Teaching Resources

Accompanying Survivors of Sexual Harm: A Toolkit for Churches 

The Shiloh Project is pleased to announce the launch of a new toolkit called Accompanying Survivors of Sexual Harm. The toolkit has been developed as an educational resource for church leaders, inviting them to reflect on ways that churches can become spaces where sexual harm survivors feel safe and supported. This resource can be downloaded by following the link to the “Accompanying Survivors Toolkit” page on this website.

Below, Emily Colgan (one of the creators and editors of the toolkit) explains more about the toolkit’s development and its goals.

Accompanying Survivors of Sexual Harm: A Toolkit for Churches 

Accompanying Survivors of Sexual Harm is a trauma-informed resource that offers education and support of Christian clergy and lay leaders as they respond to sexual harm in their communities.  The resource is the collaborate effort of seven academics, all of whom work broadly at the intersection of sexual harm and Christian faith traditions in Aotearoa New Zealand. Through our work in this area, we have long been aware of the distressingly high rates of sexual harm in our communities, and we believe it is important for churches to recognise that the trends we see in society more generally are reflected in church communities as well. Moreover, churches need to acknowledge that sexual harm is perpetrated within these communities—at times by those in positions of authority—and the primary response of church leaders has far too often been one of self-preservation and concealment. For the most part, churches in Aotearoa have not yet found a voice to adequately address the issue of sexual harm, which is endemic in faith communities and in society at large. We (as a country, generally) have a problem with sexual harm and, for the most part, churches keep silent on this issue. 

This situation has come into sharper focus since February 2018, when the New Zealand government announced a Royal Commission of Inquiry into abuse in state care. In November of the same year, the inquiry expanded its scope to include abuse of those in the care of religious institutions. The harrowing testimonies of victims and survivors who experienced horrific sexual harm while in the care of religious institutions reveal that, for many people, churches have not been places of welcome and safety; they have not been places of good news. Churches have failed in their duty of care for the most vulnerable in their midst. The Commission’s work is still ongoing. But it has highlighted the urgent need for churches to be proactive in their support of victims and survivors, as well as in their efforts to ensure that church communities are no longer spaces where sexual harm can flourish. This resource is our – the contributor’s – response to this need. 

Over a number of years, we have canvassed stakeholders from within the Anglican, Methodist, and Roman Catholic traditions, seeking feedback about the educative needs of these churches for confronting the issue of sexual harm. We have also piloted this resource material with various church groups, seeking comment on the relevance and usefulness of its content for those in ministry. It reflects scholarship by experts in their respective fields, consultation with church leaders and those in frontline ministry positions, and insights and input from victims and survivors of sexual harm. It is by no means exhaustive, nor does it claim to be the full and final word on an appropriate Christian response to the issue of sexual harm. Instead, it enables workshop-based sessions which aim to educate clergy and lay leaders about

  • Understanding the nature of sexual harm and its prevalence in New Zealand society. 
  • Being alert to and responding in a pastorally sensitive manner to people within their community who have experienced/are experiencing sexual harm.  
  • Identifying and articulating some of the scriptural and theological foundations that work to justify/legitimise/enable sexual harm while silencing the voices of victims/survivors. 
  • Identifying and articulating some of the scriptural and theological foundations that work to challenge and resist sexual harm. 
  • Exploring how their church might work to create a safe space for victims/survivors of sexual harm. 

The toolkit will be of value to anyone in a church leadership position, including those training for Christian ministry and  those who have extensive ministry/leadership experience. It is intentionally ecumenical in nature and does not require knowledge of any one denominational tradition. While the format of the resource requires reflection and discussion in an “intellectual” sense, the aim of this work is to enable tangible, practical action in our communities that will support victims and survivors, and to make our churches spaces that are welcoming and safe. 

While some of the content relates specifically to the context of Aotearoa New Zealand, most of the material can be adapted and used further afield. There is space offered throughout the sessions for participants to discuss how issues pertaining to sexual harm relate to their own communities. Participants also have opportunities to consider how their own cultures, contexts, traditions, and languages will help shape their role of accompanying victims and survivors. 

The toolkit is free for anyone to download and use. It can be accessed here on the Shiloh Project website. If you have any queries about the use of the toolkit, please contact us at [email protected]

We hope this resource is a useful and meaningful tool for all those who accompany victims and survivors on their journey.

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Introducing The Contributors to “The Bible and Violence” – Katherine Southwood and Dominic Irudayaraj

Bible picture with a 'warning' sign.

Over the next weeks and months, as our Bible and Violence project (under contract with Bloomsbury) gathers momentum and grows, we will be profiling some of the 100+ contributors. Today we are thrilled to introduce Katherine Southwood and Dominic Irudayaraj. (For our earlier introduction to the Bible and Violence Project, see here.)

Katherine Southwood is Associate Professor at the University of Oxford, St John’s College. She specialises in Hebrew Bible and is passionate about interdisciplinary engagement with material from antiquity. Katherine has published several monographs: Job’s Body and the Dramatised Comedy of Moralising (2021); Marriage by Capture in the Book of Judges (2017); and Ethnicity and the Mixed Marriage Crisis in Ezra 9-10 (2012). She has also published many articles and chapters in edited volumes, and she enjoys the privilege of teaching students. Katherine is writing the chapter on Violence in the Book of Judges, as well as a chapter on self-critical correction when writing on the Bible and violence.

My second monograph, Marriage by Capture in the Book of Judges, was published in 2017. It focused primarily on the mass abduction and rape of women as depicted in Judges 21. Save for a note in the preface, my tone throughout the book was distant, even clinical. This was a coping mechanism, a way of maintaining an emotional and critical remove from the distressing content of the chapter I was writing on. I realise on reflection that it is harmful to remain critically detached when engaging with distressing biblical primary evidence. We scholars have an ethical duty not to turn off our emotions. In my chapter for this volume I will admit that in the past my tone in writing was deeply problematic. Academic work is never finished, in my view, so now I feel I need to return to Judges 21 and try to show what a difference it makes to engage the text with a mixture of intellect and emotion. 

I will argue that it is urgent not to ignore texts in the Bible wherein rape occurs, because silence about these texts is problematic.  Distancing myself, or turning away from, or ignoring rape in Judges 21 has consequence for how the text is read and for how it lives on, because it shrouds sexual violence under a veil of stigma, shame, and taboo. This is especially powerful given that Judges 21 is in what is, for many, Scripture. 

For as long as sexual violence exists in our societies, sanitising and euphemising biblical texts depicting sexual violence only adds to the problem. These texts can and should make us uncomfortable and outraged. We need safe spaces for discussion of such texts. I will argue that critical empathy can help us to understand the dehumanising “logic” that underpins the entire “marriage” system in Judges. And this, in turn, can detoxify and help us to unravel and undermine this system. I suggest that by acknowledging the pain such systems cause, and by grieving, we can resist the values and structures that make the violence we find in Judges 21 possible. 

(For more about Katherine and her publications, see here.)


Dominic S. Irudayaraj is Jesuit priest and Professore Lettore at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. He reads the Bible as a faith-inspired and faith-inspiring book yet concedes that biblical violence as a concept can be dissonant both in classroom settings and ministerial contexts. The theme of violence in the Bible invites him to read in ways that balance criticism with respect for the text. Dominic is writing the chapter on Violence in the Book of Isaiah. 

