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Does the Torah Punish a Rape Victim?

Does the Torah Punish a Rape Victim?

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Question:

Is it true that the Torah requires rape victims to marry their rapists, and the only punishment to the rapist is a fifty-shekel fine paid to the victim’s father?

Response:

Actually the reverse is true: The victim is not required to marry the rapist; the rapist is required to marry his victim (if she consents), after paying her a very heavy fine.

The Talmud derives these laws from a close reading of the biblical passage:

“If a man finds a virgin girl who was not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give fifty [shekels of] silver to the girl’s father, and she shall become his wife, because he violated her. He shall not be able to send her away all the days of his life.”1

Noting that the Torah is usually economical with its words, the Talmud is surprised by the seeming redundancy of the phrase, “who lay with her.” We already know what this man did; why is it repeated?

From this the Talmud deduces that the fifty-shekel fine is merely a portion of his obligation; it is the portion he pays for the pleasure he took from his act. But this doesn’t compensate her for her pain, indignity and loss. The Talmud thus infers from this verse that in addition to the fine, the rapist is required to indemnify her for three forms of damage: the indignity she suffered, the pain she endured and the loss she incurred. In all, this amounts to a hefty fine.2

In addition, the rapist is required to marry his victim, and is not permitted to divorce her without her consent. The Talmud explains that this obligation rests on the rapist, not the victim. She is under no obligation to marry him.

Today it is hardly conceivable that a woman would choose to marry a man who had forced himself on her. In the not-so-distant past, however, women depended entirely on their husbands for protection and support. The rapist thus perpetrated a double crime against his victim: he violated her dignity and compromised her future, for with the stigma of rape upon her, it would now be exceedingly difficult for her to marry. The Torah is concerned not only with the pain she suffered in the past, but with her vulnerability in the future. Should she find herself without prospects for marriage, and should she want this man as her husband, the Torah requires him to marry her. In any case, whether the woman opted for this marriage or refused it, she was compensated for the damages caused by the rape.3

Another thing to bear in mind is the deterrent aspect of this law: the fact that a man knew that if he forced himself on a woman he would face not only a stiff punishment, but also the obligation to marry her and support her for the rest of his life without the ability to ever divorce her, might well have been a strong deterrent against such action.

FOOTNOTES
1.

Deuteronomy 22:28–29.

2.

Talmud, Ketubot 49b. The compensation goes to the father so long as the victim is a minor. Once she reaches the age of maturity, the compensation goes directly to her.

3.

Rabbi (Don) Isaac Abarbanel offers the following explanation. In most cases, a man and woman enter into a covenant of marriage before they are intimate, and he also lavishes gifts upon her. This man forced himself on his victim with no promise of marriage and without the enticement of gifts. He is therefore required to make good on both counts. He must pay fifty shekels to compensate her for the lack of gifts, and is also forced to marry her, should she desire it.

Rabbi Lazer Gurkow is spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Tefilah in London, Ontario, and a frequent contributor to The Judaism Website—Chabad.org. He has lectured extensively on a variety of Jewish topics, and his articles have appeared in many print and online publications. For more on Rabbi Gurkow and his writings, visit InnerStream.ca.
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Discussion (54)
July 31, 2014
Hello, my question regards with no ill-respect, Dvarim 22 where it says if a woman is G-d forbid raped in a city but doesn't cry out that she is put to death, is this true? How does the Talmud reconcile this as well as the Halacha attached to the concerned persons and whom they associate thereafter?
Anonymous
Utica, NY
March 22, 2013
Anthony
I like your take on the furious father killing the rapist after the marrige. Problem is , you really have to be careful in the kill plan. If it comes back to you, the judges might deal with you very harshly, and what about the rest of your family if you end up in hte hinterland. So, if you can execute the plan to perfection, the perfect crime, then go ahead. Since that would be tough, just remember that the article refers to a time that we are unfamiliar with, and in which era the marriage did punish the rapist and did offer protection and good standing to the raped woman. Sounds lame, but you have to take a step back in time. A long step back.
Anonymous
March 21, 2013
Dinah
Apparently we do not know who Dinah married... she stands as an example of why marrying the rapist is a possibility.

Marrying someone you hate is not repayment in any way whatsoever. The woman loses her lifelong dream of a loving home and "happily ever after".

Today date rape is very common. It is a reminder of why we should observe the laws of yichud, which protect a woman. And women must be careful at all times.

