“When Potiphar’s wife saw that Joseph had left his garment in her hand and had fled outside, she called out to the members of her household and said to them, ‘See, my husband has brought among us a Hebrew to insult us! He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice, and when he heard me raise my voice and cry out, he left his garment beside me, and fled outside.’” Genesis 39:13-18 NRSV
Framed. Falsely accused. The scapegoat. The innocent victim. Joseph has been falsely accused of attempted rape by the wife of his master. Cleary, he has no power. His word is worthless. The deck is completely stacked against him. The other servants cannot risk standing up for him. He has no hope of his truth being believed. Or justice being done. And, yes, he ends up in jail as a result of his master’s rage.
Not only is this story reminiscent of stories we hear from the days of slavery in the United States, but it still echoes truth today. Many women today still don’t bother to report sexual assault or rape because they know there will be a difficult investigation and very likely no conviction. So, why bother?
But victimhood doesn’t end there. I remember our older son being punished in third grade for something that he did not do. He accepted the punishment. I asked him why he had not explained to the teacher what had actually happened. He told me, “At school, they start with the assumption that the students are lying.” So, why bother defending yourself with the truth? He simply took the punishment.
So many people today are in the position of Joseph. Framed. Taken advantage of. Victimized. Here’s a ready, willing, impoverished labor pool. We’ll get them to work in the mines. Or the factories. Or the fields. With no rights. No protections. No unions. And minimal pay. That sure sounds like a set up, doesn’t it? Inner cities wracked with despair, we’ll give them crack and other drugs, and then arrest them and keep the privately run prisons filled so the prison/industrial complex gets rich and lines the pockets of the politicians. Another set up. A problem at work? Your superior lies about what happened. You know they won’t believe you, at the bottom. There’s nothing you can do. People are being lied to, lied about, taken advantage of, used, and abused each and every day. Some of it is in the domestic sphere. Some in the corporate sphere. Also even in the political/governmental sphere in some places. Innocent victims. With no where to turn. Powerless. Given no fair chance and with no opportunity for the truth to be heard.
And there are those who get away with it. And know that they will get away with it. They can count on it. Because they are rich and money talks.
In the story of Joseph, he eventually does get out of jail. And his position and reputation are restored. But that is rare today, isn’t it?
It’s easy to ignore innocent victims with no voice and no power. May we look for those who are suffering injustice and lend our voices. May we speak out for those who cannot speak or who will not be heard. May we voice God’s cry for justice in this precious world. Amen.