I am a biblical exegete, with research and teaching interests in Hebrew Bible prophetic books, especially Isaiah and Micah. I am drawn to emerging interpretive approaches and read the ancient prophetic texts in terms of their relevance and import for contexts ancient and current. 

My monograph Violence, Otherness, and Identity in Isaiah 63:1–6: The Trampling One Coming from Edom (Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2017) avails both social identity approaches and iconographic exegesis to wrestle with the violence in this very difficult text. I am also co-editor of a forthcoming volume, Isaiah and Its Unity: Challenges and Promises (Bloomsbury T&T Clark, manuscript submitted). I approach the theme of violence through a triad of interpretive lenses: socio-cultural, literary-rhetorical, and theological. On this, see my article, “Violence in the Bible: Towards a Non-violent Reading.” The Bible and Interpretation (April 2019, here). This article is available also in Hungarian! (“Erőszak A Bibliában – Úton Egy Erőszakmentes Olvasat Felé.” Trans. by Miklós Szabó, in Bibliakultúra 2020, here.)

I have taught graduate level courses with a particular focus on biblical violence at Hekima University College (Nairobi, Kenya) and Pontifical Biblical Institute (Rome, Italy). Currently, I am part of a four-member committee to develop a team-taught course called “Discourses and Counter-Discourses of Violence: Biblical, Ancient Near Eastern and Beyond.” 

In my chapter for the Bible & Violence volume, I aim to attend to some or all of the following: (1) a conceptual clarification of violence in Isaiah; (2) a description of violence and its varieties in Isaiah; (3) a reading of violence in select Isaiah texts (for example, chapters 1, 24, 34, or 63); (4) an account of some ab/uses of these texts in interpretive history; and (5) the value of reading these difficult texts non-violently. 

(For more publications by Dominic, see here.)

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Supporting Trans and Non-Binary Staff and Students in Anglican Foundation Universities

Cover image for 'Supporting Trans and Non-Binary Staff and Students

Today’s blog post comes from Professor Esther McIntosh. She recently completed, with Dr Sharon Jagger, a two-year project exploring chaplaincy support for trans and non-binary staff and students at Anglican foundation universities, which is the focus of this blog. The project received financial support from the Church Universities Fund and ethical approval from York St John University.

Despite gender reassignment being named as a protected characteristic under the UK’s 2010 Equality Act, access to healthcare for trans folk is far from equal and the focus of mainstream media is not often positive or inclusive of the trans community. In 2020, an Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) report found that stories focussed on trans ‘issues’ increased by 400% between 2009 and 2019. Increased visibility and awareness of a minority group is not necessarily problematic and can improve representation and awareness; however, if the tone of the coverage is negative and not representative of the people it claims to be about, it is harmful. IPSO notes in its report that there has been some ‘increased hostility’ and ‘concerns relating to freedom of expression’, while research by Paul Baker for Mermaids, one of the UK’s leading LGBTQ+ charities, found a substantial rise in media reporting referring to trans folk as ‘demanding or aggressive’ alongside ‘an explosion in media stories relating to children and gender issues’ some of which is ‘misleading, ill-informed and even, at times, cruel’, whilst failing to engage with trans folk themselves. Mermaids CEO, Susie Green states: ‘One consistent issue we’ve found is that politicians, presenters, campaigners and influencers are eager to speak about trans and gender-questioning children without listening to them first’. Furthermore, attempts to reform the UK’s 2004 Gender Recognition Act and to introduce self-identification have received targeted opposition from self-named ‘gender critical’ feminists.    

Trans Folk and the Church of England

For trans people of faith, there is a potential double jeopardy. In addition to misrepresentation by mainstream media, the Church of England has been similarly guilty of writing about trans folk without consulting them. The 2003 document Some Issues in Human Sexuality contained a consideration of ‘transsexualism’, made use of the binary terminology of ‘male’ and ‘female’ as found in the biblical text, and reached its conclusions surrounding identity and sexuality without consulting any trans folk. Fifteen years later, the Church of England eventually issued new guidance permitting clergy to mark gender transition using the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith. While priests who are trans – Rev. Dr Tina Beardsley, Rev. Sarah Jones and Rev Canon Dr Rachel Mann – were consulted in the process and the guidance does represent a step towards liturgical inclusion of trans folk, the House of Bishops rejected the request for a specific liturgy for gender transition.[1] At present, the Church of England is nearing the end of a multiyear project entitled ‘Living in Love and Faith’ (LLF). On the one hand, the project has commendably sought out a range of participants including those who are trans, non-binary and intersex to share their stories; on the other hand, the 2020 publication accompanying the project, whilst speaking of ‘learning from the mistakes of the past’ and promoting ‘a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church’ (pp. viii and vii), repeatedly fails to challenge the claim that the Bible teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman understood in binary, essentialist and heteropatriarchal terms. Admittedly, the purpose of the LLF resources at present is to invite discussion and understanding regarding different perspectives on marriage, gender and sexuality, and we wait to see what proposals will be presented at the General Synod in February 2023, but it has not been an entirely encouraging process thus far. Fifteen months after joining the co-ordinating group of the LLF project, Tina Beardsley’s optimism was exhausted and she resigned, citing, in the Church Times, marginalisation, power imbalances and the serious harms that are experienced by LGBTI+ people when gender and sexuality are held up for debate. Furthermore, earlier this year at the 2022 Lambeth conference,[2] same-sex unions were the main issue of contention leading to reaffirmation from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, of Lambeth I.10 (1998) which states that marriage is ‘between a man and a woman’ and that ‘homosexual practice’ is ‘incompatible with Scripture’; once again, despite claims that all ‘are loved by God’, LGBTQ+ folk have been left feeling hurt and rejected.       

Hearing the Voices of Trans and Non-Binary Folk

Hence, the impetus for our project was three-fold. First, as academics we were increasingly encountering transitioning and gender fluid students, and while our university was trying to be inclusive, some staff were struggling with terminology and pronouns, and some IT systems were not as flexible as they needed to be (for example, producing class lists with birth names rather than preferred or chosen names). Secondly, as academics in a department of religion, we were well aware of the difficulties that can be faced by queer and trans students with faith. Third, as cis feminists we believe there is an urgent need to stand up for trans-inclusion and to combat transphobia (especially anti-trans rhetoric from ‘gender critical’ feminists). Furthermore, given the prevalence of stories and policies written about trans folk rather than with them, at the heart of our project was the aim to hear and centre trans and non-binary voices, and to raise visibility and awareness of gender variance on university campuses. In addition, it was a requirement of the funding body that the research should enhance the Anglican ethos of the university or the presence of chaplaincy at Anglican foundation universities, which seemed like an ideal opportunity for us to also explore the ways in which chaplains negotiate the apparent tension between the inclusive ethos of a university and the less than inclusive religious institution that they represent. As cisgendered researchers, we paid attention to the ethical guidance developed by Johnstone (2019) and Henrickson et al. (2020), consulted trans priests before submitting the proposal, and made sure that the final report was written in consultation with our participants.

Phase 1: We began by circulating an anonymous questionnaire and interviewing any staff or students who indicated a willingness to be interviewed, as well as interviewing fourteen chaplains at Anglican foundation universities and two prominent trans Priests.

