have the right to go against 
her master, even in the act of sexual or physical abuse."! 

During his twelve years as a slave, aman named Solomon Northup had a similar 
experience.'!” Solomon was a slave with a woman named Patsey, and they shared a 
master, Edwin Epps. Patsey was routinely sexually, physically, and emotionally assaulted 
by Epps. While his mistress was very jealous of the relationship he had with Patsey, there 
was nothing that she could do to stop his abuse towards her. After numerous attempts to 
beg Epps to stop this behavior, he would not. Consequently, she also began to physically 
abuse Patsey as a retaliatory recourse against her husband. As Northup summarized, “The 
enslaved victim of lust and hate, Patsey had no comfort” as she endured the status of 
abused pawn in the Epps’s marriage. '? 

The sexual abuse that slaves endured at the hands of their masters not only 
impacted their relationships with their families, but it also had a profound impact on 
masters and their mistresses. Sexual abuse had a significant impact on the families of the 
abused, as well as those of the abuser. Another interesting note is that a master’s wife was 
called his mistress, and not the slave, which is the complete opposite use of terms to what 
would now be used to describe relationships when infidelity is involved. It is important to 
note the complex ramifications and effects that sexual abuse had on those who were 


involved, as well as those who shared some connection with those involved. 


'l Melton A. McLaurin, Celia, A Slave: A True Story (Athens, GA: The University of 
Georgia Press, 1991). 


2 Solomon Northup, Twelve Years a Slave (New York, NY: Atria Books, 2013). 


7 Northup, Twelve Years a Slave, 155. 


66 


Moreover, Harriet Jacobs was the first woman in the United States to write a 
fugitive slave narrative in her memoir titled Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.'4 She 
referred to herself as “Linda Brent,” and concealed her identity in order to provide an 
authentic account of slavery. In this narrative, she also recalled the uncaring attitude of 
the white mistress toward raped black women. Jacobs’s mistress, suspicious of her 
husband’s behavior, ordered Jacobs to confess to being raped by her master. Initially, 
Jacobs and the mistress seemed to share common pain in the ordeal. However, Jacobs 
realized her pain and that of the mistress were entirely different: 

The tears came to my eyes; but I was soon convinced that her emotions arose 

from anger and wounded pride. She felt that her marriage vows were desecrated, 

her dignity insulted; but she had no compassion for the poor victim of her 
husband’s perfidy. She pitied herself as a martyr; but she was incapable of feeling 
for the condition of shame and misery in which her unfortunate, helpless slave 
was placed.!> 
In reading Jacobs’s story, the reader sees a vivid and ugly picture that is painted to depict 
the truths of what occurred for female slaves during slavery. Jacobs recounts the “trials of 
girlhood” beginning around the age of twelve, and how the whispers of “foul words” in 
her ear turned into the crushing and breaking of the innocence of a slave girl who wanted 
no parts in these types of dealings with her master.'® Jacobs recalls the experience that 
naturally calls for an emotional and even physical reaction by the reader, as it is actually 


possible to picture the virtue and purity of a young girl at the hands of someone who, 


while saying how much they hated black bodies, would still use and abuse black bodies 


'4 Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, Inc., 
2001). 


'S Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, 31. 


'6 Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, 26. 


67 


for their own gruesome and vile pleasure. Like Jacobs, formerly enslaved men and 
women expressed anger and despair throughout their autobiographies, narratives, and 
speeches. 

Jacobs would lament that it was “criminal for a favorite slave” to wish to be 
virtuous.'’ When looking back to what happened with Celia, Jacobs gives a reminder that 
for an enslaved woman to control herself and refuse any sexual advance was essentially 
illegal. Jacobs’s observation has also caught the attention of historians like Walter 
Johnson, who have researched slave auctions. Johnson identified that “favorite” or 
“fancy” female slaves sought for sexual exploitation could make handsome profits for 
slave dealers. 

Elizabeth Keckly experienced this “fancy” perversion as well. Living in North 
Carolina during the 1830s, Keckly described “savage efforts to subdue my pride” by a 
white man: 

I was regarded as fair-looking for one of my race, and for four years a white man 

—I spare the world his name — had base designs upon me. I do not care to dwell 

upon this subject, for it is one that is fraught with pain. Suffice it to say, that he 

persecuted me for four years, and I — I — became a mother. The child of which he 
was the father was the only child that I ever brought into the world.!® 
Keckly indicted society for its complicity in allowing the rampant violation of black 
women’s rights, “If my poor boy ever suffered any humiliating pangs on account of 


birth... he must blame the edicts of that society which deemed it no crime to undermine 


the virtue of girls in my then position.”!? Keckly’s son was the product of sexual assault, 


'7 Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, 26. 
'8 Keckly, Behind the Scenes in the Lincoln White House, 14. 


'? Keckly, Behind the Scenes in the Lincoln White House, 14. 


68 


and so was she. Keckly’s mother, Agnes, was an enslaved woman assaulted by Armistead 
Burwell, her master. The sexual exploitation was generational and resulted time after 
time in white men owning their children in bondage just as Chestnut described. 

Anthony S. Parent, Jr. writes about how the infrastructure in America’s colonial 
era supported unpunished and pervasive sexual assault on plantations.”° Beginning in the 
seventeenth century, Virginia codified sexual relations between black men and white 
women as criminal, even when the two parties consented and desired marriage. In 1691, 
Virginia ordered that any white woman who bore a mixed-race child would be fined 
fifteen pounds. If the fine were not paid, imprisonment or indentured servitude up to five 
years would be imposed. Furthermore, any white person who married a nonwhite person 
would be banished forever from Virginia within three months.7! 

While that particular crackdown on intermarriage was occurring, Virginia’s laws 
simultaneously incentivized white men to abuse black women. Since a child’s freedom 
was tied to the status of the mother, if an enslaved mother gave birth, the child would also 
be enslaved — regardless of the father’s status. Thus, sexual abuse by the master might be 
followed nine months later by more chattel property added to the estate.” 

In American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia, 
historian Edmund S. Morgan notes that Virginia’s assembly could have legislated some 
protections for enslaved black women, and details that they did no such thing, thus 


lending sanction to a master’s predatory whims: 


0 Anthony S. Parent Jr., Foul Means: The Formation of a Slave Society in Virginia, 1660-1740 
(Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2003). 


"1 Keckly, Behind the Scenes in the Lincoln White House, 116. 


2 Parent Jr., Foul Means, 117. 


69 


The laws said nothing about black women who had illegitimate children by white 

fathers, perhaps because few black women were free and the children of slave 

women were neither legitimate nor illegitimate, no matter who the father was. 

Given the power of white masters over women slaves, it is altogether likely that 

many black women bore mulatto children. But since the mother was a slave, the 

child, in spite of intermediate color, would be a slave. Such mulattoes would 
therefore not constitute an intermediate class. They must be seen as black. And 
the [Virginia] assembly took pains in all its laws to identify them with blacks and 
to deny them any benefit from a free paternity.” 
The slave code allowed and encouraged the sexual abuse of black women by white men, 
while making consensual relationships between black men and white women criminal 
and also frowned upon. After nearly two centuries, the cries for help and justice by the 
enslaved were not sufficiently acted upon. After the emancipation of the slaves, there was 
some reason for hope with the legislative victories of Reconstruction. However, with the 
imposition of Jim Crow laws, the system remained as unjust and oppressive as it had 
been before. As a result, black women who experienced sexual assault at the hands of 
white men did not receive the justice that they deserved due to a disparity of power and 
position. 

The same life-altering and horrific experiences that were endured by black 
women in slavery and kept quiet came to public light during the 1850s and 1860s. This 
was a time when what Harris called the “peculiar institution” of slavery was criticized as 
never before and finally demolished via presidential proclamation and constitutional 


amendment, which finally gave legal sanction to the resistance the enslaved had always 


mounted.”* 


3 Edmund S. Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia 
(New York, NY: W. W. Norton, 1975), 336. 


>4 Harris, “The Loathsome Den.” 


70 


Serving as guiding lights and clarions, the silence-breakers of the nineteenth 
century awakened the rest of society from an unjustified comfort gained by accepting the 
idea of Lydia Maria Child, friend of Harriet Jacobs, who testified to this point in 1861. In 
her plea, Child swept aside the false comforts of ignoring abuse: 

I am well aware that many will accuse me of indecorum for presenting these 

pages to the public... I willingly take the responsibility of presenting them with 

the veil withdrawn. I do this for the sake of my sisters in bondage, who are 
suffering wrongs so foul, that our ears are too delicate to listen to them... I do it 
with the hope that every man who reads this narrative will swear solemnly before 

God that, so far as he has power to prevent it, no fugitive from Slavery shall ever 

be sent back to suffer in that loathsome den of corruption and cruelty.”° 
Feinstein argues, “Sexual experience and deviance were racialized onto the bodies of 
black women during slavery, and the framing continues.””° 

There was never delivery of full justice for the victims of sexual assault during 
slavery. The survivors of the sexual violence that was committed against them were not 
given opportunities to share their stories, plead for justice, escape their situations, speak 
up for their own desires, plead for the survival and mere existences of their own 
marriages, or perhaps even believe that their bodies mattered and were created for more 
than just to be taken advantage of by their masters. It is hard to imagine what these 
women shared with their spouses about the sexual violence that they faced, or how it 
must have affected their abilities or desires to engage in healthy relationships with their 


husbands or potential husbands. Undoubtedly, rape by masters on black slaves during 


slavery was indeed rape and must be identified as such. 


°5 Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, 4-5. 


°6 Feinstein, When Rape Was Legal, 83. 


ya 


Rejecting silence and embracing truth ensures that the perpetrators receive the 
cultural, political, and judicial reprimands that they so well deserve. Otherwise, one re- 
sends a miserable signal that a quick false comfort, which abuses and silences far too 
many, is somehow preferable to a hard-earned culture that protects and hears all. While 
the rejection and breaking of silence is often not easy or popular, the revelation of the 
truth is necessary for true liberation and escape from the bondage of slavery mentally, 
emotionally, spiritually, and physically. 

Through difficulty and pain, Harriet Jacobs demonstrated the need for her honesty 
in telling the story of her experiences and the evil that was exerted on young girls in 
slavery. Remarkable, noteworthy words are mentioned by Jacobs regarding the stripping 
of the young girls’ happiness: 

But, O, ye happy women whose purity has been sheltered from childhood, who 

have been free to choose the objects of your affection, whose homes are protected 

by law, do not judge the poor desolate slave girl too severely! If slavery had been 

abolished, I also, could have married the man of my choice; I could have had a 

home shielded by laws; and I should have been spared the painful task of what I 

am now about to relate; but all of my prospects had been blighted by slavery. I 

wanted to keep myself pure; and, under the most adverse circumstances, I tried 

hard to preserve my self-respect; but I was struggling alone in the powerful grasp 
of the demon Slavery; and the master proved too strong for me. I felt as if I was 
forsaken by God and man; as if all my efforts must be frustrated; and I became 
reckless in my despair.”’ 
Furthermore, the routine sexual interactions that were initiated by white men were 
without any consideration for their personal desires or family relations. Many slave 
families were broken up and romantic ties destroyed as a result of the sexual violence and 


experiences of rape. Power and control were derived from disrupting families, and the 


goal was to humiliate enslaved men and women. However, it is important to note that this 


27 Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, 48. 


72 


would be true only in situations when the enslaved woman was actually allowed to 
marry. 

Harriet Jacobs asked her master for permission to marry a man whom she loved 
but did not receive it. He refused to allow her to marry the man, even after pleading with 
him when the man had proposed to her. She prefaced chapter seven, titled ““The Lover,” 
by asking, ““Why does the slave ever love? Why allow the tendrils of the heart to twine 
around objects which may at any moment be wrenched away by the hand of violence?””® 
All of these questions lend to the premise of unresolved trauma as a predicator of 
unhealthy or non-existent relationships for women. 

From the institution of slavery, there was a notion that black women were not able 
to engage in healthy marriages with their spouses or even allowed to marry whom they 
actually “loved,” due to lack of permission and support from white slave masters. 
Enslaved black women who were married were routinely raped by their masters, thus 
causing infidelity and an inability for enslaved black families to develop and flourish due 
to situations and measures that were outside of their control. The rape and sexual 
violence that was perpetuated towards enslaved women had long-lasting and profound 
effects on not just the enslaved women of the time, but also for generations to come. 

The rape of enslaved black women not only caused division within their own 
relationships and marriages, but it also caused white women to divorce their white 
husbands who engaged in the rape of enslaved black women. White women’s petitions 


for divorce shed light on the “mutually constructive nature of intersecting institutions of 


°8 Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, 33. 


73 


oppression.””? Some white women sought to divorce their abusive and disloyal husbands 
who had been the guilty parties of sexual violence. While this also simultaneously 
directed attention away from the needs of enslaved black women, it is important to again 
note the gateway that rape became during slavery for both enslaved black women and the 
white wives of white slave owners. 

In Feinstein’s account of legal rape and slavery, James Baldwin was quoted with a 
powerful statement about the effects of racialized and gendered sexual violence today. He 
stated: 

The great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are 

unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all 

that we do. It could scarcely be otherwise, since it is to history that we owe our 

frames of reference, our identities, and our aspirations. And is with great pain and 

terror that one begins to realize this.°° 
This quote continues to resonate with the theme of how history has an effect on the 
present contexts of individuals, and how it can also be difficult and an overall negative 
experience to be forced to admit this fact. One’s history not only affects them as an 
individual, but it also molds how a person understands their current context, who they 
are, and what they seek to become. Whether or not research seeks to adequately expound 
upon the ramifications of rape and slavery, the fact remains that the effects of rape of 
enslaved black women can be seen in various areas today. 

Another noteworthy concept is that exposing this history is crucial to addressing 


the violent reality that many black women continue to face today. To truly understand the 


psyche and even the plight of a woman, it is imperative to look at and consider her story, 


> Feinstein, When Rape Was Legal, 69. 


3° Feinstein, When Rape Was Legal, 79. 


74 


even if she is not privy to the whole story. As women have always been objectified and 
viewed as less than equal to men, black women have had a history of not being viewed as 
human at all. Black female bodies have been sexualized, degraded, fantasized about, and 
used for target practice, as punching bags, and as objects of lust. Black women have been 
told that their skin was not light enough, not dark enough, their lips were too big, hips 
were too wide, breasts were too voluptuous, and their rear ends were huge, thus, 
somehow making them a whore or slut. 

Women have to become freed from slavery. The emancipation of the slaves in 
1865 was a freeing of the physical bodies of slaves; however, even today there needs to 
be a freeing of mental, emotional, and spiritual parts of women. Bondage is deadly and 
the only way to truly live is to be free. As such, women have to rise and revolt against a 
system that continues to shun women for speaking up for their own rights in matters 
concerning their own bodies, and continues to refute and downgrade the contributions of 
women to the successes of society. Once the gateway of trauma and rape has been 
revealed, and women are given the opportunity to heal, then they will be able to live lives 
that exude with happiness and a sense of fulfillment and purpose. 

In Harriet Jacobs’s story, a woman of North Carolina is quoted as saying: 

Northerners know nothing at all about Slavery. They think it is perpetual bondage 

only. They have no conception of the depth of degradation involved in that word, 

SLAVERY; if they had, they would never cease their efforts until so horrible a 

system was overthrown.*! 
The disgrace, shame, mortification, and misery faced by enslaved black women during 


slavery have had lasting effects on black women and will continue to do so for ages to 


come. The arduous task is to be willing to allow women to address and heal from the 


3! Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, 1. 


pe) 


wounds that are not self-inflicted, and yet are still bruised, scabbed over, and in some 
cases, even bleeding today. In order for these wounds to heal and not lead to infection, 
which ultimately will lead to a loss of limbs or even life, there has to be a system that 
welcomes all patients regardless of their trauma (pre-existing conditions), as well as 
barriers which may limit their ability to manage their care. Healthy, wholesome, and holy 
matriages can exist for women when they are released from the yokes of bondage, as they 


become yoked to the one that their soul loves, authentically. 


CHAPTER FOUR 


THEOLOGICAL FOUNDATIONS 


Womanist theology encompasses a wide range of concepts that speak to the 
plight and experiences of black women. It gives a voice to the silent cries and pains 
that black women have endured for centuries. There have been many contributors to 
womanist theology including James Cone’s Black Liberation Theology, which 
impacted the Womanist scholars: Katie G. Cannon, Jacquelyn Grant, and Delores S. 
Williams, Kelly Brown Douglas, Renita Weems, and Toinette Eugene. These 
womanist scholars addressed the racial, political, psychological, linguistic, and 
biblical dimensions of the black woman. 

When looking at the lives of women within the context of how they have 
been and are still typically viewed and treated, one would be remiss to not 
acknowledge the oppression, disrespect, and levels of discrimination that women 
have faced. Women have been viewed and treated as less than men, and even as 
second-class citizens. Women have been excluded from the table and boardrooms, 
from conversations that determine the outcomes of important areas of life. Even 
when women have been invited to sit at those tables or are invited into the 
boardroom, they are often silenced and encouraged not to speak or join the 


conversations. 


76 


77 
Since women were given the right to vote in America on August 18, 1920, 


people have been falsely encouraged to believe that this was enough for women to 
feel empowered, or as if they had rights in a country that they helped to nurture and 
literally build on their shoulders. However, many often forget that this did not 
include all women. Black women in America were not given the right to vote until 
the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which secured voting rights for racial minorities. ! 
There has never been equality, equity, or fair treatment for women, and they have 
often been viewed as objects that are subject to responding to whatever they were 
called and considered to be. 

Women have also been on billboards and television for advertisements that 
promote sexual exploitation on a level that would leave many women feeling and 
thinking that they are no more than their breasts, legs, or behinds. This type of status 
quo agenda again creates a mindset for women to believe that what they need to say 
is not of importance to others, and that it is actually preferred for women to be seen 
and not heard. Furthermore, not only are they to be seen, but it is better for women to 
show everything to make a non-verbal statement that they are proud of the way they 
look, rather than make the more significant contributions they could offer to the 
world. 

Moreover, healing from these experiences and the trauma that women face 
out of experiences and norms that are not what they would have asked for or 
imagined is of utmost importance. Women need to be allowed to sit at those tables 


and in those boardrooms to offer feedback and insight that is uniquely theirs. The 


' Ari Berman, Give Us a Ballot (New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2015), 250. 


78 


major issue is that there is a critical missing component from being able to have 
these types of dialogues to promote the healing and freedom for women who are the 
carriers and birthers of life. 

Women need to have a voice. It is good to talk about healing and freedom, 
but how does one get to the point of healing and freedom? How does one really 
address their trauma without having the opportunity to feel safe to reveal it, process 
it, then become healed, and liberated from the bondage of pain. Being able to share 
the story is a precursor for healing and freedom. Women have been oppressed and 
marginalized for centuries, especially black women. It is also good to talk about 
strength and healing and all the things that women are able to do, but when do 
women have the opportunity to deal with their personal issues? People often look at 
and focus on the outer beauty, but what about the insecurities on the inside? How 
does one even begin to address that? 

The theology that will build the foundation of this doctoral project is womanist 
theology. Womanist theology allows one to reflect upon women who have been created 
in the image of God, and for them to take their place as human beings and be looked 
upon in a serious and valuable way. All the experiences that women face in the social, 
economic, or political arenas are intricately woven into the religious space that black 
women occupy. Therefore, the institution of the church cannot be silent to how culture 
and society impacts the formation of black womanhood. Womanist theology affirms and 
critiques the positive and negative attributes of the church, the African American 


community, and the larger society. 


79 
Womanist theology has its roots in the theology of prominent scholars like James 


Hal Cone, Katie G. Cannon, Jacquelyn Grant, Delores S. Williams, Kelly Brown 
Douglas, Renita Weems, and Toinette Eugene. In essence, a womanist is a black feminist 
who is committed to the survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female. The 
term was coined by novelist Alice Walker in her 1983 volume Jn Search of Our Mothers’ 
Gardens, and its usage is now seen to go beyond her definition. Cheryl Sanders writes 
that the term womanist presently represents “richness, complexity, uniqueness, and 
struggle involved in being black and female in a society that is hostile to both blackness 
and womanhood.” 

The major sources for the works of the aforementioned scholars are the narratives, 
autobiographies, novels, poems, prayers, and other writings that convey black women’s 
traditions, cultures, and history. Sanders writes: 

The method developed to appropriate these sources can also be summarized in 

terms of its celebrative, critical, and constructive intent, inclusive of (1) the 

celebration of black women’s historical struggles and strengths; (2) the critique of 
various manifestations of black women’s oppression in terms of race, sex, and 
class; and (3) the construction of black women’s distinctive theological and 
ethical claims towards a liberative praxis.° 
In sum, womanist theology encompasses both the ups and downs, the complete story of 
going from bondage to freedom. Womanist theologians were able to incorporate personal 


experiences as well as the experiences of other black woman to contribute to a theology 


that seeks to encourage liberation spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. 


2 Cheryl J. Sanders, Living the Intersection: Womanism and Afrocentrism in Theology 
(Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1989), 9. 


3 Sanders, Living the Intersection, 9. 


80 


Katie Geneva Cannon, theologian and ethicist, was the first woman to earn the 
Doctor of Philosophy degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York in 1983. 
She was the first woman to be ordained to the ministry in the United Presbyterian Church 
in the U.S. in 1974. She elaborated on how womanist liberation ethics and the black 
women’s literary tradition have much to contribute to one another. In her book, Katie ’s 
Cannon: Womanism and the Soul of the Black Community, she asserts that it is important 
for women to be able to emerge and discern what kind of moral agents they really want to 
be.4 

She emphasizes the importance of women being able to write their own narrative, 
rather than submitting to the narrative that has been written for them by others. This is far 
different than what women have been exposed to and the hand that has been dealt to 
women in society. She urges the black woman to “break with specifiable social, 
structural, and cultural constructs that mock, demean, and exclude Black women.”> 

It is important and necessary for a person to be able to write their own story and 
not have their destiny written by another person. In the case of black women, not only 
were their narratives written by others, but they were also often times left out of the 
narrative entirely. A black woman was either told what she was, that she was nothing, 
would not measure up to others, or that she was not worthy of being included in the 
narrative. Womanist theology sought to address the concept of the black woman being 


given the opportunity to write her own narrative and understand that she was more than 


4 Katie Geneva Cannon, Katie’s Cannon: Womanism and the Soul of the Black Community (New 
York, NY: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1995), 111. 


