The phrase, “free will” isn’t found anywhere in Scripture, but the concept can be found from beginning to end throughout. It’s contained in the power of choice that God gives us in just about everything.
“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” ~ Deuteronomy 30:19, NLT.
God gave man a choice to follow Him from the very beginning.
The LORD God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. But the LORD God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden—except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” ~ Genesis 2:15-17, NLT.
Inherent in God’s commandment to Adam was the choice to not eat of the tree, or to eat of it, and God made very clear what would happen if Adam ate the fruit. He would die.
Then God created Eve from Adam’s ribs, but Adam didn’t give Eve the identical instructions that God had given him. God told him that he couldn’t eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But Adam told Eve that she couldn’t eat it or even touch it (at least that’s how she interpreted what he told her).
The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the LORD God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’” ~ Genesis 3:1-3, NLT.
My point in focusing on man’s ability to choose in the Bible is that we have to make choices all the time, probably hundreds or thousands of times every day, many of them choices we aren’t even aware of. But people who have survived rape and other kinds of abuse may be more aware than most.
Whenever someone is subjected to a violent sexual assault, their right to refuse that person’s advances is snatched away from them. And if that person is a child, and her attacker is someone she has to trust in order to survive because he provides her with food and shelter, then she’ll be forced to submit to his demands, no matter how horrific, just to keep her most basic needs met.
The betrayal inherent in that situation is unimaginable for anyone but the child experiencing it, and the only reason it’s not impossible for her to think about is because she’s forced to live it.
The betrayal mentioned above has a name, betrayal trauma, which term was introduced by Jennifer Freyd, Ph.D in 1994. Betrayal trauma is defined as a trauma perpetrated by someone with whom the victim is close to and reliant upon for support and survival. Jennifer Freyd called it betrayal trauma theory because she intended it to address situations where the victim forgets, or represses, the abuse, and the element of betrayal is the most important aspect of the abuse that precedes the repression.
The closer the attacker is to the victim (for example, father to daughter), the greater the likelihood that the trauma will be forgotten and repressed. It’s a matter of survival. The attacker is someone who provides his victim with food and shelter, and other basic needs, and if it were to come out that the perpetrator were committing these heinous acts against this victim, then the support provided by the perp would be threatened, or even removed altogether, which could put the victim in even more danger than if the molestation were allowed to continue.
I know this hard, painful reality firsthand because it happened to me throughout my childhood at the hands of my father, and I couldn’t say no to his advances. If I did I was severely beaten, and the rape was even worse than it would have been had I simply given in and submitted. He forced me to lie and say that nothing was going on. He threatened to kill me if I told anyone by playing Russian Roulette with his revolver between my legs, and I had no choice but to believe him, because I was too young to know that he probably had blanks in the gun.
I got started thinking about this in the first place because I watched two movies on TV. The first one was called, You Can’t Take My Daughter. It’s based on the true story of a woman, Analyn Megison, who was raped and then became pregnant as a result. She subsequently decided to keep the baby. Six years later her rapist found her and sued her for custody of the child. You wouldn’t think that would be possible, but when this movie was made, it actually was in many states, because, as Analyn was told many times, a rapist father is just as good as any other father.
Fortunately, she won her case, because her rapist, who was never convicted for what he did to her, eventually stopped pursuing it. In the movie, he raped her in the first place because they took the same taxi home from a bar, and when the taxi dropped her off, he suggested that he could come in for a nightcap, but she said she wasn’t interested. So later on, in the middle of the night, he came back and knocked on her door. When she opened it, he pushed past her and shoved her up against the wall, saying, “You shouldn’t have said no,” and then he violently raped her. Her body was covered from head to toe with scrapes, scratches, and bruises the next day.
The other movie was on the Investigation Discovery Network, and, while I don’t remember any details, it was the story of a single mother who went to a party on the rough side of town someplace in New Mexico, and never made it home that night. When they finally found her battered and bruised body several days later, the story came out that she ran into someone at the party who came on to her, and she turned him down, but that enraged him, because he was someone you just didn’t say no to. So he beat her up so badly that she was unrecognizable by the time he was through with her.
Every single person should have the right to say no. Violating someone’s most personal space, which is what happens in the case of rape, is the ultimate transgression, the ultimate sin against another person.
God gives us the right to refuse Him, even at the risk of our eternal destiny. and while human beings aren’t risking eternal punishment when they sin against another human being, sexual sin is among the worst of all possible sins, especially if it’s committed against a child.
I’ve forgiven my father for what he did to me, and my mother for not protecting me. I had to so I could find peace with God.
“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” ~ Matthew 6:14-15, NLT.
I figure if I forgive them, then that releases them into God’s hands to do with them as He wills, and the Bible says that revenge belongs to God, (Deuteronomy 32:35, Romans 12:19, and Hebrews 10:30), so I don’t need to get revenge because God will do a much better job of it than I ever could.
I can get behind that, and I can wait. There are times where patience is a good thing.
It feels like there is much more to be said here, but this is already way too long, so I’ll leave the rest for another post…