Peruvian theologian Rocio Figueroa, herself a survivor of sexual abuse, is claiming similar experiences are not foreign to Jesus.
Figueroa told Crux this week she believes Scripture makes clear that the Son of God was a victim of sexual abuse during his earthly ministry. The topic, though, hasn’t been explored much, she said, because combining Jesus and sexuality is “taboo.”
In partnership with fellow theologian David Tombs, Figueroa conducted a study titled, “Recognizing Jesus as a Victim of Sexual Abuse,” which was published earlier this month.
Tombs’ and Figueroa’s research, part of which explored the Gospels, revealed Jesus did, in fact, endure some sort of sexual humiliation during his arrest, trial and ultimate crucifixion. They claim Christ “suffered forced stripping.”
“Three times he was forced to take off his clothes, and it was in front of a cohort of 500 soldiers,” Figueroa said, arguing the purpose of authorities’ actions against Jesus was “sexual humiliation.”
She went on to explain that, in those times, it was quite common for both the Roman and Jewish communities to humiliate their victims as part of the torture process.
“It was also a common practice to crucify prisoners absolutely naked,” Figueroa claimed. “The reality is that Jesus died naked. The aim was not just to kill the victim, but was also to humiliate, to sexually humiliate.”
While many artistic depictions of Jesus show the savior covered by a cloth, it is actually unlikely he had any sort of covering. The Gospels note how the Roman authorities cast lots for Jesus’ clothing.
Figueroa, trying to make sense of the many well-known renditions of Jesus, said perhaps artists “felt it was too scandalous, too strong, too shocking to see Jesus so human, so realistic.”
It’s important to note here the theologian stressed there is a big difference between sexual humiliation and sexual assault. Both are considered abuse, she said, adding, “There are different forms of abuse.”
Another part of the study explored how people would respond to learning Jesus was, perhaps, a survivor of sexual abuse. Figueroa herself said she endured sexual abuse at the hands of a high-ranking male member of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae (SCV), which was established in Peru in 1971. She was 15 years old at the time.
Layman Luis Fernando Figari, who founded the SCV, was sanctioned by the Vatican in 2017 after it was revealed he and other officials within the organization committed sexual, physical and psychological abuse for years.
The research found survivors’ reaction to her study’s findings abut Jesus varied. Some said the revelation would be helpful to survivors, but only if they were Christians. To those outside the faith, the information would be irrelevant.
Figueroa, for her part, concluded it is “powerful” to understand that Jesus endured some form of sexual wrongdoing.
“If we see Jesus in his human reality, and that he himself suffered sexual humiliation and he felt what a victim could feel, that’s powerful,” she explained. “He also felt ashamed in his body. He felt mocked, he felt vulnerable, [like] a victim feels when their body is exposed without respect.”
Her research partner, Tombs, first explored the possibility Jesus suffered sexual abuse in a study published the late 1990s. When she first read his findings, she said, “I felt absolutely consoled.”