5 Cannon, Katie’s Cannon, 111. 


81 
what she had been told she was, she was just as good as others, and her own personal 


story was needed to be included in the narrative. 

Women have been reduced to being invisible, and even the concept of 
womanhood was not defined without consideration of the subjugation and oppression that 
women have experienced. In particular, black women’s dehumanization and tragedy 
during slavery alone consisted of violation and separation from their families. As such, 
the family’s narrative tradition became one of loss and violation. Black women have long 
suffered from trauma and events that silenced women from being able to speak up for 
themselves to protect their own lives. The same silence that brought black women to not 
have a voice is the same silence that led to many women thinking and feeling as if they 
have no voice at all. 

Moreover, preceding womanist theology was feminist theology. Denise 
Ackerman writes that Rosemary Radford Ruether had in her groundbreaking work 
Sexism and God-Talk the first systematic assessment of Christian theology from a 
feminist theological point of view. Startling for its comprehensiveness when it first 
appeared, it is a work that still inspires today as scholars delve into its riches. Its 
systematic approach provides a multi-pronged entry into feminist theological thought and 
its scrupulous scholarship has stood the test of time.° 

According to Ackerman, of interest here is the inclusiveness of Ruether’s vision — 
she speaks of “universal human experience” and is not interested in a system of thought 
that inverts discrimination. This, however, does not divert her from what she considers 
the critical principle of feminist theology — the promotion of the full humanity of women. 


® Denise Ackerman, “Rosemary Radford Ruether: Themes from a Feminist Liberation Story,” 
Scriptura xx (2008): 38. 


82 


Whatever denies, diminishes, or distorts the full humanity of women is, therefore, 
appraised as not redemptive. Theologically speaking, whatever diminishes or denies the 
full humanity of women must be presumed not to reflect the divine or authentic relation 
to the divine, to reflect the authentic nature of things, or to be the message or work of an 
authentic redeemer or a community of redemption.’ 

Ruether played an essential and significant role in creating a theology that put 
women in a better place. Ackerman claims that Ruether provides, “guideposts for the 
journey — liturgies for women’s pain, for rites of passage and for nature and history.”® 
Reuther’s goal is to claim: 

The authentic mission of Christ, the true mission of the Church, the real agenda of 

our Mother-Father God who comes to restore and not to destroy our humanity, 

who comes to ransom the captives and to reclaim the earth as our Promised Land. 

We are not in exile, but the Church is in exodus with us. God’s Shekinah, Holy 

Wisdom, the Mother-face of God has fled from the high thrones of patriarchy and 

has gone into exodus with us.” 

Ruether’s influence and theological premise raised a lot of awareness as well as profound 
insight for women. However, it failed to fully address the lives of black women, which 
were more complex and filled with more deficits than non-minority women. Black 
women needed the opportunity to be able to tell their own stories from their own 


perspectives, without the lenses of people who did not look like them, and therefore, 


could not fully understand or identify with their plight. 


T Ackerman, “Rosemary Radford Ruether,” 40. 
8 Ackerman, “Rosemary Radford Ruether,” 41. 


° Rosemary Radford Ruether, Women-Church: Theology and Practice of Feminist Liturgical 
Communities (San Francisco, CA: Harper and Row, 1985). 


83 
In addition to Rosemary Ruether and feminist theology, Dwight N. Hopkins gives 


much credit and argues that a great debt is owed to James Cone for black liberation 
theology. While feminist theologies arose from Latin America, Africa, and Asia, they 
generally developed into liberation theologies that were pioneered in the mid-1960s by 
priest-theologians, such as a Peruvian theologian, Gustavo Gutierrez, in response to the 
growing crisis of poverty and revolutionary violence in their regions and the failure of the 
capitalist developmental model promulgated by North American and Western European 
corporations and governments to promote social justice. !° 

These theologies were rich in substance and powerful in ensuring that important 
concepts such as social justice were not ignored. However, the theologians in all three of 
these regions failed to address the two important issues of sexism and gender. Thus, black 
women theologians worked to incorporate these concepts into a theology that would 
include the struggles of minority women as a whole and black women in particular. 

Further, Linda Thomas defines the goal of womanist theology as to interrogate the 
social construction of black womanhood in relation to the black community.!' This 
allows black women to re-tell their own life stories as well as their contribution to the 
history of the United States and the African diaspora. An additional way of achieving this 
goal is to engage in a critical conversation with black (male) theology, so that a full 
theology for the African American community can emerge from that dialogue. Likewise, 


the pursuance of the black family's sanctity ranks high on the womanist's theological 


‘0 Dwight N. Hopkins, Black Faith and Public Talk: Critical Essays on James H. Cone’s Black 
Theology and Black Power (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2007), 167. 


'! Linda E. Thomas, “Womanist Theology, Epistemology, and a New Anthropological Paradigm,” 
Cross Currents 48, no. 4 (Summer 1998). 


84 
agenda. Another goal of womanist theology is to unearth the ethnographic sources within 


the African American community in order to reconstruct knowledge and overcome 
subordination. Finally, womanist theology seeks to decolonize the African mind and to 
affirm the African heritage. 

Womanist theology engages the macro- and micro-structural issues that affect 
black women's lives and, since it is a theology of complete inclusivity, the lives of all 
black people. The freedom of black women entails the liberation of all peoples, since 
womanist theology concerns notions of gender, race, class, heterosexism, and ecology. 
Furthermore, it takes seriously the historical and current contributions of African 
forebears and women in the African diaspora today. It advances a bold leadership style 
that creates fresh discursive and practical paradigms and "talks back" to structures, white 
feminists, and black male liberation theologians.!” Moreover, womanist theology asserts 
what black women's unique experiences mean in relation to God and creation and 
survival in the world. Thus, the tasks of womanist theology are to claim history, declare 
authority for ourselves, our men, and our children, learn from the experience of our 
forebears, admit shortcomings and errors, and improve quality of life. 

Womanist theology also takes on a liberative perspective to promote liberation for 
black women within their communities as well as in society as a whole. Womanist 
theology draws on sources that range from traditional church doctrines, African 
American fiction and poetry, nineteenth-century black women leaders, poor and working- 
class black women in holiness churches, and African American women under slavery. In 
addition, other vital sources include the personal narratives of black women suffering 


2 Bell Hooks, Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black (Boston, MA: South End 
Press, 1988). 


85 


from domestic violence and psychological trauma, the empowering dimensions of 
conjuring and syncretic black religiosity, and womanist ethnographic approaches to 
excavating the life stories of poor women of African descent in the church. This theology 
includes the plight of black women and the survival and struggle of all women of the 
world. It also encompasses all cultural contexts of women. 
An important concept to note is that womanist theology takes seriously the 
importance of understanding the "languages" of black women. Thomas asserts: 
This language of black women is understood by black women; it accentuates 
intra-group talk. It is a language of compassion, and yet it is no-nonsense. The 
words and actions of this language oppose sexism, racism, classism, 
heterosexism, and abuse to any of God's creation. It is a language that respects the 
natural environment in the fullness of creation.'? 
Thomas further asserts that the method of womanist theology validates the past lives of 
enslaved African women by remembering, affirming, and glorifying their contributions. 
After excavating analytically and reflecting critically on the life stories of our 
foremothers, the methodology entails a construction and creation of a novel paradigm. 
She states: 
We who are womanists concoct something new that makes sense for how we are 
living in complex gender, racial, and class social configurations. We use our 
foremothers' rituals and survival tools to live in hostile environments. Moreover, 
we gather data from a reservoir of bold ideas and actions from past centuries to 
reconstruct knowledge for an enhanced and liberating quality of life for black 
women today. The weaving of the past into present knowledge construction 
produces a polyvalent self-constituting folk-culture of African American women. 


In other words, the past, present, and future fuse to create a dynamic multi-vocal 
tapestry of black women's experience inter-generationally.'* 


'3 Thomas, “Womanist Theology.” 


'4 Cannon, Katie’s Cannon, 111. 


86 


In addition to unearthing the sources of the past in order to discover fragments to create a 
narrative for the present and the future, womanist methodology comprises active 
engagement with marginalized African American women alive today. Thomas further 
writes about the womanist scholar who writes and utilizes their life experiences as the 
primary sources for the development of questions which establish a knowledge base from 
everyday people. She speaks of conversations in focus groups where women are able to 
evolve into teachers of other women. She states that the integrity of the stories of these 
women is given space for them to use their own words in publications to serve to liberate 
other women. 

While the works of these narratives are up for interpretation for each reader, truth 
and integrity will be brought forth, and readers will learn from those not usually given 
voice. Furthermore, the writer has the propensity to become emotionally connected to 
these people's lives as she reenters the community on a regular basis; and understands 
that she has familial obligations to the people about whom she writes. Thus, Thomas 
argues that womanist theology is a longitudinal theology. 

According to Karen Baker-Fletcher, women have historically recorded the 
narratives of their religious and theological ideas in a variety of forms, and only with the 
women’s movement of the late twentieth century have women had the freedom to 
consider formulating their ideas in the traditional forms of academic scholarship. She 
states that, “At the same time, women are bringing with them new insights into the 


importance and value of art, poetry, and narrative for representing the God-human 


87 


relationship. [She] find[s] Black women’s literature — historical, fictional, and poetic — a 
valuable resource for constructing theologies for that late twentieth-century world.”!° 

Katie Cannon is attributed as being central to the development of womanist 
theology. These are her words and how she defines womanist theology: 


A womanist liberation theological ethic places Black women at the center of 
human social relationships and ecclesiastical institutions. It critiques the images 
and paradigms that the Black Church uses to promote or exclude women. A 
womanist theo-ethical critique serves as a model of understanding the silences, 
limitations, and possibilities of Black women’s moral agency, by identifying 
Afro-Christian cultural patterns and forms, perspectives, doctrines, and values that 
are unique and peculiar to the Black Church community, in order to assess the 
dialectical tensions in Black women’s past social relations as well as our current 
participation in the Black Church. A Black womanist liberation Christian ethic is 
a critique of all human domination in light of Black women’s experience, a faith 
praxis that unmasks whatever threatens the well-being of the poorest woman of 
color.'° 


Aside from addressing the narratives of black women, Cannon also analyzes the ethics of 
womanist theology. Cannon compares womanist ethics to the vision of the prophet 
Ezekiel — “wheels in the middle of wheels way up in the middle of the air.” She identifies 
the wheels as follows: 


One wheel as the intellectual predisposition of traditional male thinkers, usually 
dead and of European ancestry, whose very language of objective universally 
masks our existence, forces us to persist in binary oppositions, and looks at Black 
woman as superfluous appendages, saddled with old concerns about race, sex, and 
class oppression. The second wheel is the specificity of Afro-Christian culture, 
systematic accounts of the history and achievements, perspectives and 
experiences of members of the Black church community. And a third wheel is the 
experiential dimensions of women’s texts and interpretations. '’ 


'S Karen Baker-Fletcher, A Singing Something: Womanist Reflections on Anna Julia Cooper (New 
York, NY: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1994), 14. 


‘6 Cannon, Katie’s Cannon, 111. 


'7 Cannon, Katie’s Cannon, 111. 


88 


She argues that women need to again refine and critique their own realities across time 
and space through the written word. She suggests that women ought to be able to define 
and express themselves by finding their own voice through how they interact with others 
and through preaching, teaching, and writing. Cannon emphasizes the liberation of black 
women in having a voice that can be heard in all areas.'® 

Womanist theology emerged out of the experience of black women in the U.S. 
Linda A. Moody wrote that in 1982, Jacqueline Grant challenged black male theologians 
for treating women as if they were “invisible,” and that it needed to be understood that 
black women are an “integral part of the whole community.”!? It has also been asserted 
that “feminist theology” ignored the realities of black women’s lives; thus, womanist 
theology was created in order to go beyond simply having a theology that addresses 
sexism, but incorporates sexism, classism, and racism. 

Delores Williams’s 1993 Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist 
God-Talk characterizes womanist theology as follows: 

Womanist theology attempts to help black women see, affirm, and have 

confidence in the importance of their experience and faith for determining the 

character of the Christian religion in the African American community. Womanist 

theology challenges all oppressive forces impeding black women’s struggle for 

survival and for the development of positive, productive quality of life conducive 

to women’s and the family’s freedom and well-being. Womanist theology 


opposes all oppression based on race, sex, class, sexual preference, physical 
disability, and caste.”° 


'8 Sanders, Living the Intersection, 23. 


'? Linda A. Moody, Women Encounter God: Theology across Boundaries of Differences 
(Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1996), 81. 


2° Delores S. Williams, Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk 
Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1993), xiv. 


89 


This theology brings the conversations and experiences of black women into discussions 
surrounding all Christian theologies. It does not seek to isolate black women into a 
theology of their own, but rather to build all women to bring to subjugation the 
oppression that women face due to their innate differences. It is non-separatist and 
dialogical.”! 

Womanist theology assumes the necessity of responsible freedom for all human 
beings like black male theology. Paramount to womanist theology is the faith, survival, 
and freedom-struggle of black women. Williams comments on how it looks at all the 
cruelty that black women have faced at the hands of different groups of people such as 
black and white men. The plight of the black woman extends across many boundaries and 
groups of people, as many people and institutions have sought to dehumanize black 
women and perpetuate cycles of white supremacy. Womanist theology seeks to affirm the 
full humanity of women.” 

In her book, Delores Williams talks about the biblical story of Hagar who, as a 
slave, had no control of her body, which could be exploited in any way her owners 
desired. She further purports that two kinds of social-role surrogacy have negatively 
affected the lives of black women and mothers: coerced surrogacy and voluntary 
surrogacy.” Due to this surrogacy, she states that women have been forced to take roles 


and substitute in roles that were not their own naturally designed roles. This surrogacy 


2! Williams, Sisters in the Wilderness, xiv. 
2 Hopkins, Black Faith and Public Talk, 167. 


3 Williams, Sisters in the Wilderness, 60. 


90 


places women in situations and positions that do not allow them to function and operate 
in ways and in roles that would normally be filled by someone else.”* 

Black women have long been asked to walk in shoes that do not fit them. When 
walking in shoes that do not fit, one’s feet will start to hurt. Whether too large, too small, 
too wide, or too tight, it is not advisable for anyone to walk in someone else’s shoes. 
Wearing the wrong shoe tampers with the purpose and destiny of a person. The identity 
of black women was smeared and even blotched out at times by the urges or forces of 
others. When considering women who have had experiences of traumatic sexual 
violence, it is important to note that these women are then often viewed in a negative 
light as victims, or in many cases, they even become the one who is blamed for the act of 
violence against them. They are then forced to take on the identity that was never 
designed for them—one of being scarred, bruised, and broken. 

God never intended for women or any person to live as a broken vessel that 
cannot be filled due to having cracks or leaks. God’s purpose for everyone was for their 
lives to be filled with the fruit of the spirit, and not fruits of destruction; yet it is 
impossible to fill a broken vase. A broken vase will leak when it is filled with anything as 
it does not have the adequate composition to hold that which it is intended to hold. As 
such, womanist theology serves the role of the glue which fixes the cracks and broken 
parts of the lives of women. It allows women to be used for their intended purpose to be 
filled with God’s love and to assume their rightful identity and places in society. 

Nonetheless, womanist theology does not call for women to continue living as 


broken vases on broken shelves or broken glass tables (foundations). Womanist theology 


*4 Williams, Sisters in the Wilderness, 60. 


91 


seeks to empower women to live whole and be set on a whole foundation that will be able 
to hold them up so that they do not fall down and break. Womanist theology is not 
designed to merely give women a false hope of what could happen to create better lives 
and circumstances for them. Rather, it is designed to cause women to draw upon their 
Creator for strength, and to transform the negative character and negative experiences. 
The faith of black women is paramount to womanist theology. Much of the 
womanist theology in Williams’ book raises issues that either enlarge upon or challenge 
the methodological perspectives contained in some black liberation theology. It is 
concerned with the use of the Bible, the understanding and function of experience in 
black liberation theology, and the notion of the theological task in the same theology.”> 
From the perspective of a womanist reading, the Hagar-Sarah story has been 
compared to the experiences of black women and biblical witness. Williams asserts that 
the question is about its use as a source in validating black liberation theology’s 
normative claim of God’s liberating activity on behalf of all the oppressed.*° James Cone 
asserts that: 
The biblical witness...says...God is a God of liberation, who speaks to the 
oppressed and abused and assures them...divine righteousness will vindicate their 
suffering...[and that] it is the Bible that tells us that God became human in Jesus 


Christ so that the kingdom of God would make freedom a reality for all human 
beings.”’ 


>> Williams, Sisters in the Wilderness, 144. 
°6 Williams, Sisters in the Wilderness, 144. 


27 James Cone, A Black Theology of Liberation, 2nd ed. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1990), 14. 


92 
Williams further denotes that the Hagar-Sarah texts in Genesis and Galatians, however, 


demonstrate that the oppressed and abused do not always experience God’s liberating 
power. She argues that there is a non-liberative thread throughout the Bible.”*® 

Hence, this indicates that women’s lack of experience with a liberative God can 
cause difficulty in their ability to identify God as a liberator. The relationship that a 
woman has with God directly impacts the way in which she seeks guidance and direction 
to help her to seek God to bear her abuse, pain, and suffering. Emilie M. Townes uses the 
characters Celie and Shug from the movie The Color Purple to demonstrate how, in 
Celie’s eschatology, God does not hear or liberate those who have been brutalized and 
raped. “This is a silent God that bears our pain by allowing us to suffer our way through 
good works.” She further states that Celie is able to resolve issues with her self-esteem; 
however, there is no real transformation on the individual, personal level.7° 

Moreover, Shug teaches Celie to begin to believe in a God beyond gender, a God 
who is the Spirit and intimately connected to the fabric of one’s existence. According to 
Townes: 

The fuller understanding of God is not dependent on human beings to be present, 

to care, to love, to create beauty, to live out the Spirit. This is a God of grace and 

grit that loves and angers, that expands our understanding of sexuality and loving, 

that is angered when we fail to see the beauty of creation, in ourselves in one 

another.*° 


This brings the concept to spirituality and how the spirit and presence of God is 


liberating. Second Corinthians 3:17 says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the 


78 Williams, Sisters in the Wilderness, 144. 


2° Emilie M. Townes, In a Blaze of Glory: Womanist Spirituality as Social Witness (Nashville, 
TN: Abingdon Press, 1995), 70. 


3° Townes, In a Blaze of Glory, 70. 


93 


Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” This verse is reassuring because it reminds the 
reader that while liberation and freedom may seem to be beyond one’s reach, as long as a 
person is in the presence of the Spirit of God, there is liberty — liberation. Therefore, to be 
where the Spirit of the Lord is, is to be free! Townes states, “It is our story. The 
spirituality found in discovering a God unbound by human minds and hearts will 
ultimately free us from ourselves as Black men and women. But we have work to do.”3! 
According to Townes, sexism and heterosexism are destroying the fabric of a 
community that is holding on for dear life in this nation. She further states: 
Too many of us carry within us the scenes of battering and pillage to our souls 
and bodies. Too many of us have been there or heard about the times someone 
thought “No” meant “Yes.” Too many of us have shaken our heads when we 
heard sounds during the night or during the day. Too many of us have been at the 
checkout counter and chatted with a checker who was wearing a black eye for the 
fourth or fifth time. And in our souls we wanted to say something, but we saw in 
her eyes, “Don’t ask.”°? 
Towne claims that sexism and heterosexism have an effect on the soul and spirit. She 
states that the ability to commit violence to a physical body or to view the body as a 
sexual icon is also what holds racism and sexism in place. “It is a deep and abiding desire 
and then ability to dominate, to control, to dehumanize, to devalue. It is an abomination 
to the very fiber of [woman’s] existence.”** 
As such, there is a clear and powerful sense of responsibility to recognize what 


one can do within themselves in order to respond to the structural injustices of this day, 


understanding that self-respect, self-esteem, and futures are all compromised when one is 


3! Townes, In a Blaze of Glory, 72. 
32 Townes, In a Blaze of Glory, 85. 


33 Townes, In a Blaze of Glory, 85. 


94 


subjected to sexism and heterosexism occurs. “We need to get clear on why and how we 
permit and commit sexual violence on Black folk.”*4 The black woman ought to have an 
urge to love herself and then to begin to love one another rather than relying on popular 
culture to define her, who she has been, who she is, and where she is heading, and how 
she is to behave with one another in “justice and hope.” 

Womanist theology seeks to give a voice to the black woman, who for far too 
long has been silenced by institutionally designed structures that often dominate her, 
rather than allow her to be able to live the life that she was destined to live. Justice and 
hope are two critical aspects that Townes states need to be included in the lifestyles of 
women and society as a whole for there to be a beginning page to the story of growth, 
self-discovery, power, transformation, and love. According to Townes, “if we choose to 
seek the Spirit, have the will to dare the injustices and stereotypes to cocreate ourselves in 
a liberative image of God.’*° 

Women who have experienced trauma and life-altering situations are likely to 
question where God is in their situation. Under these circumstances, a woman may have a 
“wilderness experience,” as suggested by Williams.*” A wilderness experience relates to 
times when a woman experiences some type of oppression or abuse, and where they seek 
to undergo a change to break the continued cycle of pain, hurt, and agony that they have 


experienced. 