Today, as we move closer to Moshiach, victims receive more compassion and not judgment, thank Gd, and of course a victim of rape can marry.
Avigayil Chana
Boston, Massachusetts
chabadnashoba.org
March 21, 2013
Questions for Anthony Galliart
Why is a woman who has been raped unfit for marriage?
Is it because the Bible says so, or doesn't state the opposite?
What are God's values on this topic? The same as primitive
people, or contemporary more "enlightened" people?
Why would the values of both be different, if God can make the rules ie.
"Thou shall accept a raped woman without any stigma for
she has suffered enough..."?
I see this as a big contradiction. More evidence Biblical rules
were written by primitive man with values we now reject.
Levi Tribesman
Boston Ma.
March 21, 2013
There is no way G-d condones rape! The father of the victim has the right to deny the rapist a marriage to his daughter. Why? Because his daughter is no longer a virgin and therefore not fit to marry. Her virginity was not lawfully taken so she is not fit to marry. As the father of this victim I would use this argument before the rulers and ask that this evil man be stoned on the grounds that he is an adulterer if married and a fornicator if not, he is violent and has done great harm to my daughter that has doomed her to a life of shame. On the other hand I could force this rapist to marry my daughter and then kill the man as soon as the "I do's" are said, so at least my daughter is now a widow and can remarry with her honor in tact! G-d is not mocked and neither is a furious father!
Anthony Galliart
March 18, 2013
Her choice whether to marry him
I cannot find it in the text, but didn't the girl's father have the choice to reject the marriage?

I keep thinking of Yaakov's daughter Dinah who was kidnapped and raped by the Egyptian. Dinah wanted to just stay there with her attacker, since all her options to marry were now over. Her brothers came and got her against her will. She finally went with them because they promised to marry her somehow. She married her nephew, Yosef's son, I believe.
Avigayil Chana
chabadnashoba.org
January 2, 2013
rmodern day rape- Durban
the desert - i believe that the article deals with the days of the desert, not modern times. In the desert the victim wielded wide powers over her rapist. The perpetrator was watched with an eagle eye by everyone. To shorten the script, his life was made a living hell if he stepped out of line.

Fast forward to the modern day, and the family can afford to help the victim and there are institutions to help, a victim is not seen as some leper etc. Personally in today's day and age i would opt for castration. No repeat offender. Problem arises when you don't apprehend the rapist, or get the wrong guy. You have to have irrefutable evidence before you castrate someone.
Anonymous
January 1, 2013
Modern-Day Rape
A rapist can gag a women and nobody would hear her scream.
Rape can happen anywhere and at anytime.

I'm not a Jew but believe in the G-d of Israel and in Judaism. I may not agree with everything written in the Torah and I disagree with some of what G-d says in Torah but I do think that its time for the world Jewry to unite and come up with solutions with Biblical insight that they have.

The should be new laws on rape , eg castrate the rapist if rapist was a man or if rapist was women do likewise.
Then put a GPS tracke in/on them and imprison rapist.

Let them clean dirty toilets and linen in hospitals, wash bed pans, etc - anything that is gross according to kids.

Personally I think a woman (or man) who is raped should decide the fate of the rapist, with death being a choice of punishment. ...
Shaunra
Durban, South Africa
September 14, 2012
reply to Dianna
In reguard to the statement that you made that " Christians can sleep with anyone, everyone and everything" is absolutely wrong. I understand that there are those that claim the title of "Christian" that live totally opposite of scripture,and it is embarrassing, disturbing, infuriating, and what other symptoms you can think of. Just remember that not everyone that call themselves Christian are Christian. They will argue with some verse, maybe ignore or explain it away, still the fact remains. If they do not live according to scripture, And the Bible does not give permission to "Sleep with anyone, everyone or anything!!" It is even more strict on marriage than the Torah. The problem is, It is just like everything else, not everyone goes all out for the word of G-D and that is a shame.
Pastor Billy Hancock
Toledo, Il
September 11, 2012
In the Dark and Middle ages, if a Christian wanted to marry a virgin (against her will) then he could rape her and pay the fine. Maybe he became rich by doing it! This was clearly sanctioned by Deuteronomy 22:28-9 (and therefore Christianity) There is no question it happened, and probably often. IIsabelle of Angouleme and Mary Queen of Scots were two examples. "Rape marriage" persisted into modern history. When the Bible sanctions rape, men rape. When the Bible sanctions slavery, men enslave. It took a long time, and a lot of suffering to get past this. Why? Did God want us to suffer by following his words as written? It is a question no one can answer except through "faith". Faith which requires suspension of rational judgement.
Levi Tribesman
Boston, MA
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