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Friday, June 26, 2009

Seek Justice

The case of the little 6-year-old girl who was raped continues to gnaw at our hearts, with no resolution or arrest to date.  So when I asked Heidi what topic we should address in CME today (our weekly staff meeting), she suggested we discuss sexual abuse.  At first I was taken aback, about how to approach this . . .but I realized it was a good opportunity to allow airing of viewpoints and to integrate spiritual and medical perspectives.  

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.  


Tricia said...

I will keep praying. For you. For the little girl. May justice flow swiftly. God bless you in all you do.

Cindy Nore said...

This precious little girl has been on my heart and in my prayers since I read of her plight, and I thank all of you who are advocating on her behalf. Her situation is emblematic of so much sin and evil that seems to be running rampant in this world, and I am asking God as fervently as I can to bring about justice in this case. I am thankful and encouraged that those of you there who are acting as the hands and feet of Jesus have the courage and tenacity to continue to advocate on her behalf, and may God bless your efforts to that end. With love and prayers- Cindy Nore

Jessica said...

I am praying for you all as well. Have you ever heard of the International Justice Mission? It is a Christian organization that fights for justice around the world.

They have an office in Uganda, but I am unaware of how their field office operates. Perhaps they could be of assistance to you and this girl's family.

"IJM’s Africa offices also combat sexual violence by bringing relief and aftercare to victims and seeking prosecution of their perpetrators. Sexual violence is a major source of injustice and insecurity in Africa: Overburdened legal systems and ineffective medical documentation procedures mean that the chances of justice for victims are low. In Kenya, for example, the government estimates that a rape occurs every 30 minutes; other studies undertaken in the nation suggest that 60 percent of women will be victimized by some form of sexual violence in their lifetimes.

IJM works to combat sexual violence by raising the cost for perpetrators, demonstrating the likelihood of prosecution if they break the law and abuse victims. Staff also ensure that survivors of sexual violence have access to the vital aftercare services they need.

These four offices also conduct casework on behalf of victims of illegal detention and police brutality, which are often under-prosecuted in Africa’s overburdened legal systems."