34 Townes, In a Blaze of Glory, 85. 
35 Townes, In a Blaze of Glory, 85. 
3° Townes, In a Blaze of Glory, 88. 


37 Williams, Sisters in the Wilderness, 110. 


95 


A wilderness experience for a woman may be one where many tears are shed or 
one begins to question the presence and power of God. Due to the constant oppression 
and negative life experiences, they may wonder if God even cares about them at all, or if 
they will receive healing and strength from a God who is in control of every 
circumstance. A wilderness experience could put a woman in a place where she has a 
desire to go on a journey that deviates from the path that she had already been on. A 
wilderness experience could be something that women seek. Baker-Fletcher states that 
the wilderness experience is part of the journey to freedom envisioned by historical black 
Americans. “If they somehow found hope for freedom and equality in the midst of 
slavery and Jim Crow, surely hope is possible today.”** 

Williams writes about slave women who were often most persistent in the effort 
to undergo the wilderness experience. It is believed that slaves thought an environment 
supporting solitude and reflection was conducive to gaining a true connection with Jesus 
and to strengthening the kind of God-consciousness needed to support their journeys 
through life. The wilderness experience was transforming. Its structure was physical 
isolation (of slave from slave environment); establishing a relation (between Jesus and 
slave); healing by Jesus (of whatever malady afflicted the slave); transformation 
(conversion of the slave’s more secular bend to a thoroughly religious bend); and 
motivation to return (to the slave community) changed for the better.*? 

Thus, within the context of slavery, which is the historical foundation of this 


project, the black slave also found healing and peace in the wilderness experience, which 


38 Baker-Fletcher, A Singing Something, 27. 


39 Williams, Sisters in the Wilderness, 112-113. 


96 


served as a positive place to uplift and strengthen them. In the wilderness, the slave was 
able to remove themselves from the painstaking and unbearable conditions in which 
slaves were forced to live. The womanist theology concept of the wilderness experience 
is definitely one of depth and of spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical importance to 
the liberation of a woman. Whether her experience was like that of Tamar and she was 
raped by her own family, or whether her experience was like that of a slave who was torn 
from her family and raped repeatedly by one who she was subject to, the wilderness 
experience serves as a vital component to the healing of the oppression and abuse that 
women face. 

The racial oppression and discrimination that black women face creates many 
concerns including drug use, violence, poverty, and social isolation. However, Cheryl 
Townsend Gilkes states that more severe issues are low self-esteem or self-hatred, 
damage, or brokenness, which makes it impossible for women to experience “liberating 
visions” for the community and the world at large. She likens the self-hatred to “cultural 
humiliation.’*° She further asserts: 

Cultural humiliation assaults black women by undermining their capacities for 

self-love. A womanist approach to live and living underscores the importance of 

self-love for celebrating and resisting in a hostile society. The loves and troubles 
of black women’s bodies represent a very narrow dimension of experience that 
has accumulated a weighty cultural burden.*! 


Gilkes explores racial oppression and cultural humiliation from the lenses of the loves 


and troubles that women experience. She also explores the roots of the “loves” and 


4° Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, /f It Wasn’t for the Women: Black Women’s Experience and 
Womanist Culture in Church and Community (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2001), 181. 


41 Gilkes, If It Wasn’t for the Women, 181. 


oF 


“troubles” in terms of the importance and power of experience.*” She highlights the 
challenge and revolutionary struggle that womanist theology brings, as women who live 
in a world full of hate attempt to live with the mandates of love, which inherently 
contradict what they are used to experiencing. She argues that women are constantly 
forced to resist their inner struggle of dehumanization through what Bell Hooks calls “a 
process of crucial remembering.”*? Gilkes calls for ministries to equip black women with 
full resistance to dehumanization and full participation in the project of a truly humane 
society and world.“ 

The lives of black women have been viewed as complex and diverse. Both Alice 
Walker and Mary Church Terrell have observed that black women collectively come 
from a “flower garden” full of “universalist” potential and families of people ranging 
from “brown, pink, and yellow, and our cousins are white, beige, and black.”*> While the 
uniqueness of black women is a source of fortitude and beauty, being black and a woman 
in society has also been a source of racialized sexism and sexualized racism. Both of 
these concepts within the context of a larger society have caused a wide range of 
responses from black people who have constructed strategies for survival and politics of 
resistance and liberation.*° 

Womanist theology addresses the numerous assaults on the lives of those who are 


black and female. Black women are forced into situations of “double jeopardy” due to 


®” Gilkes, If It Wasn’t for the Women, 181. 
3 Gilkes, If It Wasn’t for the Women, 182. 
4 Gilkes, [f It Wasn’t for the Women, 182. 


4 Gilkes, If It Wasn’t for the Women, 182. 





46 Gilkes, If It Wasn’t for the Women, 182. 


98 


their diversity of physical appearance as well as inner visions. The inner visions refer to 
the conflicted messages that black women hear in regards to who they are and how they 
are viewed in society, both among and outside of the black community. The conflicted 
messages that black women receive create what Gilkes refers to as feeling, “loved and 
troubled.”*’ The loved and troubled narrative of the black woman increases the likelihood 
of “double jeopardy” and “multiple jeopardy,” due to racism, sexism, and classism.*® 

The perpetual disdain, hatred, and harsh treatment that black women have been 
subjected to has created a psyche in them that has been filled with oppressive and inferior 
thoughts and self-concepts. While black women have faced many challenges similar to 
other minority groups, their experiences have been magnified and increased due to the 
concept of “multiple jeopardy” that Gilkes termed. The experiences of black women have 
left them fighting to realize the power that is within them, while living in a world that 
calls them weak and powerless. The womanist idea addresses the daily struggle for black 
women to challenge and undermine the falsehoods and ideologies of a society that does 
not acknowledge the unrealized power within them. 

Alice Walker notes that women are always judged and told that they are not good 
enough. She says that women are deemed to be too fat, too skinny, not smart enough, too 
smart, and so on and so forth. She refers to it as dehumanization and states that the goal is 
for women to love, in what she calls “the challenge to love.”*? Walker states: 

Those dimensions of African-American culture that have helped African 


American maintain their sanity and humanity under impossible circumstances: 
spirituality and those things associated with its expression—music, dance, and the 


47 Gilkes, If It Wasn’t for the Women, 184. 
48 Gilkes, If It Wasn’t for the Women, 184. 


4 Gilkes, If It Wasn’t for the Women, 188. 


99 


Spirit. These loves are interwoven with ideals that should be part of the fabric of a 
humane spirituality, love of “the Folk,” love of “struggle,” and the love of 
oneself, “regardless.””°° 
A “regardless” type of love is very difficult for women to obtain and practice, but it is 
reminiscent of and embodies the same type of unconditional love that God has for 
everyone. Black women are called to love just like their Creator. 

JoAnne Marie Terrell writes that womanist theology is not focused inward, but 
rather, it engages in considered reflection on the experiences of black women in 
relationship to black men, with whom they form subsets of the human community, to 
non-black women, and to each other, from slavery to the present.*! There has been an 
urging for women to define their identity not through this lens, but through that by which 
Jesus’ story is seen as a source of divine empowerment for personal and collective 
becoming.”” 

Womanist theology challenges the myth that black women along with white men 
are the most powerful persons in American society. Terrell asserts that womanist 
theology also comports the view generated in slavery that black women are licentious and 
capable of fulfilling every titillating imagination of repressed white men. Another claim 
is that the community needs to be of one mind concerning what is sexually appropriate. A 


critical question to consider here is how acceptable it is for a community to define what 


© Gilkes, If It Wasn’t for the Women, 188. 


5! JoAnne Marie Terrell, Power in the Blood? The Cross in the African American Experience 
(Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1998), 102. 


» Terrell, Power in the Blood? 103. 


%3 Terrell, Power in the Blood? 103. 


100 


type of behavior is sexually appropriate. When does it become the woman’s choice to 
decide what she wants to do with her body and how she wants it to be handled by others? 

With these types of questions in mind, it is perplexing to consider how one can 
remain optimistic in a world that seeks to devour them. How can a black woman be 
everything that God intended for her to be when she feels as if she is not valued and is 
often taken advantage of by others? Even after the Civil Rights and Women’s Rights 
movements, women are forced to continue to fight for their place in a world that has 
constantly sought to make them disappear. 

As a woman’s child tends to take on the characteristics of the mother, and those 
same traits are passed down from one generation to the next, it is imperative that each 
woman takes time to reflect on how their ancestry has impacted their self-image and 
overall growth and development. Each woman is charged with the arduous task of writing 
her own narrative, as well as to begin the storyline of the narrative for their daughters, 
granddaughters, and great-granddaughters. Every woman has to have an opportunity to 
strengthen their entire family’s ancestry to become greater. 

The power, intellect, beauty, and purpose of women is embedded in the existence 
of women. Baker-Fletcher writes about Dr. Anna Julia Cooper and her traditional 
understanding of humanity in: 

Describing God as a “Singing Something” that rises up within humanity in every 

nation to cry out against injustice. On the one hand she had a traditional 

understanding of humankind being created in the image of God. Human being 
was a “divine spark,” an “urge cell” from the very being and substance of God. 

But her metaphor of a “Singing Something” suggests an epistemic shift. Human 


being is not simply created in the image of God. Human being is created in the 
voice of God.*4 


4 Baker-Fletcher, A Singing Something, 16. 


101 


The theme of voice is critical in womanist theology. Women’s voices need to have 
movement from silence to a resounding boldness and fierceness. The diversity of 
women’s voices that exhibits the prophetic message of freedom and equality will serve as 
full liberation for women. As women are liberated from spiritual, mental, and emotional 


bondage, their bodies also become free from sexual exploitation, abuse, and violence. 


CHAPTER FIVE 


INTERDISCIPLINARY FOUNDATIONS 


Central to the interdisciplinary foundation of this doctoral project is the field of 
psychology. Psychology is the scientific study of the human mind and its functions— 
especially those affecting behavior in a given context. The four main goals of 
psychology are to describe, explain, predict, and control the behavior and mental 
processes of others. Without psychological insight, the effects of sexual violence on 
women and subsequently marriage can endanger women if ignored, undetected, or 
inaccurately addressed. In order to effectively execute a Women’s Bible Study that 
addresses sexual violence in women and healing, an in-depth study of the field of 
psychology will prove to be beneficial and effective. 

The field of psychology has many theories and uses many different types of 
therapeutic interventions to address a variety of mental health symptoms and diagnoses. 
While stigmas on mental health and even therapy as a tool to manage one’s mental health 
concerns exist, different therapeutic approaches and evidence-based practices have 
proven to be effective in addressing and treating psychological disorders. 

The hypothesis for the project is that if women are made aware of and receive 
education on the importance of resolving and healing from the trauma of sexual violence, 
then they will formulate more positive views of marriage and will be able to seek 
engagement in healthy, holy, and wholesome marriages. The field of psychology is a 


102 


103 


reliable source for healing and for giving women the opportunity to work with qualified 


and licensed professionals to address their traumas of sexual violence. While many 


women are unable to seek counseling due to experiencing several different barriers to 


engaging in treatment, psychological counseling is an effective intervention to help to 


manage mental health symptoms that may develop within an individual as the result of 


traumatic experience. 


An excerpt from John Blase in Amy K. Sorrells’ How Sweet the Sound, describes 


the pain of a woman who has experienced sexual violence: 


She carries within her a tree of silence born from seeds of pain sown long ago. Its 
roots are now thick as a man’s arm. To tear them out would collapse her, her 
body’s posture built on the scaffolding of things as they should not have been. So 
she walks as if retreating, leaning back not in fear but at a slight angle where the 
sun and dark have finally found rest.! 


Hall and others add that: 


2017), 3. 


Women who experience sexual violence have an increased risk of mental health 
problems, including Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, 
and social maladjustment. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), 
studies show that upward of 40% of women experience sexual violence. Many of 
these women are rejected by their husbands and family, experience poor standing 
within their communities and suffer a social death-exclusion from social and 
community life. This community reaction is in part a product of existing 
dynamics of gender inequality and harmful gender attitudes that blame sexual 
violence survivors. In community contexts where interpersonal trauma rates are 
high, healing needs to involve social factors in addition to addressing 
psychological effects of these traumas. Studies show that losses to social 
resources occur following rape, but the literature has yet to focus on whether these 
resources can be restored or improved.” 


' Amy K. Sorrells, How Sweet the Sound (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 


> Brian J. Hall et al., “The Effect of Cognitive Therapy on Structural Social Capital: Results from a 


Randomized Controlled Trial Among Sexual Violence Survivors in the Democratic Republic of the 
Congo,” American Journal of Public Health 104, no. 9 (September 2014): 1680, 
https://www.ajph.aphapublications.org. 


104 


With the trauma of sexual violence in particular, Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is 
a relevant and impactful form of treatment for those who have experienced sexual 
violence. Cognitive Processing Therapy is an evidence-based treatment model which 
specifically addresses the diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which is a 
common diagnosis after one’s trauma. Resick, Monson, and Chard advise that: 
Theory is important and central to the practice of CPT. Theory guides and 
therapists in explaining to their clients why they have PTSD, what has maintained 
it, and how to get over it, as well as in staying within the CPT protocol. It also 
guides particular ways of thinking about trauma recovery when therapists 
encounter challenges in treatment delivery.? 
When considering sexual violence, women, CPT, and the field of psychology as a whole, 
it is also important to examine the intersection of spirituality and behavioral approaches 
to change. Miller and Martin proposed that spirituality entails, “the acknowledgment of a 
transcendent being, power, or reality greater than ourselves.”* Some claimed that change 
requires an integration of spiritual and behavioral approaches. They further asserted that, 
“In part, these gains would be opening a new dialogue: encouraging spiritually oriented 
people to think more behaviorally, and behaviorally oriented people to be more open to 
spirituality. But what imaginable good could come of this.”> They believed that 
behavioral scientists could shed a lot of light on the religious experience. Contemporary 
behavioral psychology is characterized by tools and disciplines that may be uniquely 
helpful in clarifying aspects of spirituality.° 


3 Patricia A. Resick, Candice M. Monson, and Kathleen M. Chard, Cognitive Processing Therapy 
for PTSD: A Comprehensive Manual (New York, NY: Guilford Press, 2017), 3. 


4 William R. Miller and John E. Martin, Behavior Therapy and Religion: Integrating Spiritual and 
Behavioral Approaches to Change (Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, Inc., 1988), 14. 


> Miller and Martin, Behavior Therapy and Religion, 14. 


® Miller and Martin, Behavior Therapy and Religion, 15. 


105 


In this effort, many of the key elements that would be addressed would include 
defining spiritual experiences and problems to determine how they overlap with other 
better-understood phenomena, and in what ways are they unique. Some other concepts 
include looking at what causes an individual to understand an experience as a spiritual 
one, identifying the components or dimensions of a person’s spiritual life, and how one 
might go about assessing spiritual health.’ 

Furthermore, feminist theology, Lutheran theology, and womanist theology (as 
discussed in the theological portion of the project) are all theologies that spoke out about 
women’s rights, the oppression of women, and women having a voice. They shed light on 
the sexual violence that women endured for centuries, and society’s tendency and history 
of normalizing these experiences. They also shed light on how society did not fully 
address women’s issues and, in particular, the issues and concerns of black women. 

Dr. Mary Pellauer is a Lutheran theologian who authored a work in 1998 that 
addressed the problems in Lutheran theology for survivors of abuse to renew Lutheran 
theology in ways that not only strengthen the church’s abilities to help survivors, but also 
prepared the church to prevent domestic and sexual violence. She looked at how Lutheran 
theology views domestic and sexual violence and challenged some of the ideologies to 
better address the issues of women and sexual violence.® Dr. Pellauer urges that more 


than one theology can stand against sexual and domestic violence. One can bring to bear 


7 Miller and Martin, Behavior Therapy and Religion, 15. 


8 Mary Pellauer, “Grace and Healing in the Women’s Movement against Violence against 
Women: A Conversation with Susan Thistlethwaite,” in Lift Every Voice: Reconstructing Christian 
Theology from the Underside, ed. Mary Potter Engel and Susan Thistlethwaite (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress 
Press, 1990). 


106 
a variety of theological themes in different ways; each of which has strengths and flaws. 


She further urges: 

Liberation is not a lockstep operation. Many voices are to be encouraged; because 

the human condition is multi-vocal, it is never true or helpful to insist on only one 

way. Theological options are just as empowering as other kinds of options. 

Survivors do not all agree with each other, nor do other advocates. Indeed, right 

now it may be essential not to foreclose our options. We need all the creativity we 

can muster to reshape and redirect the tradition in actively (not just passively) 

gracious ways.” 
The theological framework of the project, womanist theology embodies this concept of 
liberation. Healing and liberation go hand in hand, especially for those who have 
experienced sexual violence. They not only need the opportunity to mend what has been 
broken, but also to be freed from the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual bondage 
that often results from the experiences of trauma in general, and sexual violence in 
particular. This healing and liberation will require a complex combination of strategies to 
achieve both; however, this is possible through therapy, such as CPT. 

Moreover, Dr. Pellauer addresses the concept of grace. She writes that grace has 
been especially active for her in the healing process as one who has experienced sexual 
violence, as it has in the lives of many others. She urges people to understand what 
healing requires as people learned more about the healing of survivors in the last forty 
years than in the previous twenty centuries. She adds that, “At least some of that grace 
takes the form of listening to survivors, hearing what goes on in their lives, sharing the 


pain and identifying the extraordinary resources people use to survive and to thrive.””!° 


° Pellauer, “Grace and Healing in the Women’s Movement against Violence against Women,” 34. 


‘0 Pellauer, “Grace and Healing in the Women’s Movement against Violence against Women,” 35. 


107 


This “hearing each other into speech” is foundational to healing.'! Disclosure 
begins the healing process. What prompts that disclosure, that movement to break the 
silence, may be utterly mundane. Contemporary forms of grace in the lives of 
victims/survivors include a television program that brings uneasiness, nightmares or 
memories, an understanding word uttered by a friend, and the growing desperation that 
pushes one into asking for help.'? A meaningful song about healing says: 

Cause Your love just keeps on healing me 

No matter how I bruise 

If I just trust You 

Your love just keeps on healing me 

One more clue 

One more chance that wasn't there before 

In your arms 

No pain can harm the way I'm feeling 

Lord I know that Your love is healing.'? 

Works like Dr. Pellauer’s are essential in gaining a better understanding of the effects of 
sexual violence as well as the church’s responsibility to address the issues of sexual 
violence. Her incorporation of the concept of grace is also powerful in how it is essential 
for the person who experienced the sexual violence as well as others who may not have 
actually experienced the sexual violence but may be aware of it. This proves that sexual 
violence not only affects those who directly had the experience, but also those whom 
sexual violence indirectly impacts. 


As such, the church’s lack of resources to address mental health concerns 


facilitated the methodology for the Doctor of Ministry project. As Dr. Pellauer argues in 


'! Morton Nelle, “The Rising Woman Consciousness in a Male Language Structure,” Andover- 
Newton Theological Quarterly (March 1972): 32, reprint, The Journey is Home (Boston, MA: Beacon 
Press, 1985). 


 Pellauer, “Grace and Healing in the Women’s Movement against Violence against Women,” 35. 


'3 Deniece Williams, “Healing,” Sparrow Records, 1989. 


108 


her work, oftentimes theologies do not fully address these concerns adequately, nor do 
they completely give women comfortable spaces to be free to speak up and out against 
their experiences of sexual violence. Oftentimes, churches do not have the adequate 
resources to address this important concern among women. 

Most modern-day churches have women’s ministry, pastoral counseling, and pre- 
marital counseling. All these aspects of ministry are essential in impacting women in 
various manners. However, there is usually a missing clinical aspect in these ministries 
that can provide the appropriate interventions for women who may be in need of help. 
While women’s ministry is a good avenue to build strong relationships among women 
within a ministry and even to shed light on some of the most volatile topics impacting 
women, it often does not delve into specific clinical interventions that promote the 
healing process. Additionally, pastoral counseling is often effective in helping to address 
the spiritual aspects of these issues. However, when the person providing the counseling 
is not clinically trained or licensed, a woman who may be dealing with symptoms of 
various severe mental illnesses may need more. 

In the case of pre-marital counseling, women and their future spouses are to be 
equipped with the tools that are necessary to build a healthy marriage. The pastor or 
licensed minister who performs the marriage counseling uses principles that their faith 
guides to teach and advise the couple on how to prepare for, engage in, and maintain a 
godly marriage. Nonetheless, when there are more severe issues involved in the case of 
the soon-to-be wife or husband, the one conducting the pre-marital counseling may not be 


trained to tackle some of those issues or concerns in his or her sessions with the couple. 


109 


While these parts of ministry may touch the surface of some of the crucial 
problems that women face, the critical component of clinical expertise is often needed. 
Not all situations and circumstances are able to be put into the proper perspective and to 
be handled in the manners in which the woman will fully benefit from the intervention 
that they receive in these areas of ministry. These three areas of ministry are all positive 
and necessary while they may lack a critical component. Thus, the goal is to create 
ministry in which all of these are a part of ministry but also in which the clinical aspect is 
intertwined within these parts. 

In 2018, Ed Stetzer and a team of individuals surveyed Protestant pastors, and the 
first thing they discovered was that they do, in fact, have experience with mental 
illnesses. Approximately three out of four pastors said they knew at least one family 
member, friend, or congregant who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. A similar 
number (74%) said they knew someone diagnosed with clinical depression. More than 
half (57%) said they knew at least three people who fell into that category.'* 

In terms of counseling, almost six in ten (59%) said they had counseled at least 
one person who was eventually diagnosed with an acute mental illness. Perhaps even 
more importantly, 23% of pastors indicated they battled a mental illness of some kind on 
a personal level, including 12% who said it was formally diagnosed. The National 


Alliance on Mental Illness and similar numbers within the general population confirm 


‘4 Ed Stetzer, “The Church and Mental Health: What Do the Numbers Tell Us? Why Is It 
Uniquely Challenging for Us to Address Issues Often Associated with Mental Illness?” Christian 
Counseling Today 21, no. 2 (April 2018): 101, https://www.aacc.net. 