Phase 2: We organised the provision of story boards on university campuses to raise the visibility and awareness of trans and non-binary folk. The story boards created an opportunity for students to share poems, narratives or comments about their identity.

Phase 3: The culmination of the project was the writing of a report with recommendations aimed at improving inclusion on university campuses. We sent a draft of the report to participants and then held workshop to ensure we had represented the participants accurately, and, further, to find out whether our participants thought that the recommendations, if followed, would improve inclusion. In order to keep the recommendations manageable, practical and effective, we combined an initial list of thirty into eight and worded each as a verb: something to do. In addition, in order to enhance accessibility, the final report is free to download from the Centre for Religion in Society website.    

Recurring Themes

We encountered a number of recurring themes. Some participants wished to challenge the homogenising effect of the umbrella abbreviation ‘LGBTQ+’ on the grounds that not all LGBTQ+ groups are supportive of all genders, expressions and identities. Other participants talked of living in stealth – having a trans history that is not part of their current public identity – and the ways in which the constant fear of being outed has curtailed career and other lifestyle aspirations that carry the risk of exposure. Relatedly, the trans priests spoke of the emotional labour and exhausting sacrificial work involved in having a public trans identity, especially through the constant ‘flag waving’ required for trans needs to be heard. The chaplains we interviewed highlighted the concepts of marginality and inclusion. They noted that while they often support those who are at the margins in the university context, they also operate from the margins of the Church. Moreover, they hold inclusion to be a baseline for the role of a chaplain and, yet, they face tensions supporting both trans folk and those who are opposed to gender transition. We were not surprised to find trans folk reporting negative experiences and barriers to inclusion in higher education, but these negative experiences are often hidden by the prevalence of rainbow lanyards on university campuses that can be a cover for action. Nevertheless, chaplains are in a unique position to signpost staff and students of faith to inclusive churches, and to influence university policies and practices.[3]

Surprising Findings

One of the more surprising findings for us arose around our use of story boards; we encountered resistance from gatekeepers of university spaces when we sought to increase the visibility of trans and non-binary folk. In spite of the promotion of events for LGBT+ History Month and the general perception that campuses are safe spaces, gatekeepers argued that it would not be safe for trans and non-binary folk to post comments on story boards. We stressed that posting on the boards was voluntary and could be anonymous, and within days the boards were filled with revealing comments: some trans folk expressed the freedom that university had given them to be themselves and to celebrate their identity, others reflected on the impact of the negative media coverage and on distressing estrangement from family members. On the one hand, the use of the boards suggests that trans and non-binary folk welcomed the opportunity to share their stories and to increase visibility and awareness on campus. On the other hand, the resistance we encountered from university personnel shows that trans folk are perceived to be uniquely vulnerable and confirms that, while the effort to protect groups seen as vulnerable comes from a place of good intention, it has the effect of making those groups invisible, taking away their decision-making opportunities and thus reducing their agency. As Doris Andrea Dirks (2016) argues, vulnerability discourse ignores the resourcefulness of gender variant folk and may serve to maintain marginalisation. Other findings included the view that encouragement to announce pronouns, which is intended to be trans inclusive, can be a form of outing for those who are questioning their gender identity; while, the use of Anglican cathedrals for graduation ceremonies can be a source of discomfort for staff and students who are LGBTQ+.

Recommendations and Concluding Remarks

Our recommendations were positively received and endorsed by participants. Although aimed at chaplains and intended to improve inclusivity on university campuses, they are applicable for others working in education and for other educational institutions. The recommendations can be read in full in the report. In brief, the recommendations are as follows:

1. To Listen and to Share: the importance of listening to and consulting with trans folk regarding their experiences on campus, and raising visibility through sharing stories is vital.

2. To Learn: current use of language is changing and what is liberating for some may not be for others; there is no one answer or solution for inclusion, rather, continual learning is necessary.

3. To Develop Trans-Inclusive Theologies: there is a need to challenge dominant theologies and to work with trans folk of faith to develop trans-inclusive theologies (this recommendation to challenge dominant texts and theories may also be applicable to other disciplines, such as sociology, anthropology, film, literature and so on, if the mainstream theories are cis normative).

4. To Influence: those with access to senior leadership teams can request training on campuses to improve knowledge and awareness.

5. To Be Visible: the rainbow is useful, but sometimes trans and non-binary folk feel invisible, and it can be beneficial to use specific trans and non-binary colours and symbols.

6. To Be Accessible: staff and students need to know where to access support, but those in supporting roles also need to know when to step back from a fixing role.

7. To Collaborate: support staff can engage in useful dialogue, organise events and share expertise across staff and student networks.

8. To Resource: support staff should be able to direct LGBTQ+ folk to inclusive churches, policies and networks (trans-inclusive resourcing is also important for libraries and for teaching materials).

Endorsements for the report include:

Tina Beardsley – ‘I feel well listened to, understood, and insightfully interpreted back to myself. I warmly commend this report. Based on interviews with chaplains, staff and students the researchers explore the pivotal role that chaplaincies can play among a ‘team of allies’ of trans and non-binary staff and students’.

Michael Bonshor – ‘The authors of this ground-breaking and thought-provoking report have adopted a refreshingly inclusive approach to their project. Rather than hypothesising about what gender-diverse individuals may or may not need to empower them in academic settings, McIntosh and Jagger directly consulted trans and non-binary staff and students about their experiences of life in higher education. Constructive recommendations are based on the research evidence and have been developed in collaboration with the research participants. This should be required reading for anyone who teaches or works with trans and non-binary individuals in higher education’.

Ultimately, the research underpinning the report has revealed the need for trans-inclusive campuses, for trans-inclusive feminism and for trans-inclusive theology; in particular, it is vital that diversification engenders LGBTQ+ inclusion by centring and amplifying the voices and concerns of the marginalised and we hope that the report may help to achieve this.

Works Cited

The Archbishops’ Council, 2020. Living in Love and Faith. London: Church House Publishing.

Dirks, D.A., 2016. Transgender People at Four Big Ten Campuses: A Policy Discourse Analysis. Review of Higher Education,39(3), 371-393.

Dowd, C. and Beardsley, C. with Tanis, J., 2018. Transfaith: A Transgender Pastoral Resource. London: Darton, Longman and Todd.

Henrickson, M.; Giwa, S.; Hafford-Letchfield, T.; Cocker, C.; Mulé, N.J.; Schaub, J.; Baril, A. (2020). Research Ethics with Gender and Sexually Diverse Persons. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(18), 6615

Johnston, M. S., 2018. Politics and tensions of doing transgender research: Lessons learned by a straight-white-cisgender man. In: Kleinknecht, S.; van den Scott, L. J. and Sanders, C. B. (eds), The Craft of Qualitative Research: A Handbook. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press, pp. 85-91.

A Working Party of the House of Bishops, 2003. Some Issues in Human Sexuality: A Guide to the Debate. London: Church House Publishing.

[1] By contrast, in 2018, Chris Dowd and Tina Beardsley published Transfaith in which they have written liturgies for trans and gender variant folk, see pp. 178-200.

[2] Lambeth is a decennial conference for bishops from across the global Anglican communion

[3] Chaplains sit on a variety of university committees and have easy access to senior leadership teams and vice chancellors.

