Sexual Violence: An LDS Perspective and Lesson Plan

By Spunky  with help and support from Mandy and Anon Utah Lawyer

 

Trigger warning for sexual assault.

 

Spunky is a permablogger at the Exponent. Mandy is a law enforcement professional in Australia who specialises in dealing with murder, rape and sexual assault victims. Anon is an attorney in Utah, USA

Relief Society, Priesthood and Young Men and Young Women leaders may use this lesson any time of the year as you see fit, or to supplement the following lessons from the LDS curricula as noted at the bottom of this page. 

 

Purpose: To learn facts about sexual violence.

Target Audience: Young Men and Young Women. This class is probably best taught separately (not as a combined activity) so the Young Women and Young Men can ask questions that are personal and address individual needs.

Before the lesson:road signs

  • Be aware that one or more of your participants may be a victim of sexual abuse. Find local resources for rape survivors and the address and phone number of the agency most recommended for teen rape survivors in your community. If possible, visit the agency to obtain brochures and business cards and if possible, ask for a direct contact at the rape survivor agency so any teens in your youth groups can contact them directly and privately.
  • Distribute copies of the Ensign article titled “A Hole in Her Soul.” Ask parents and teens to read this article before the lesson. (Also consider recommending and reading A Statement and Open Letter to BYU from Sexual Assault Survivors.) Parents and leaders may want to meet before this lesson is taught to youth to discuss the best way to present or edit the materials for their audience.

 

Begin the lesson:

Read: When a victim’s family goes to a counsellor seeking ideas on how to help the victim, the counsellor’s primary answer is to support the victim. The statement used is this, “It is NOT your job to convict the rapist/perpetrator. Your job is to help the victim to recover.”

What is the difference between supporting a victim and convicting a perpetrator? Can only focusing on conviction leave the victim feeling even more alone?

  1. Write the following sentence on newsprint or the board: “Young men learn violence. Young women learn to accept it. ”

Ask: Do you agree or disagree with this sentence? Why or why not? What does this have to do with sexual assault?

 

Read this: On the way to school, a truck passed by Kira. This truck passed by her almost daily on the way to school, so she knew what was coming. The male driver of the truck beeped at Kira while the male passenger in the truck shouted, “Hey! You have a great body! Shake it!” Sometimes the man shouted very ugly and sexually explicit things, sometimes both men screamed at her to take off her shirt or pants, or that they wanted to “jump her” (have sex with her). Kira did not like this attention, and was sometimes frightened. But she kept walking to school every day trying to ignore the truck.

 

Ask: Do you think this is a type of assault or harassment?  Do you think it is harmful? Why or Why not?

Mandy’s input (Australian law  and advice): This is sexual harassment. It is an offence. Any child under the age of 16 is considered a minor so it brings a whole new element to the offence.  The issue with tolerating this kind of behaviour  is that the perpetrator thinks it’s acceptable. In some cases, they actually think this attention is wanted and enjoyed.  We have to make a clear stand on the message we send to people who choose to behave in this matter around us and that is… It is not ok! No one should speak to anyone like that.  There are a number of strategies that can be used.  We can take the number (license) plate and report the behaviour. We can ask police for regular patrol of this area given that it is a regular pattern on the way to school.  Kira may also not be the only girl that is getting this kind of harassment so reporting it may help others.

Anon Utah Lawyer:

According to Utah law, the legal definition of assault is:

  1. an attempt, with unlawful force or violence, to do bodily injury to another; or
  2. an act, committed with unlawful force or violence, that causes bodily injury to another or creates a substantial risk of bodily injury to another. Utah code section 76-5-102

 So in other words, this is not “assault” under Utah law, and probably under the laws in most U.S. states, because there is no attempt to do bodily harm.

According to Utah law, the legal definition of harassment is:
A person is guilty of harassment if, with intent to frighten or harass another, he communicates a written or recorded threat to commit any violent felony. Utah code section 76-5-106

 

Ask again: According to Utah law, is this assault? Is this harassment? Why or why not? Would you like it is someone was doing this to you?

Read this: Stacy attended church regularly with her family. After church one Sunday, Stacy went with her fellow Beehives as well as Deacons, Teachers, Beehives and Mia Maid friends to crowd together in a car outside the church and talk. One of the young men, a Teacher named Ian, made sure to sit next to Stacy. Ian began pulling at Stacy’s skirt. Stacy did not know how to react; this was a boy at church, and her friends were around her. He had passed the sacrament earlier in the day, so she thought he must be a good guy, and ignored what he was doing.