110 


these findings. As a result, Stetzer noted that he is thankful for many leaders who have 
recently come forward and are more willing to be transparent about their own struggles.'> 

Mark Dance, Associate Vice President of Pastoral Leadership at LifeWay, shared 
how he almost walked away from the ministry due to clinical depression, but his doctor 
and a therapist helped him through the process. The vast majority of pastors today, unlike 
Stetzer in the early days of ministry, recognize the issue as being more complicated than 
simply praying away the mental illness. Only 1% said that one should never consider 
medication as a treatment option or only view it as a last resort, and that one should never 
use psychological therapy. More than seven in ten (71%) said it should be used in 
conjunction with spiritual principles.'° 

Pastors indicated they wanted to help and believed the church should be a 
resource. Almost three quarters (74%) disagreed with the notion they were reluctant to 
become involved with those suffering from acute mental illness (41% strongly 
disagreed). Ninety percent believed the church has a moral and spiritual responsibility to 
provide resources and support to those with mental illness and their families.'’ Over half 
(56%) strongly agreed. Only 15% of pastors said their churches did not have any levels of 
care that congregations typically provide in this regard. Finally, just 7% said they had not 
used any of the common resources available on how to better care for those affected by 


mental illness. !® 


5 Stetzer, “The Church and Mental Health,” https://www.aacc.net. 
6 Stetzer, “The Church and Mental Health,” https://www.aacc.net. 


7 Stetzer, “The Church and Mental Health,” https://www.aacc.net. 








8 Stetzer, “The Church and Mental Health,” https://www.aacc.net. 


111 


With these statistics at the forefront of the minds of individuals who may be 
actively involved in ministry, or who may be on the outside of ministry looking in, it is 
necessary to note the critical nature and necessity for the church to be more active in this 
regard. The church must take a more pro-active stance in either offering mental health 
counseling within the church, or largely actively promoting engagement in mental health 
services, whether for pastors or for laity. 

The foundational principle for this project is that while some churches will 
address the problem of sexual violence that women face, there is not much emphasis on 
how a women’s lack of opportunity to heal from these traumas hinders and impacts their 
ability to engage in marriages that resemble Christ-like marriage. Women need to 
participate in interventions that promote opportunities to speak up about experiencing 
sexual violence. However, churches need to explore how the experiences of sexual 
violence that go unaddressed or untreated directly impact marriage. 

The works that addressed women’s trauma and healthy relationships/marriage all 
promoted self-love and wholeness to be a prerequisite for loving someone else and for 
engaging in relationships with others. In her book, Rainie Howard identifies 
characteristics and signs that would indicate that a relationship is “toxic,” or unhealthy 
and that it is time to move on. These include living in past memories more than present 
experiences, justifying your partner’s bad actions, your relationship brings more pain 
than joy, and your partner is causing emotional, physical, or verbal pain. These signs also 
include when your values and beliefs are different from those of your partner, you stay in 


the relationship because you expect things to get better, your partner puts little to no 


112 
effort into the relationship, and the relationship holds you back and prevents both of you 


from growing as individuals.!” 

Howard urges women to seek to respect and love themselves enough to walk 
away from anyone and anything that does not lead them to a closer relationship with God 
and help them to grow mentally and spiritually. She promotes that healing is a vital and 
essential component to women being able to turn the “hurtful loss into the best thing that 
ever happened to you.””? The healing process for women is highlighted as an intricate 
and critical component for women to live and love in a healthy way. Howard writes: 

When you are constantly stressed by emotional pain, there are subtle changes that 

occur in your body to create a dependency on stress-related chemistry. Therefore 

you begin to unconsciously depend on the mental, physical and spiritual effects 
that occur from a dysfunctional relationship. Think about it. Instead of 
anticipating true love from a healthy relationship, you expect the opposite. You 
attract people who use you, lie to you, and disrespect you.”! 
Furthermore, Howard links unhealthy adult relationships to experiencing “toxic love” in 
childhood.”” The “toxic love” that she speaks of can also be synonymous with traumatic 
experiences, including sexual violence. While the healing from these experiences can be 
long and difficult, she writes about how healing is necessary in order to be drawn into a 
new relationship that ends the abusive cycle. She argues that women need to heal from 
unhealthy patterns through increasing their reliance on the Holy Spirit. 

The commitment to maintaining abusive cycles and unhealthy patterns stems from 

the tendency to be attracted and linked to the area where pain occurred. For example, 


‘9 Rainie Howard, Addicted to Pain: Renew Your Mind and Heal Your Spirit from a Toxic 
Relationship in Thirty Days (St. Louis, MO: Rainie Howard Enterprises, 2016), 1-2. 


20 Howard, Addicted to Pain, 3. 
?! Howard, Addicted to Pain, 3. 


2 Howard, Addicted to Pain, 3. 


113 


women who experienced sexual violence tend to be attracted to relationships that 
resemble their traumatic events. The only way to disconnect from these traumatic events 
is to receive intervention. Ignoring the trauma or denying the existence of a problem 
essentially guarantees that the people will fail to move forward or experience relief from 
their traumas. The church and society as a whole needs to address this concern, as women 
have experienced sexual violence for ages. Cognitive Processing Therapy addresses the 
trauma that stems from abusive cycles and unhealthy patterns of behavior. It allows the 
participant to challenge the effects of their experience of trauma. 

Susan Brownmiller wrote Against Our Will in 1975 that chronicled the history of 
rape as a political and powerful weapon. During this time, women who had been raped 
conducted “speak outs” through the National Organization for Women that shed light on 
the problem of rape, its common occurrences, and the long-term effects that it had.77 A 
year later, in 1976, Burgess and Holmstrom published an important article in the 
“American Journal of Psychiatry,” which was a series of articles on the reactions they 
observed from conducting interviews with ninety-two rape victims in an emergency 
room. As a result of these writings and the information gathered from these interviews, 
the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) set aside three million dollars for studies 
on rape. Patricia Resick became involved in writing two grant applications—one with 
Dean Kilpatrick at MUSC and one with Karen Calhoun—when she went back to the 


University of Georgia to complete her graduate degree, and both grants were funded.” 


3 Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape (New York, NY: Simon and 
Schuster, 1975). 


4 Ann W. Burgess and Lynda L. Holmstrom, “Coping Behavior of The Rape Victim,” American 
Journal of Psychiatry 133 (1976): 413-418, https://www.ajp.psychiatryonline.org. 


114 


Moreover, in her graduate studies, she examined fear and anxiety among victims 
of rape and attempted to develop a brief intervention. The University of Georgia study 
was conducted in Atlanta at Grady Memorial Hospital, where about 1,000 women per 
year who had been raped were being seen in the emergency room. The focus of her 
longitudinal study was on depression. Resick wanted to see whether rape produced fear 
or depressive reactions (a question that had never been studied); and, if so, how long- 
lasting they might be. Her study also sought to determine whether they could develop 
treatments that could be used in rape crisis centers.” 

The prevailing theory about rape responses at that time was the belief that they 
consisted of first-order classical conditional of the fear reaction, along with second-order 
conditioning that generalized the reaction to other triggers.” Resick recounts that due to 
such a large amount of women saying to her, “I knew he wasn’t going to kill me, but it 
was such a huge betrayal, and I feel so much shame and disgust at what he did to me,” 
she began to have doubts that PTSD after rape was just a fear/anxiety disorder. As a 
result, she began to revise the theory and looked towards cognitive theories of PTSD.”’ 

The works of many influenced Resick’s studies and theories. These influences 
included Aaron T. Beck who studied the causes of depression and developed his 
cognitive theory, which focuses on how people absorb negative and erroneous beliefs 
from society that leave them ashamed and depressed. She was also inspired by an article 


and book by McCann and colleagues who developed the constructivist self-development 


5 Burgess and Holmstrom, “Coping Behavior of the Rape Victim,” 4. 


6 Dean G. Kilpatrick, Patricia A. Resick, and Lois J. Veromen, “Effects of Rape Experience: A 
Longitudinal Study,” Journal of Social Issues 37 (1981): 105-122, https://spssi.onlinelibrary.wiley.com. 


27 Patricia A. Resick, Candice M. Monson, and Kathleen M. Chard, Cognitive Processing Therapy 
for PTSD: A Comprehensive Manual (New York, NY: Guilford Press, 2017), 5. 


115 


theory of traumatic victimization. Additionally, Hollon and Garber influenced Resick.”® 
In their work, they proposed that when someone is exposed to schema-discrepant 
information, one of two things happens: 
The information may be altered so that it can be assimilated into the person’s 
existing beliefs/schemas without changing the prior beliefs (e.g., “It wasn’t rape, 
it was a misunderstanding; I must have done something for him to think it was 
OK”). The other alternative is that existing beliefs (e.g. “Only strangers rape’’) are 
changed to incorporate the new, discrepant information (e.g. “It is possible to be 
raped by someone you know”).”” 
This new learning is the goal for therapy, and as a result, Resick began to think about it 
within the context of therapy and trauma. She and her graduate student, Monica 
Schnicke, sought to conduct work to challenge the distortion and overgeneralized beliefs 
such as “TI always make bad decisions,” “No one can be trusted,” and “I must control 
everyone around me.” They called this “overaccommodation” and they realized the 
importance of first working on the assimilation of the trauma and not moving to the 
“overaccommodated” beliefs until the index trauma was resolved. Resick, Monson and 
Chard wrote, “For example, once clients stop blaming themselves for the occurrence of 
the traumatic event, then it is easier to tackle the idea that they can’t make good 
decisions. Accordingly, we placed the work with overaccommodated themes later in the 
therapy.”°° 
Initially CPT was referred to as CPT-SA and was developed for individuals for 


childhood sexual abuse histories that combined group and individual sessions. Some of 


28 Steven D. Hollon and Judy Garber, “Cognitive Therapy,” in Social Cognition and Clinical 
Psychology: A Synthesis, ed. Lyn Y. Abramson, 204-253 (New York, NY: Guilford Press, 1988). 


?° Hollon and Garber, “Cognitive Therapy,” 6-7. 


3° Resick, Monson, and Chard, Cognitive Processing Therapy for PTSD, 7. 


116 


the important early topics that were explored were family “rules,” the developmental 
capabilities of children, assertive communication, ways of giving and taking power, and 
social support. In the early implementation of CPT-SA, research showed that trauma 
failed to shatter everyone’s beliefs, and it was found through the continued study and 
treatment of PTSD that sometimes trauma was schema congruent.*! There was further 
research to determine the effects of negative beliefs about oneself and about one’s roles 
in the traumatic events of children’s re-exposure to the same trauma or exposure to new 
trauma.*” 

A difference in the theoretical approach that led to CPT as opposed to other 
theories on which other therapies are based lies in the range and type of emotions 
addressed in CPT. Since PTSD was classified as an anxiety disorder until the publication 
of the DSM-5, most of the extant theories on PTSD focused on fear and anxiety.** Rape 
and other interpersonal traumas produced greater rates of PTSD than impersonal traumas 
such as natural disasters and accidents. 

Some of the common thoughts associated with people who have been or could be 
diagnosed with PTSD are self-blame and or erroneous other-blame, leading to guilt or 


shame. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, Resick wrote an unpublished manual for a 


generic version of CPT that focused more on the lingering thoughts that plague people 


3! Ronnie Janoff-Bulman, Shattered Assumptions: Towards a New Psychology of Trauma (New 
York, NY: Free Press, 1992). 


3? Resick, Monson, and Chard, Cognitive Processing Therapy for PTSD. 


33 American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th 
ed. (Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013). 


117 


who experienced traumatic events.*+ In this manual, Resick wrote on “natural” and 
“manufactured” emotions. The “natural” emotions are those with which humans are hard- 
wired and about which humans do not need to think (e.g. fight-flight leads to fear or 
anger; losses elicit sadness). The emotions referred to as “manufactured” result from 
faulty cognitions about the traumatic event. These manufactured thoughts will disappear 
immediately if the thought is changed with more accurate information.*> 

Understanding the biological underpinnings of PTSD and the reasons why CPT 
works for trauma treatment is essential. Research on the activation of the amygdala 
shows triggers of strong emotions that send neurotransmitters throughout the brain to 
activate the emergency response. Diminished responsivity and smaller size of the 
prefrontal cortex are also common characteristics among those with PTSD.*° 


In a normal fight-flight response, activity in the prefrontal cortex (which is the 
seat of decision making and control over the amygdala) decreases, along with 
other immune functions and normal physical processes like digesting food, in 
order to free all available resources from either running or fighting. The natural 
emotions accompanying fight and fight are fear and anger. During a life- 
threatening emergency, it is more important to activate the brain stem and 
neurotransmitters to aid in the fight-flight response than to think about what to 
have for dinner or whether to change jobs. However, in a well-modulated 
emergency response the prefrontal cortex is activated enough to notice when the 
danger is over, and to send messages out the amygdala to stop the fight-flight 
response and return to normal parasympathetic functioning. In other words, there 
is a reciprocal relationship between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala.°’ 


Women who had been raped along with others with PTSD have been shown in research 


to have heightened responsivity in their amygdala, while their prefrontal cortex shows 


4 Patricia A. Resick, Cognitive Processing Therapy: Generic Version (unpublished manuscript, 
St. Louis, MO: University of Missouri, 2001). 


35 Resick, Monson, and Chard, Cognitive Processing Therapy for PTSD, 8. 
36 Resick, Monson, and Chard, Cognitive Processing Therapy for PTSD, 10. 


37 Resick, Monson, and Chard, Cognitive Processing Therapy for PTSD, 10-11. 


118 
greatly decreased activity. As such, it takes a person with PTSD much longer to 


recognize that the perceived danger has ended and to calm down.”* There is clearly an 
important distinction between how the brain operates for a person with PTSD. 

In addition, with these scientific explanations of the brain and how it operates and 
functions normally as opposed to how a brain of a person who has experienced trauma 
functions, it is imperative to note how much impact this diagnosis has on the brain. The 
brain is the coordinating center of the body. The brain controls one’s thoughts, memory 
and speech, movement of the arms and legs, and the function of many organs within the 
body. Thus, if the center of the brain that controls the essential functions of the body is 
impaired, it is safe to assume that a person is no longer able to live at full capacity. This 
proves that addressing trauma has a significant impact on the brain’s ability to function 
normally and effectively. 

Cognitive Processing Therapy allows the brain to create new thoughts and 
memories that foster more positive experiences. It allows the brain and subsequently the 
body to function more effectively, giving the person the ability to live at full capacity. 
Cognitive Processing Therapy reduces the overall negative and significant impacts that 
trauma has on the brain, and the individual who has experienced the trauma. Cognitive 
Processing Therapy is an effective method to help heal the injured brain to become more 
functional. 

In The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel Van Der Kolk writes that while one who has 


experienced trauma wants to move beyond it, the part of the brain that is devoting to 


38 Resick, Monson, and Chard, Cognitive Processing Therapy for PTSD, 11. 


119 


ensuring one’s survival (deep below the rational brain) is not very good at denial. He 
further notes: 
Long after a traumatic experience is over, it may be reactivated at the slightest 
hint of danger and mobilize disturbed brain circuits and secrete massive amounts 
of stress hormones. This precipitates unpleasant emotions, intense physical 
sensations, and impulsive and aggressive actions. These posttraumatic reactions 
feel incomprehensible and overwhelming. Feeling out of control, survivors of 
trauma often begin to fear that they are damaged to the core and beyond 
redemption.°? 
The effects of trauma on an individual causes the individual to experience vulnerability, 
shame, and may cause one to view one’s experience as a weakness. These are critical 
factors that often result in denial or a silencing of the trauma as a whole. Nonetheless, 
damage caused by trauma cannot be ignored or silenced. The psychological and 
physiological effects of trauma cause recalibrations of the brain’s alarm system, an 
increase in stress hormone activity, and alterations in the system that filters relevant 
information from irrelevant. Trauma experienced by individuals compromises the brain 
and causes hypervigilance and a heightened awareness of outside stimuli.*° 
The effects of vulnerability and shame can be readily seen in the story of Tamar, 
which is the biblical foundation reference for this project. After Tamar experienced rape 
by her brother Amnon, she was left as a desolate woman. The desolation was a byproduct 
of the vulnerability and shame that Tamar had as a result of what happened in her own 
home. She was not afforded the opportunity to speak about what happened to her, but she 


also had to act as if it never happened, which without a doubt caused psychological and 


physiological effects of trauma, largely due to the silence that resulted from this act. 


3° Bessel Van Der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of 
Trauma (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2014), 2. 


40 Van Der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score, 2-3. 


120 


Traumatized people essentially become stuck in their growth due to an inability to 
integrate new experiences in their lives. As such, this is an urgent matter that is a major 
medical issue. As traumatic events occur, individuals oftentimes become accustomed and 
conditioned to experiencing the same types of trauma. Those who experience sexual 
violence may likely engage in dangerous or high-risk sexual behaviors due to their 
brain’s comfortability and familiarity with sexual violence and trauma. The brain returns 
to that which it is accustomed and while the experience is inherently negative, the person 
inherently craves the repetition of the experience.*! 

Like Rainie Howard, Bessel Van Der Kolk also notes that individuals who 
experience trauma often become trapped in a pattern of unhealthy relationships and 
patterns as the brain fixates on repeating the same or similar past experiences whether 
positive or negative. Van Der Kolk states, “It is one thing to process memories of trauma, 
but it is an entirely different matter to confront the inner void—the holes in the soul that 
result from not having been wanted, not having been seen, and not having been allowed 
to speak the truth.”*? 

There are innate connections between the body and the brain, and these 
connections need to be positive and healthy in order for wholeness to occur. In twelve 
sessions, Cognitive Processing Therapy not only allows individuals to identify their 
trauma, but it also fills in the gaps and those missing or fractured pieces that are a direct 
result of the trauma. CPT allows those who have experienced the trauma of sexual 


violence to understand the concept of trauma and its effects, to find stuck points, work 


41 Van Der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score, 3. 


# Wan Der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score, 289. 


121 


with events, thoughts, and feelings, process the event, challenge problematic thinking, 
identify patterns of problematic thinking and beliefs, identify themes of trauma (safety, 
trust, and power/control), review esteem, intimacy, and facing the future, and processing 
intimacy through making a final impact statement.*? 
Karen L. Freedman gives her account of her experience of sexual violence in 
Whatever Gets Your Through. She states: 
The notion that rape is not about sex is misleading. It is true that people who rape 
often do so to exert power over their victims, but for rape survivors, whose bodies 
have been used sexually without their consent, the transgression can live on their 
sex lives. At least that’s what happened to me. Sex had become a series of triggers 
that prevented me from intimacy, my inhospitable body populated by land mines 
sensitive to touch...I began to lean on alcohol to trick my body into relaxing, but 
that was its own trial... At some point, I broke. Unable to move forward, I decided 
it was time to get help. 
Karen and many women can recount how the unwanted images of sexual violence 
resurface from time to time as vivid memories, and how they remain a part of a woman’s 
psyche that plagues her psychologically, emotionally, and physically. Seeking help is an 
essential component for helping the woman to address these memories in a healthy and 
healing manner. 
Research demonstrates a connection between child sexual abuse victimization and 
engaging in high-risk sexual behaviors as an adult.*> This has a significant impact on 


one’s ability to establish healthy connections with others. Heavy engagement in risky 


behaviors and relationships directly impacts a person’s ability to identify with and desire 


43 Resick, Monson, and Chard, Cognitive Processing Therapy for PTSD. 


44 Stacey May Fowles and Jen Sookfong Lee, Whatever Gets You Through: Twelve Survivors on 
Life after Sexual Assault (Vancouver, BC: Greystone Books, 2019), 135. 


45 Linda J. Koenig et al., From Child Sexual Abuse to Adult Sexual Risk: Trauma, Revictimization, 
and Intervention (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2004), 135. 


122 


to engage in healthy relationships, particularly marriage. Experiencing sexual violence 
calls for intervention that identifies specific goals and behavioral objectives. In addition 
to maladaptive behaviors regarding marriage, unaddressed sexual violence in an 
individual can also lead to other concerns including anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation 
and or attempt(s), as well as other mental health issues.*° 

After a woman experiences sexual violence, it becomes difficult for her to engage 
in intimacy with others. Brooke Axtell refers to this as “hiding.”*’ She notes that women 
have a hard time coming out after having had these experiences, and that she can feel 
more comfortable retreating rather than being fully seen or heard. She argues that once a 
woman is able to share the “voice of her soul,” then she will seek out love and intimacy.*® 

Axtell further writes, “Recovery is soul retrieval. It is a process of calling back 
parts of the soul and psyche that split off through trauma.”*? When doing this, it allows a 
person to heal from the wounds of trauma. This concept is similar to the psychological 
term of integration, which is a way of connecting with the different parts of one’s being, 
offering each part compassion and welcoming these pieces of humanity to come home.*” 
The trauma that one experiences has a profound effect on the mentality and psyche of an 
individual. Negative experiences often impact the way people view the world, and 


subsequently, their relationships with others. D. Westfield writes, “...what you have been 


4 


© Albert R. Roberts, ed., Crisis Intervention and Time-Limited Cognitive Treatment (Thousand 
Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc., 1995). 


4” Brooke Axtell, Beautiful Justice: Reclaiming My Worth after Human Trafficking and Sexual 
Abuse (New York, NY: Seal Press, 2019), 69. 


48 Axtell, Beautiful Justice, 69. 





Axtell, Beautiful Justice, 175. 


© Axtell, Beautiful Justice, 175. 


123 


in can get into you.”°! This emphasizes the importance of women being freed from the 
mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual bondage that can be created when there is 
unaddressed sexual violence. 

D. Westfield also contends that, “You attract who you are.’”””” In this light, healing 
of women is very important in attracting a partner that is healed. Broken women will 
more than likely attract another broken partner, which perpetuates that cycle of unhealthy 
romantic relationships, or an avoidance of romantic relationships as a whole. Discovery 
through discernment is Rainie Howard’s term for the way to ensure that a person is 
engaging in a healthy relationship, and that they are able to first confront the things that 
may be a hindrance for them in relationships. Both Westfield and Howard recognized 
the importance of healing prior to engaging in godly romantic relationships or even 
marriage. A pivotal way in which to promote healing is to engage in the therapeutic 
process. 

In “Before Yesterday,” a story by Grecia Chasteen that follows a middle-aged 
woman through eight therapy sessions where she explores a past riddle with traumas 
including sexual violence, she pens this poem which ends her novel: 

Hello Love... 

Today I was introduced to a new kind of love. 

A love that I’ve heard about and wished upon a star for. 

The kind of love that comes once in a lifetime. 

I woke in the arms of love. 


