Kate Wiant and Violence Against Women

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Our community is devastated.

Sunday afternoon an act of family violence occurred leaving our beloved librarian, Kate Wiant, dead. It appears she was shot by her husband who later killed himself, all while their young daughter watched.

For those of us who knew Kate, this rage against her is hard to fathom for she was the kindest, most gentle and gracious spirit on campus. To interact with her was to brighten one’s day. She was just that kind of positive force, a smile always on her face. And so, because of who she was, we cannot reconcile that with what was done to her by her spouse. She was murdered by someone she loved in front of their child.

There are no words for the grief we feel, for the horror we imagine took place before she took her last breath.

And still, we will start classes this week. For many of us we will feel that life should stop, that we should have longer to resolve our tremendous loss with how we move forward.

For me, among other classes this semester, I will be teaching Introduction to the New Testament. As I think about this challenge in light of Kate’s death, I cannot but be reminded of how easily we have dismissed family violence as something we don’t need to address as long as it doesn’t directly affect us. We seldom talk about the reality that 85% of victims of family violence are women or that according to the American Psychological Association, 4,774,000 women each year experience physical violence by an intimate partner. These statistics should move us to action and yet, we hardly give them a passing thought.

You may be wondering how Kate’s murder is related to teaching the New Testament.

How often do we seriously examine the violence in the Bible, especially its violence against women? Because of the Bible’s pervasive place within our culture, we who look to it as a sacred text need to be more honest about its problems and our continuing silence about them. Until we look more critically at ourselves for being too silent for too long about how Christianity uses the Bible as a tool to promote patriarchal culture and therefore how inattentive we have been to the devastating effects of this culture on women and children, we as a society will perpetuate more horrific scenarios. One where even reports on such violent acts can conclude of Kate’s daughter, “she was not injured.” Of course she was; this little one’s life will never be the same.

For me, I will honor Kate when I walk into the classroom this week. I will witness to what a wonderful person she was and how sorry I am she is no longer with us.

And I will not be silent about our culture of violence, nor about our need to be real about the Bible.