Let’s talk about consent

“Rape of a single woman carries a heavy monetary fine, plus the rapist has to pay reparation for embarrassment, damages and emotional anguish. The rapist also incurs lashes. This is all intended as both a deterrent and a punishment. (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)”

In traditional Judaism, all cases of sexual assault are compared to murder. The woman is trusted at her word to NOT have consented to sex even if she “gave in” and didn’t “fight for a rescue”. Furthermore, if a woman expresses a sentiment of non-consent and later during intercourse is said to have “enjoyed it”, Jewish law deems it rape due to her first reaction of non-consent.

Ironically, these ancient laws are far more progressive and protect woman far more thoroughly than modern American society’s laws. In modern America, common discourse is suspicious toward the woman, often asking what she wore, was she drinking, had she “led him on or asked for it”. In the USA right now every two minutes there is a sexual assault; 60% of which of go unreported; 38% are committed by somebody the victim knows and 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail (RAINN).

So it comes as no shock to me when Golda Meir was Prime Minster of Israel and responded to sexual violence against Israeli women drastically differently than most governments suggested. A government official suggested putting a curfew on women to prevent sexual assaults at night. Meir responded with “Men are committing the rapes. Let them be put under curfew.” In Israel, the Associate of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel received a total of 40,518 calls in 2007; 70% of victims are attacked by somebody they know; and only 38% of rapes go unreported.

The most notable difference between the two countries and cultures is that Jewish people, not only Jewish Feminists, have been teaching men not to rape rather than teaching women how to not get raped since times of the Torah. Israel seems to be holding true to those values.

Jewish Feminists in America are reclaiming the Mikvah to recover from sexual assault. This is fully explained in the book Confronting Rape and Sexual Assault edited by Mary E. Odem, Jody Clay-Warner. A short explanation is women have written new prayers and recite them together while submerging the victim in the Mikvah so that she may feel renewed and reborn. Each time the woman is submerged a poem/prayer is said. The words are beautiful and deep. I highly encourage any Jewish Feminists to look into this new, rich method of healing.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of a sexual crime contact your local police or your nearest support hotline.

1.800.656.HOPE(4673) → America

For emergency Assistance, please call our hotlines:
Women 1202

Men and boys 1203

Arab women 04- 6566813

Religious Women and Amharic hotline 02- 6730002

Religious men and boys 02- 5328000

About the Author
Sarah is passionate about LGBTQ and feminist Jewish movements. She has spent time studying these topics throughout her undergraduate studies. Sarah first went to Israel on Taglit a year ago. Since then she has been interning for Birthright to help Jewish youth explore how they connect to Israel with their individual identities.
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