Professor Esther McIntosh

Professor Esther McIntosh is professor of feminist theology and ethics at York St John University, and currently serves on the editorial board of Brill’s book series ‘Political and Public Theologies’, as well as on the Executive Board of the Global Network for Public Theology. Her work is interdisciplinary and underpinned by a concern for gender justice. Her most recent publications include ‘The Persistence of White Christian Patriarchy in a Time of Right-Wing Populism’; Blurring the Borders: Christian Women Negotiating Off- and Online Spaces of Feminism and Misogyny’; and ‘Gender in Religion, Religion in Society: The Agency and Identity of Christian Women’.

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Announcing AHRC Grant Success 

The Shiloh Project Will Be Involved in a Large Grant Focused on Spiritual Abuse

Co-director Johanna is part of a team that has been awarded a large grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for a two-and-a-half year research project on Abuse in Religious Settings. Johanna is one of three Co-Investigators, and the project is led by Gordon Lynch (University of Kent). It will bring together an experienced team of academics, professional practitioners, and people involved in support and advocacy work with survivors, and will work closely with survivors as co-producers of new insights and resources.

Abuse in Religious Settings will involve a series of connected pieces of work examining theological, organisational, and textual issues, how safeguarding professionals and faith communities work with each other, and what relevant legal and policy frameworks have been developed in different countries. It will also work with survivors to learn from their insights about the meanings that abuse in religious contexts can have, as well as what can support resilience.

Johanna’s focus builds on her work in activist uses of biblical texts and with The Shiloh Project. 

The project will be structured around seven main pieces of work, with cross-cutting themes and issues between them also being studied: 

  1. Abuse and the cultures and structures of religious organisations (literature-based study led by Gordon Lynch). 
  2. Abuse in new religious movements: forms and organisational responses (secondary data analysis led by Sarah Harvey).
  3. The role of religious texts in relation to abuse (workshop-based study led by Johanna Stiebert). This will also include the production of more Shiloh Podcast episodes with the fabulous Rosie Dawson.
  4. International comparisons of legal and policy frameworks in relation to safeguarding and abuse in religious settings (review led by Richard Scorer).
  5. Exploring relationships between faith communities and safeguarding professionals in statutory bodies (survey and interview-based study led by Justin Humphreys).
  6. Survivor responses and resilience to abuse in religious settings (interview-based study led by Linda Woodhead and Jo Kind). 
  7. Disclosures and non-disclosures of abuse (photo-elicitation study led by Lisa Oakley).

In addition, the project will also involve activities and events which will build new relationships between individuals and groups working in this field, both within the United Kingdom and internationally. 

If you are interested in possibly contributing to and participating in Johanna’s workshops and podcast episodes (which are still in the early planning stages), please contact Johanna directly: [email protected]

Workshops and podcast episodes will focus on religious texts from a range of religious traditions – not only on the Bible, Jewish or Christian traditions. We welcome postgraduates, practitioners, religious and community leaders, academics and activists working in the area of spiritual abuse and religious texts and contexts.

The project will formally begin with an initial consultation phase in March 2022, with the main research activities beginning in the autumn of 2022. Outcomes from the project are expected to be released by the spring and summer of 2024.

For more information and regular updates about the project, please visit the project website: Abuse in Religious Settings – Research at Kent

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16 Days of Celebrating Activism… Shiloh’s Routledge Focus series!

Today we celebrate our Routledge Focus book series. The Shiloh Project was the inspiration for the series and the series title—‘Rape Culture, Religion and the Bible’—is the same as the sub-title for the Shiloh Project. 

Routledge Focus volumes are concise, no more than 50,000 words in length. Each volume In our series, consequently, is sharply focused. Each represents research-based activism on a theme within the orbit of religion and rape culture. While unified by this larger theme and purpose, the published and forthcoming volumes evidence considerable variety.

We endeavour to publish around three volumes per year. This year, two volumes appeared and a third is due out in January. (The publication of the third volume was delayed on account of its sensitive content, which had to be carefully vetted by Routledge’s legal team—more on that shortly.)

The first series volume of 2021 is by Shiloh co-director Caroline Blyth (profiled as one of our 2017 activists). The title of her volume is Rape Culture, Purity Culture, and Coercive Control in Teen Girl Bibles. Caroline examines several bibles marketed to teen girls and demonstrates how they perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes including rape myths at the heart of rape culture. It’s a searing read that will have you questioning how on earth such publications can justify their claims of helping young women grow in faith, hope and love. Caroline demonstrates the damage perpetuated by purity cultures, and systematically peels back how some teen girl bibles echo or affirm the strategies of coercively controlling parents or intimate partners. It’s brilliantly done. (To hear Caroline talk about her book in an episode of the Shiloh Podcast, see here.)

Excerpt from p.3 of Caroline’s book

The second series volume of 2021 is Ericka Shawndricka Dunbar’s Trafficking Hadassah: Collective Trauma, Cultural Memory, and Identity in the Book of Esther and in the African Diaspora. Ericka’s book identifies the enterprise of rounding up girls from across the empire for the Persian king’s harem, as constituting sexual trafficking on a huge scale. After refuting claims that this is some light-hearted biblical story about a beauty contest, Ericka highlights parallels between sex trafficking in the book of Esther and the cultural memories, histories, and materialized pain of African(a) girls and women during the Maafa, or slave trade. The book is a powerful call, both to responsible Bible reading and to action in the face of human rights violation. (Ericka, too, is featured on the Shiloh Podcast: hear Ericka talking about her book here. For a short Q&A with Ericka, see here.)

‘Slavery’, by quadelirus (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 and available @CreativeCommons)

The third volume has a publication date of 18 January 2022 and is available for pre-order now. This one is by Miryam Clough and has the title Vocation and Violence: The Church and #MeToo. Miryam’s book begins by pointing out that sexual violence is systemic in many workplace settings, including in Christian churches. From here, she focuses on how, among many other devastating consequences, this can destroy women’s careers and vocational aspirations. Because Miryam’s study draws on empirical evidence, including personal stories from survivors of clergy abuse, it required scrutiny by the Routledge legal team. The book is an intense and often painful exposition of clergy sexual abuse of adult women, the conditions that support it, and the pain left in its wake. Bringing testimony into dialogue with theoretical perspectives, the book also makes constructive suggestions for theological models that can heal a broken Church.

‘Devil and Praying Women’, Linde Church, Gotland (from CreativeCommons)

We are delighted with the seven published series titles and excited about the further six that are under contract and due for release over the next two years. 

The volumes are making a timely and important contribution to scholarship on sexual and gender-based violence in religious texts and contexts. They are also ideal for teaching, given their compactness and their availability in affordable e-book format. 

If you, or someone you know, is interested in publishing in our series, please contact series co-editor Johanna ([email protected]). Volumes for the series can be sole-authored, co-authored, or edited collections of essays. Proposals are peer-reviewed, and manuscripts must meet Routledge’s criteria for academic rigour and marketability. Routledge prides itself on a prompt production process and on being in the forefront of publishing cutting-edge research. All volumes are copy edited to a very high standard. Titles appear first in hardback and e-version and, sometimes, later, in paperback, too.

We’d love to hear from prospective contributing authors, and also, from anyone with feedback on volumes in the series, or on topics you’d like to see represented.

