A little 8 year girl was raped. Her attackers were four boys aged 14, 13, 10 and 9. My mind cannot begin to get around the horror of this violence.
Perhaps as shocking for Westerners is that the family apparently didn’t see her primarily as a victim, but as one who marred the family honor. Yet, for many people in the world the family’s reaction was not shocking, but normal and expected. In some parts of the world the family would not only shun her; they would kill her. They would do it for the family’s honor, which is why we refer to such murders as honor killings.
I’ve been reading a helpful book called Honor: A History by James Bowman. Here is the way he puts this reaction:
In honor cultures, a woman’s honor normally belongs to her husband or father, and the dishonor of any sexual contact outside marriage, whether consensual or otherwise, falls upon him exactly alike, since it shows him up before the world as a man incapable of either controlling or protecting her. Dishonor is more like a fatal disease than a moral failing. It requires constant vigilance and even then can strike anyone at any time. And its only end can be death.
This is such a hopeless and tragic view of shame. Many in the West will emphasize to this little girl that she was not at fault for what happened. They will help her not feel guilty. This is true, important and crucial. But will they be able to help her not feel so dirty? Will they be able to deal with the shame?
This is one more reason I love the One who bears our shame and makes us clean. “For it stands in Scripture: ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame’” (1 Peter 2:6).