Many of us woke up to the news that the controversial Rolling Stone article “A Rape on Campus” had been retracted by the magazine. After a scathingly critical review from the Columbia University School of Journalism, which cited “journalistic failure,” Rolling Stone was forced to retract (and the article’s author forced to apologize for) the piece that detailed an alleged gang rape in a fraternity house on the campus of the University of Virginia.
The situation is sad for a number of reasons. It’s regrettable that such a reputable publication failed (spectacularly) to do its due diligence, thereby cheating the alleged victim and perpetrators out of any form of justice. But my own personal fear is that this will discourage rape victims on college campuses everywhere from reporting their assaults. I’m also afraid this debacle will make it harder for victims to be believed when they do report.
The reality is women are often seen as less trustworthy than men. When we do tell our stories, we’re more likely to be written off as hormonal, hysterical, irrational, or simply ill-informed. Women already have to scale walls that men do not in order to be heard. We’re not given the benefit of the doubt — not even by other women sometimes.
It strikes me that we are coming off the heels of Easter Sunday and the story of God’s ultimate triumph over sin, death, and evil — a story that was first heralded by women! God cares about women’s voices, even if the Empire does not.
So, how do we church folks help the Church and the world care about the very voices God cares about and uses? Can we in our preaching make a point of lifting the stories of the women in the text — and not just those who are seducing, waiting for, or plotting against a man? Can we hear more about Jael or Priscilla than we do about Jezebel? Can we lift up Mary for more than just her lack of sexual experience at the time of Jesus’ conception? In our youth groups and confirmation classes, can we create safe spaces for girls to share their stories instead of forcing a narrative down their throats?
How can we work toward a world in which the testimonies of women are respected equally?