Tag Archives: sexual assault

Religion and Domestic Violence in Early New England: The Memoirs of Abigail Abbot Bailey

Indiana University Press; 1989

Abigail Abbot Bailey’s account[1] of domestic violence neither seems atypical nor surprising from many other women’s accounts of what they’ve experienced in abusive relationships. However, Abigail’s faith and trust in God coupled with her understanding  of it—what it actually means and the way in which it should be manifested in her life—is what sets her story apart from other women’s stories.

Abigail’s family upbringing explains how her understanding of trust in God had been shaped. She had a relatively peaceful and loving family. Submission to her parents was never a problem because they provided care and sacrifice. Her lack of experience in struggles and hardships did not allow her to understand what it meant to fully trust God and activate her faith.

Early on in her marriage to Asa Bailey, she notices that he exhibits sinful behavior in his life, but she is eager to show him grace because she believes he has yet to be converted and that every human being has sinned before God. Thus, she has no right to judge, but only to impart forgiveness on her husband. Abigail honestly explains that she “would rather suffer wrong than do wrong” (Taves, 57). Her first and foremost devotion is to please God and live in holiness. Her belief could also be explained through her understanding that any kind of earthly suffering was endurable because Christ’s life entailed the ultimate suffering on behalf of the world. She would simply be partaking in Jesus’ life and her duty as a Puritan woman to conform to the image of her Savior.

Multiple times she “trusted in the Lord to deliver” her (Taves, 60). Abigail believed that trusting in God meant praying and idly hoping that he would either rescue her hardships by changing her husband to be a better man even to convert. In fact, her hope that Asa would change was probably one of the main factors that encouraged her to remain in the marriage for so long. One psychology article[2] states that one of the factors that contribute to a person finally deciding whether or not to leave an abusive relationship is “belief that the abuser would change” (Strube, 837). If her own previous definition of “trust in God” did not change, I do not believe that she expected to separate from him by leaving him or attaining a divorce.

Nevertheless, in the latter part of their marriage (after Asa’s incest with their daughter was made known to her) together she began to consider a new definition—“that trusting in God implies the due use of all means” (Taves, 174). Her faith became active and she became a participant in the decisions she made for her life.

[1] Bailey, Abigail Abbot, and Ann Taves. Religion and Domestic Violence in Early New England: The Memoirs of Abigail Abbot Bailey. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1989. Print.

[2] Strube, Michael J., and Linda S. Barbour. “Factors Related to the Decision to Leave an Abusive Relationship.” Journal of Marriage and Family 46.4 (1984): n. pag. JSTOR. Web. Sept. 2012. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/352531&gt;.

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Response to the current “Slutwalk” movement

A simple, demeaning statement made by a Toronto police officer to a group of college students at York University

caused an uproar all around the globe. The officer said that to prevent rape “women should avoid dressing like sluts.” His ignorant remark has initiated a movement called “Slutwalk”—a deliberate counter response to the officer’s previous statement. Many Slutwalk protestors believe that the officer made a mistake in blaming the victims instead of the perpetrators of rape.

Another reason people chose to support this movement is to defend the notion that rape doesn’t only depend on the kinds of clothes that women wear because women are raped regardless of what they are wearing. According to statistics, 75% of all survivors know their attacker. This reveals that rape does not usually occur by strangers on the street who get turned on by a girl who dresses scandalously, but that the majority of the time it is a neighbor, relative, or friend that rapes a woman. These rapists carried previous intents to assault these victims regardless of how many layers of clothes they had on.

I agree with the Slutwalk protestors up to the point that girls who dress provocatively neither invite men to rape them nor deserve to be raped. I also agree with the stance that until the rapists change their behavior this activity will not come to an end. Women can only do so much to educate and defend themselves from such assaults. It is unjust to focus all the blame on the victim while allowing perpetrators to escape without any punishment or consequences for their actions.

On the other hand, girls who do dress in suggestive ways should expect sleazy guys‘ attempts to at least hit on them. They are luring the wrong kinds of men (to complain that he ended up being a jerk) in by the way that they are portraying themselves. Women should know what all guys are thinking when he sees a provocatively dressed before him. I think certain clothes can make a loud remark of the type of attention one may be seeking.  For example, skimpy clothes could shout, “I’m sexy. I want you to notice my body. I’m okay that you lust after me before getting to know me.” I think a mature man who wants a real relationship (with benefit of the doubt to the few mature men who are out there) will know that although a woman who dresses in titillating outfits may be great eye-candy, she is not someone who he can readily take home to his parents. This is definitely not a ban on sexy outfits. Sexier attire have their appropriate occasions like the bedroom or a special night out.

Thus, I think that women who march through Slutwalks with provocative clothing are preventing people from truly hearing their cries. Even using the term “slut” in the movement’s title is a bold approach to get people’s attention to this matter. I don’t think using the very term that degrades women, as the title of a march to protect women is an effective method to stop the perspective of others who may have the same perspective as the Toronto police officer. The women who are clothed more conservatively, though they are shouting bold statements like “Enough is enough!” and “Don’t blame the victim”, can be taken more seriously than the scantily dressed ladies.

This is tied to the film we watched inclass called “War Zone”. It seemed like a typical documentary until the female host began to make her point by shoving a microphone and a camera in the men’s faces and calling them out in public. She wanted to rebuttal the men’s insulting acts—making catcalls, gawking at butts and breasts, and shouting sexual remarks—at women casually walking on the street. There were two eye-opening aspects of this film. Firstly, men don’t realize that their “compliments” are wrong another man treats their wives or daughters in the same manner. Secondly, the reactions of the majority of the men when they were interviewed came from a very defensive stance. Some attempted to rationalize or justify their actions by saying that it was actually women who had problems because they could not accept a nice compliment. Others denied the very actions that were caught on tape. And lastly, some who initially brushed off the accusations with laughter shifted to an angrier, violent response when the interviewer kept probing them with difficult questions about disrespecting women. Interestingly, all of the men’s reactions revealed that they knew to some extent that what they did was an act of inappropriately and insultingly objectifying women.

The constant objectification of women in the media pervades into the minds of everyone so frequently that today it’s hard to find many magazines, commercials, TV shows or films that portray women in a way that reminds us we are beautiful, valuable and capable. Men who treat women disrespectfully are adding to the harmful messages that women receive from the media everyday. As long as there are guys who think this way, women need to be more self-aware and cautious of the way they present themselves because it could encourage the unhealthy way some men could view women as trophies, eye-candy, or toys (though I understand that not all men view women in this manner). It is crucial to make decisions that show others that women have more to offer than their bodies. Showing more skin in rebellion will probably not be the most effective way to communicate this message to the masses.

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