I made breakfast for love and smiled. 
Love watched me show then rubbed lotion on my body. 


3! 1D. Westfield, The Proposal: How to Get the Right Ring, vol. 2, The Audacity to Love 
(Columbia, SC: Createspace, 2014), 8. 


>? Westfield, The Proposal, 100. 
53 Rainie Howard, You Are Enough: Is It Real Love or Your Need for Validation? Overcoming 


People Pleasing and Emotionally Unavailable Relationships (St. Louis, MO: Rainie Howard Enterprises, 
2017), 64. 


124 


I went to the park and laughed with love. 

Love listened as I spoke. 

Love held me while watching the sunset. 

Love still loved after hearing my secrets. 

Love didn’t judge my flaws, but embraced my strengths and accepted by 
weaknesses. 

Love kissed the back of my neck and wiped away my tears. 

Love is my hearo for my fears. 

Love made a candlelight dinner and rubbed the stress out of my feet. 
Love held me as I feel asleep. 
Today I was introduced to self-love!** 


As a woman who has experienced the act of sexual violence receives the therapy that she 
needs to facilitate her healing, she will develop positive ideals about the concept of 
marriage including being able to engage in healthy, holy, and wholesome relationships. 
As she learns to first love herself in therapy, then she can begin to love others in the way 


God wants her to love others. 


>4 Grecia Chasteen, Because of Yesterday (North Charleston, SC: Gator House, 2017), 168. 


CHAPTER SIX 


PROJECT ANALYSIS 


The project, “I’m What’s Left: A Practical Model for Healing Trauma from 
Sexual Violence in Women to Promote Healthy Marriage,” seeks to draw attention to two 
common issues among women that are not often addressed specifically within the context 
of ministry, which is sexual violence and marriage. Women’s ministry as a whole can be 
very influential and a great asset to the lives of women and young girls. As an intricate 
part of the church, women’s ministry can play a vital role in the identity and spiritual 
formation in the lives that it reaches. With a passion and drive to dive and dig deeper into 
the real issues that women face throughout the different stages of their lives, women’s 
ministry has the opportunity to be a major force of change and power in the promotion of 
the healing of women. 

The aim is to draw attention to the correlation between unaddressed sexual 
violence and marriage, while assessing how women formulate their views of and 
engagement in matriage, as well as how experiences of sexual violence also impact the 
efficacy of the marriages. The project, through use of the biblical story of Tamar, places 
emphasis on the importance of women’s ministry within the context of the church and its 
responsibility to play a more active role in addressing the core issues that women face. It 
sheds light on how women’s ministries often fail to embody the true spirit of healing and 
bring women together to provide supportive and loving environments to cultivate this 


125 


126 
spirit. It highlights how the church has a vital responsibility to engage in effective 


ministry with the body, in order for the body to be well and whole. 

The projected outcome predicted that the engagement in the four-week Bible 
study on the story of Tamar would empower women to understand the responsibility of 
women’s ministry to adequately teach on sexual violence, healing, and marriage. While 
immediate assimilation into a women’s ministry with continuous observation would 
further prove this outcome, the use of pre- and post-surveys, the Bible study sessions, and 
follow-up one-on-one interviews provided adequate data to support the success of this 
project and offer insight into women’s ministry needs in the present as well as in the 


future. 


Methodology 

The methodology was qualitative in nature. First, the four-week Bible study was 
structured to address critical concepts, using the biblical foundation of the story of 
Tamar, found in 2 Samuel 13:1-20. The focus group participated in the four-week 
sessions. The participants were women ages eighteen and older. Due to the sensitivity of 
the topic, adult women were the best population to address the subject matter. Specific 
safeguards were put in place in order to ensure that the women have available crisis and 
mental health services in place in the event that they may have been traumatized in any 
way. As a licensed mental health professional, it helped to also be clinically trained to 
address any issues that may arise. 

The second component was the evaluation criterion. This was accomplished by 


the use of a pre-survey, a post-survey, and follow up interviews that were completed by 


127 


the participants. These assessment tools were used to give some insight about the 
participants’ conceptualization and understanding of sexual violence, marriage, and 
healing. The third component was the actual field testing. This included the timeline, 
participants, lessons, and overall process relative to the project. Project testing was 
concluded with my reflections, recommendations, lessons learned, and future projections. 

The chosen methodology was due to the desire to use biblical teaching to present 
information on sexual violence, marriage, and healing. There needs to be an intersection 
between what the word of God says about these topics as well as the principles that guide 
the lives of women in the world. A Bible study format allowed for women to fully engage 
in the story of Tamar, which is also the biblical foundation for the project, and to relate 
the story of Tamar to modern-day experiences that women have with sexual violence. 
The pre- and post-surveys, along with the follow up one-on-one interviews served as 


assessment tools of the participants’ responses and feedback. 


Implementation 
The project began November 1, 2020 at 2:00 pm. While the initial intent was for 
the sessions to be done in person, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bible study was 
held virtually. Sessions were conducted with a blended model of in-person at my home 
and via Zoom for everyone’s safety. For about a month from the start date, the 
congregation was informed through the church’s email notifications and social media that 
the project would begin on this day and gave the pertinent instructions for the women to 


sign up to participate. 


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As the information was promoted, the Bible study was given the title, “Talks with 
Tamar” by one of the context associates and was used on all of the marketing materials. 
Promotion of the project was done by working directly with the Chief of Staff of the 
church, who is responsible for the communication of events that occur in the ministry. 
The Chief of Staff aided in promoting the project and to ensure that the women within the 
ministry were aware of their ability to voluntarily engage in the project. 

As the participants made their interest to participate in the project known via 
email or by phone, they were provided with Informed Consent forms that fully explained 
the key aspects of the project. The intent was to help the women to understand the 
concepts that would be addressed during the Bible study as well as the anonymity and 
confidentiality that would be enforced from any information that was obtained from 
them. The participants were also emailed the scheduled Zoom Link information in order 
for them to join the sessions each week via their provided email addresses. 

The first session began with scripture and prayer, and a review of the Informed 
Consent forms. The pre-surveys were then distributed, and they were coded to allow for 
anonymity in their responses. Due to the sensitive nature of the optional last question, 
which asked the participants to disclose whether or not they had experienced sexual 
violence, the option was given to submit the survey using an alternative method than via 
email for anonymity purposes. However, all of the participants stated that they were 
comfortable with submitting the information directly. 

Following the distribution and completion of the pre-surveys, the overview of the 
project was given, as well as the inspiration for the focus of the Bible study. I shared the 


synergy chapter and engaged in self-disclosure of my own experience with sexual 


129 


violence, in order to create a safe and open environment for discussion and dialogue to 
occur. The biblical, historical, theological, and interdisciplinary foundations for the 
project were also explained to help the participants acquire an in-depth understanding of 
the project. 

Moreover, a discussion was then facilitated on the concept of sexual violence. As 
a part of the pre-survey, the participants gave their definitions of sexual violence, and 
then verbally discussed their definitions. A working definition of sexual violence was 
then given for the participants. Sexual violence was defined as, “Any sexual act, attempt 
to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or 
otherwise directed, against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless 
of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and 
work.” 

Education occurred on the terms that are synonymous with sexual violence such 
as rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual violation, sexual maltreatment, molestation, 
and date rape. The reasoning was provided as to why “sexual violence” was the best 
language. This was deemed to be the best language because of all the varying definitions 
of inappropriate sexual connection. The term sexual violence is all encompassing and 
gives a broader concept of the experiences that many endure. 

The participants were then asked to give their definition of biblical marriage. The 
biblical text, Ephesians fifth chapter was used as a reference for love and submission in 
godly marriage. The participants answered the question of determining whether or not all 
marriage is ordained and sanctioned by God, and unanimously agreed that not all 


' World Health Organization, World Report on Violence and Health (Geneva, Switzerland: World 
Health Organization, 2002), 149. 


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matriages are ordained by God. A large number of marriages are entered into without 


consulting God, and a lot of marriages fail because they are a direct result of personal 
choice, which can be incorrect, rather than God’s choice of a spouse. 

The book Sacred Marriage, authored by Gary Thomas was used to illustrate the 
concept of holy versus happy marriage, as God’s intention to develop a closer and more 
personal relationship with us, rather than simply with our spouses.” At this point in the 
discussion, the participants gave candid and personal thoughts in regard to the church’s 
lack of teaching and instruction on godly marriage. Many of the disparities that exist in 
premarital counseling and the church’s tendency to place emphasis on the quantity of 
years of marriage, rather than the quality of marriage, were discussed as well. 

Everyone then read the story of Tamar from 2 Samuel 13:1-20 and engaged in a 
preliminary discussion of the text. Due to timing, the group was not able to fully delve 
into the initial reactions of the text. Homework was assigned for the participants to do 
some further reading and studying of the text. The participants were also expected to be 
prepared to discuss the significance of verses twelve through fourteen of the text, report 
on their reactions to the language used in the text, and determine whether or not they 
believed that the language used was powerful in nature. Time was allotted for the 
participants to add pertinent questions and give further reflections. The session was then 
ended with prayer. 

The second session of Talks with Tamar was held on November 8, 2020 at 2:00 
p.m., and began with scripture and prayer and a review from the previous week in efforts 
to address any lingering questions and concerns. The participants engaged in discussion 


> Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage-What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More than to 
Make Us Happy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 11-13. 


131 


to talk about how marriage could be holy, healthy, and wholesome. In the dissection of 
the words holy, healthy, and wholesome, the participants began to share reflections on 
their past experiences and how these experiences impacted their relationship formation 
both in general and specifically with significant others. During this open discussion, 
participants engaged in a lot of self-disclosure and openly shared their negative views of 
engaging in marriage based on past experiences within their own relationships. 

Additionally, many of the participants shared how their observations of the 
marriages/relationships of their parents specifically had a direct impact on how they have 
grown to have no desire to engage in marriage. While these experiences were shared 
among the group, many of the women became emotional and cried in sharing how they 
have had trouble forming healthy relationships with others because they did not know 
how to build these types of relationships. The women were very descriptive and used 
introspection in the responses that they shared with the group. The group was very 
supportive and provided encouraging feedback to one another. 

The initial intent per the curriculum for the second session was to then engage in a 
formal processing of the story of Tamar (Appendix D). Nonetheless, as the discussions 
went forth, dialogue was allowed as it added a lot of value and depth to the discussions. 
This dialogue allowed the entire group to notice and process the effects of various 
traumatic events on one’s relationship formation, as well as the importance of having safe 
spaces and opportunities to be able to share and report on these events and experiences. I 
was intentional in regards to providing support to the group and validated the concerns of 
the group members. There was also emphasis as to why it is necessary for women’s 


ministry to be flexible in its events to fully address and support issues and concerns as 


132 
they occur. This allows for women to shed the weight of what bears them down and 


keeps them in some of the same unhealthy positions that they may be in, rather than 
fostering opportunities for mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical growth—thus, 
promoting wholeness. 

The second session of Talks with Tamar was a major moment of transition for the 
group. It added to the nature of the group and gave the group of women a more personal 
perspective of sexual violence, marriage, and healing. There was some group bonding 
that occurred while the members shared and supported each other. There was 
participation by each group member, and each of the women were an asset to the 
discussion. Time was again allotted for further questions and concerns and the same 
homework of reading and studying the story of Tamar was assigned. The participants 
were advised to again be prepared to discuss verses twelve through fourteen with specific 
attention placed on the significance and language used in these verses. There was another 
homework assignment given to the women to assess whether they believed that healing 
could have occurred for Tamar, and if so, to discuss the process of healing from sexual 
violence for Tamar. The session was ended with prayer. 

The third session of Talks with Tamar was held on November 15, 2020 at 2:30 
p.m. The session was opened with scripture and prayer. Again, there was a recap of the 
previous two sessions. Next, the participants began a more formal processing of the story 
of Tamar. Questioning and exegetical strategies were used to help the participants to 
exegetically understand the story of Tamar and how her experience of sexual violence 


impacted her as a woman prior to, during, and after her experience. 


133 


The participants’ familiarity with the passage was assessed as well as their initial 
reactions to reading it and whether this was their first or a subsequent encounter. There 
was specific discussion on what caught their attention and stood out to them in the 
biblical story. The group was urged to think if Tamar was allowed to tell her story, what 
she would say and what it would sound like from her perspective. The purpose of this 
reflection was to allow the women to apply the concept of being able to discuss sexual 
violence to the story of Tamar. 

Next, was an exegesis of the text. The approach was to look at Tamar before the 
experience of sexual violence by Amnon and who she was at that time. While the text did 
not provide many details regarding her life experiences prior to her trauma, the women 
were able to gather thoughts about her character and interactions with her family by 
reading the story and assessing her actions, specifically towards her brother, Amnon. 
They asserted that she was caring in the fact that she intended to care for her brother, 
whom she was told was sick; and that even before he committed sexual violence against 
her, she still tried to protect him, but suggesting that he asked to marry her, rather than to 
commit the act against her. 

The group then assessed Tamar during the event. There was specific emphasis 
placed on verses twelve through fourteen of the text, as the women reviewed their 
homework from the previous weeks. Again, there was some strong emotional responses 
when discussing this act of sexual violence. Some of the reflections that were shared 
highlighted the disdain regarding the fact that Tamar was plotted against, and that there 
was nothing that she could have done due to the role and status of women during this 


time. 


134 


In exegetically understanding the aftermath of the Tamar’s sexual violence, the 
main idea was presented that hidden sexual violence damages the institution of marriage. 
A large part of conversation surrounded Tamar having to put ashes on her head and being 
ostracized, left a desolate woman. While Tamar was the victim of a horrific act, she 
continued to suffer after the act, as her future was then decided for her. The women 
explored how she was left barren and isolated for the remainder of her life. The group 
discussed how Absalom’s attempt to comfort her by allowing her to take shelter in his 
house was not actual comfort, as it did not afford her the opportunity to speak up to tell 
her story of what happened to her on account of her brother, Amnon. 

The participants utilized this biblical account of sexual violence as application for 
modern day situations. The women looked at similarities and differences of Tamar’s 
story and women today. While the group agreed that women need to have opportunities 
to have a voice in these situations, they still noted that many of the stories today are very 
similar to Tamar’s story. The fundamental difference that was noted was that at least 
women today have more platforms and resources available to talk about their 
experiences. 

Lastly, there was facilitation on a discussion about what they believed should 
have happened to Tamar and Amnon. The group proposed that Tamar should have been 
allowed to tell her father, King David what happened to her, and not ostracized from 
society. The women added that Tamar’s cultural context would not have allowed this to 
happen; however, they were very passionate about their disagreement with how women 


were treated during these times. 


135, 


There were some differing thoughts in regards to what the women thought should 
have happened to Amnon. Some of the thoughts were castration, or him actually being 
ostracized instead of Tamar. The group was led in reading further in the chapter of 2 
Samuel to note that Amnon was later killed by Absalom. However, the consensus was 
that this also was not fair to Tamar. 

The dialogue then shifted towards King David’s role in having two children, 
which he both loved, and the paradox that this put him in as a father in addressing the 
trauma. There was specific dislike that there was no mention of any action taken by him, 
as their father. There was some interesting conversation that then began surrounding a 
parent’s role when one of their children is a perpetrator of sexual violence on another one 
of their children. The women discussed the potential implications of this, and the 
dilemma that the parent faces in this situation. 

From this session, it was agreed upon that the situation with Tamar was not 
handled appropriately by her father. While there was no mention of her mother in the 
story, this also raised some questions from the group in regards to who her mother was, 
and where she may have been. While the group did not come to a conclusion on what 
King David should have done in this situation, the women did agree that he should have 
at least addressed and acknowledged what happened. Those who read this story for the 
first time during Talks with Tamar were nearly at a loss for words due to the shame and 
pain that were brought upon Tamar from this act by her brother. 

The session was ended with questions and concerns by the group and prayer. Due 
to time constraints, the homework from the last session in regards to discussing possible 


healing for Tamar was not reviewed; thus, it was reassigned for the final session. An 


136 
additional homework question was added in regard to the group being ready to discuss 


what specific implications can experiences of sexual violence have on the outlooks/views 
of marriage? 

The fourth and final session of Talks with Tamar was held on November 22, 2020 
at 2:00 p.m. The session began with scripture and prayer. There was a recap of the 
previous three sessions and time was allowed for further feedback and comments 
regarding what had been covered up to that point. The homework assignments from the 
previous two sessions were then discussed. 

The group engaged in a discussion regarding healing for Tamar. They stated that 
Tamar could not have attained healing in her cultural context. There was some further 
insight given by a group member that if Tamar would have had three safe people to talk 
to, then perhaps this could have saved her life and given her the opportunity to be able to 
live the life that she wanted. They proposed that if Tamar had lived in today’s society, 
she could have been afforded some opportunity to talk about what happened to her, 
although, it was still difficult to fully know what to expect as it relates to the reaction of 
her family. The group became somewhat stuck on the fact that even today, some families 
send family members away or disown them altogether for opening up about sexual 
violence from another family member. Thus, they stated that it was quite likely that 
Tamar would still have been silenced, although she may have still been allowed to marry. 

The next homework question about implications of sexual violence on one’s 
outlook of marriage was then addressed. The women listed various problems of the 
consequences of sexual violence including marriage is viewed as not favorable; sex is 


used as power over women; women begin to believe that marriage can fix their 


137 


reputation; total avoidance of men; turning to lesbianism; reliving and continuing the 
cycle; having unrealistic expectations of marriage; categorizing love differently than how 
it was intended by God to be; unhealthy sex lives; and attachment issues. All of the 
implications were negative in nature, and the group believed that sexual violence has a 
completely adverse effect on one’s view of marriage, specifically when it is not addressed 
appropriately. 

Further, information was provided on the reasons why healing is critical for those 
who have experienced sexual violence as well as what healing looks like. It was 
presented that the mental health field has been found to be a reliable source for healing 
and for giving women a chance to work with qualified and licensed professionals to 
address their traumas of sexual violence. The theological framework of womanist 
theology was also incorporated into the discussion with the women in efforts to tie 
healing and liberation together to present the significance of the woman being freed from 
all forms of bondage that are often a result of trauma. 

Some of the findings shared within the group concerned how individuals who 
have experienced sexual violence have been able to use resources as part of their healing 
processes and become overcomers and survivors. There was teaching on disclosure as the 
first step of the healing process and how this can look different according to an 
individual’s situation and experience. Discussion then surrounded the topic of grace and 
its power on those who have experienced sexual violence as well as those who have not. 
Exploration with the group occurred on how sexual violence not only affects those who 


directly had the experience, but also those whom sexual violence indirectly impacts. 


138 


There was a presentation on some of the barriers for why women do not access 
these resources. The group looked at how mental illness in itself can cause silence from 
victims of sexual violence. The women again looked at family rejection, exclusion, 
gender inequality, and social factors that play a major role in the lack of access to 
available resources. Aid was given to the women to process how to overcome these 
barriers and to avoid potential negative effects of not accessing these resources. Some of 
the negative effects that were outlined during the session were mental health and physical 
problems as well as interpersonal and intimacy issues, among others. 

Other effects of the trauma for victims of sexual violence were also discussed in 
the group to further identify the types of feelings and experiences that a victim has after 
the act. From not being taken seriously, the lack of support, and having trust violated, 
critical information was presented regarding some common negative responses of 
reporting an experience of sexual violence. Research suggests that the reception a woman 
gets the first time she discloses her attack can shape her experience of trauma.* 

The group had a discussion on why sexual violence is not easily recognized as 
trauma due to the inclusion of sex in the act. The group also discussed how the 
inappropriate concepts of sex in relationships can lead to misnomers regarding sexual 
violence, and how some sexual acts are viewed as consensual, simply because the people 
know each other. The group further discussed how intimate partner violence is taken out 
of the equation as well, and how this should not be overlooked when talking about sexual 


violence. 


3 Zosia Bielski, “Rape’s Long Shadow: Dealing with the Personal Costs of Sexual Assault,” Globe 
and Mail, https://www.theglobalandmail.com. 


139 


Additionally, marriage and how outlooks and views of marriage are developed 
were again discussed to link experiences of sexual violence and healing to improve 
overall functioning and quality of life surrounding marriage. This processing was 
implemented to specifically tackle some of the negative views of marriage, and to look at 
the church’s responsibility in setting the example in terms of what healthy marriage is 
supposed to look like. The women asserted how the church tends to avoid talking about 
difficult topics when it does not have the correct biblical answers. With further biblical 
teaching and study, it was suggested that the church, and women’s ministry specifically, 
would define Christ-like marriage, and that it would encourage women to participate in 
interventions that would aid them in fully addressing their traumas. 

The group was provided with information on the concept of self-love that was 
found in the research. There was great emphasis placed on disconnecting from childhood 
trauma, negative and or toxic relationships, emotional and spiritual pain, abusive cycles, 
and unhealthy patterns and attachments. The group was introduced to the topic of 
Cognitive Processing Therapy to help them to understand how this has been an effective 
intervention in treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a whole, particularly from 
sexual violence. 

Finally, the group engaged in a discussion on intimacy, how it relates to marriage, 
and how engagement in healthy, wholesome, and holy marriage is impacted by a 
woman’s ability to heal from experiences of sexual violence. Intimacy was looked at 
from the perspective of the connections and attachments that one forms with others, 
which is largely impacted by the experiences that one has in their life, both positive and 


negative. Aversion to intimacy is a common side effect for those who experience sexual 


140 


violence, which directly influences engagement in marriage. The women in the group 
were able to connect healthy intimacy to healing. 

Talks with Tamar was closed out with answering questions and welcoming 
closing remarks. Each participant was asked to give a take-away as well as their overall 
reaction to the four sessions. There was a strong reaction and suggestion that the Bible 
study should be extended, and that the group should be engaged in further discussion on 
the story of Tamar, sexual violence, and marriage. It was explained that due to the nature 
of the project, the sessions would have to end; however, there was an invitation extended 
for the participants to volunteer to participate in follow up one-on-one interviews. 

The participants also came to a consensus that they would like for this work and 
discussion to be continued within the context of women’s ministry at the church. 
Feedback from the women was received, and the session was closed with prayer. 
Instructions were given that the participants would receive an email with the post-survey 


to be completed and returned within the next three days. 


