So I asked for the Spirit's guidance and began to look through my Bible to prepare, since this week should have been a primarily spiritual topic. And I came to the story of Dinah, in Genesis 34. Defilement of a young girl, capitulation by her father and murderous revenge by her brothers, intrigue and suspense. It's a gripping tale but I worried it did not provide many clear answers. Still we read it, and then discussed some questions. Was Dinah guilty? NO, at least everyone agrees on this, which is reinforced by a very specific law in Deut 22:25-27. Does God allow violent nonconsensual sex as a means to marriage? NO, we all agreed here too, even though some cultures in Uganda consider this a normal means of courtship. Was Dinah's father Jacob right to accept dowry payments to legalize the marriage after his daughter was raped? The first two respondents said, YES. A female clinical officer argued that now that the girl had been defiled, this was her only option for marriage, so it was better for the father to settle financially and leave her with the man. An older male took the perspective that Jacob did: peace in the community was more important than one particular girl's violation, and a monetary settlement that preserved community relationship was acceptable. At this point I began to regret choosing this Bible story. Maybe it is my own cultural bias, but Jacob's passivity mirrored too closely what was happening in real life to my patient.
But then two more men spoke up, disagreeing. If the father takes the dowry, then rape is accepted, and we can not allow that, they said. Once the first spoke up, almost everyone else agreed with them, that from a moral and legal and practical standpoint, rape of a young girl (or any woman) could not be condoned. This led to good discussion about WHO is responsible to protect our children: parents, the community, the government, the police, God. And after some medical teaching defining sexual abuse and discussion the physical and psychosocial consequences, we came back to the case at hand. As medical workers, what else could we do? We had treated the girl, filled out the proper police reports, appealed for action. Yet the assailant was seen going about his business yesterday. It is one week since the incident, and he remains free. And here the community of medical workers gave me hope. They came up with a plan to write letters to various people in police and government, and even an appeal if no action is taken by next week. We ended with Rev 21, where all tears will be wiped away, all things made new, even the mind and body of a raped 6 year old. For the first time it made perfect satisfying sense to continue to verse 8 (I'm usually temped to stop at 6 or 7 on the God-high and not look too hard at hell in v. 8). It is no mercy for the assailant to continue on his way without consequences; if he is not led to repent now, he faces a grim eternity.
So this afternoon I'm dispatching my missives, hoping for the proper tone of outrage and respect that will stimulate some action. Meanwhile our sweet patient complains of pain when she walks, and restless sleep, and vague stomach aches, and waits for justice to roll down.