Ian then pulled Stacy’s skirt off, pausing for a moment and looked at her underpants. Most everyone began laughing, then Ian let go of her skirt. Ian said, “I just wanted to see how long your skirt was.” Stacy laughed, too, but she also saw the reflection of her face in one of the car mirrors. She felt like crying, but she laughed to hide her tears. She pulled up her skirt and left with some other Beehives. The girls all told Stacy privately that Ian had done similar things to them, including grabbing their breasts when they found themselves alone with him. They warned her to never be alone or sit with him.

 

Ask: Was Stacy Assaulted? What about the other girls who had been grabbed or pinched by Ian- were they assaulted?

Mandy’s input (Australian law  and advice):

This behaviour needs to be immediately reported. This is a very serious offence, especially grabbing other girls on the breast.  Ignoring this behaviour can lead to him feeling comfortable to do more serious acts– his behaviour needs to be stopped!  Chances are that he does not know that what he is doing is wrong.  Because this is a church group, there may be certain misunderstanding because of how people have treated and behaved with him.  Thus, the police don’t necessarily need to get involved if this is brought to light and dealt with.  But that is imperative– someone needs to speak to a leader or a parent.

Plus, the fact that no one said spoke up and said his behaviour is not acceptable needs to be addressed.  Sometimes we hide our feelings and thoughts on this type of behaviour because we are scared or intimidated or worried what everyone will think of us.  This is where self confidence is important to teach as a proactive measure.  A recent study done where rapists were interviewed to see how they chose their victims.  All of the rapists responded that they would chose the victims that wouldn’t make eye contact with them and showed timid body language – such as like looking downward as they walked, walking or sitting with slumped shoulders, and avoiding eye contact. A secondary factor was that they chose victims who were distracted by their phones– such as wearing ear phones, or playing games so that they were distracted from their surroundings.

 

Anon Utah Lawyer::

Pulling off the skirt in and of itself may not meet the definition of an assault, although the perpetrator here might have committed a sexual assault in the course of pulling off the skirt by touching her body. That would be “sexual battery” in Utah:

  1. A person is guilty of sexual battery if the person, under circumstances not amounting to an offense under Subsection(2), intentionally touches, whether or not through clothing, the anus, buttocks, or any part of the genitals of another person, or the breast of a female person, and the actor’s conduct is under circumstances the actor knows or should know will likely cause affront or alarm to the person touched. Utah code section 76-9-702.1

     

Ask: What if Stacy’s skirt was short? Does this give Ian permission to pull her clothes off of her?

Mandy’s input (Australian law and advice): What women wear is never an excuse for offenders to assault them, How women dress may draw attention– sometimes unwanted attention. However, we should never teach females to dress modestly to avoid being victims of sexual assault.  It sends two very wrong messages.  First that they are responsible for what happens to them in case of a sexual assault. This is never the case. No one is sexually overcome with carnal urges so much that they are no longer responsible for their choices.  Big fat false.  Everyone has a choice and is never left in a state of no controlSecond, to blame a victim because of what she is wearing dissolves the responsibility of the offender in the eyes of whoever is claiming that the appearance of the victim caused the assault. This should never be encouraged- it is wrong, damaging, and creates an atmosphere that excuses sexual assault.

Women should be taught to dress based on their own personal choice– NOT to avoid being victims.  The best way to avoid women becoming a victims of sexual assault is to teach self confidence.  A self confident women can say NO and mean NO.  They won’t be pressured into anything they don’t want to do. Self confidence is key in most sexual assault situations.

 

Ask: What if Stacy and Ian were secretly dating? Would this still be okay for Ian to do?

Mandy’s input (Australian law and advice):

Even if they were secretly dating, there is still a clear lack of boundaries.  Self confidence in women will help them articulate and insist of personal boundaries in a relationship to keep both parties safe.

Ask: what is the crime called when a friend, or boyfriend or girlfriend forces another to have sex or touches them sexually without consent?

This is called Acquaintance rape or sexual assault. It is illegal. It is immoral.

 

Mandy’s input (Australian law and advice):

Legally speaking, there is no such thing as acquaintance rape in Australia. All sexual crimes are rape and sexual assault.  There is also statutory rape which means that a child under the age of 16 cannot legally give consent for any sexual act.

Anon Utah Lawyer:

In Utah, the age of consent is 18 years old. A child under the age of 18 cannot give consent for any sexual act.

 

If possible, write this on a board so the YM and YW can read and process the information. Wikipedia says: Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration perpetrated against a person without that person’s consent.

 

Ask: What does “consent” mean in this setting?

