How do we deal with a girl in our congregation who was raped?

Question:

A girl in our church had a baby not long ago but refused to acknowledge her sin and repent. She recently said she was at a party that she should not have gone to, and she was raped by two boys. None of us knew this before. So how are we, as Christians, to respond?


Answer:

If a girl was raped, then she did not sin. It makes me wonder if anyone actually sat down and talked with this girl about her problems, or whether people quickly made conclusions without enough information. If this was a case of rape, then I would agree with the girl that you don't repent of a sin that you did not commit. I don't know if she did commit a sin, but being stupid (going some place you knew you should not have gone) is not a sin.

There are a few things that need to happen:

  • The elders and their wives need to meet with this young lady, not for judgment but for learning what happened and how it is affecting her.
  • Since she was raped, she needs help with dealing with a child that she didn't ask for. She probably needs help learning how to be a mother (Titus 2:3-5). There might be a possibility that she wants to give the child up for adoption and she'll need help getting through that if it is her choice.
  • It sounds like she made several bad choices, so people need to start gently teaching her how to make better choices. I say gently because having just given birth would frazzle most women's emotions and the events leading to this child's birth were traumatic.

Never lose sight that the goal is to get the young mother and the child to heaven. It may be a long road, but it is easier if there are people willing to help her shoulder the burden. "Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:1-2).

What a mess. An elder's wife talked to the girl's mother and told her the girl needed to repent. The mother said she will not but made no mention of a rape occurring. Then a group of ladies had the shower for her and all the elder's wives but one refrained from going. Still nothing was said about rape. Then she came to church with the baby. It wasn't until our preacher and his wife went to their house that it was told that she had gone to the wrong place and was raped. They were asked not to tell anyone but the elders. It was not until another elder's wife and I encouraged our husbands that discipline needed to be done that we were told she had been raped, but that the family did not want it to be told. Seems like things were not handled well. None of us knew anything about rape. We just knew that an unmarried girl had a baby out of wedlock and refused to repent. So, what else would we think?

Notice what happened: The girl's mother was approached and not the girl. A judgment was already made that the girl sinned without first listening to girl's story (recall the accusations Job's three friends made about him). I would suspect that the mother took offense and decided she wasn't going to explain anything.

What needs to happen is the elders and their wives need to meet together to discuss what went wrong, how their actions led to gossiping, and how to better handle situations like this in the future. I suspect that one mistake was trying to make an issue private that was already publicly observable. But foremost is that gossip about this matter is spreading rapidly through the congregation and the only way to stop it is an open discussion about what actually did happen. This will require the elders to talk with the girl and her mother about what happened in regards to the gossip and let them know how the elders see it best to bring it to a halt. The mother and the girl may decide to come or they may rather have the elders speak for them. That will be their decision.

This is also a learning experience for the entire congregation. You don't make assumptions based on second or third-hand information. "Every prudent man acts with knowledge, but a fool displays folly" (Proverbs 13:16). What I'm gathering is that almost no one talked to the girl to find out what happened, so, while many were concerned, almost no one was concerned enough about the girl's salvation to actually try to help her.

Your response to my question is very good, and I really appreciate all your suggestions. If this situation had been handled the way you have suggested I believe everything would have been so much better. I know your response has been given with much forethought and consideration. I really appreciate all you have said. I have been very upset about all of this from the beginning. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me.

Even elders and their wives have to go through learning experiences.