Evaluation Criteria 
Considering the goal of this project, there were three chosen methods of data 
collection. The methods were a pre-survey, a post-survey, and interviews. The pre-survey 
consisted of thirteen questions, the last being optional (Appendix A). The last question 
asked if the participant had experienced sexual violence. I wanted to ensure that the 
participants did not feel pressured to answer this question, thus, it was optional. The 
questions consisted of short answer, rating questions, and true or false questions. The pre- 


survey gathered demographical information of the participants, including their marital 


141 


status. The pre-survey was coded by asking the participant to write their favorite color 
and their birth month to be able to link their pre-survey to the post-survey that would be 
given following the completion of Talks with Tamar. The participants defined sexual 
violence and biblical marriage prior to acquiring information in the Bible study. 

The pre-survey also asked participants to rate the quality of their relationships 
with significant others, how much experiences of sexual violence impact one’s view and 
engagement in marriage, how they view marriage, if they believe women who experience 
sexual violence are always able to tell someone who believes them, does sexual violence 
often go unreported, can women who experience sexual violence undergo healing, and do 
women need to have a voice to be able to share their experiences of sexual violence? 

The purpose of the pre-survey was to evaluate the participants thoughts on key 
points that would be addressed during the Bible study, prior to receiving any information 
or instruction in the Bible study sessions. This preliminary information that was obtained 
from the participants gave a starting point to be able to gauge what information needed to 
be specifically emphasized in the sessions. This information was used to gain the 
participants’ initial views and to gauge what learning and teaching would be necessary to 
help to ensure that the participants acquired thorough and adequate materials to reference 
during the sessions. The pre-survey also allowed the participants to have a preview of 
what would be covered during Talks with Tamar. 

The participants reported some challenges in completing the pre-survey, 
particularly when defining sexual violence, biblical marriage, and how a woman who 
experiences sexual violence can undergo healing. Having the ability to assess the 


responses on these specific responses to these questions showed the significance of the 


142 
three critical concepts that would be addressed in the Bible study. While people are able 


to identify that these are important concepts, it was difficult for some of the participants 
to elaborate on their responses, due to the need of further education. 

The post-survey consisted of sixteen questions (Appendix B). The participants 
were asked the same thirteen questions from the pre-survey, in order to show how the 
responses of the participants changed and or were enhanced by the information presented 
in the sessions. The question about whether or not they experienced sexual violence 
remained optional on the post-survey. There were three questions added to the post- 
survey. The first additional question gave the participants an opportunity to determine if 
the Bible study accomplished its purpose in shedding light on the importance of healing 
from sexual violence. This question served to ensure that adequate information was 
gleaned from the sessions about the importance of healing. 

Moreover, the post-survey also included a question that asked the women to talk 
about how Tamar’s experience with Amnon changed her life. The intent of this question 
was to ensure that the participants were able to note the effect that Tamar’s experience 
had on her life. This was a very important question, as it allowed the participants to apply 
what they had learned during the sessions to give their assessment of how they believed 
Tamar was impacted by the sexual violence that she experienced. 

The third additional question that was added asked the participants to note what 
they learned from the Bible study and asked how their view had changed on sexual 
violence and women and or healthy, holy, wholesome marriage. This question allowed 


the women to talk about the direct impact that the sessions had on them, including 


143 


whether or not their view of sexual violence and marriage had changed, and if so, in what 
ways. 

The interviews for the participants who volunteered to be interviewed were 
completed on December 9, 2020 and December 11, 2020. All of the interviews were 
conducted via Zoom, again, due to COVID-19 to adhere to safety precautions. The 
interview questions consisted of ten questions that were designed to gather feedback from 
participants, and also to gauge the successes and failures of the project (Appendix C). 
The interview questions asked the participants to identify their expectations, successes 
and failures, what further action they would like to see in women’s ministry, what they 
would like their role in women’s ministry to be, barriers in women’s ministry, and how 
they believed that the topics of sexual violence and marriage can be incorporated into 
women’s ministry. 

There were some deviations from the initial plans that were submitted in the 
Candidacy Review Packet of this project. The largest effect on this project was the 
unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the rising number of cases, the Talks with 
Tamar Bible study was predominately conducted via Zoom, rather than face to face. 
There were a couple of sessions where some participants attended the session at my 
home; however, the majority of the time was spent on Zoom. 

In addition, due to the need to make alterations to planning, the dates were pushed 
back by approximately one month. The administering of the surveys was also done 
differently. The pre-survey was distributed during the first session due to technology 
concerns with coding of the surveys. The number scales on the questions were also 


eliminated. With the same content of the questions, the answer choices were changed to 


144 


make the surveys more user friendly for the subject matter. The post-survey also was sent 
via email following the final session to give participants a few days to formulate their 
responses. The follow up session was also replaced with interviews due to time 


constraints, after the project had been postponed. 


Summary of Learning 

The learning and the experience were enlightening for both the participants and 
myself. One of the biggest thoughts that was shared by the participants was that they 
learned the value of having safe spaces to be able to talk about real life issues and 
concerns with other women. They noted that this opportunity is not always made 
available, and that if it became more normal for women to come together, there would be 
more healing that could occur for women as a whole. This showed that this is a desire of 
women, and that women’s ministry can be a powerful force when it is structured 
correctly to meet with the needs of women. 

A large part of the discussion that occurred in the sessions was surrounding the 
barriers that plague women from being able to have a voice to talk about their traumas, 
particularly when they experience sexual violence. The group enlightened each other in 
regards to personal experiences that they encountered that they did not feel equipped with 
the tools to be comfortable and confident to be able to be open about their experiences. 
Exploring the tools that are needed to be able to increase openness to talk about personal 
trauma was a very worthwhile and needed aspect of the sessions. 

As such, there was significant learning in terms of calling out and naming sexual 


violence, being aware of relationship satisfaction, assessing one’s view of marriage, and 


145 
understanding how healing can occur when sexual violence has been experienced. There 


was significant insight given in regard to these key concepts of the project, and the 
participants were able to engage in discussions of their thoughts as well as gleaning from 
the knowledge and research that was shared as a part of the curriculum of Talks with 
Tamar. 

Moreover, the varying marital statuses of the participants is important to note as 
this is one of the major themes within the project. The following chart reflects the marital 


statuses of the participants: 


Marital Status 






Married 
28.6% 


Single Married Married but separated 


Figure 1. Marital status of participants 


The goal of the project was to engage women from different marital statuses in efforts to 
obtain viewpoints from women from different walks of life and experiences. 

As noted previously, the optional question on the pre- and post-survey that asked 
each participant to state whether or not they had experienced sexual violence was of 


particular interest and importance. On the pre-survey, 85.7% of the women provided a 


146 


response; however, on the post survey, 100% of the participants provided a response. 
This is important to note, and some conclusions can be drawn in regards to why this 
happened. The first is that questions and some discomfort that would likely have been 
present during the initial session was more than likely resolved by the last session. 

Also, the lack of a working definition of sexual violence being given when the 
question was responded to may have caused the participant to be unsure as to whether or 
not she had actually experienced sexual violence. Another conclusion that could be 
drawn from this is that the participant did not want to respond to the question, or it was 
overlooked altogether. While the rationale is unknown, it was vital that the participants 
did answer this question on the post-survey, so that statistics were obtained in regard to 
the women who had reported that they experienced sexual violence. 

The fact that all of the women were able to answer this question adds merit to the 
research that urges women to tell their stories. Bielski wrote, “Even as we encourage 
women to come forward and tell their stories, the long shadow of sexual assault is 
something not often discussed. Research shows that the effects of the trauma endure for a 
long time; front line services, however, are lacking in this country.” While the women 
did not fully disclose details of their sexual violence, or even self-disclose their sexual 
violence other than in the pre- and post-surveys, this was a huge first step in being able to 
have a voice to report on their experiences. 

The following chart displays the responses regarding the women’s reports of 


whether or not they had experienced sexual violence: 


4 Zosia Bielski, “Rape’s Long Shadow: Dealing with the Personal Costs of Sexual Assault,” Globe 
and Mail, https://www.theglobalandmail.com. 


147 


I have experienced sexual violence. 


True 
71.4% 





Figure 2. Women’s responses regarding sexual violence experience 

It was not surprising that the percentage of women who experienced was at 71.4%. Due 
to the large un-reporting of sexual violence, it is safe to assert that the numbers of women 
who are victims of sexual violence is much larger than one may believe. There were no 
further follow up questions to this item on the surveys. The participants were merely 
asked if they had experienced sexual violence, not how many times, by whom, or even if 
they felt that they had healed from their experience(s). 

Furthermore, another significant learning point of Talks with Tamar surrounded 
the women giving their assessment of how satisfied as a whole they are with the quality 
of relationships that they have had with significant others. This question was an essential 
question as the participants were able to look into their relationships with significant 
others to gain a better understanding of their relationship history. The question was also 
essential in that the intent was to measure whether the responses of the participants would 


change due to the information that was shared during the Bible study sessions. 


148 
According to Rusbult and Buunk, relationship satisfaction is defined as an 


interpersonal evaluation of the positivity of feelings for one's partner and attraction to 
the relationship. According to interdependence theory, people want to maximize their 
rewards and minimize their costs in a relationship. The content of the sessions did not 
include in depth conversations on interdependence theory; yet, using biblical references, 
the group discussed the godly love as well as the concept of being evenly yoked. The 
standard by which many of the women reported that they assess their relationships was 
largely due to this concept. 

The women also explored the concepts of development, maturity, and spiritual 
growth, and linked these ideas to how it can sometimes be easy to overlook the concept 
of being evenly yoked with an individual. All of the women noted how they made poor 
choices in men that they dated and or married due to some of those men meeting their 
needs in one season of their life; however, these relationships were not sustainable. The 
group further explored how maturation also allows individuals to see things from 
different lenses and perspectives. It was clear to all of the women that maturity has given 
them better vision to avoid negative relationships; however, some admitted to avoiding 
relationships altogether out of fear that they would not be evenly yoked with a man. 

Some of the other examples that were given were dating a man prior to being 
saved, realizing their potential in God, or having a desire to live a life that is pleasing to 
God. As an individual grows in their relationship with God, it is expected that the desires 
of life change, and that this also plays a major role in the relationships that women have 
with men. As Christian women, the married but separated and single women stated that if 


> C. E. Rusbult and B. P. Buunk, “Commitment Processes in Close Relationships: An 
Interdependence Analysis,” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 10 (1993): 175-204. 


149 


they were to be married at some point in life, they would want their marriages to be 
ordained by God, which is a testament to their spiritual growth and relationship with God. 
It is important to note that the responses of some of the participants did change 
from the pre- and post-surveys. Within the context of this project and the discussion that 
transpired over the four weeks, this seems to be due to re-assessment of their 
relationships after discussing biblical principles. The following graph shows the 
participant’s responses regarding their satisfaction with the quality of their relationships 


with significant others on the pre-survey: 


Relationship Satisfaction (Pre-Survey) 






No response = Unsure 


14.3% No response 
= Extremely Dissatisfied 


= Somewhat Dissatisfied 


Figure 3. Relationship satisfaction of participants (pre-survey) 

The participants were given the options of Extremely Dissatisfied, Somewhat 
Dissatisfied, Unsure, Somewhat Satisfied, and Extremely Satisfied. An interesting note 
reflected in this graph is that no participant identified any level of satisfaction in the 
quality of their relationships on the pre-survey. This was surprising in reviewing the 


results, as it was expected that at least a few of the participants would have reported at 


150 


least some satisfaction in the quality of relationships with their significant others. This 


again sheds light on the importance of education on healthy, holy, and wholesome 


relationships, and marriage in particular. 


The following table shows the participant’s responses regarding their satisfaction 


with the quality of their relationships with significant others on the post-survey: 


Relationship Satisfaction (Post Survey) 


Somewhat 
Dissatisfied 


7 ei) 


Figure 4. Relationship satisfaction of participants (post-survey) 


Extremely 
Dissatisfied 
28.6% 





mw Extremely Dissatisfied 


Somewhat Dissatisfied 


On the post-survey, there were only two responses given by the participants, and three of 


the participants changed the answers from the pre-survey. The table below shows the 


changes in responses of the participants on this question on the pre- and post-survey: 


Table 1. Changes in participants’ responses between pre- and post-survey 





Pre-Survey 


Post-Survey 





Talks with Tamar (TWT) 


Participant One 








No response 





Extremely Dissatisfied 








151 
Talks with Tamar (TWT) Extremely Dissatisfied Somewhat Dissatisfied 





Participant Three 





Talks with Tamar (TWT) Unsure Extremely Dissatisfied 


Participant Six 

















The remainder of the participants had the same responses of ‘Somewhat Dissatisfied’ on 
both the pre- and post-surveys. While TWT Participant Three showed slight improvement 
in her relationship satisfaction following the sessions, TWT Participants One and Six 
appeared to have shown some decline in their relationship satisfaction. Another 
interesting point to note is that TWT Participants One and Six were the married 
participants in the sessions; yet they both reported that they were ‘Extremely Dissatisfied’ 
with the quality of their relationships with significant others. 

Another learning point of the sessions was regarding the participants’ view of 
marriage. The participants were asked to respond true or false if they viewed marriage as 
a positive institution. On the pre-survey, all of the participants answered ‘True’ to the 
question. On the post survey, TWT Participants One through Six again responded ‘True,” 
and TWT Participant Seven responded both ‘True’ and ‘False.” This was somewhat of an 
unclear response; however, the participant clarified this response during her interview, 
which will be discussed later in this section. 

The final main learning point of the sessions was in regard to healing. On the pre- 
and post-surveys, the participants were asked, can women who experienced sexual 
violence undergo healing? If they answered yes, they were then instructed to explain how 
this healing could occur. The question on healing was very important, as the goal was to 


note what thoughts on healing the participants had prior to the sessions, and then to report 


152 
on their thoughts following the session. The following line graph reflects the responses of 


the participants on this question on the pre- and post-surveys: 


Healing from Sexual Violence 


10 
0 
s & . Post-survey 
RS & Oo S & Pre-survey 
oe " S s&s 
nS XS xv RY 
® Re & © oe 
NS 52 ro 
Q NO oy oO .o 
Ke s ou 
vw > 


@Pre-survey i Post-survey 


Figure 5. Participant responses regarding healing from sexual violence 

It is necessary to note the difference in the highest trending answers on both the 
pre- and post-surveys. On the pre-survey, 57.1% reported that women could find their 
healing through God, 42.8% reported that healing could occur through counseling, and 
14.8% reported that having a voice and or a safe space to talk would promote healing. 
Another interesting outcome of the post-survey was that 37.5% of the participants either 
had no response or answered, “Do not know.” 

On the post-survey, 100% of the participants provided a response, 100% reported 
that healing could occur through counseling, 100% reported that having a voice and or a 
safe space to talk would promote healing, and 57.1% of the participants again reported 
that women could find their healing through God. Another note in regard to this question 
is that of the 25% of the women who reported that healing could occur through 


counseling, specifically mentioned Christian or spiritual counseling in their response. 


153 


In sum, correlating the responses of the participants through the pre- and post- 
surveys was a helpful tool in assessing what knowledge they obtained during the 
sessions. It was impressing to see the information that was presented on the pre-survey, 
and to be able to compare it with the given responses on the post-surveys. 

Following the analyzation of data from the surveys, I also wanted to have 
interviews with willing participants to gain further insight and feedback regarding their 
experiences with Talks with Tamar. Of all of the participants, 57.1% volunteered to be 
interviewed. TWT Participants Two, Three, Five, and Seven were the women who 
volunteered to participate in the interview. All of the volunteers presented as open and 
willingness to answer the questions that they were presented. 

The first question addressed what they expected to learn during the sessions. 
TWT Participants Two, Five, and Seven reported that they expected to learn about and 
discuss the biblical story of Tamar. TWT Participant Three reported that she did not have 
many expectations; however, she anticipated discussing different perspectives of sexual 
violence. All of the interviewees reported that their favorite part of the sessions was the 
discussions, in that it allowed all of the participants to engage in sharing and self- 
disclosure, while being transparent in their experiences. 

Furthermore, in terms of a least favorite part of the sessions, TWT Participant 
Two stated that she did not like when some of the women did not enable their cameras on 
the Zoom session in order to be able to see everyone’s faces. TWT Participants Three, 
Five, and Seven stated that they did not dislike anything about the sessions; however, it 
was difficult to have to deal with their own issues that arose from the discussions, and the 


unexpected emotion that resulted from some of the discussion points. All of the 


154 
interviewees also reported that they would like all of the aspects of Talks with Tamar to 


be incorporated into the women’s ministry. They highlighted the importance of having a 
safe place for women to be able to have authentic discussions about relevant issues that 
they face. There were some specific suggestions on having small groups for women in 
order to come together to discuss other biblical stories of women in the Bible. 

In terms of whether or not sexual violence needs be addressed, all four of the 
women agreed that this needs to be discussed because doing so would allow ministry to 
help women who have had these experiences within the body. They also stated that it 
would give women a voice and an opportunity to heal brokenness and to break the cycle 
of generational dysfunction. To add value to the sessions, TWT Participants Three, Five, 
and Seven stated that the sessions should have been longer, or that more sessions should 
have been added. All four of the women stated that they believed that the discussions and 
conversations could have been continued, specifically by looking at other biblical stories 
of women in the Bible. 

All of the women reported that they continued to view marriage as a positive 
institution; however, TWT Participants Three, Five, and Seven, all of single marital 
status, reported that they were still somewhat undecided on whether or not they wish to 
marry in the future. The three did, however, state that they have become a bit more open 
to the idea of marriage. TWT Participant Two, who is married but separated, stated that 
she felt that she is in a good place in her spiritual journey where she has a mature 
understanding of biblical marriage that she was able to share with the other women 


during the Bible study sessions. 


155 


All of the women who were interviewed reported that they would at least play the 
role of an attendee of women’s ministry. TWT Participant Two reported that as a pastor, 
she would definitely be in a leadership role. TWT Participants Three, Five, and Seven 
reported that they were unsure as to whether or not they would want to serve as leaders in 
women’s ministry. Nevertheless, they would be open to potentially moving into these 
types of roles as they continue to be active participants in women’s ministry. All of the 
women also stated that they believe that it is challenging for women to come together to 
discuss difficult issues because they often do not have safe and trusting spaces where they 
are comfortable to discuss their issues and concerns. They further noted that women often 
avoid these types of interactions with other women due to vulnerability and honesty 
about their issues. It was also concerning for the participants because of the fear of being 
judged by other women. They highlighted that women must be willing, and not forced to 
engage in these discussions. 

There were some differences in the responses as to whether or not they thought 
that concepts of marriage would change if there were more open discussions about the 
traumas that women face, not just sexual violence. TWT Participants Two and Five stated 
that they believe that the concepts would change as there would be more dialogue 
occurring to create more supportive relationships when trauma has occurred. TWT 
Participant Two stated that the church needs to discuss marriage and that this is not done 
adequately in the church. She further noted that the church has faulty expectations of 
marriage. TWT Participants Five and Seven reported that these concepts could possibly 
change, but that they both were skeptical due to their personal experiences and the lack of 


positive examples of marriage. 


156 


The data that was obtained through the pre- and post-surveys as well as the follow 
up interviews supported the hypothesis. Per the responses of the women, being made 
aware of and receiving education on the importance of resolving and healing from the 
trauma of sexual violence enhanced their positive view of marriage, and gave them the 
tools to be able to seek engagement in healthy, holy, and wholesome marriages. 
However, of the women who were single, they all reported that they still remained on the 
fence in regard to whether or not they want to be married. It is likely that these views 
may not be changed; however, the goal was not to cause women to want to be married, 
rather, to want to engage in biblical marriage, which is healthy, holy, and wholesome, 
which was also accomplished. 

One of the main ways in which the results supported the hypothesis was that all of 
the women were able to report their understanding of resolution and healing of sexual 
violence. Also, all of the participants were able to report on ways in which this could be 
done as well as why it was important for women to have these opportunities. All of the 
participants reported positive views of the institution of marriage as a whole, due to the 
biblical definition of marriage; and they were able to explore this concept during the 


discussions. 


Conclusion 
The biggest challenge in conducting this project came from the alterations that 
had to be made due to COVID-19. It was initially difficult to accept the fact that the 
sessions would have to be done virtually. It did not seem as if this would be successful in 


this project due to the sensitive nature of the project, the method of collecting information 


157 


for the pre- and post-surveys, because there was a desire to create an intimate and 
personal environment to address the issues pertaining to this project. Nonetheless, the 
participants were all flexible and willing to engage in the sessions via Zoom, and did not 
allow this to be a deterrent from their full participation and engagement in the sessions. 

The curriculum was still presented to the group during all four sessions, and the 
information was shared in the same manner that it would have been, had all of the 
sessions been completely in person. Ultimately, while it seemed as if this would be a 
barrier, it proved to not be a problem. The participants were able to join and log in to live 
sessions from the comfort of their homes or even work, and while they preferred to be in 
person as well, they all still found value in their virtual participation. 

Moreover, another pitfall of the project was the number of participants that 
engaged in the session. There were only eight people who signed up to be participants in 
the project; however, of those, only seven actually joined and engaged in the sessions. It 
is unclear as to whether this could have been due to the virtual nature of the project, 
technology fatigue, marketing issues, discomfort in participation, scheduling conflicts, 
commitment barriers, or lack of interest. Many people engaged in sharing the information 
on social media, but did not sign up to participate. 

There was some success in gathering a diverse population in the participants. The 
seven participants ranged from the age of thirty-four to seventy. TWT Participants One 
and Six were married, TWT Participant Two was married but separated, and TWT 
Participants Two, Three, Four and Five were single, never married. The married 
participants were married for ten and forty-three-years. These demographics provided a 


range of statuses and experiences which were beneficial for the project as a whole. 


158 


Due to the low number of participants, it is not possible to standardize the results 
to state that the hypothesis was proven. The information and responses that were acquired 
from the participants who did engage in Talks with Tamar supported that goal of the 
project. Yet, it is not fully possible to state that these types of responses would have been 
obtained if the number of participants was doubled, or even tripled. Without a doubt, 
having more participants would add more validity to the project as a whole. 

