Okay, so, there’s this story in the bible. A servant is just doing their servant thing, when an individual in a position of power in the household where they serve attempts to rape them. The servant refuses because they don’t want to break the commandments or look upon the face of sin. The person in a position of power claims that the servant assaulted them out of retribution. The servant gets thrown in jail because no one listened to their story.
This is the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife. Also, the story of To Kill a Mockingbird. Also, a story that is reiterated, over and over and over in the world around us. It is a story that is significant right now.
THIS IS THE MESSAGE: People in power abuse their power. Victims are blamed for things that are not their fault. The world may not know the truth, but the victim is still the victim. Joseph, the victim of sexual assault, is vulnerable. No one believes him. He did nothing wrong, and the only peace he has is knowing that at least he’s right with God while he’s in prison being blamed for the assault he was the victim of.
The message I saw broadcasted on my Facebook Feed today is: In the story of Potiphar’s wife, we learn that women are terrible lying seductresses. Don’t believe women when they’re telling you that a man assaulted them. They want it.
This facebook post was in the form of a video, where the story was told by a woman. It was also shared by a woman. I struggle to understand how, in a Relief Society where we are taught that we are daughters of a Heavenly Father, filled with faith, virtue, vision, and charity, we’re still sitting here calling ourselves lying evil seductresses.
Do you even realize how harmful that is? How much hurt it causes? Why are we teaching our daughters to value the futures of their male counterparts over their own dignity and virtue? Don’t report, daughters, because that’s what Potiphar’s wife did, and see how it got poor Joseph thrown in jail?
I have spent the last few days seeing my friends share their own #WhyIDidntReport stories. Knowing that I have more friends who can’t share their personal stories and knowing that could be why they’re sharing so many other people’s stories instead. These are stories of women and men who didn’t or couldn’t report because they were assaulted by relatives, bosses, priests, or military officers. They were college students on scholarships who were victims of the wealthy. They were on equal footing in a friendship and no one would believe them because their abuser is such a nice guy that he couldn’t have done that.
These victims are Joseph, not Potiphar’s Wife. They are Joseph. Their abusers hold all the power, and even when they do try to report, they are cast into emotional jail, cast out of friendships, cast out of jobs, made to feel that they are to blame.
How can we be so empathetic toward a victim falsely shamed and jailed in the Bible, and so deaf to the victims in the world around us?
Those who have ears to hear, let them hear. Those who have eyes to see, let them see.
Come on, people. If you claim the genders are equal and gender doesn’t matter, at least have the consistency to read stories in the Bible for their power dynamics instead of their gender roles.