 

Answer: Consent is based on choice: it is agency. Consent is when BOTH parties have EQUAL POWER. When one person has power over another, consent is gone. Of the rapes that are reported, over 75% involve a weapon of some kind. This weapon may be a knife, or it may be a drug that the rapist has given to the victim. An individual cannot give consent when they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

 

Ask: Did Stacy give Ian consent to pull down her skirt, even if she did not say NO?

 

Discussion / Answer: The dictionary defines “consent” as “permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.” Stacy said NOTHING. That means she did NOT consent to Ian touching her; they did not have equal power in the situation.

Mandy’s input (Australian law and advice):

Consent under the criminal code is something freely and voluntarily given by a person with cognitive capacity to give consent.  Stacy was striped of her ability to give consent because the act was performed before she had an opportunity to agree or disagree to participate.

 

Ask: What is rape?

Common definition: When a person is forced to have intercourse against her or his will, it is always rape or sexual assault, regardless of the circumstances, and it is illegal. This includes vaginal sex, oral sex, or anal sex.

Anon Utah Lawyer::

Legally, rape or sexual assault involves penetration. It could be any of the things listed (vaginal, oral, or anal), but the penetration need not involve a penis. Penetration could be with finger or toe or an object. Utah’s definition of rape is sexual intercourse. Utah defines object rape as:

A person who, without the victim’s consent, causes the penetration, however slight, of the genital or anal opening of another person who is 14 years of age or older, by any foreign object, substance, instrument, or device, including a part of the human body other than the mouth or genitals, with intent to cause substantial emotional or bodily pain to the victim or with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person…. Utah code section 76-5-402.2

 

Mandy’s input (Australian law  and advice):

Criminal Code 1899 – SECT 349 Rape

(1) Any person who rapes another person is guilty of a crime. Maximum penalty—life imprisonment.

(2) A person rapes another person if—

(a) the person has carnal knowledge with or of the other person without the other person’s consent; or

(b) the person penetrates the vulva, vagina or anus of the other person to any extent with a thing or a part of the person’s body that is not a penis without the other person’s consent; or

(c) the person penetrates the mouth of the other person to any extent with the person’s penis without the other person’s consent.

(3) For this section, a child under the age of 12 years is incapable of giving consent.

 

Ask: Can men be raped?

 

Answer: Yes. There are various statistics about men being raped, but roughly about 10% of all rapes are committed against men. Men can be raped by either women or other men. The majority of rapes are men who rape women.

Mandy’s input (Australian law  and advice): Yes males can be raped by both males and females and his may be a hard one to explain but even if the male becomes engorged that is still not consent

 

Ask: What is rape really about?

 

Answer: According to the Advocated for Youth website, rape, whether by a stranger or an acquaintance, is an act of aggression that uses sex to show the victim that the rapist has power.

 

This might be a good time to pause and let the students in the room absorb the information for a moment. 

 

Ask: When someone is raped by someone they know, what is this called?

 

Answer:  RAPE. Rape is rape. Sometimes it can be called acquaintance rape, or date rape, but it is still rape. Most people who are raped are raped by someone they know, someone they might see every day. This can make it even harder for the rape victim to ask for help.

 

Read this: Sophie had been dating Joe for a couple of months. They had kissed a little, and Sophie knew Joe’s parents. One night, Sophie and Joe went on a group date where the couples gathered together to watch movies till late in the night. The night kept getting later and later, and Sophie fell asleep. Unbeknownst to her, all of the couple had gone home and she was alone with Joe. She woke up when she felt Joe’s fingers inside her body. She was startled, and woke up to find Joe’s hands in the front of her underpants. She was very angry and began yelling at Joe. Joe was surprised, and said, “You were enjoying it in your sleep!”

 

Ask: Did Sophie consent to let Joe do that to her just because she fell asleep?  Did Joe sexually assault her? Was Sophie “asking for it”?

 

Anon Utah Lawyer: (As noted above, penetration with fingers is object rape.)

 

Mandy’s input (Australian law and advice):

Someone asleep or unconscious for any reason is incapable of giving consent and this can be reported to police.  This is often a scary and intimidating process and is the decision of the person as to whether they do this.AT the very least the bishop should be told.  The youth handbook clearly states the rules and expectation with regards to sexual acts outside of marriage.  Joe would know better.

 

Books and movies often suggest that women are turned on by the surprise, power and force of sexual assault. These books and movies sometimes reflect the concept that women may even fall in love with the man who assaults her. BUT a victim of rape never experiences the act in a positive way, not even in a date situation.

 

 

(Have the class list recommendations for males and females on how to be safe on dates. Tell the boys that if they can’t control themselves, then they should never be alone with a girl on a date. Tell the girls if they cannot trust themselves or the boys they are dating, they should not be alone on a date.)