Through the dialogue and feedback from the participants, it is apparent that they 
would have benefited from having more sessions to continue to the discussions. From the 
unanimous feedback that was obtained from the participants and based on my own 
personal assessment of this project as a whole, it would be of great value to women’s 
ministry to add this and other topics that address women’s issues. Women’s ministry 
would benefit from these types of Bible studies where biblical stories about women are 
used to provide education and dialogue on the various needs of women in the church. 
Future work will entail a re-structuring of women’s ministry to improve the way that it 
cares for women and provides the support that women need. There is both a desire and a 
need for this type of ministry. 

The project also shed light on the importance of resolving trauma. The church as a 
whole should increase its commitment to ensuring that people have opportunities to truly 
address and heal from trauma. Areas of ministry including pastoral and pre-marital 
counseling are two additional places where trauma should be addressed. If trauma were 
more widely exposed rather than covered up or avoided in these areas of ministry, this 


would foster healing within the church as a body, from the inside out. 


159 


Through this experience, I learned that Iam even more passionate about women’s 
ministry than I thought that I was at the inception of the project. There were some general 
ideas about women and how there needed to be a more active, rather than passive 
approach to engaging women in ministry. This project afforded me with the opportunity 
to really glean from the voices of women, as their contribution to the project gave a first- 
hand account and a hands-on approach to begin to tackle the critical areas of sexual 
violence, marriage, and healing. There was also an invaluable lesson that God has crafted 
my entire ministry journey to serve in the kingdom as an advocate for women. 

Learning on the knowledge and lessons obtained from this experience, in the 
future, I would look into more marketing tools to use to engage more women. One of the 
hardest parts of this is connecting with others. Part of this is due to our relationships and 
interactions with women, that are often times negative, thus leaving a negative thoughts 
of interacting with women on a larger scope. While I am not involved in a lot of social 
media groups, in our current times, this is a necessity, and I can see the dilemma in trying 
to communicate with women and build credibility. As a part of ministry, this may be a bit 
easier. However, if doing it as an individual, it is harder to build the credibility. 

Word does travel fast and a lot of time communicating things via word-of-mouth 
based off of personal experience is a way to promote things. Thus, the goal would be to 
have a core group of women to agree to participate and empower them to invite other 
people to participate with them. Some of it is trial and error; however, the more ministry 
minded rather than event minded that I could be would definitely help to facilitate the 
process. The main change would be to build relationships with women to engage them in 


women’s ministry. 


160 


With some changes to make in the future, due to my personal experience as well 
as the experiences of the participants, the project was a success. Increased participation, 
ministry enhancement, and further assessment of the needs and interests of women would 
create greater opportunities for God’s work to be done. As an ordained pastor, with the 
title of the Pastor of Women, it is an honor and a privilege to take on this tremendous 


task to be a facilitator of cutting-edge women’s ministry. 


APPENDIX A 


PRE-SURVEY 


161 


162 
Pre-Survey 


Please answer the following questions honestly. Also, please note that Question 13 is 
optional, and is important for data collection, so you may answer this question if 
you are comfortable. Please note that all surveys are coded so that you can maintain 
anonymity. 


Demographics: 


What is your favorite color? 

What is your birth month? 

Age: 18-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 65-74 75-84 85+ (Circle one) 

Marital Status: Single (Never Married) Single (But living together) Married 
Married (But Separated) Widowed Divorced Engaged (Circle one) 

If you have been or are married, how many times have you been married? 
If you have been or are divorced, how many times have you been divorced? 
Have you ever been engaged, but did not marry? Yes No (Circle one) If so, how 
many times 


Q 1- What is the definition of sexual violence? (You may continue on the back if needed) 


Q 2- What is the Biblical definition of marriage? (You may continue on the back if 


needed) 


Q 3- How satisfied as a whole are you with the quality of relationships that you have had 


with significant others? (Circle one) 


163 
Extremely Dissatisfied Somewhat Dissatisfied Unsure Somewhat Satisfied Extremely 





Satisfied 


Please explain your response (You may continue on the back if needed): 


Q 4- How much do you think that experiences with the trauma of sexual violence impact 
one’s view of marriage? (Circle one) 

Not at all Somewhat Unsure Moderately Extremely 

Q 5- How much do you think that experiences with the trauma of sexual violence impact 
one’s engagement in marriage? (Circle one) 

Not at all Somewhat Unsure Moderately Extremely 

Q 6- I view marriage as a positive institution? True False 

Q 7- When women experience the trauma of sexual violence, they are ALWAYS able to 
tell someone who BELIEVES them? True False 

Q 8- How important is it for women to participate in spiritual counseling or receive some 
form of professional counseling to process their trauma of sexual violence? (Circle one) 
Not at all Somewhat Unsure Moderately Extremely 

Q 9- Sexual violence often goes unreported. True False. If you answered “True,” why 


do you believe this happens? (You may continue on the back if needed) 


164 


Q 10- Can a woman who has experienced sexual violence undergo healing? Yes No—If 


so, how could this healing occur? (You can continue on the back if needed) 


Q 12- Women need to have a voice to be able to share their experiences of sexual 
violence. 
True False 


Q 13 (OPTIONAL)- I have experienced sexual violence. True False 


Thank you for your time and participation! 


APPENDIX B 


POST-SURVEY 


165 


166 
Post-Survey 
Please answer the following questions honestly based on your participation in the 
Bible Study. Also, please note that Question 16 is optional, and is important for data 
collection, so you may answer this question if you are comfortable. Please note that 
all surveys are coded so that you can maintain anonymity. 


What is your favorite color? 
What is your birth month? 


Q 1- Please circle the sessions of the Bible Study that you attended? (Circle all that 
apply) 


Week 1-11/1/2020 Week 2-11/8/2020 Week 3-11/15/2020 Week 4-11/22/2020 


Q 2- What is the definition of sexual violence? (You may continue on the back if needed) 


Q 3- What is the Biblical definition of marriage? (You may continue on the back if 


needed) 


Q 4- How satisfied as a whole are you with the quality of relationships that you have had 
with significant others? (Circle one) 


Extremely Dissatisfied Somewhat Dissatisfied Unsure Somewhat Satisfied Extremely 





Satisfied 


167 


Q 5- How much do you think that experiences with the trauma of sexual violence impact 
one’s view of marriage? (Circle one) 

Not at all Somewhat Unsure Moderately Extremely 

Q 6- How much do you think that experiences with the trauma of sexual violence impact 
one’s engagement in marriage? (Circle one) 

Not at all Somewhat Unsure Moderately Extremely 

Q7- I view marriage as a positive institution? True False 

Q 8- When women experience the trauma of sexual violence, they are ALWAYS able to 
tell someone who BELIEVES them? True False 

Q 9- How important is it for women to participate in spiritual counseling or receive some 
form of professional counseling to process their trauma of sexual violence? (Circle one) 
Not at all Somewhat Unsure Moderately Extremely 

Q 10- Sexual violence often goes unreported. True False. If you answered “True,” why 


do you believe this happens? (You may continue on the back if needed) 


Q 11- Can a woman who has experienced sexual violence undergo healing? Yes No—If 


so, how could this healing occur? (You can continue on the back if needed) 


168 
Q 12- The Bible Studies helped to shed light on the importance of healing from sexual 


violence. True False—Please explain your response. (You may continue on the back if 


needed) 


Q 13- Women need to have a voice to be able to share their experiences of sexual 
violence. 
True False—If so, how are women able to do this? (You can continue on the back if 


needed) 


Q 14- How did Tamar’s experience with Amnon change her life? (You can continue on 


the back if needed). 


169 
Q 15- What did you learn from the Bible Study sessions? How has your view changed on 


sexual violence and women and/or healthy, holy, wholesome marriage? (You may 


continue on the back if needed). 


Q 16 (OPTIONAL)- I have experienced sexual violence. True False 


Thank you for your time and participation! 


APPENDIX C 


INTERVIEW QUESTIONS 


170 


val 
Interview Questions for Talks with Tamar— 


1. What was the main thing you expected to learn from the Bible Study? 

2. What was your favorite part of the sessions? 

3. What was your least favorite part of the sessions? 

4. What aspects of the Bible Study would you like to see implemented in women’s 
ministry at your church? 

5. Do you think sexual violence is something women’s ministry needs to discuss? 
Why or why not? 

6. What do you think could be added to these sessions to make them more valuable? 

7. Have you changed your view of marriage at all from anything you gleaned from 
the sessions? 

8. What role in women’s ministry would you like to play? No part, attendee, 
committee, leader, etc. 

9. Do you think it is difficult for women to come together to discuss difficult 
issues? 

10. Do you think our concepts of marriage would change if we had more open 


discussions about our traumas? 


GENERAL REFLECTIONS— 


APPENDIX D 


CURRICULUM 


172 


173 
Bible Study—Week 1: November 1, 2020 


“Talks with Tamar” 
e Welcome: Scripture and Prayer 
** Proverbs 31: 25-31 


25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; 
she can laugh at the days to come. 
26 She speaks with wisdom, 
and faithful instruction is on her tongue. 
27 She watches over the affairs of her household 
and does not eat the bread of idleness. 
28 Her children arise and call her blessed; 
her husband also, and he praises her: 
29 “Many women do noble things, 
but you surpass them all.” 
39 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; 
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. 
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done, 
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. 


e Informed Consent Forms— 
e Complete Pre-Surveys— 
e Overview/Inspiration and focus of Bible Study— 


= There are many women who have experienced trauma in their lives, either 
in their childhood, as an adolescent, and or in adulthood. Often times, the 
same women who have experienced and endured varying levels of trauma 
are not afforded the opportunity to share their story, or even admit that 
they have actually had these types of experiences. Whether due to the fear 
of having to keep a “family secret,” pressure to pretend that they have 
lived a near perfect life, or a need or desire to forget what they 
experienced, a lot of women do not share their stories and may never tell 
anyone about the devastating and heart wrenching trauma that they have 
encountered. Many instances of trauma that are experienced by women 
may be sexual abuse, however; it can also exist in other forms. 


=> Regardless of the type of trauma that women face, roles and 
responsibilities of women often prohibit them from having the opportunity 
to process and ultimately heal from their experienced traumas, which in 
turn carries over into other areas in their lives. Whether they have been 


174 


able to admit it or not, their past traumatic experiences had a direct impact 
on their current lives and situations that they are in, their marriages or lack 
thereof, in particular. Many of them may even struggle to speak about 
their current contexts, without being asked to look back in their pasts to 
revisit them out of an avoidance of having to recall and recount events that 
they are not happy or proud to admit actually occurred. 


It is not easy to open up to others, and it can also seem rather impossible to 
speak up and admit to having experiences that no one would ever want to 
go through. One of the things that also makes it hard to admit and 
acknowledge situations that have caused hurt is that it can place the person 
in a position of feeling as if they have been defeated; or that they may 
even feel that they are to blame for what they encounter. Nonetheless, it is 
imperative to have positive outlets available to those who have 
encountered these types of experiences so that there will be environments 
for true healing and fulfillment of the purpose that God has predestined for 
their lives. When women are given the opportunity to pour out their life to 
the Father in heaven, they are filled with a new love, fire, and fulfillment 
as they surrender to the sovereignty of the Lord. 


Personal experience as my inspiration— 


Give Biblical, Historical, Theological, and Interdisciplinary Foundations 
for the project— 


Critical to ministry-Creating a consistent and useful environment that 
would foster growing relationships and bonding between women and girls 
would serve as a tool to eradicate a missing link in the church today, 
which is unity among women who have also developed strength and 
wholeness in their personal lives. There are many women in the church, 
yet, there are also many women who lack positive ties and interactions 
with women in the church. There is often conflict between women in 
ministry for many reasons, thus, it is necessary to mend and build the 
relationships of women. One of major focuses of Women’s Ministry 
would be to mend the brokenness that is often hidden by women, due to 
fear of being pitied, misunderstood, judged negatively, or even further 
abused and mistreated. 


Ministries need to make a sincere commitment to positively impacting the 
lives of the women that fill the seats every week, and even serve in various 
areas of ministry. These same women may be able to put a smile on their 
face on Wednesday evening for Bible study, or on Sunday morning for 
worship. However, the rest of the week they are crying and struggling to 
maintain the joy and peace that God gives. Some may not even recognize 
or know that God is actually the giver of joy and peace. 


175 


= The masks that women wear, especially within leadership exist. In an 
effort to remove these masks and to unveil the realness and the truth of 
where we are and what we experience, the church must actively engage in 
and address the needs of women in the ministry. While there are many 
responsibilities and roles that the church already plays, ministries must 
implement women’s ministry to be fully involved in the needs and areas of 
growth and opportunity for the church as a whole. 
Sexual violence: “Any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual 
comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person’s 
sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the 
victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work.” This is the 
best language because of all of the varying definitions of inappropriate sexual 
contact. Sexual violence is all encompassing and gives a broader concept of the 
experiences that many endure. 
= Synonymous words: Rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual violation, 
sexual maltreatment, molestation, date rape 
Biblical marriage definition: 
= What is your definition of marriage? 
= True or False: All marriage is ordained by God? 
= Ephesians 5: Husbands and wives submit to one another out of reverence 
for Christ—Husband is the head of the wife—Wife submits to husband as 
church submits to Christ—Husband loves the wife as Christ loved the 
church and gave up himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her by 


washing her with water through the word—so she can present herself holy 


and blameless without stain or wrinkle—Husbands ought to love their 


176 


wives as their own bodies—man leaves his father and mother—two 
become one flesh—wife respects her husband 
=> Is there a such thing as a “happy marriage?” 


= What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us 
happy? 


= Why can marriage sometimes contain selfish motivation? 


=> “Holiness—” How does this relate to marriage?—Marriage is a setting full 
of opportunities to foster spiritual growth and service to God. 


=> What if God designed marriage to make us closer to Him, and to reflect 
the character of His Son more precisely? 


= How can marriage be holy, healthy, and wholesome? 
e Read 2 Samuel 13: 1-20 


=> Are you familiar with this passage? If so, in what context did you first 
read it? 


= What were/are your initial reactions to the text? 
= What stands out to you about Tamar’s story? 


=> If Tamar was allowed to tell her story, what do you think she would say? 
What would the story sound like from her perspective? 


e Homework—Discuss the significance of verses 12-14. Do you believe that the 
language used is powerful? 


e Closing Remarks and Questions 


177 
Bible Study—Week 2: November 8, 2020 


“Talks with Tamar” 
e Welcome: Scripture and Prayer 
Psalm 46 I-11 NLT 


1 God is our refuge and strength, 
always ready to help in times of trouble. 
2 So we will not fear when earthquakes come 
and the mountains crumble into the sea. 
3 Let the oceans roar and foam. 
Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! Interlude 
4 A river brings joy to the city of our God, 
the sacred home of the Most High. 
5 God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed. 
From the very break of day, God will protect it. 
6 The nations are in chaos, 
and their kingdoms crumble! 
God’s voice thunders, 
and the earth melts! 
7 The LorD of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; 
the God of Israel is our fortress. Interlude 
8 Come, see the glorious works of the LorD: 
See how he brings destruction upon the world. 
* He causes wars to end throughout the earth. 
He breaks the bow and snaps the spear; 
he burns the shields with fire. 
10“Be still, and know that I am God! 
I will be honored by every nation. 
I will be honored throughout the world.” 
1 The LorD of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; 
the God of Israel is our fortress. Interlude 


e Review from Week #1—Lingering questions and concerns 


=> “Holiness”—How does this relate to marriage?—Marriage is a setting full 
of opportunities to foster spiritual growth and service to God. 


=> What if God designed marriage to make us closer to Him, and to reflect 
the character of His Son more precisely? 


= How can marriage be holy, healthy, and wholesome? 


178 


e Read 2 Samuel 13: 1-20 NIV 


=> 


Are you familiar with this passage? If so, in what context did you first 
read it? 


What were/are your initial reactions to the text? 


What stands out to you about Tamar’s story?—One of the major points of 
interest is simply in the verbiage that is used to account for what happened 
to Tamar, and whether the word rape, incest, or violence should be used. 
There are also further assertions that have been made to connect these 
three ‘concepts in one to conceptualize Tamar’s experience as a significant 
traumatic event. 


If Tamar was allowed to tell her story, what do you think she would say? 
What would the story sound like from her perspective? 


e Exegesis— (Intro to the text) 


=> 


We want to pay close attention to Tamar before, during, and after the 
experience of sexual violence. Who was Tamar before? Who was Tamar 
during? Who was Tamar afterwards? 


The rape of Tamar is replete with sexual violation as well as its aftermath. 
The writer of the text not only paints a picture of Tamar’s experience to 
understand what happened to Tamar during the act, how she was during 
the act (verses 12-14) but also how she was ostracized and became a 
desolate woman afterwards—same situations are experienced today. 


The text in 2 Samuel 13:1-20 serves as a foundation for a critical problem 
that many women face, which is the inability for women to heal from 
trauma and sexual violence when they are forced to hide from it, deny it 
ever happened, forget about it altogether, and are left with sadness and 
grief. 


e Exegesis—Before the experience 


=> 


=> 


What do you think was Tamar’s narrative before the act of sexual 
violence? 

Tamar was known as the beautiful sister, tragic in her beauty, and a royal 
princess. Amnon, the crown prince was said to have loved his sister and 
while he was privileged, he found himself powerless to possess her. The 
text states that he fell in love with Tamar, but, makes clear that love in any 
meaningful sense had no part in his actions. She was a virgin, which under 
other circumstances may have meant that he would have been free to 


179 


marry her, however; since she was his half-sister the possibility was 
dismissed. 


= The story of Amnon’s sexual abuse of Tamar shows that he treats her 
solely as the object of his desires with no rights or value of her own, 
directly following the story of David’s abuse of his power. 


= Amnon was “sick” and it was normal for Tamar to attend to him at the 
request of her father David 


e Exegesis—During the experience 


= Review of Homework—Discuss the significance of verses 12-14. Do you 
believe that the language used is powerful? 


= Amnon took advantage of her openness to attend to him, overpowers her, 
and takes advantage of her—he called her “beloved,” which is a paradox 
because if he loved her, how could he hurt her? 


=> She refused his suggested on three counts: public opinion in Israel was 
opposed to rape, she would have no future, and neither would he, because 
he would be regarded as one of the wanton fools. 


= Despite trying to convince Amnon of why it would be wrong for him to 
take advantage of her, he ignored her and allowed lust and evil to overtake 
his behaviors and he raped her—taking away her innocence and her 
virginity. 


e Exegesis—The Aftermath— 


= Tamar was dressed as an unmarried daughter of the king, with distinction 
in her long robe with sleeves which was splendid in nature, but after 
Amnon’s servant bolted the door after her, Tamar also knew that the door 
to marriage was bolted against her for good. (**Plumb line: Sexual 
violence—swept under the rug/hidden/ignored—damages the institution 
of marriage**) 

= She put ashes on her head, and that along with her torn robe and her loud 
crying was evidence of her grief and loss. She had laid her hand on her 
head as a gesture mentioned in Jeremiah 2:37, but in reliefs and tomb 
paintings it appears to symbolize captivity. 


= Absalom did his best to comfort Tamar and he took his responsibilities 
toward her seriously. She took shelter in his house, a desolate woman. She 


180 


was isolated from society, disqualified through no fault of her own from 
marriage. 

e From the biblical perspective, in Tamar’s story, she was left a desolate woman in 
her brother Absalom’s house. The text does not imply nor formerly state that her 
life was the same as it was before she was raped by her other brother. In fact, to 
become a desolate woman means to be isolated and barren. Yet, while she became 
isolated and barren, her condition was more reflective of her position to people, 
not her position to God. Oppressed, abused, pained, and scarred, Tamar was never 
outside the presence of her Heavenly Father, even though she could not rely on 
her earthly father to protect her. Tamar had a wilderness experience as she left her 
father’s home to live with her brother. In her desolation, she would have the 
opportunity to seek the authority and presence of God to be able to live and to 
truly receive beauty for ashes. 


e Questions to consider— 
= What are the similarities of Tamar’s story and women today? 
= What are the differences of Tamar’s story and women today? 
= What should have happened to Amnon? 
= What should have happened to Tamar? 


e Homework—Could healing have occurred for Tamar? Discuss the process of 
healing for sexual violence for Tamar? 


e Closing Remarks and Questions 


Bible Study—Week 3: November 15, 2020 


“Talks with Tamar” 
e Welcome: Scripture & Prayer 


John 15; 1-9 
! “7 am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 

? He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear 
fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 

3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 

4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain 
in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 


181 


> “T am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear 
much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 

6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such 
branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 

” If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be 
done for you. 

8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my 
disciples. 

9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 


e Recap of Sessions 1 and 2— 


=> Experiences of sexual violence and how women need opportunities to be 
open to heal 

How we form our views of marriage 

Marriage—ordained by God vs. not ordained by God 

Allowing God to choose our partners 

Being open to marriage 

Marriage is designed to make us holy 

Reflections on our past experiences and how this impacts our relationship 
formation 


YUUUNY 


e Read 2 Samuel 13: 1-20 NIV 


=> Are you familiar with this passage? If so, in what context did you first 
read it? 


= What were/are your initial reactions to the text? 


=> What stands out to you about Tamar’s story?—One of the major points of 
interest is simply in the verbiage that is used to account for what happened 
to Tamar, and whether the word rape, incest, or violence should be used. 
There are also further assertions that have been made to connect these 
three concepts in one to conceptualize Tamar’s experience as a significant 
traumatic event. 


= If Tamar was allowed to tell her story, what do you think she would say? 
What would the story sound like from her perspective? 


e Exegesis— (Intro to the text) 
=> We want to pay close attention to Tamar before, during, and after the 


experience of sexual violence. Who was Tamar before? Who was Tamar 
during? Who was Tamar afterwards? 


182 


= The rape of Tamar is replete with sexual violation as well as its aftermath. 
The writer of the text not only paints a picture of Tamar’s experience to 
understand what happened to Tamar during the act, how she was during 
the act (verses 12-14) but also how she was ostracized and became a 
desolate woman afterwards—same situations are experienced today. 


