ULC, Universal Life Church, violence, rape

It’s tragic that in places across the globe, victims are blamed for rape because they had “the audacity” to be alone, or beautiful, or nice and the rapist before the attack. The phrase “it takes two to tango”, like any phrase, is only used to describe specific situations and is in no way a universal truth about conflict – thinking it is causes great insult and harm.

Most of us expect our spiritual leaders to defend the poor, needy, and oppressed. We expect them to speak out on behalf of victims of violent crimes such as rape, assault, and murder – and for the most part that is the case. Hindu spiritual teacher Asaram Bapu defied these expectations, however, when he suggested recently that a Delhi gang-rape victim who died of her injuries in the hospital deserves just as much blame for her attack as do her attackers. It is deeply disturbing that spirituality should be used for victim-blaming, and it is our duty as ULC ministers to call attention to it.

The controversy began with a speech Bapu, a self-proclaimed spiritual guru, gave to an audience consisting chiefly of his devotees. “She should have taken God’s name and held their hands and feet–then the misconduct wouldn’t have happened,” he told his followers. “Only 5-6 people are not the culprits. The victim is as guilty as her rapists. She should have called the culprits brothers and begged before them to stop. This could have saved her dignity and life. Can one hand clap? I don’t think so.” The family of the victim blasted the guru, telling reporters, “[i]t is an absolutely illogical statement, least expected from him.” Bapu’s words have earned censure across the political spectrum, with the Indian People’s Party calling them “regrettable, deeply disturbing, and painful” and India’s ruling Congress Party calling on the guru to withdraw the statement.

rape, statistics

The nations of Lesotho, Trinidad & Tobago, and Sweden have the highest rates of rape per 100,000 people, but this is a growing problem in India as the rates have doubled between 1990 and 2008, and it is described by the UN human-rights chief as a national problem.

Nevertheless, Bapu’s spokeswoman Neelam Dube quickly came to Bapu’s defense, arguing that the media have distorted the teacher’s words. “Bapujee never made such statements. He just asked his women followers to avoid such situation anyhow, while he was addressing a ‘Satsang’ here soon after the incident,” adding that “[h]e was only suggesting that women should try their level-best to come out from such situations by using diplomatic ways” and admitting that “Yes, he said that the girl had made a mistake by taking an empty bus in night. If she had taken ‘Matra-Diksha’, the God might have saved her anyhow [sic].” For those who become ministers to champion the plight of the oppressed, this logic does not add up.

What’s wrong with Bapu’s reasoning is that he blames the victim for an act over which she had no control. Rape by definition is forcible sex, not a “two-way street,” thus it makes little sense to impart responsibility on the victim. Additionally, it seems absurd to suggest that holding your rapists’ hands and begging for mercy should somehow pacify them, or is even possible when you are being beaten. What is more, it is not the victim’s fault for choosing to ride the bus at night; it is her attackers’ fault for choosing to rape her. Every woman has the right to go wherever she wishes, free of the fear of being assaulted, and she should not have to plan her life around those of marauding rapists. It should be obvious that it is the victim, not her attackers, with whom our sympathies should lie as ordained ministers.

Remarks like Asaram Bapu’s show how easy it can be to justify horrifying crimes by hiding behind spiritual teachings. This practice is not limited to one faith group, though. In some strains of New Age thought we encounter the idea that people choose to be victimized before they come to Earth, which also potentially justifies criminal activity as a “lesson to be learned”. But the Universal Life Church Monastery believes in doing “that which is right,” and that which is right entails defending the persecuted, not to place the blame on them under the guise of some vague, twisted spiritual notion of forbearance.

 

Sources:

Business Insider

The Hindu

The Huffington Post

Truthdive

4 comments

  1. mitch says:

    What a nightmare that such beliefs and actions still exist. What sort of world is this, what kind of people are these? Who can understand such madness. Shame on us all that we are not better than this, that we have not produced a society incapable of such egregious wrongs.

    1. Vincent says:

      Much of the world still lives in the 12th century. Women are still chattel and men are still eh-wholes.
      Many world religions still encourage and protect this evil and barbaric behavior to keep men in power.
      Look back further to the beginnings of Christianity, Jesus most important disciple was driven out of the country because she was a woman and a false apostle named Paul was left to write most of the new testament and create the Christian churchs.

  2. Harry says:

    “…she should not have to plan her life around those of marauding rapists.”
    This is true. She SHOULD not. But if she doesn’t, she may bear the consequences of pretending there is no evil in the world, or ignoring it.
    We SHOULD not need to have locks on our doors, windows and motor vehicle ignitions. But if we don’t, or fail to use the ones on them, we may bear the consequences.
    Right now there is a young woman here who got drunk and passed out. When she came to, she realized that someone had used her sexually. She had not been harmed physically. In a few weeks she realized that she had been “blessed.” As she is handicapped, she felt unable to care for her baby, so she gave her up for adoption by a nice couple she made arrangements with. She keeps in contact with the adoptive parents.
    It would have been nice if no rapist had found her. It would have been nicer if she had not been drunken at a party.
    Does she have a right to go to parties and get drunk and pass out? Yes, if she is of legal age and doesn’t make of herself a public nuisance. Is she wise to do so? Only if she doesn’t mind having babies she can’t take care of and fathers whose identities she doesn’t have a clue. Actually she is pretty sure who he is but he is rich and is politically powerful, therefore dangerous.

  3. Carlos Quito says:

    Just a note: Sweden’s has seen an upsurge in rape cases because the definition of rape has been dramatically expanded.It is rated as the Number 1 for gender equality and thus very strict on crimes of a sexual nature.

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