Many men and women have been victim to lewd comments, catcalls, gestures, “Locker room talk”, unwelcome sexual advances, and rape. Statistics cite that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will be raped in their lifetimes and that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18.
Sometimes those who have endured sexual abuse have no one to talk to about their experiences for fear that they won’t be believed. Others are just too shocked to take action after the violence has been done.
If you’ve experienced sexual harassment of any sort (pain is pain, there is no hierarchy here), you can look to the saints for encouragement and as examples of how to direct your righteous anger. Here are ten saints who endured sexual harassment or abuse and one saint who took a stand against it.
1. St. Agnes
When she refused to marry the son of a governor, citing that she was promised to God alone, Agnes was sent to a brothel to take her purity from her. But an angel protected her in the brothel. Another version of her story recounts that she was dragged through the streets naked to defile her, but her hair miraculously grew so long and so quickly that it covered her entire body and that any man who tried to rape her was immediately struck blind. Agnes was martyred by beheading when she was 12 or 13 years old and is regarded as the patron of young girls and rape victims.
2. St. Maria Goretti
Maria’s story is well-known. Her neighbor Alessandro tried to rape her and she resisted crying out, “It is a sin! God does not want it!” When she declared that she would rather die than submit, Alessandro choked her and then stabbed her 11 times. When she tried to reach the door, he stabbed her another 3 times and then fled. On her deathbed, Maria forgave Alessandro. Later in life, Alessandro recommitted his life to God and cited Maria’s intercession as his saving grace.
3. St. Agatha
Agatha was a consecrated virgin who often had to fight off unwelcome advances from men who sought to marry her. One such man she turned down turned her over to the judge for being a Christian- he was the judge. He sentenced her to a month in a brothel too force her to lose her virtue, but she didn’t. Then he had her tortured and left without food or medical care, but the Lord healed her. She even saw a vision of St. Peter who healed her wounds in four days. After this, the judge then had her breasts cut off and rolled her naked over hot coals. She is the patron of breast cancer patients and rape victims.
4. Bl. Laura Vicuña
When Laura’s father was killed during the Chilean civil war, her family fled to Argentina where her mother took up with a man, Mora, who promised to pay for the education of her two daughters if she agreed to be his mistress. Laura’s mother agreed. While home on break from school, Mora made sexual advances toward Laura and beat her terribly when she refused his advances and repeatedly stated that she wanted to be a nun. Mora stopped paying for her schooling but the nuns at her school found her a scholarship. On another break from school, Mora beat Laura so badly that she lost consciousness. She regained consciousness but never recovered. On her deathbed, Laura made her mother promise to leave Mora and return to the Church, which her mother did. Laura died 8 days after the beating and is the patron of abuse victims.
5. Bl. Antonia Mesina
When she was 16, Antonia was out collecting wood for her peasant family when a teenage boy overtook her and tried to rape her. When she wouldn’t submit, the boy beat her to death. She is a patron of rape victims.
6. St. Joan of Arc
Joan was imprisoned in a secular prison with men as her guards instead of an ecclesiastical prison with nuns as her guards- which was against Inquisitorial guidelines- and her petition to be transferred was denied. To make it harder to molest and rape her, she wore military clothing while imprisoned and tied her clothes together. She testified that a great English lord had entered her prison and tried to take her by force.
7. Bl. Pierina Morosini
Pierina wanted to join a religious order but her attempts failed and so she made a private vow to God. When she was walking home one day, a man made lewd comments to her and came up to her, trying to rape her. Her attempts to reason with the man failed and, when she tried to run away, he threw a rock at her, stopping her. She continued to attempt to defend herself but was stoned to death as her attacker beat her skull in repeatedly with a rock. Pierina’s brother found her later and rushed her to the hospital, but she never regained consciousness and died of her wounds.
8. St. Solange
Solange was a shepherdess and a nobleman was lustfully attracted to her. He kidnapped her one night, but she lept from the horse he was carrying her away on. Angered by her escape and denying his advances, he pursued her and then killed her. She is regarded as a patron of rape victims.
9. St. Agostina Pietrantoni
Sister Agostina worked a hospital and always made time to pray with the patients. One of the patients, Joseph Romanelli would harass her by shouting obscenities at her and sending her threatening notes. He continued to harass Sister Agostina after he was expelled from the hospital, sending her threatening notes that said, “I will kill you with my own hands” and “Sister Agostina, you have only a month to live.” One day, Joseph did attack her, tried to rape her, and then killed her. As she died, Agostina forgave Joseph and implored Mary.
10. Bl. Alexandrina Maria da Costa
As a teenager, Alexandrina worked in the city as a seamstress with her sister. When she was 14, her former employer and three other men tried to break into her room to rape her. To escape them, Alexandrina jumped 13 feet down from her window, breaking her spine in several places, and barely surviving. She lived for 37 more years, often surviving on only the Eucharist and had many mystical experiences.
11. St. Mary MacKillop
Mary was a nun and schoolteacher in Australia. When she heard of a priest sexually abusing the schoolchildren, she turned the priest in who was later dismissed. Because of her bravery and willingness to stand up for those who had no voice or were being silenced, no further children came to harm. She can be thought of as a great intercessor for those who’ve undergone sexual abuse and as a champion for those who stand against sexual abuse.
Do you know someone who’s endured sexual abuse?
If you have been sexually harassed or know someone who has, first, offer that person love and support. At a loss for what to say, or wondering how you can help them? Here is a list of resources that you can utilize. If you’re looking for a book to read after enduring sexual abuse, try Dawn Eden’s My Peace I Give You.
Know that the Church offers her heartfelt prayers and sorrow for all who have endured abuse. Today, pray that we can eradicate this terrible sin against the person. May God give us His peace, healing, and mercy.