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Jewish and Christian Women in the Ancient Mediterranean – New Book!

Jewish and Christian Women in the Ancient Mediterranean

Sara Parks, Shayna Sheinfeld and Meredith J. C. Warren have a new book, Jewish and Christian Women in the Ancient Mediterranean. It is an engaging and accessible textbook that provides an introduction to the study of ancient Jewish and Christian women in their Hellenistic and Roman contexts. The book has a virtual launch on the 13th December, and those interested in finding out more can register here: We caught up with them to ask them to find out more.

Congratulations on your new book! Thank you for taking the time to be part of our interview.

Thank you for letting us tell you more about it! This is something that we’ve developed in collaboration over many years of research and feedback from our students, and we really believe it will be a warmly welcomed resource in a broad range of classrooms and communities.

Tell us about yourselves. How does your book relate to your work as a whole and how did this book come about?

Sara Parks is Assistant Professor in Biblical Studies (New Testament) at Dublin City University, Ireland. Sara’s recent book Gender in the Rhetoric of Jesus: Women in Q argues that Jesus’ earliest sayings point to a respect towards women in varieties of early Judaism, which eroded as Christianity developed. Sara just finished a Leverhulme working on the intersection of misogyny and anti-Judaism in early Christianity.

Shayna Sheinfeld is currently a Fellow at the Frankel Institute for Judaic Studies, University of Michigan, USA. She’s working on a book called Big Tent Judaism that examines diversity in Jewish leadership by challenging androcentric ideas of authority in both ancient sources and contemporary scholarship; she includes women, enslaved, and other marginalised people, as well as marginalised sources, in her work. She has also organised two conferences on gender in antiquity through the Enoch Seminar, one volume of which was recently published as Gender and Second-Temple Judaism.

Meredith Warren is Senior Lecturer at the University of Sheffield, UK, where she is Director of the Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies and editor in chief of the open-access Journal for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies. She has written often on food and taste in antiquity, for example, her 2020 book Food and Transformation in Ancient Mediterranean. She has also written about Rape Culture and Revelation for both an academic audience and for the Shiloh Project blog and the #SheToo podcast, and is working on an article on slut shaming the Samaritan Woman.

So we are all working on different aspects of gender and ancient Mediterranean religion, especially early Judaism and early Christianity. But the book really started almost 10 years ago, when we were all graduate students together. Sara had pitched a module called “Reading Women in Greco-Roman Judaism and Early Christianity,” not expecting it to be accepted because there were so many post-grads and only one or two teaching slots per year. But the module was approved! Together we pooled our collective expertise in Greek and Roman religions, the early Jesus movement, early Jewish literature and religion, and later antiquity. Our powers combined resulted in a really great class and we got invited to teach it again the next year. We’ve all been teaching versions of it whenever we can ever since. But setting it up those first years was really difficult because there were no text books or set readings then, just sourcebooks, and these were too compartmentalised, treating either Judaism or Christianity or Greek and Roman religions. We had to compile our own collection of sources, activities, and readings about method and gender, basically from scratch.

Then in 2015 we were all attending the SBL in Atlanta, and Meredith was approached by Routledge Press asking about her future book projects. Instead of mentioning her own next monograph ideas, Meredith was suddenly inspired to pitch a co-authored textbook on ancient women, with Sara and Shayna (which was a surprise not only to them, but to Meredith herself)! We had a contract not long after, and we likely would have had the book done a bit sooner if we hadn’t had a couple of other monographs and a pandemic in the meantime.

The origins of the textbook in a spirit of collaboration stuck with us as we completed it. Shayna managed to get some money to hire student research assistants at one point, and she used them for our book rather than her own research; Sara used some of the Leverhulme funding to hire an indexer for it; and Meredith used some research funding from Sheffield to hire a PhD student to work on the images and copyrights. The only reason this book exists is because we did our best to reject the isolation and competition that is so typical in academia, and instead to be conscious of trying to create a collaborative community, not just with each other, but on down the line. Each of those decisions—to share rather than hoard whenever we’ve gotten a leg up—is now going to result in a wonderful teaching resource.

What are the key goals of this book?

We had a few main goals, aside from creating a resource for teaching about women and gender in ancient religion. We also wanted to approach the question of methodology directly in the introductory chapters. This arose from our own experiences where none of us was exposed to using theory or made to articulate our own methods until late undergraduate or even Masters work. We wanted to be deliberate about promoting conscious use of methods as early as possible, which is how we teach. So we set out to include a variety of approaches, in an accessible way, up-front, and then give students examples and chances to practice them in every subsequent chapter. This is part of our aim of decentralising the historical-critical method as the only way to do proper scholarship, which some people maintain. We wanted people to see it instead as just one tool in a big toolbox with lots of other ways of learning about antiquity and interpreting textual and material evidence.

We included methods from a variety of fields because we wanted the textbook to be interdisciplinary, and readily usable for colleagues in a number of disciplines. This resource is not only meant for theology or biblical studies departments; it’s for any department within arts and humanities. We’ve designed it so there’s no previous knowledge of the time-period or of gender theory required. We wanted it to be not only accessible to students, but also to diverse instructors.

Another thing that is really important in all our work is to treat Judaism, Christianity, and ‘pagan’ women together, rather than tidily separate from one another, as if everyone weren’t mixing and talking to each other in antiquity. When we treat, for instance, female protagonists of novels, women rulers, or women religious leaders, we don’t separate them out using anachronistic concepts based on contemporary canons and categories, but instead divide them by other types of proximity, whether geographical, temporal, or generic. We always want to help our readers see just how blurry the boundaries are, perhaps especially where someone has tried really hard to draw a firm line between things.

What ideas emerge in the book that will be of particular interest to Shiloh readers?

We do talk about sexual violence and rape culture in the book (with ‘difficult topic flags’), and cover sexual violence against men as well, using some research by Shiloh Project members. We also approach the material in the book in a way that I think will resonate with a lot of Shiloh readers. We try to take an intersectional approach, and encourage our readers, and in particular any students using the textbook, to practice looking out for the multiple ways that power, gender, status, and race intersect in the evidence we have from antiquity. We use the Samaritan woman in John 4 as a recurring example to demonstrate how various methods might be used, from Marxist to queer to post-colonial criticism, encouraging people to think about women’s lives and gender as social construct in a way that isn’t isolating and that is reflective of the multiple facets of ancient (and contemporary!) identities. We include examples of non-binary figures from antiquity where we can, from rabbinic discussions of six different genders and Greco-Roman ‘one gender’ (rather than binary) models, to the figure of the Gallus priest in Roman religion, to the common idea found in antiquity of women ‘becoming men.’

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

 We hope they will appreciate just how diverse religion in antiquity was, and how many different ways there were to participate in religion. We hope readers will see the interrelatedness of Judaism, Christianity, and other religions of the ancient Mediterranean, and see how common trends, for example in types of leadership options for women, changed in sync over the period. We want our readers to think more broadly about where they look for evidence–not only in canons, and not only in written texts–and to pay more attention to marginalised experiences wherever we can find them in antiquity. We want them to imagine alternatives to the normative expectations of elite men from the various traditions. We also want readers to feel enabled to think directly and speak explicitly about their positionality and their use of methodology to approach their own research, and to perhaps apply the methods we explore in the book to other corpora, other time periods, and other geographies.

