Augsburg Fortress

When Violence Is No Stranger: Pastoral Counseling with Survivors of Acquaintance Rape

When Violence Is No Stranger: Pastoral Counseling with Survivors of Acquaintance Rape

"It is not my enemies who taunt me—I could bear that....
It is you, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend...."
Ps. 55:12-13

The paucity of resources for pastoral care of acquaintance-rape survivors highlights the invisibility of this growing crime and its largely uncharted pastoral challenges. In fact, most rape is by an acquaintance. Only 16 percent of such cases are reported; and, because they are difficult to prosecute, only 5 percent of those reported result in guilty verdicts.

Focusing on the psychospiritual effects of this sexualized violence, Kristen Leslie offers the psychological and theological tools to religious professionals for understanding the deep spiritual trauma of the survivor and how best to work with her to reconstruct a personal world of meaning, trust, and faith. Based on extensive interviews with survivors, Leslie explains the personal and theological issues they raise, what they found helpful from religious professionals, the images and metaphors most germane to their trauma and recovery, and how they coped with or healed from the experience of rape.

An exemplary and important study in practical theology, Leslie's volume will not only equip pastoral caregivers and counselors with specific guidelines. It will also enlighten them on the crucial role that theology can play in the re-construction of shattered lives.


  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9780800635756
  • eBook ISBN 9781451412642
  • Age/Grade Range Adult
  • Dimensions 5 x 8
  • Pages 200
  • Publication Date December 18, 2002


"Kristen Leslie's groundbreaking work clearly addresses an issue that is often unspoken and unnamed, pointing to serious psycho-spiritual needs that are therefore going largely unmet. She offers helpful facts about acquaintance rape, refuting the common myths. Her theological and pastoral frameworks are insightful and critical for anyone dealing with survivors and their friends and family. Being a compassionate and open listener is not enough. Leslie offers specific information on the dynamics, symptoms, and needs of survivors. Because of the widespread nature of acquaintance rape, this book is crucial for every clergyperson to read."
— Cynthia A Terry, Associate University Chaplain, Yale University

"When Violence is No Stranger addresses the long-neglected subject of acquaintance and date rape with sensitivity and insight. Drawing from in-depth interviews with survivors, Kristen Leslie weaves valuable information together with a theology of healing and hope. Her recommendations for pastoral practice are timely and needed! This book is a significant resource for clergy, counselors, and all who are committed to ending sexual violence."
— Pamela Cooper-White, Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology, Lutheran School of Theology in Philadelphia


Excerpt from the Introduction

... Clergy and other religious professionals are in a good position for helping survivors of acquaintance rape. Polls have shown that a majority of people seeking help for mental heath issues prefer (1) to turn to professionals who present spiritual values and beliefs and (2) to have their own values and beliefs integrated into the helping process. Because people look to clergy and religious professionals as important sources of comfort and support, these representatives of faith communities are in a focal position to help those who suffer from traumas such as acquaintance rape. It does not mean, however, that these professionals have the necessary training to help. Religious professionals have a range of experiences with survivors of acquaintance rape. Some seek out extensive training. Many, however, are ill equipped to be pastorally effective. To be caring partners in the healing process, religious professionals must (1) know the prevalence and definitions of acquaintance rape as discussed above; (2) know the facts and distortions about acquaintance rape, including why some women do not report and the consequences if they do; (3) understand some theoretical constructions around brokenness and healing, including sociohistorical, trauma, and pastoral theological theories; (4) appropriately respond to a survivor's needs while being aware of sensitive issues surrounding these responses; and (5) make informed and appropriate referrals. We will attend to these latter four tasks in the following chapters.

Prevalence of Acquaintance Rape
Acquaintance rape is not an aberration. It is an everyday part of a young adult woman's "education." ... Statistics tell us the startling truth: For American women over age 18:
1 in 3 are sexually assaulted in their life times,
1.3 are raped every minute,
78 per hour,
1871 per day,
683,000 per year.

One in four or five women (20 to 25 percent) on a college campus is the survivor of rape or attempted rape, and, of that number, 84 percent of the rapes or attempted rapes are committed by an acquaintance. The risk of rape is four times higher for women ages sixteen to twenty-four than for any other age group. Tersely put, the majority of rapes are not committed by the stranger from the bushes, but by the family member, friend, or colleague from next door. Fear of the unknown thus yields to fear of the known, the familiar, the trusted. But the trauma does not end there. Because women experience fear (brought on by real and perceived threats), guilt, shame, self-blame, and distrust of authority systems, less than 16 percent of survivors of acquaintance rape report their assaults to law enforcement agencies. The number is even lower for African American women. Further, the same number of individuals who do not report the rape to authorities (84 percent) do not seek medical assistance following the acquaintance rape. Too often, rape survivors feel they are victimized by medical personnel. ...

Method and Scope
In a growing sea of work on sexualized violence, this work focuses on the psychospiritually traumatic effects of acquaintance rape on adult women in the United States. While acquaintance rape can be perpetrated by both men and women, as well as one offender or several at once, I will focus on incidents that include one female victim raped by one known male perpetrator. I do not consider marital rape in the category of acquaintance rape because both the wider literature and the legal system place that conversation under the heading of domestic violence. In keeping with a feminist research design, I asked each research participant to determine if her experience met my definition of acquaintance rape. The only definitional requirements I set were that the survivor at the time of the rape was an adult woman (of consenting age), she knew the male assailant before the rape, and she defined the event as unwanted sexual activity or violence. ...

Pastoral careproviders working with survivors of acquaintance rape can include college chaplains, hospital chaplains, military chaplains, congregational pastors, priests, and rabbis. They need not be ordained. This book will concentrate on guidelines for any pastoral careprovider or religious professional working with survivors. ...

Table of Contents


1. Introduction

2. Facts and Theories about Acquaintance Rape

3. The Survivors

4. A Pastoral Theological Framework

5. Pastoral Care and Acquaintance Rape

6. When Violence Is No Stranger