=> The text in 2 Samuel 13:1-20 serves as a foundation for a critical problem 
that many women face, which is the inability for women to heal from 
trauma and sexual violence when they are forced to hide from it, deny it 
ever happened, forget about it altogether, and are left with sadness and 
grief. 


e Exegesis—Before the experience 
=> What do you think was Tamar’s narrative before the act of sexual 
violence? 


= Tamar was known as the beautiful sister, tragic in her beauty, and a royal 
princess. Amnon, the crown prince was said to have loved his sister and 
while he was privileged, he found himself powerless to possess her. The 
text states that he fell in love with Tamar, but, makes clear that love in any 
meaningful sense had no part in his actions. She was a virgin, which under 
other circumstances may have meant that he would have been free to 
marry her, however; since she was his half-sister the possibility was 
dismissed. 


= The story of Amnon’s sexual abuse of Tamar shows that he treats her 
solely as the object of his desires with no rights or value of her own, 
directly following the story of David’s abuse of his power. 


=> Amnon was “sick” and it was normal for Tamar to attend to him at the 
request of her father David. 


e Exegesis—During the experience 


= Review of Homework—Discuss the significance of verses 12-14. Do you 
believe that the language used is powerful? 


= Amnon took advantage of her openness to attend to him, overpowers her, 
and takes advantage of her—he called her “beloved,” which is a paradox 
because if he loved her, how could he hurt her? 


=> She refused his suggested on three counts: public opinion in Israel was 
opposed to rape, she would have no future, and neither would he, because 
he would be regarded as one of the wanton fools. 


183 


= Despite trying to convince Amnon of why it would be wrong for him to 
take advantage of her, he ignored her and allowed lust and evil to overtake 
his behaviors and he raped her—taking away her innocence and her 
virginity. 


Exegesis—The A ftermath— 


= Tamar was dressed as an unmarried daughter of the king, with distinction 
in her long robe with sleeves which was splendid in nature, but after 
Amnon’s servant bolted the door after her, Tamar also knew that the door 
to marriage was bolted against her for good. (**Plumb line: Sexual 
violence—swept under the rug/hidden/ignored—damages the institution 
of marriage**) 

=> She put ashes on her head, and that along with her torn robe and her loud 
crying was evidence of her grief and loss. She had laid her hand on her 
head as a gesture mentioned in Jeremiah 2:37, but in reliefs and tomb 
paintings it appears to symbolize captivity. 


= Absalom did his best to comfort Tamar and he took his responsibilities 

toward her seriously. She took shelter in his house, a desolate woman. She 

was isolated from society, disqualified through no fault of her own from 

marriage. 
From the biblical perspective, in Tamar’s story, she was left a desolate woman in 
her brother Absalom’s house. The text does not imply nor formerly state that her 
life was the same as it was before she was raped by her other brother. In fact, to 
become a desolate woman means to be isolated and barren. Yet, while she became 
isolated and barren, her condition was more reflective of her position to people, 
not her position to God. Oppressed, abused, pained, and scarred, Tamar was never 
outside the presence of her Heavenly Father, even though she could not rely on 
her earthly father to protect her. Tamar had a wilderness experience as she left her 
father’s home to live with her brother. In her desolation, she would have the 
opportunity to seek the authority and presence of God to be able to live and to 
truly receive beauty for ashes. 


Questions to consider— 

=> What are the similarities of Tamar’s story and women today? 
= What are the differences of Tamar’s story and women today? 
= What should have happened to Amnon? 


= What should have happened to Tamar? 


184 


e Homework—What specific implications can experiences of sexual violence 
have on the outlooks/views of marriage? 


e Closing Remarks and Questions 


Bible Study—Week 4: November 22, 2020 


“Talks with Tamar” 
e Welcome: Scripture and Prayer 


Isaiah 61:1-11-The Year of the Lord’s Favor 


'The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, 
because the Lord has anointed me 
to proclaim good news to the poor. 
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, 
to proclaim freedom for the captives 
and release from darkness for the prisoners, 
? to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor 
and the day of vengeance of our God, 
to comfort all who mourn, 
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion— 
to bestow on them a crown of beauty 
instead of ashes, 
the oil of joy 
instead of mourning, 
and a garment of praise 
instead of a spirit of despair. 
They will be called oaks of righteousness, 
a planting of the Lord 
for the display of his splendor. 
4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins 
and restore the places long devastated; 
they will renew the ruined cities 
that have been devastated for generations. 
> Strangers will shepherd your flocks; 
foreigners will work your fields and vineyards. 
6 And you will be called priests of the Lord, 
you will be named ministers of our God. 
You will feed on the wealth of nations, 
and in their riches you will boast. 
” Instead of your shame 
you will receive a double portion, 


185 


and instead of disgrace 
you will rejoice in your inheritance. 

And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, 
and everlasting joy will be yours. 


8 “For I, the Lord, love justice; 


I hate robbery and wrongdoing. 
In my faithfulness I will reward my people 
and make an everlasting covenant with them. 
? Their descendants will be known among the nations 
and their offspring among the peoples. 
All who see them will acknowledge 
that they are a people the Lord has blessed.” 
10T delight greatly in the Lord; 
my soul rejoices in my God. 
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation 
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, 
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, 
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 
4 For as the soil makes the sprout come up 
and a garden causes seeds to grow, 
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness 
and praise spring up before all nations. 


e Recap of Sessions 1-3— 


=> Experiences of sexual violence and how women need opportunities to be 
open to heal 

How we form our views of marriage 

Reflections on our past experiences and how this impacts our relationship 
formation 

Marriage—ordained by God vs. not ordained by God 

Allowing God to choose our partners 

Being open to marriage 

Marriage is designed to make us holy 

The Story of Tamar-initial reactions, Tamar needed to have voice, who 
was Tamar before, during, and after the experience, plotting in Amnon, 
aftermath of Tamar being ostracized, similarities and differences of 
Tamar’s story and women today, what should have happened to Tamar, 
what should have happened to Amnon 


YUUUY 


e Homework- 


= Could healing have occurred for Tamar? Discuss the process of healing 
for sexual violence for Tamar? 


186 


=> What specific implications can experiences of sexual violence have on the 
outlooks/views of marriage? 


e Why is healing critical for those who have experienced sexual violence? 
What does healing look like? 


= Resources for addressing the trauma of sexual violence. The field of 
psychology is a reliable source for healing and for giving women the 
opportunity to work with qualified and licensed professionals to 
address their traumas of sexual violence. 


=> The theological framework of the project, womanist theology 
embodies the concept of liberation. Healing and liberation go hand in 
hand, especially for those who have experienced sexual violence. 
They not only need the opportunity to mend what has been broken, 
but also to be freed from the mental, emotional, physical, and 
spiritual bondage that often results from the experiences of trauma in 
general, and sexual violence in particular. This healing and liberation 
will require a complex combination of strategies to achieve both, 
however; this is possible through therapy, such as Cognitive 
Processing Therapy (CPT). 


= Moreover, Dr. Pellauer addresses the concept of grace. She writes 
that grace has been especially active for her in the healing process as 
one who has experienced sexual violence, as it has in the lives of 
many others. She urges people to understand what healing requires as 
people learned more about the healing of survivors in the last forty 
years than in the previous twenty centuries. She adds that “At least 
some of that grace takes the form of listening to survivors, hearing 
what goes on in their lives, sharing the pain and identifying the 
extraordinary resources people use to survive and to thrive.” 


=> This “hearing each other into speech” is foundational to healing. 
Disclosure begins the healing process. What prompts that disclosure? 
That movement to break the silence, may be utterly mundane. 
Contemporary forms of grace in the lives of victims/survivors 
include a television program that brings uneasiness, nightmares or 
memories, an understanding word uttered by a friend, and the 
growing desperation that pushes one into asking for help. A 
meaningful song about healing says: 


Cause Your love just keeps on healing me 
No matter how I bruise 
If I just trust You 


187 


Your love just keeps on healing me 

One more clue 

One more chance that wasn't there before 

In your arms 

No pain can harm the way I'm feeling 

Lord I know that Your love is healing. 

=> Works like Dr. Pellauer’s are essential in gaining a better understanding 

of the effects of sexual violence as well as the church’s responsibility to 
address the issues of sexual violence. Her incorporation of the concept of 
grace is also powerful in how it is essential for the person who 
experienced the sexual violence as well as others who may not have 
actually experienced the sexual violence but may be aware of it. This 
proves that sexual violence not only affects those who directly had the 
experience, but also those whom sexual violence indirectly impacts. 


Barriers as to why some women do not access these resources - While many 
women are unable to seek counseling due to experiencing several different 
barriers to engaging in treatment, psychological counseling is an effective 
intervention to help to manage mental health symptoms that may develop 
within an individual as the result of traumatic experience. 


o Anexcerpt from John Blase in Amy K. Sorrells’ How Sweet 
the Sound, describes the pain of a woman who has 
experienced sexual violence: “She carries within her a tree of 
silence born from seeds of pain sown long ago. Its roots are 
now thick as a man’s arm. To tear them out would collapse 
her, her body’s posture built on the scaffolding of things as 
they should not have been. So she walks as if retreating, 
leaning back not in fear but at a slight angle where the sun 
and dark have finally found rest.’ 


co Hall and others add that: “Women who experience sexual 
violence have an increased risk of mental health problems, 
including Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, 
anxiety, and social maladjustment. In the Democratic 
Republic of the Congo (DRC), studies show that upward of 
40% of women experience sexual violence. Many of these 
women are rejected by their husbands and family, experience 
poor standing within their communities and suffer a social 
death-exclusion from social and community life. This 
community reaction is in part a product of existing dynamics 
of gender inequality and harmful gender attitudes that blame 
sexual violence survivors. In community contexts where 
interpersonal trauma rates are high, healing needs to involve 
social factors in addition to addressing psychological effects 
of these traumas. Studies show that losses to social resources 


occur following rape, but the literature has yet to focus on 
whether these resources can be restored or improved. 


Effects of not accessing these resources - Mental health problems, physical 
problems, interpersonal issues, intimacy issues, etc. 


Marriage and how outlooks and views of marriage are developed - Linking 
experiences of sexual violence and healing to improve overall functioning 


and quality of life surrounding marriage. 


o The foundational principle for this project is that while some 


churches will address the problem of sexual violence that 
women face, there is not much emphasis on how a women’s 
lack of opportunity to heal from these traumas hinders and 
impacts their ability to engage in marriages that resemble 
Christ-like marriage. Women need to participate in 
interventions that promote opportunities to speak up about 
experiencing sexual violence. However, churches need to 
explore how the experiences of sexual violence that go 
unaddressed or untreated directly impact marriage. 


The works that addressed women’s trauma and healthy 
relationships/marriage all promoted self-love and wholeness 
to be a prerequisite for loving someone else and for engaging 
in relationships with others. In her book, Rainie Howard 
identifies characteristics and signs that would indicate that a 
relationship is “toxic,” or unhealthy and that it is time to move 
on. These include living in the past memories more than 
present experiences, justifying your partner’s bad actions, 
your relationship brings more pain than joy, and your partner 
is causing emotional, physical, or verbal pain. These signs 
also include when your values and beliefs are different from 
those of your partner, you stay in the relationship because you 
expect things to get better, your partner puts little to no effort 
into the relationship, and the relationship holds you back and 
prevents both of you from growing as individuals. 


Howard urges women to seek to respect and love themselves 
enough to walk away from anyone and anything that does not 
lead them to a closer relationship with God and help them to 
grow mentally and spiritually. She promotes that healing is a 
vital and essential component to women being able to turn the 
“hurtful loss into the best thing that ever happened to you.” 
The healing process for women is highlighted as an intricate 
and critical component for women to live and love in a healthy 
way. 


188 


189 


o Howard writes: When you are constantly stressed by 


emotional pain, there are subtle changes that occur in your 
body to create a dependency on stress-related chemistry. 
Therefore, you begin to unconsciously depend on the mental, 
physical and spiritual effects that occur from a dysfunctional 
relationship. Think about it. Instead of anticipating true love 
from a healthy relationship, you expect the opposite. You 
attract people who use you, lie to you, and disrespect you. 


Furthermore, Howard links adult unhealthy relationships to 
experiencing “toxic love” in childhood. The “toxic love” that 
she speaks of can also be synonymous with traumatic 
experiences, including sexual violence. While the healing 
from these experiences can be long and difficult, she writes 
about how healing is necessary in order to be drawn into a 
new relationship that ends the abusive cycle. She argues that 
women need to heal from unhealthy patterns through 
increasing their reliance on the Holy Spirit. 


The commitment to maintaining abusive cycles and unhealthy 
patterns stems from the tendency to be attracted and linked to the 
area where pain occurred. For example, women who experienced 
sexual violence tend to be attracted to relationships that resemble 
their traumatic events, and the only way to disconnect from these 
traumatic events is to receive intervention. Ignoring the trauma or 
denying the existence of a problem essentially guarantees that the 
people will fail to move forward or to experience relief from their 
traumas. The church and society as a whole needs to address this 
concern, as women have experienced sexual violence for ages. 
Therapy addresses the trauma that stems from abusive cycles and 
unhealthy patterns of behavior. It allows the participant to 
challenge the effects of their experience of trauma. 


Susan Brownmiller wrote Against Our Will in 1975 that chronicled 
the history of rape as a political and powerful weapon. During this 
time, women who had been raped conducted “speak outs” through 
the National Organization for Women that shed light on the 
problem of rape, its common occurrences, as well as the long-term 
effects that it had. A year later, in 1976, Burgess and Holmstrom 
published an important article in the American Journal of 
Psychiatry, which was one a series of articles on the reactions they 
observed from conducting interviews with ninety-two rape victim 
in an emergency room. As a result of these writings and the 
information gathered from these interviews, the National Institute 


190 


of Mental Health (NIMH) set aside three million dollars for studies 
on rape. Patricia Resick became involved in writing two grant 
applications—one with Dean Kilpatrick at MUSC and one with 
Karen Calhoun—when she went back to the University of Georgia 
to complete her graduate degree, and both grants were funded. 


Moreover, in her graduate studies, she examined fear and anxiety 
among victims of rape and attempted to develop a brief 
intervention. The University of Georgia study was conducted in 
Atlanta at Grady Memorial Hospital, where about 1,000 women 
per year who had been raped were being seen in the emergency 
room. The focus of her longitudinal study was on depression. 
Resick wanted to see whether rape produced fear or depressive 
reactions (a question that had never been studied), and, if so, how 
long-lasting they might be. Her study also sought to determine 
whether they could develop treatments that could be used in rape 
crisis centers. 


The prevailing theory about rape responses at that time was the 
belief that they consisted of first-order classical conditional of the 
fear reaction, along with second-order conditioning that 
generalized the reaction to other triggers. Resick recounts that due 
to such a large amount of women saying to her “I knew he wasn’t 
going to kill me, but it was such a huge betrayal, and I feel so 
much shame and disgust at what he did to me,” she began to have 
doubts that PTSD after rape was just a fear/anxiety disorder. As a 
result, she began to revise the theory and looked towards cognitive 
theories of PTSD. 


The works of many influenced Resick’s studies and theories. 
These influences included Aaron T. Beck who studied the causes 
of depression and developed his cognitive theory, which focuses 
on how people absorb negative and erroneous beliefs from society 
that leave them ashamed and depressed. She was also inspired by 
an article and book by McCann and colleagues who developed the 
constructivist self-development theory of traumatic victimization 
inspired Resick. Additionally, Hollon and Garber influenced 
Resick. In their work, they proposed that when someone is exposed 
to schema-discrepant information, one of two things happens: The 
information may be altered so that it can be assimilated into the 
person’s existing beliefs/schemas without changing the prior 
beliefs (e.g., “It wasn’t rape, it was a misunderstanding; I must 
have done something for him to think it was OK”). The other 
alternative is that existing beliefs (e.g. “Only strangers rape’’) are 
changed to incorporate the new, discrepant information (e.g. “It is 
possible to be raped by someone you know’’). 


191 


= This new learning is the goal for therapy, and as a result Resick 
began to think about it within the context of therapy and trauma. 
She and her graduate student, Monica Schnicke, sought to conduct 
work to challenge the distortion and overgeneralized beliefs such 
as “I always make bad decisions,” “No one can be trusted,” and “I 
must control everyone around me.” They called this 
“overaccommodation” and they realized the importance of first 
working on the assimilation of the trauma and not moving to the 
“overaccommodated” beliefs until the index trauma was resolved. 
Resick, Monson and Chard wrote “For example, once clients stop 
blaming themselves for the occurrence of the traumatic event, then 
it is easier to tackle the idea that they can’t make good decisions. 
Accordingly, we placed the work with overaccommodated themes 
later in the therapy.” 


e What is intimacy? How does this relate to marriage, and how engagement 
in healthy, wholesome, and holy marriage is impacted by a woman’s ability 
to heal from experiences of sexual violence. 

o There are innate connections between the body and the brain, and 
these connections need to be positive and healthy in order for 
wholeness to occur. In twelve sessions, Cognitive Processing Therapy 
not only allows individuals to identify their trauma, but it also fills in 
the gaps and those missing or fractured pieces that are a direct result of 
the trauma. CPT allows those who have experienced the trauma of 
sexual violence to understand the concept of trauma and its effects, to 
find stuck points, work with events, thoughts, and feelings, process the 
event, challenge problematic thinking, identify patterns of problematic 
thinking and beliefs, identify themes of trauma (safety, trust, and 
power/control), review esteem, intimacy, and facing the future, and 
processing intimacy through making a final impact statement. 


o Karen L. Freedman gives her account of her experience of sexual 
violence in Whatever Gets You Through. She states: The notion that 
rape is not about sex is misleading. It is true that people who rape 
often do so to exert power over their victims, but for rape survivors, 
whose bodies have been used sexually without their consent, the 
transgression can live on their sex lives. At least that is what happened 
to me. Sex had become a series of triggers that prevented me from 
intimacy, my inhospitable body populated by land mines sensitive to 
touch...I began to lean on alcohol to trick my body into relaxing, but 
that was its own trial... At some point, I broke. Unable to move 
forward, I decided it was time to get help. 


192 


Karen and many women can recount how the unwanted images of 
sexual violence resurface from time to time as vivid memories, and 
how they remain a part of woman’s psyche that plagues her 
psychologically, emotionally, and physically. Seeking help is an 
essential component for helping the woman to address these memories 
in a healthy and healing manner. 


Research demonstrates a connection between child sexual abuse 
victimization and engaging in high-risk sexual behaviors as an adult. 
This has a significant impact on one’s ability to establish healthy 
connections with others. Heavy engagement in risky behaviors and 
relationships directly impacts a person’s ability to identify with and to 
desire to engage in healthy relationships, particularly marriage. 
Experiencing sexual violence calls for intervention that identifies 
specific goals and behavioral objectives. In addition to maladaptive 
behaviors regarding marriage, unaddressed sexual violence in an 
individual can also lead to other concerns including anxiety, 
depression, suicidal ideation and or attempt(s), as well as other mental 
health issues. 


After a woman experiences sexual violence, it becomes difficult for 
her to engage in intimacy with others. Brooke Axtell refers to this as 
“hiding.” She notes that women have a hard time coming out after 
having had these experiences, and that she can feel more comfortable 
retreating rather than being fully seen or heard. She argues that once a 
woman is able to share the “voice of her soul,” then she will seek out 
love and intimacy. 

Axtell further writes, “Recovery is soul retrieval. It is a process of 
calling back parts of the soul and psyche that split off through trauma.” 
When doing this, it allows a person to heal from the wounds of trauma. 
This concept is similar to the psychological term of integration, which 
is a way of connecting with the different parts of one’s being, offering 
each part compassion and welcoming these pieces of humanity to 
come home. The trauma that one experiences has a profound effect on 
the mentality and psyche of an individual. Negative experiences often 
impact the way people view the world, and subsequently, their 
relationships with others. 


Dr. D. Westfield writes, “...what you have been in can get into you.” 
This emphasizes the importance of women being freed from the 
mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual bondage that can be created 
when there is unaddressed sexual violence. Dr. D. Westfield also 
contends that, “You attract who you are.” In this light, healing of 
women is very important in attracting a partner that is healed. Broken 
women will more than likely attract another broken partner, which 
perpetuates that cycle of unhealthy romantic relationships, or an 


193 


avoidance of romantic relationships as a whole. Discovery through 
discernment is Rainie Howard’s term for the way to ensure that a 
person is engaging in a healthy relationship, and that they are able to 
first confront the things that may be a hindrance for them in 
relationships. 


o Both Westfield and Howard recognized the importance of healing 
prior to engaging in Godly romantic relationships or even marriage. A 
pivotal way in which to promote healing is to engage in the therapeutic 
process. 


o In “Before Yesterday,” a story by Grecia Chasteen that follows a 
middle-aged woman through eight therapy sessions where she explores 
a past riddle with traumas including sexual violence, she pens this 
poem which ends her novel: 


Hello Love... 

Today I was introduced to a new kind of love. 

A love that I’ve heard about and wished upon a star for. The kind of love that comes once 
in a lifetime. 

I woke in the arms of love. 

I made breakfast for love and smiled. 

Love watched me show then rubbed lotion on my body. 

I went to the park and laughed with love. 

Love listened as I spoke. 

Love held me while watching the sunset. 

Love still loved after hearing my secrets. 

Love didn’t judge my flaws, but embraced my strengths and accepted by weaknesses. 
Love kissed the back of my neck and wiped away my tears. 

Love is my hearo for my fears. 

Love made a candlelight dinner and rubbed the stress out of my feet. 

Love held me as I feel asleep. 

Today I was introduced to self-love! 

@ Asawoman who has experienced the act of sexual violence receives the therapy 
that she needs to facilitate her healing, she will develop positive ideals about the 
concept of marriage including being able to engage in healthy, holy, and 
wholesome relationships. As she learns to first love herself in therapy, then she 
can begin to love others in the way God wants her to love others. 


¢ Closing Remarks and Questions 


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