 

Ask: What if you are sexually assaulted? Should you go and confess to a bishop?

 

The church states this:

“Victims of abuse should be assured that they are not to blame for the harmful behavior of others. They do not need to feel guilt. If they have been a victim of rape or other sexual abuse, whether they have been abused by an acquaintance, a stranger, or even a family member, victims of sexual abuse are not guilty of sexual sin.”

 

Ask: What do you think? Do you think a victim ever needs to repent for being assaulted by someone else?

 

Introduce the Ensign article that was distributed before the lesson, titled “A Hole in Her Soul.

 

Have the YM or YW discuss this article.  Ask the following questions, or others that inspire you to encourage a discussion about the article.

  1. Did anything surprise you about this article? What was that?
  2. What are ways you can protect yourself from being in this kind of situation? (bring your own drinks with you, carry pepper spray, have your parents on emergency dial on your phone, always make sure your parents know where you are, etc.)
  3. If you hear of this happening to someone you know, what can you do to help?
  4. If this happens to you, where can you go for help?

 

Remind the YM and YW that this young man was (is?) a member of the church. Also remind them that he would have gone to jail for rape and drugging. Remind them that because she did not tell her parents, this boy might have been encouraged to do the same to someone else.

 

Teach the YM and YW: Women from the age of 0 to the age of 98 have been raped. Statistically, one in five women will be the victim of rape. (you may want to drive the point home by counting the number of young women in your ward and stating statistically how many of them will be rape victims.) Young women between the ages of 16 and 24 are three times more likely to be raped. The average age of a rape victim is 18 years old. The average age of a rapist is also 18 years old. (From Advocated for Youth)

 

Ask: How can we help those who are victims of sexual assault? What are ways we can support our friends and each other to avoid being involved in any kind of sexual assault? (keep in mind, self confidence is the best defense against sexual assault.)

 

NOClosing activity for Young Women/ Relief Society: One of the most powerful this to know is how to say, “NO,” with conviction. One of the first thing a baby learns to do is to say the word “NO.” As soon as they learn it, they often say “NO,” even when they mean “yes.” It is because even a baby recognises that there is power in using this word.  Conclude the activity with the young women screaming the word NO. Make sure they say it with venom and force, as if their lives depended on it. Have them say it as many times as necessary to ensure that each young woman has said it as loudly and forcefully as she can.

 

For Young Men / Priesthood, conclude by teaching them that no matter what a woman wears, they need to be in charge of their own emotions, actions and bodies. No woman will ever give them permission to rape, and they need to be aware of possible rape attacks as well.

 

Close by bearing your testimony of the power of agency, and using agency in righteousness.

 

 

Relief Society, Priesthood and Young Men and Young Women leaders may use this lesson any time of the year as you see fit, or to supplement the following lessons from the LDS curricula:

-August Come Follow Me: Marriage and Family: Why is chastity important & Why is it important to follow the Church’s standards regarding dating? 

-September Come Follow Me: Commandments: How do I guard my virtue? (This lesson explains that committing sexual assault is not virtuous, while being a victim does not affect virtue.)

-Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley: Daughters of God; Nurturing the Eternal Partnership of Marriage; Obedience: Simply Live the Gospel; The Holy Priesthood; Virtue—A Cornerstone on Which to Build Our Lives; The Blessings of the Holy Temple

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12 Responses

  1. Andrew R. says:

    Spunky, this is great information. And is information parents certainly need to ensure their children know and understand.

    Questions: Have you actually taught this to young women? If so, what age group(s)? Have you or, or anyone you know, taught it to young men?

    I ask because I can’t help thinking how hard it would be. I have no trouble teaching youth – as stake Sunday School president I teach youth classes all across my stake. I also do not have trouble speaking about anything the youth ask about. However, I would worry about the one or two for whom some of this didn’t make sense. The ones who may be sexually less well developed.

    I taught a class about 30 years ago to a class of Deacons and Teachers. I do not remember the actual lesson. I do remember that the subject of masturbation came up. One of the younger Deacons obviously hadn’t got a clue what anyone was talking about. After the lesson I spoke with his father and explained so that he could talk with him. What if is father was a non-member, or absent.

    I am not saying this is not a lesson that should be taught. I am asking how you have delivered it.

    I could certainly see the material be useful as a resource to feed into lessons throughout the year, as appropriate.

    • Spunky says:

      Hi Andrew R,

      To answer your questions and respond in general.

      No, I have not taught this lesson. I have taught and attended lessons and seminars similar to this in non-church settings. This lesson is significantly less violent and less sexually explicit than the things that were discussed at the non-church ones.