Give us one quotation from your book that you think will make readers want to go and read the rest.

P 232: Some texts and artefacts (like coins) from the ancient world include descriptions of sexual violence when they use symbolic women to “think with.” Sexual violence against these women-as-symbols acts as a means of reinforcing what the author is presenting as “correct” behaviour. The authors either use the image as a trope to describe misbehaviour being “punished” (sexually, and by a man), or they picture the violent acts to illustrate one entity’s submission to another (using a female symbol of submission and a male symbol of authority). When such texts fall within biblical canons, they pose a problem for people who hold that canon as sacred; responsible and ethical interpreters of scripture ask whether these texts condone—or even encourage—sexual assault and gendered violence. One might think that a fictional Babylon pictured as whore, or a fictional nation of Israel portrayed as an unfaithful wife, are obviously not “real women,” and therefore using violent imagery against them is acceptable as it is only being done symbolically. This view misses several important points. Just because these women might be literary fictions and “flat” characters with which ancient authors are tackling other issues doesn’t mean that the choice of women as the “sinners” and sexual violence as their “punishment” has any less impact on ancient and contemporary readers. In fact, the choice of these literary symbols tells us dreadful things about the ancient societies where these narratives took shape, as well as—importantly—those groups that up to today continue to adopt, use, or accept such literary representations without questioning them.

Plus the activity box that accompanies this section:

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Teaching about sexual violence in digital learning environments

Today’s post is by Dr Samantha Keene and Professor Jan Jordan, who both teach criminology at Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington. Given New Zealand’s sudden shift to a hard lockdown this week, their post couldn’t be more timely. And with the continued use of online and blended learning in higher education institutions globally, we are sure many of our readers will find their reflections valuable.

Teaching about sexual violence in digital learning environments

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the higher education landscape. Widespread lockdowns have seen academic staff forced to rapidly pivot their face-to-face teaching to online modes, often with little preparation and/or training in digital pedagogy. The perceived ‘success’ of academics’ tireless transition to online delivery modes may see these ways of delivery becoming a permanent fixture on university course offerings. Thinking ahead, then, this commentary provides reflexive insights into our experiences delivering a final-year undergraduate criminology paper, titled ‘Sexual Violence’, in an online learning environment during COVID-19. Shifting from face-to-face to online teaching brings unique challenges, and it is important for academic staff to identify and share the diversity of resources, tools and best practices we employ in our teaching to overcome these hurdles (Danis, 2016). It is our hope that sharing the concerns we had about delivering this paper digitally, as well as the strategies we employed to do it, will be of benefit to others teaching sensitive material in online learning environments.  

As COVID-19 cases exploded internationally, Aotearoa/New Zealand adopted a ‘go hard, go early’ strategy to halt the spread of the virus (Baker et al, 2020, p. 198). On 25 March 2020, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a State of National Emergency and imposed a strict nationwide lockdown that placed all non-essential workers in self-isolation. The lockdown announcement was unprecedented, and in response, our institution required all courses to be shifted to online delivery.

Designing courses for online delivery is not something that occurs overnight; rather, it requires substantial consideration and preparation, making the task more ‘frontloaded’ than face-to-face teaching (Danis, 2016, p. 1477). Online teaching requires a minimum level of technological ability and skill, and educators must also learn and und­­­erstand the social dynamics of digital learning and teaching in their new online classrooms. Haggerty acknowledges that the onus on academics to establish and maintain their presence in their online classrooms ‘is often the one aspect of online learning that academics are most concerned about in regard to the time it takes to provide a quality, facilitated learning environment’ (2015, p. 197). The requirement for faculty staff to immediately shift our teaching online, then, was a daunting prospect.

As criminologists, we were particularly apprehensive about the prospect of teaching online due to the sensitive nature of much of our course content. Students in criminology classes are regularly exposed to material that can be challenging, sensitive and/or distressing (Whitehead & Parker, 2017). Teachers of criminology courses, therefore, have a moral duty to adopt an ethics of care in teaching that minimises possible student distress following exposure to course content (Dalton, 2010). This ethics of care for students in our courses predates the pandemic. 

In one of our courses (CRIM324: Sexual Violence), we situate critical examinations of sexual violence within a broader sociocultural landscape of patriarchy, gender inequality and rape culture. The topics include justice system revictimization of victim/survivors, women’s objectification through pornography, and technologically facilitated sexual violence. In reflecting a feminist commitment to hearing the voices of women who are often silenced, we also include case studies and qualitative material as complements to academic research. We attend to issues of both victimisation and resistance in our teaching for the course, thereby allowing us to view women ‘not just as vulnerable victims but as strong and agentic – even when they suffer violence’ (Hollander, 2016, p. 87). We also recognise and include material on masculinity and male sexual victimisation, as well as on ways to involve those of all gender identities in rape prevention.

In this course, we endeavour to foster a learning environment that is safe, empathetic, supportive and validating of victim/survivors of sexual violence. In recognition of the chronically high rates of sexual violence in Aotearoa/New Zealand, and the subsequent number of students in the course who will have lived experience of trauma, it is important that we are proactive about centring the needs of victim/survivors in our teaching from the beginning (Bedera, 2021). As instructors, we do this in several ways. In our first lecture, we directly acknowledge the presence of victim/survivors in the classroom and we explicitly validate their experiences. In preparing students for the course, we are honest about the nature of the course materials. We acknowledge that some content will likely be confronting, triggering and/or distressing, and that this may be amplified for some students more than others. In recognising the various ways that student distress may manifest, we provide suggestions for addressing their emotional needs. All students are given information about free, or low-cost, specialist health and support services available at the university and in the wider community. We make this list as current, comprehensive and accessible as possible to encourage students to make use of these services. Lastly, we provide space throughout the course for students to visit us during private student consultation hours. We signal to students that these hours are confidential and safe spaces for them to meet with us and discuss any issues that the course may raise for them. We take care to clarify that, while we are happy to provide a listening ear, we are not trained therapists. We offer to assist students in contacting specialist support if that is their wish.

As teachers of sensitive subjects, then, it is especially important that we recognise, and appropriately respond to, teachable moments when they surface as they can provide important scaffolding in our construction of safe and trusted learning environments.

Student disclosures of trauma have been common in our experience, as others teaching similar content have also observed (see Branch et al., 2011). Students feeling able to make disclosures of trauma to their teachers requires a high level of rapport and trust to have been built between the student and teaching staff. Disclosures of this nature are unlikely if students do not feel such safeguards exist (Bedera, 2021). Most of the rapport and trust we have with students is built through our in-person interactions with students. Alongside the supportive environment fostered within our classroom, our usual requirement for students to attend lectures, rather than accessing recorded lessons, enables us to read the room during lecture delivery. Teaching in a face-to-face context provides opportunities for assessing student reactions to challenging content via non-verbal cues, such as through their body language and facial expressions. When we teach sensitive or challenging content, we are highly attuned and responsive to students’ reactions to the content they are hearing. This helps identify when, and if, a shift in teaching approach may be required in the interests of student safety. Face-to-face delivery also helps us identify ‘teachable moments’ as they arise through in-class discussions. As educators, our ability to swiftly respond to teachable moments relating to sensitive issues can help build trust and rapport with students, thereby influencing the classroom environment as a whole. As teachers of sensitive subjects, then, it is especially important that we recognise, and appropriately respond to, teachable moments when they surface as they can provide important scaffolding in our construction of safe and trusted learning environments.

