How does the Bible view sex crimes? What are its requirements for the offender to make restitution? How are we to treat sexual assault? [Note: throughout this report I will refer to the victim as female and the attacker as male as this is the most common sex crime case; however, the same laws apply in reverse cases or in the case of homosexual sexual assault.]
We will examine the Scriptures which deal with this topic. For a complete understanding one must be familiar with the Biblical concepts of case law and minimum case law. These are covered in our free, vital e-mail course Master Life . If you have not yet taken it, please consider doing so.
In order to more easily understand how minimum case law works in this situation I have broken sex crimes into different levels:
Level 1 - An unmarried [not engaged either] adult who is overpowered and forced into a sexual act by a person of the opposite sex.
Level 2 - A married or engaged adult who is overpowered and forced into a sexual act by a person of the opposite sex.
Level 3 - A person of any age or marital status who is forced into a sexual act through threats of violence or use of weapons.
Level 4 - A person of any age or marital status who is forced into a sexual act and physically or mentally beaten or tortured.
Level 5 - Any minor forced or seduced into a sexual act.
Level 6 - Sexual Assault and Murder
Note 1: Level's 3-6 include gang rape with all present being equally guilty whether they were involved in the actual sex crime or not.
Note 2: Levels 1-2 have sex as the motive for the assault, in Levels 3-6 sex may or may not be the motive for the attack. Any sex crime where sex is not the motive automatically moves into the 3-6 range.
Note 3: Homosexual rape is always in the Level 3-6 range.
"If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you. But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die: But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter: For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her." [Deut. 22:23-27]
The first question facing the court in a sex crime is: was it consentual sex or was it a sex crime? If it was consensual sex then both parties are guilty of a serious criminal offense. If it was; indeed a sex crime, then the victim is totally innocent of any wrong doing. The Bible compares it to the case of murder. One person has been violated in a very intimate way against their will by another person.
Because Biblical Law is case law it gives us a concrete example of the law in action from which we can draw the general legal principles. It is apparent that this is a Level 2 case. In establishing whether this was consensual sex or a sex crime we have different guidelines for "in the city" and "in the field" which will help in deciding the case.
"In the city" - if she did not cry out then it was considered consensual sex. How is this applied? The idea is that the woman could have gotten help but chose not to. The assumption, first of all, is that the victim's life is not in danger if she calls out [Level 2 not Levels 3-6]. In other words, someone has overpowered her for sexual reasons but is not threatening her life. A second assumption is that help is available if called for.
"In the field" - it is assumed that there is no one around to help. In both cases the unlaying question is: Could this person have knowingly gotten help to prevent the sex crime without endangering their life? If so, why didn't they? Innocence is assumed unless guilt is proven. Being able to safely get help and not doing so goes a long way in establishing guilt.
Side Note: It is a requirement of Biblical law to stand on the side of justice and give help as required. If the woman cried out it was the responsibility of everyone [at least the men] within the sound of her voice to come to her aid. Today it may be as simple as calling 911 or as difficult as giving physical assistance as the case requires. But one thing is certain, if we do nothing, before God we are guilty of condoning the sex crime.
In our case law we have a betrothed or engaged woman [Level 2]. The law is a minimum case law showing the extent to which the law goes; therefore, it will apply to every Level above it as well. To commit a sex crime against a married or engaged woman is a capital offense and this also makes a sex crime of a Level 3-6 attack a capital offense. As you can see the Bible views it very seriously. To sexually assault an engaged or married women is not only to attack the woman but to attempt to hurt or destroy the woman's entire family or future family. It is an offense against many, not just one. Notice this is for a first offense - there are to be no repeat offenders. Also the age of the attacker is irrelevant. If he is strong enough [or has a weapon] to overpower his victim he is old enough to stand the full penalty of the law.
There is one exception to the capital offense punishment:
"If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days. [Deut. 22:28-29]
"And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins." [Ex. 22:16-17]
This is a Level 1 sex crime or perhaps even a seduction. Before we look at why the penalty is different let's look at some conditions that would move even a Level 1 rape up to a capital offense:
1. The man must be single [i.e. able to marry]; therefore, if a Level 1 rape is committed by an engaged or married man it automatically becomes a capital offense.
2. The idea is that the man is in love with this specific woman and did not control his passions; therefore, if he is being charged with more than one sex crime it is automatically a capital offense.
3. Because of point 2, if this is a second offense then it automatically becomes a capital offense.
4. Again, because of point 2, if the motive of this rape was other than sexual [i.e. hatred, torture, humiliation, etc.], it automatically becomes a capital offense.
5. Keep in mind that if in any way this moves into a Level 3-6 case it automatically becomes a capital offense.
As you can see, God requires the vast majority of sex crime cases to be capital cases. Let's look at the rare case in which it is not a capital offense.
Here we have a single man who sees or perhaps has a relationship with a lady and wants to have sex but a) does not intend to marry her, or b) is not willing to wait to the wedding day. The lady does not consent to this sin and is either forced or seduced into a sexual act.
The punishment, although not capital, is a very heavy one.
1. Every man, before he married had to pay his betrothed a dowry. This was given to her father to keep safe on her behalf. [If it was given directly to the wife-to-be then the husband could use unfair advantage to gain control over it again.] It functioned as a kind of life insurance policy to protect her and the family in case of the death of the husband or in the case of divorce. Some have estimated that it was three years wages for the average man. In the case of a Level 1 rape the offender was fined the same dowry amount with no guarantee that he would be accepted as a husband. This was a heavy financial loss and would seriously delay or ruin any chances of marrying another woman [for he would have to work to earn a dowry all over again].
2. What Exodus makes clear [although it is not stated in Deut. - which is why we have to compare Scripture with Scripture to get a complete picture] is that the father could refuse to allow them to marry. In order to understand this we have to understand the Biblical concept of Fatherhood. It was the father's God-given duty to act in the best interest of his daughter. This means, among other things, that he would not attempt to force her to marry against her wishes [forced marriages are always in effect sexual assault]. So the first thing is that the father would not consent to this marriage unless his daughter was still in favor of it. If the daughter was still in favor of it the father would then objectively examine the man's character to see if this was a momentary weakness for which he was paying heavily or if was an indication of an evil character. He would then act accordingly. [This could set a principle for Level 1 rape victims being financially compensated by their attacker.]
3. If the marriage went ahead the man [but not the woman] lost all right of divorce. No matter what his wife did in the future he could never divorce her.
In a true sex crime case, the victim is totally innocent of any sin or criminal act. In history and in some countries today this is not always the case. In violation of Biblical Law, some try to put the blame on the victim by what she wore, where she was, how she acted or some other excuse. While the Bible requires Christian women to act and dress modestly, failure by any woman to do so does not justify rape. If it was not consensual sex then the victim is innocent and should not be further humiliated in court [or elsewhere] but should be protected. In this area, as with many others, we have a long way to go before our societies again move in the Biblical direction.
It should also be noted that in a society that maintains God's standards of Biblical Law serious crimes such as murder and sex crimes would be very rare indeed. First of all, you would have no repeat offenders or professionals. Secondly, the "benefit" of the crime is far outweighed by the "cost" of the crime so for most [but not all] the cost is too high to commit the crime. The righteous are then protected and the evil punished.
"When it goeth well with the righteous, the city rejoiceth: and when the wicked perish, there is shouting." [Pr. 11:10]
"It is not good to accept the person of the wicked, to overthrow the righteous in judgment." [Pr. 18:5]
For a more detailed study of sex crimes see the textbook: Institutes of Biblical Law in the bookstore.