      “The ones who may be sexually less developed”- I am not sure who you are addressing here. Do you mean 12-14 year olds? Some parents and church leaders might feel like this is not material suitable to 12 and 13 year olds. If this is the case, then the lesson can be presented to those who are 14+. Remember, this lesson is not reserved for youth. YSAs and family wards can make use of this material as well.

      This lesson is intended to teach things such as even shouting sexually motivated terms and phrases are as much of a problem as physical assault. The beginning of the lesson plan directs leaders to ‘distribute copies of the Ensign article titled “A Hole in Her Soul.” Ask parents and teens to read this article before the lesson. ‘ In cases where leaders are concerned that this lesson is too much for their children, teachers should distribute the Ensign article well in advance, to ensure that the parents are okay with the lesson content. (shall I put that part in bold? It is an essential preparation for this lesson). Church Leaders and Teachers can require parental permission for their youth to attend as well as be invited to attend the lesson. I also see no issue with allowing parents to read this lesson plan before it is presented. Teachers can also edit this lesson plan as needed. This is as much about communication as it is about protection.

      In that thought, *parental involvement is absolutely necessary.* Have you read the Ensign article? Imagine how things would be different if the daughter in that Ensign article felt comfortable enough to speak to her parents about what had happened!

      If my child was in a class that discussed masturbation and I was not informed in advance, I would be livid. That to me, is sexually inappropriate, even if in church materials.

      Andrew, what if you looked into UK laws surrounding the lesson plan situations and add them in the comments? That way, they lesson will be more adaptable in the UK, so *you* can support the prevention of sexual crimes.

      • Andrew R. says:

        Thanks for the reply. I did think that the legal stuff wasn’t entirely UK relevant. But the core is still valid.

        Just to ensure it is understood. I didn’t teach a lesson that included masturbation. I taught a lesson in which one of the young men brought up the subject.

      • spunky says:

        No worries, Andrew. The invite still stands to add the UK legal references. That would be of great benefice to those who teach this lesson.

  2. Jason K. says:

    I’m grateful for this valuable resource (and for Spunky’s comment). This is a difficult subject, but we need to learn how to talk about it. Thanks for putting forward a thoughtful and sensitive model for how to do that.

  3. Loving a Lutheran says:

    I appreciate this content very much. I have one lingering concern- that you assert that a rape victim never enjoys the rape. Please be sure that people understand that bodily stimulation is a physical reaction, not proof someone enjoys what is happening. There are also times a predator convinces a victim they enjoy the abuse or “asked for it.” A victim can be convinced of this. It is not unusual for victims to feel conflicting feelings about sexual assault and the perpetrator.

    • spunky says:

      Thank you so much for your comment, Loving a Lutheran.

      You raise important points that are accurate. However, at first glance, it seems to me that the information you have provided might better suit a recovery or post-assault class for victims and their families. Or it might suit a class for only Relief Society or Young Women so they can understand that their bodies respond in certain ways that they cannot control.

      But I am happy to be convinced otherwise! Do you think this has a place in a rape / sexual assault prevention class? Where would you put it and how would you word it?

  4. Disfellowshipped says:

    I was sexually assaulted by my mission companion. I wish that I had had a lesson like this when I was in Young Men’s so that I could have understood what happened to me, understood that I was not at fault, and been able to fight for myself when I was disfellowshipped from the Church because of the assault. It is so important to teach our youth about these uncomfortable subjects because they will never know when they’ll need to use the information, whether it is for themselves or others.

    I would say that I don’t think that it’s necessary to have different things to stress with the young men and the young women. Both groups should know how to say no and both groups should know that we are in charge of our own bodies, feelings, and emotions. Since men are more likely to rape than to be raped, I’d suggest the boys practice the same “NO!” exercise, but their shouts should be more focused on saying “no” to rape culture and what it entails.

    • spunky says:

      Brilliant counsel, Disfellowshipped. Thank you so much for including it! I have heard of similar mission experiences for men. Thank you for sharing such a personal thing here.

      <3 I am so, so sorry for your experience. ((hugs))

    • April Carlson says:

      I am so sorry for what you suffered! Sadly, I know other men have also been sexually assaulted by mission companions. I believe part of missionary training should include recognizing all types of abuse and safety measures to prevent any missionary from being tied to a perpetrator 24/7. What happened to you was wrong and you should not have been disfellowshipped. I believe you.

      • Disfellowshipped says:

        Thank you for believing me. I have yet to encounter another man that has experienced what I did, but I have met one woman. It is definitely something that our missionaries need to be warned about, and there won’t be change until we are heard and believed. Your simple statement of belief sparked an outpouring of love from the Spirit that I haven’t felt from God in a while. Thank you.

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