Given our ethics of care and our duty to minimise student distress, we had several reservations about delivering this paper in an online environment. As feminist criminologists, we are acutely aware of the emotionally involved and challenging nature of doing sexual violence research (Jordan, 2008; Keene, 2021), so we were concerned about our students engaging with heavy content in complete isolation. We were also concerned about student privacy whilst engaging with sensitive lecture material in their homes. We were conscious that students may not have private spaces to view course materials, and we wondered how students would participate in conversations when others in their household, such as flatmates or family members, may overhear them.

From an equity perspective, we were also concerned about students’ access to digital technologies and internet capabilities in their homes. While several financial assistance packages were made available by the government during the pandemic, these were rarely extended to university students specifically, except for some temporary measures (Ministry of Education, 2021). Universities across Aotearoa/New Zealand stepped up to provide financial assistance for students, such as hardship grants and loaned laptop schemes. However, we were aware of students in our course who struggled to access hardship supports in a timely manner during the lockdown. We questioned how we could redesign the course content to best meet the needs of students with limited access to digital capabilities and to ensure they were able to complete the course successfully. Beyond concerns about students managing the course content, we knew, as feminist criminologists, that lockdown environments would result in increased levels of family and sexual violence across Aotearoa/New Zealand. We also expected that victims’ access to support services may be limited or, in some instances, unavailable due to lockdown restrictions. In sum, we expected students would require more support than ever while completing this course.

Our expectations soon proved to be correct and we were confronted with high levels of student stress and distress, much of it stemming from the shock and anxiety triggered by the sudden lockdown. Nicole Bedera (2021) contends that instructors teaching the topic of sexual violence need specialist subject expertise, and they should be reflexive and responsive to students’ needs in their teaching. We were fortunate to be assisted in the delivery of this paper by two highly experienced tutors who had extensive knowledge of sexual violence-related issues, as well as professional experience as sexual violence prevention educators. Having the assistance of such skilled and competent assistants on our course gave us the confidence and assurance we needed to ensure that the paper could be successfully redesigned and delivered safely in a solely digital and COVID-anxious environment.

We knew how important it was to create an environment where students trusted us and felt able to communicate with us about the challenges they were experiencing during the course.

So how did we proceed with delivering a paper on sexual violence in this fully digital environment? Drawing on the first author’s prior experience with online teaching, we replaced the traditional lecture format with weekly, pre-recorded video modules for students to engage with in their own time. Each module consisted of between five and eight pre-recorded video lecture segments that, as well as the usual PowerPoints, were accompanied also by links to supplementary materials, such as YouTube videos, news media items and TED talks so that students could further develop their learning at their own pace. To reduce the intensity of the course content and address attention span issues, we made the modules shorter than traditional lectures. This reduced the intensity of the course content, gave students the option to skip content they may find distressing, and reduced the amount of streaming broadband required for engagement.

Although creating these pre-recorded video modules and sourcing appropriate YouTube videos greatly increased our workload, course evaluations indicated that students particularly appreciated the adaptations we made to the course structure for delivery in a fully digital environment. For example, student evaluations noted that ‘the delivery of content with a mixture of lecture material and supplementary external video clips kept me engaged’, and ‘I valued being able to choose when I could sit down and watch lectures based on when I felt I was in a good head space to receive such sensitive information’.

In recognition of the significant disruption that the lockdown was having on our students, we also scaled back assessment requirements by reducing essay word limits, reweighting assessment percentages and removing mandatory tutorial attendance requirements. We knew how important it was to create an environment where students trusted us and felt able to communicate with us about the challenges they were experiencing during the course. We worked hard to be as ‘human’ as possible, despite the distance between us and our student cohort. We regularly provided video updates in place of written announcements to enhance our digital presence. We communicated with students via Blackboard more regularly than we would during face-to-face delivery. This proved effective, with student evaluations identifying the ‘constant communication and support offered throughout the course’ as a specific aspect that stimulated or helped them to learn.  

Alongside our constant communication through video and written announcements in the digital environment, all staff involved held regular ‘drop-in’ sessions which, when students attended, dually functioned as both learning support and pastoral care check-ins. In the absence of building in-person rapport, we introduced students to our pets and provided them with a glimpse into our home lives, letting them get a ‘feel’ for who we were as their teachers. Further, we ensured that we remained up to date with what support services were available for them at the university, and we kept informed about how support services were operating in the community during lockdown. We communicated this information regularly to students through multiple online channels in a further attempt to build the trust and rapport we were used to developing through our face-to-face interactions with students.

Faculty staff involved in administering academic workloads should recognise and take into account the increased workloads arising from pastoral care work done by academic staff teaching courses on gender-based violence.

Teaching courses about gender-based violence can be emotionally challenging for students, but they can be just as emotionally challenging for academic staff involved in their delivery (Bedera, 2021; Nikischer, 2019; Sheffield, 2012). In the online environment, the emotionally laborious nature of teaching sexual violence content was exacerbated by our need to be constantly visible and present, and we certainly do not wish to understate the added workloads we experienced teaching this course online. However, the duty of care to our students in this paper took precedence for all of us involved in teaching it. This ethics of care needs to be evident throughout tertiary institutions so that staff teaching sensitive material are listened to and supported regarding both students’ needs and their own. Faculty staff involved in administering academic workloads should recognise and take into account the increased workloads arising from pastoral care work done by academic staff teaching courses on gender-based violence.

As we reflect on our experience delivering a paper on sexual violence in a digital environment, we acknowledge that, to be delivered safely, the course required teachers with a unique set of skills and expertise. Both our own and our tutors’ knowledge and expertise in the topic of sexual violence meant we were able to foresee the possible needs of our cohort and plan rapidly for the delivery of this paper in a fully online learning environment. With student safety and wellbeing at the forefront of our thinking, we managed to deliver a fully remodelled online version of our course that received resoundingly successful student evaluations. We encourage others who are planning the delivery of online courses about sensitive topics to make use of the expertise of scholars and practitioners working in these fields – from course conceptualisation and design through to facilitation and delivery. By drawing on the expertise and insights of those working in the field, future courses can be developed in ways that safeguard and protect student safety and wellbeing in online environments to the best of staff abilities, ultimately enabling students to flourish through their academic studies.


We wish to thank our postgraduate student tutors, Sophie Beaumont and Jahla Tran-Lawrence of Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington, for their teaching support. Their commitment to trauma-informed teaching and their expertise in issues of sexual violence helped ensure CRIM324: Sexual Violence was taught safely to over 100 students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

SAMANTHA KEENE is a Lecturer/Pūkenga in Criminology at Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington. Samantha’s research interests include issues of gendered harm, violence against women and girls, and the criminal justice system’s responses to women as victims and survivors. She is currently publishing on issues relating to the influence of contemporary pornography on gender-based violence, consensual/non-consensual rough sex, and the rough sex defence.

JAN JORDAN is an Emeritus Professor in Criminology at Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington. She has been actively involved in numerous studies over the years aimed at understanding how victim/survivors experience police reporting processes, as well as exploring narratives of victimisation and survival.  Currently she is completing two books focused on how our patriarchal legacy is evident in the tenacity of rape culture.


