Heart to Heart by Esther Fenty

I WAS RAPED BY A FELLOW BELIEVER

I am so distraught I don’t know what to do or where to turn. I’m a Cell group leader at my church, and I constantly have people coming through my home. Of late, I’ve had quite a few guys attend my Cell group and, when one of them asked if he could come and talk to me at my home during the week, I thought nothing of it and said Yes, as I’m always willing to listen to people – particularly new converts. Anyway, while we were talking he confessed that he found me very attractive. As I tried to laugh it off and make light of it, he became very aggressive and, to cut a long story short, he raped me and I don’t know what to. I’ve not told anyone, but all I keep doing is crying and berating myself for letting a man I hardly knew into my home. I’ve not been to church for the past two weeks, and not sure I want to go back. I do not want to face my attacker.

Janice, London

Esther Fenty says:

I am so sorry that this has happened to you, and that presumably some time has already elapsed since the incident. Remember that despite letting the perpetrator into your home, it is not your fault that he has behaved in this manner; he is entirely to blame. Not only has he committed an act of violation against your body, the temple of God, but a crime as judged by societal standard, for which you can take legal action. Whilst he will be judged by God for this, it is important that the authorities are alerted to this behaviour.

It is important that you speak with someone. If you are concerned that the leadership in your church has no experience in this area, there are a number of agencies that will support you through this time. You might need a friend to accompany you to one of these. Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARC) can advise on forensic and medical examinations, and keep any evidence you may have until you decide whether to take legal action. If you are concerned that the time lapse might have destroyed any forensic evidence, you might want to discuss your case with your GP to check for STIs. Another organisation which you might find useful is ‘Rights of Women’. This offers free legal advice and information to women affected by sexual violence.

Healing for your emotions will take time, and God wants to make you whole. Therefore, for counselling and rape trauma support, you can contact a Rape Crisis Centre to see a specialist sexual violence counsellor. As this young man is a member of the church, you should inform the leadership of the church in order to protect others. If he has done this once, the chances are that he will do it again. Some people will try to disguise their actions by using the church for a cloak of respectability. It is possible that you may not be believed, but you will have alerted the church to his behaviour.

This young man has committed a criminal offence, and you will need to decide whether to report the incident to the police. You may want to report the rape, as it is the only opportunity for the person to face justice. However, you have to prepare yourself for the possibility that he might not be convicted or, if he is, he may not get a custodial sentence.

How do I win back church’s respect after having an affair?

I hope you can help me. I was an active, respected member of my church, but my world came crashing down when it came to light I was having an affair with a married man. I was disciplined and asked to step down from my role as head of women’s ministries. I know I did wrong, but it’s been made worse that many church members – including some members of my own family – won’t talk to me and it’s causing me great distress. What can/should I do to rebuild relationship and win people’s trust?

Angela, Wolverhampton

Esther Fenty says

I am wondering whether having respect from people and winning their trust is more important than a right relationship with God. It is essential that you focus on developing that relationship. As you begin to change your life in the light of His Word, He will give you the people who can support you. Whilst it is true that we should not be judgmental and should forgive the penitent person, remember that this will take time. You cannot change people’s attitudes and perceptions, but you can change yourself.

Do not rush the process, but be patient with people. Show friendliness even if they do not. In your prayer time, ask the Holy Spirit to show you a friend or a member of your family who will support you during this difficult time, and then start to build one relationship at a time. As they begin to trust you, they may widen their circle of friends to include you in joint activities, so that you have mutual friends.

You could also try developing other friendship groups by participating in activities with Christians from other churches, or joining a group with an identified interest of yours. More importantly, as you continue to attend and serve the church, people will see your sincerity and respond.

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