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Then and Now – Here and There

February 22, 2013

I grew up Catholic.  In the Book of Daniel, there are 2 extra chapters in the Catholic Bible – one introduces Susanna, an extremely beautiful married woman who repelled two rapists, but was accused of sleeping with another man to cover the rapists’ story.  She was sentenced to death.   The two were older men, elders, judges of the Jews in Babylon.

Susanna’s husband, Joakim, was very rich and whose home was a center for the elders and others who frequently visited.   The two elders lusted after Susanna because she was so beautiful.     When guests would leave, she would go into the walled garden to walk.

One day after everyone had left, she went for a walk in the garden and decided to bath in the water.   The two elders had previously left, but snuck back into the garden and were hiding waiting for her.   When her maids left her alone, the two men tried to rape her.   They threatened her that if she didn’t comply, they would testify against her saying they caught her lying another man, which would end in death for her.   Rather than succumb to them, she screamed and fought them.   Others came out to the screaming and the two men claimed that they found her lying with another man who got away.  They said that they had simply been walking in the garden and witnessed the infidelity episode.

A trial ensued.  The two old men – the judges – accused her and also set the sentence of execution.  As she was led to her execution, she prayed to God for to help her.   Daniel was young at the time, and God spoke to the people through him.   Daniel yelled to stop and announced that Susanna was innocent.  Reminiscent of Solomon, he then separated the two elders to get their stories separately.  Their stories did not match, which was a clear indication they were lying.   Susanna was freed and God struck down the two elders.


Sound familiar?   This story was probably written between 64BC and the beginning of the Christian period, according to The Catholic Study Bible.    2000 years.

So one thing that struck me in the story is that when the household came to the garden because of the screaming, why didn’t anyone ask why the 2 men were there?  What’s with that?  Shouldn’t that have been a bit of a red flag?  But they were men, elders in the community, authorities, and not subject to question.

What a woman does, what she wears, her status in the community – none of these things matter to a molester, to an abuser, to one who is self serving, to one who is concerned only with self.    And the blameless victim is blamed.

What is so frightening is this continues to play out day after day, in all cultures.   Yes, in the US too.   (if you read the story about Stubenville, this will all resonate)

News from Egypt yesterday was startling.  On NPR Morning Edition, they covered that sexual violence against women is on the rise, particularly at political demonstrations, and now women are speaking out.

“Sexual violence has become a chronic problem in Egypt, a state where security is breaking down and mass protests are un-policed.

Here, a radical Salafi sheikh who goes by Abu Islam, mocks women who’ve been assaulted at protests. He was speaking on a satellite Arabic television channel that reaches millions of people. He says these women who get raped are goons, devils with no shame, and no men to hold them back from shameless acts.

But it’s not only the radicals who say these things. In the upper house of Egypt’s parliament, several Islamist legislators said basically the same thing. If they don’t want to get raped, women shouldn’t go to protests.

Some of the assaults the group has documented involved women in their 60s, some who covered every inch of their bodies, including their faces. On January 25 alone, the second anniversary of Egypt’s uprising, at least 19 cases of assault against women were documented at protests in Cairo.”

So – what can we do?

Be aware, Speak out, Help your sisters


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