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Does the Torah Punish a Rape Victim?

Does the Torah Punish a Rape Victim?



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?


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.


Deuteronomy 22:28–29.


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.


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— 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
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Discussion (57)
November 25, 2014
G-d said all His commandments are holy righteous and good. In fact if I'm not mistaken that is the only thing in Torah He says is like that. I also firmly believe He created in me the ability to discern between good and evil. One need only look at the reaction to the interpretation of this commandment to see everyone including me cringe at the thought G-d would expect a rape victim to marry the perpetrator of such a crime. If the interpretation I just read is true then I could proclaim this commandment as something evil and that would make G-d a liar and the author of a morally heinous crime. However, please study yourself and you will find this commandment has absolutely nothing to do with rape. She did not cry out and says they are found out, which seems to imply they were both doing something wrong. In a nutshell it is a commandment against promiscuous behaviour, and one night stands so to speak. It expects one to follow through with their actions of sexual intercourse & marry.
September 7, 2014
Very Confusing Post by Anonymous [Wilmington]
Statutory rape means one of the people [the 'virgin girl' in this case] is under-age and cannot legally consent. In the Bible, "the man who lay with her" seems to have a clear meaning. It means sexual intercourse, not a "form of kidnapping". It is rape, where one pays a fine or enters the saddest possible relationship if the raped one desires. It is not a Ten Commandments level law, "Thou Shall Not Rape", but something lesser. When we try to understand an ancient text though, its all a matter of subjective interpretation. So often, we really don't know what is being communicated. The danger is when profound religious/legal authority is claimed by one who "knows". This has been the "engine" of a lot of suffering through history, driven by Christians, Muslims and to a far lesser degree, Jews. It is one of the reasons I am proud to be of Jewish heritage.
Levi Tribesman
Boston MA
September 6, 2014
I have never read this script to mean anything other than statutory rape. Where you have two consenting people but no ketuba. In my oppion rape as understood in the context of the article is not rape but a form of kidnapping.
September 6, 2014
Re: Compensaiton
Rabbi Gurkow, Is that supposed to make it BETTER? If (ANY deity forbid) a loved one of yours was to befall such a violent act, would you council her to marry her attacker. I would guess not, because we have grown since then. However, the holy texts from any monotheism or other as not grown with humanity. The end result, one day it will be an untenable position to hold to ancient doctrine for morality and humanity. Much love and peace, though.
September 1, 2014
Ashely, your passion is commendable, but see footnote 2 for the answer to your concern'
Lazer Gurkow
September 1, 2014
Pay "her" for her suffering???????
I love how this article clearly states several times that the victim is paid for her suffering.......Except that the bibble clearly states that her FATHER gets the dough. Well done, Lazer for going that extra mile (and a half) to continue to try to spin an ancient and outdated immoral document to make it seem normal and moral. Wake up, Humans.
Ashley Hancock
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?
Utica, NY
March 22, 2013
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.
March 21, 2013
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
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.
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