Sexual assault is an attack on our bodies.
It is an attack on our physical self at the hands of another. Few things are so degrading and shameful as being used for another’s pleasure to the detriment of ourselves.
Because of this powerful dynamic, the shame of a sexual assault impacts how we see and understand our own bodies. Many victims believe or have even been told that their body caused their assault.
They seduced. They were too attractive. They were immodest. They led on. They were drunk.
The message is sent and received that there is something inherently wrong or sinful about their body that brought on the assault. This can lead victims to believe, “If only I wasn’t _________, this wouldn’t have happened.”
This is a masterful redirect by the perpetrator, or those who support them, to place the responsibility and blame on their victim rather than on the wicked actions of the perpetrator.
What happens in a sexual assault is that our bodies become a place of trauma.
Think about your own life, we often try to avoid returning to places of trauma. Like a soldier who doesn’t desire to return to the battlefield on which he lost his friend, or the family who moves to a new home after losing a loved one, most of us go out of our way to avoid locations of trauma.
But how can we escape the location of our trauma when it is our own bodies? We cannot.
Because sexual assault attacks our bodies and distorts our image of ourselves, it creates an inescapable place of trauma that must be lived in daily. This is a part of the overwhelming nature of sexual assault.
We are in desperate need of God’s truth about our bodies: he is not silent. God’s Word is mighty and speaks truth about the bodies of victims*.
- God made your body.
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” – Psalm 139:13-14
God is the designer of our bodies. He knit us together. The picture of knitting brings to mind a slow, careful process in which the finished product is exactly what the Creator intended.
God made all of you. Every part of your body that has been used for ill purposes, every part that has been blamed and shamed, every part that feels dirty or used, God has made all of you and he has done so with the love and care of a perfect Creator. And he has proclaimed it wonderful.
We don’t have to be ashamed about our bodies because of what our perpetrator said was seductive, what our friends blamed as immodest, or what we believe is dirty and used. From the mouth of God our bodies have been said to be wonderfully made.
- God chose to have his own body
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” – John 1:14
Jesus Christ, perfect Son of God, God himself, humbled himself from his position of ultimate authority and glory, to one of a physical body. A body just like ours.
Our God, who not only created our bodies, saw fit to put on flesh and become like us. A physical, imperfect and finite body, covered our living, perfect and infinite God.
Rather than look down on the body, rather than judge them harshly or pronounce them as a sinful distraction or barrier to true holiness…God spoke value to our physical bodies through his actions: he put on flesh.
Our God does not have the same attitude towards our bodies as those who degrade them, violate them, speak lies about them, or shame them. Those who blame the bodies of victims for their assault mirror the very people who despised and rejected Jesus as the Messiah because his physical appearance did not fit with their idea of a King (Isaiah 53).
- God is willing to live in your body
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” – 1 Corinthians 6:19
The Holy Spirit, God himself, now dwells in the bodies of his people. When we place our faith and our hope in Jesus Christ, the one and only King, to be the sacrifice needed to bring us to God, then our bodies become a temple of the Holy Spirit.
The bodies of God’s children are the literal dwelling place of God himself.
God is once more drawing near and elevating the status of his people. We are not merely souls trapped in bodies, we do not merely have physical bodies that are broken and useless….we have been given bodies that act as temples to our God.
God, with the ability and right to dwell wherever he pleases and it be glorious, has chosen to live within his people.
As a victim of sexual assault your body has been a place of trauma. It has been a place of violation, abuse, shame, embarrassment, and perhaps a constant battlefield. But God says differently.
Your body was God’s idea, carefully knot together by his hands for his good purposes.
Rather than judge us from afar, Jesus put on flesh to become like us so that me might empathize with our pain and weakness, and represent us before God.
And now God is willing to reside in your body, the Sovereign of the universe, living within our physical selves.
Against the backdrop of the lies and shame thrown towards the bodies of victims, our God, through his actions, speaks immeasurable value to our physical bodies regardless of the sin done against us.
*Content for this blog post was inspired by Diane Langerg’s book On the Threshold of Hope. For a more in depth look at how abuse damages our bodies and how God heals, see Chapters 13 & 18.