Kelly Ladd Bishop

Exploring issues of faith, culture, and spirituality with a focus on women in the church and world

The Stanford Rapist and Why Our Churches Must do Better

The Stanford Rapist and Why Our Churches Must do Better

Many evangelical churches continue to argue that male headship theology is gospel centered, Biblical theology.

Meanwhile, at Stanford University, a member of the swim team raped an unconscious person and was sentenced to six months in prison. Six months.

Crimes are committed against women all over the world, every minute of every day. This just happens to be an incident that made the news here in the U.S..

Sexual assault on college campuses is a serious problem, and this case represents countless others. The rapist, Brock Turner, could have received a sentence of up to 14 years for his crime. But he received 6 months.

He was discovered by two graduate students who happened to be riding their bikes past him as he was thrusting himself into an unconscious person behind a dumpster.

A letter that Brock’s father, Dan Turner, wrote regarding his son has been released. In this letter Dan Turner basically argues that his son has suffered enough as a result of the trial, and deserves to be let off the hook.

Some highlights from Dan Turner’s letter include the fact that Brock will “never be his happy go lucky self again,” and that he is, “consumed with worry, anxiety, fear, and depression.” And he now no longer likes steak or pretzel chips. Tragic. He also claims that, “his life will never be the one he dreamed about or worked so hard to achieve.”

However, he has achieved exactly the life he worked to achieve when he chose to rape another person.

Then Brock’s father Dan writes:

“That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of 20 years of his life.”

20 minutes of action. That is how this man described his son thrusting himself unwanted, uninvited, into the body of another human being, who was unconscious and unconsenting. 20 minutes of action.

This is exactly why complementarian theology must leave our churches.

In the response of Dan Turner, Brock’s victim is painted as nothing more than a sex object, a place to get some action. She is dehumanized, never named, never mentioned, while he whines on about Brock’s suffering and loss of appetite, and complains about the effects that registering as a sex offender will have on Brock’s future. But he never acknowledges the fact that Brock is a sex offender. He is a rapist with a victim.

While complementarians will claim that their theology stands clearly in opposition to rape and abuse, the sad reality is that it doesn’t. It can’t. Any time one person is placed in a less powerful position than another, the doorway is open for rape and abuse. And sadly, sexual abuse is not unfamiliar to complementarian churches.

These churches claim that they are being counter cultural, not giving into the worldly values of today, but clinging to Biblical mandates. This claim is absurd. The world values power and hierarchy. The world views a rape victim as 2o minutes of action. The world lets abusers off easy while women suffer. The culture is patriarchal at it’s core, and complementarian theology is just a lame theological white-washing of a long standing worldly system, that works for men, so they defend it.

It must leave our churches. We must do better.

Rather than trying to be counter cultural, the church has to be Christ-cultural. We have to live the redemption story of Jesus Christ, the story that places infinite value on the life of every human equally, including women and girls. We have to claim that we stand against rape and abuse, and then stand behind those words by elevating women, supporting their God given status as co-heirs of Christ, and co-leaders in the church and home.

We have to stop the nonsense of claiming that we value women, but then proving that we don’t value them as much as men. We have to quit this false idea of limited equality, where women are given value in Christ, but not in status, leadership, or authority.

We absolutely must end church culture that teaches that women are to fulfill the sexual desires of their husbands under any circumstances. We must walk away from “leaders” who teach that sexual submission of women will save marriages.

We must stop teaching that the ideal status for women is in being wives and mothers. We must refuse to put their value solely in their sexuality, and ability to reproduce.

As the body of Christ we absolutely must live into God’s redemptive plan, and lead the way in valuing women – real value, not fake limited complementarian value. We must cry out when a father says his son got “20 minutes of action” while he raped an unconscious person. We must cry out when 1 out of 4 females experiences sexual assault on a college campus. We must cry out when wives and girlfriends are abused.

We must get patriarchy out of our churches. It has no place in God’s kingdom.


Read the powerful statement from the victim here.


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10 thoughts on “The Stanford Rapist and Why Our Churches Must do Better

  1. The author is using this poor woman and what was done to her to make a point about church polity. “Sexual abuse is not unfamiliar to complementarian churches.” Is unfamiliar to egalitarian churches? I doubt it. No Scripture is given in support of her position. How could there be?

    Children are probably the most abused segment of our population. Sexually, physically, emotionally abused by adults without a second thought. Is the solution to this problem to make them equal in authority with the adults in the home? Or is it rather to teach the adults how to properly use their authority and hold them accountable when they abuse it?
    The same goes for the man whom God has made the head of the family. The man is the head of the family; and the sex from which church elders are to be chosen. God had commanded it whether we like it or not.

    1. First, women are not children, and should not be compared to children. Women are adults with equal dignity, value, and authority to men.
      Second, God has not commanded that church elders be chosen from men only. There is plenty of scripture and scholarship that says otherwise.
      Third, until complementarian theology recognizes that it is only a flowery shade of patriarchy, it will continue to be complicit in this type of violence against women.

    2. Your choice of words indicates your inability to consider women as equals, relegating them to the same position that you perceive children to be in.

      The truth is that egalitarian churches do not have the same amount of sanctioned sexual abuse as complementation churches, for the simple reason that egalitarian churches do not advise women who are being beaten and abused to go back home and love your husband better and he won’t beat you. Egalitarian churches do not advise a woman whose children are being abused, as you say, sexually and physically, to go back home and be a better wife and your husband won’t abuse your children. Egalitarian churches obey the law of the land by reporting abuse, whereas complementation churches are consistently and continually finding themselves in trouble with the law because of covering abuse and not reporting it.

      You have no idea what has passed for submission in these kinds of churches over decades. You have only your uninformed opinion. Should you choose to give this subject some serious consideration, you have only to look at the other side of your perspective and you will be astonished at the abuse that has attempted to pass as godly authority/submission. Open your eyes, you might get a surprise.

  2. Kelly,

    1) I am not comparing women with children. I am demonstrating that your reasoning is flawed. If you apply this reasoning consistently, it would rule out every case in which one has authority over another; to include the military, the police, the relationship of boss to worker; and all others. Do you not see that this is a serious problem with your reasoning.
    2) There is plenty of scripture and scholarship that backs up male-only eldership as well, mostly by scholars, theologians, and individuals who desire to derive their doctrine and practice from the Scriptures rather than read them into them. We can discuss this in further detail if you like.
    3) Again, please show me from Scripture where patriarchy is forbidden or sinful.

    1. No, the same logic does not apply to children and to adults. Women are not in the same category as children.
      This is not a forum for debating the Biblical basis for egalitarian or complementarian theology. There is plenty of scripture supporting my view, Genesis 1-3, many passages from the OT including the story of Deborah, and many passages from the NT including the listing of female disciples and apostles, and leaders in the NT church. And patriarchy simply doesn’t fit in with God’s plan of redemption. It’s an oppressive system, not a freeing one.
      I’m not interested in debating the scriptures with you here. Feel free to check out for scriptural support. She has tons of it there.

      1. Does the same logic not apply to bosses and workers, officers and enlisted, police and suspects?

        1. Those are earned positions and titles. They aren’t assigned based on chromosomes.

  3. And the logic does apply to children. Apparently, you don’t believe that children get abused by those in authority over them.

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