The sex abuse scandal at Penn State has been in the news and flying around Facebook and the blogosphere recently. More than a few people, especially in Christian circles, have compared this scandal, and the fallout thereof, with the Chuck Phelps scandal that came to a head earlier this year.
For the most part I've chosen not to read the posts, follow the links, or involve myself in the discussions. I've dealt with sexual abuse in a far more personal way for long enough this year, and, quite frankly, I don't like thinking about it. There are times when this issue rears its ugly head and I find myself unable to think about or deal with anything else, but lately this hasn't been a problem.
This Sunday, though, as I flipped through my Sunday bulletin before the service began, I discovered that we would be reading 2 Samuel 13, which is the story of the rape of Tamar. This is not a Bible story I ever look forward to hearing. I hate how Amnon plots to rape his half-sister, how his friend encourages him to do it and even helps him come up with a plan, and how Tamar's father, King David, doesn't seem to care that his daughter has been raped. This is not a pleasant story, and it's one that I have skipped or skimmed in the past.
My brain was just about to take a nosedive into survival mode, which means my heart was racing, there was a rushing sound in my ears, and while I was sitting very, very still, my brain was frantically calculating the distance to the nearest exit and the likelihood of my egress going unnoticed.
Then something happened that I never would have expected: My pastor gave the congregation permission to not pay attention. She warned us that the topic was likely to be difficult to digest and that it was okay for us to choose to tune out, to make use of the finger labyrinth [pictured below] provided in our bulletin, or even to get up and leave if we needed to. Having this permission - a "get out of jail free" card, if you will - made me feel safe enough to keep listening.
What we discussed about the rape of Tamar and the scandal at Penn State was exactly what had bothered me so much about all of these abuse stories. In each case there were adults who knew what was going on and chose to ignore the situation, or worse, to blame the victim.
And I learned something important: in the state of Indiana, every single person is considered a mandated reporter. This means that no one's off the hook - we are all responsible to make sure the children we encounter are safe. We are all required by law to report any abuse or suspected abuse.
If there's anything I've noticed about Jesus by reading the red parts of the Bible, it's that Jesus always rooted for the underdog, the outcast, those who slipped through the cracks of society. If anyone can be defined as an outcast or an underdog, an abuse victim certainly can. God and the state of Indiana both agree that we need to help those kids who cannot help themselves.
By the time they turn 18, one in four girls and one in six boys has become a victim of abuse. Let's stand up for the Tamars and the Tinas of this world until we can truly see that it is "one in four no more."