Baker, M. G., Kvalsvig, A., & Verrall, A. J. (2020). New Zealand’s COVID-19 elimination strategy. Medical Journal of Australia, 213(5), 198-200 e191.

Bedera, N. (2021). Beyond trigger warnings: A survivor-centered approach to teaching on sexual violence and avoiding institutional betrayal. Teaching Sociology.

Branch, K. A., Hayes-Smith, R., & Richards, T. N. (2011). Professors’ experiences with student disclosures of sexual assault and intimate partner violence: How “helping” students can inform teaching practices. Feminist Criminology, 6(1), 54-75.

Dalton, D. (2010). ‘Crime, law and trauma’: a personal reflection on the challenges and rewards of teaching sensitive topics to criminology students. Enhancing Learning in the Social Sciences, 2(3), 1-18.

Danis, F. S. (2016). Teaching domestic violence online: A step forward or a step backward? Violence Against Women, 22(12), 1476-1483.

Haggerty, C. E. (2015). Supporting academic workloads in online learning. Distance Education, 36(2), 196-209.   

Hollander, J. A. (2016). Teaching about gendered violence without disempowering women. In K. Haltinner & R. Pilgeram (Eds.), Teaching gender and sex in contemporary America (pp. 85-92). Springer International Publishing.

Jordan, J. (2008). Serial survivors: Women’s narratives of surviving rape. Sydney: The Federation Press.

Keene, S. (2021). Becoming a sexademic: Reflections on a ‘dirty’ research project. Sexualities.

Ministry of Education. (2021). Advice for tertiary students.

Nikischer, A. (2019). Vicarious trauma inside the academe: understanding the impact of teaching, researching and writing violence. Higher Education, 77(5), 905-916.

Sheffield, C. (2012). ‘Always ready for summer’: Reflections on the emotional cost of teaching about violence against women. Transformations, 22(2), 21-35,153-154.

Whitehead, S. N., & Parker, M. M. (2017). Criminal justice: Calming, critical thinking, and case studies: The politics, pitfalls, and practical solutions for teaching criminal justice in an online environment. In R. C. Alexander (Ed.), Best practices in online teaching and learning across academic disciplines (pp. 75-91). Fairfax, Virginia: George Mason University.

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Marriage in the Hebrew Bible

We have posted before on this blog about rape culture in Christian settings (see here) and about domestic abuse and the Bible (see here).

Marriage does not offer protection from abuse or rape, and this applies also to marriages joined in communities that use and cherish the Bible as a sacred and authoritative text.

Saima Afzal and Johanna Stiebert are currently writing a book about some of the difficult dynamics between ‘the Bible’ on the one hand, and ‘violence in marriage’ on the other. The topic of violence, marriage and the Bible has multiple dimensions. To give a few indicative examples: many are excluded from certain definitions of ‘biblical marriage’ – notably, same-sex loving people – which does violence. Sometimes the Bible is used to suppress or downplay physical violence within marriage. In some biblical texts, violence – such as rape and abduction – transpires in marriage, or marriage obscures violence.

Important work has already been done on marriage and the Bible, including (where the Hebrew Bible is concerned) by Alastair G. Hunter. Alastair was lecturer in Hebrew and Biblical Studies at the University of Glasgow and has written and published widely, notably on Hebrew wisdom literature and Psalms. In 2019 Johanna heard Alastair present his work on marriage and the Bible at a fabulous conference, ‘Women and Gender in the Bible and the Ancient Near East’ (see more here).

Alastair has not published his research but has kindly permitted us to share it here. We hope you will find it as valuable as we do. Please note that there is a long, comprehensive version (of +20K words) and a much shorter, more accessible version (of ca.6K words).

[The featured image is called ‘Equal Marriage Timeline Infographic’ and is by Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. CC BY 2.0]

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Opening Conversations about GBV with Visual Media

Images can be very powerful and can communicate an abundance in an instant.  

Visual media can be effective tools for teaching.  

Because gender-based and sexual violence are distressing, images depicting or implying gender-based or sexual violence are highly likely to be distressing, too. It can be difficult to negotiate communicating a truth, being sensitive to and respectful of victims of violence, and avoiding voyeurism, all at the same time. 

Using images to open conversations and for teaching can be very effective in moving closer towards the elimination of gendered violence. 

Here are three quick examples.  

In an earlier post we presented the artwork of graphic designer Pia Alize. Her work depicts accounts of gender-based violence from the Bible. These images have now formed the focus of two well attended interactive workshops with ministerial candidates, both led by Dr Mark Aidoo of the Trinity Theological Seminary in Legon, Accra (Ghana). Church leaders are highly likely to be confronted with situations of gender-based violence in their parishes. Consequently, training in first response to disclosures of gender-based violence, and knowledge about how to facilitate support and protection for victims is crucial. Mark reports that the images generated lively engagement and that participants reported feeling transformed and reading the Bible with new sensitivities.  

Workshop with Dr Mark Aidoo of the Trinity Theological Seminary in Legon, Accra (Ghana) [2]
Workshop with Dr Mark Aidoo of the Trinity Theological Seminary in Legon, Accra (Ghana) [3]

Episcopal Relief & Development has produced a wide array of images to stimulate conversations about a range of difficult and complex topics – including about economic abuse and also gender-based violence. Each of these images tells a story. Episcopal Relief & Development leads group work on reflecting on the images, encouraging participants to associate the themes portrayed with events in their own lives, and exploring the repercussions of abusive actions. This then leads on to devising active strategies of resistance. 

Resource from Episcopal Relief & Development

Lastly, here are ‘Lent doodles’ by Charlotte Gibson. Charlotte is a Church of England ordinand and reads the Bible together with groups of women in the Women’s Theology Network. Their aim is to explore the continuing relevance of the Bible’s stories. This has included also discussion of stories of violence against women of the Bible, like Bilhah, Dinah, and Hagar, depicted here. 

‘Lent doodles’ by Charlotte Gibson [1]
‘Lent doodles’ by Charlotte Gibson [2]
‘Lent doodles’ by Charlotte Gibson [3]

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Graphic Artwork on Sexual Violence in the Bible by Pia Alize

Sexual Violence in the Bible

Here’s hoping 2021 brings positive action and results after what has been a difficult and challenging 2020, not least for groups already very vulnerable to and suffering from gender-based violence. 

Here’s a resource we hope many of you will find useful. This artwork is by Pia Alize, a graphic artist who has produced stunning images responding to gender-based violence and MeToo in India. You can see some of her other magnificent art, or contact Pia at:

We hope these images, capturing references to gender-based and sexual violence in the Bible, will open up conversations that lead to social justice action in faith-based communities and beyond. We will be using them in workshops and teaching sessions. Our hope is they will appeal to a wide and inclusive audience.

If you require jpg files, please contact Johanna: [email protected]

Funding for the production of these images was provided by the generous support of a grant from the AHRC UKRI, ‘Resisting Gender-Based Violence and Injustice Through Activism with Bible Texts and Images’. 

Sexual Violence in the Bible
Sexual Violence in the Bible
preliminary cartoon
an early sketch, by Pia Alize
Sexual Violence in the Bible
Sexual violence in the Bible
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