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Meet the researchers

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Photo by Alexandra Korey ©

This is a Centre for Theology and Public Issues Leading Thinker project, led by Professor David Tombs. David will be working with Dr Rocio Figueroa Alvear at Good Shepherd College, Auckland, Dr Jayme Reaves and other international partners.

About the project

How can churches and church agencies offer an appropriate and effective response to sexual violence in its many different forms?

This project will examine the opportunities and challenges of better faith-based responses to sexual violence, and how biblical and theological resources can guide and support these. Areas of particular importance include how churches might address victim blaming and secondary victimisation.

As a focal point, the work will take up the question posed in Matthew 25 'When Did We See You Naked?' (Matthew 25.38) and build on earlier work including David's article "Crucifixion, State Terror, and Sexual Abuse" (1999), his 2015 Inaugural Professorial Lecture, his contributions to the Shiloh Project, and the 2016 CTPI project by David and Rocío on 'Listening to Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse'.

During 2019, David worked in partnership with the Ujamaa Community, and Gerald West, Charlene van der Walt, and Sam Tshehla, at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, on a Contextual Bible Study on crucifixion on Matthew 27:26-31 []. A bible card to accompany this study is available in IsiZulu, Xhosoa and English [].

A co-edited book is in preparation for publication: Jayme R. Reaves, Rocío Figueroa, and David Tombs. eds. When Did We See You Naked?': Jesus as a Victim of Sexual Abuse. London: SCM Press, forthcoming March/April 2021.

Project reports

Additional project links


David Tombs.
'Hidden in Plain Sight: Seeing the Stripping of Jesus as Sexual Violence', Journal for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies Special Issue: Activism in the Biblical Studies Classroom: Global Perspectives 2:1 (Autumn 2020), pp. 224-247.

Jayme R. Reaves and David Tombs.
'#MeToo Jesus: Naming Jesus as a victim of sexual abuse', Review & Expositor 117.2 (2020 May), pp. 204-221.

David Tombs.
'Confronting the Stigma of Naming Jesus as a Victim of Sexual Violence' in Clive Pearson (ed), Enacting a Public Theology. Stellenbosch: Stellenbosch University Press, 2019, pp. 71-86.

Jayme R. Reaves and David Tombs.
'#MeToo Jesus: Naming Jesus as a Victim of Sexual Abuse', International Journal of Public Theology, Vol. 13 No. 4 (2019), pp. 387-412.

David Tombs.
Crucifixion and Sexual Abuse. Dunedin: Centre for Theology and Public Issues, University of Otago, 2019.
OUR archive:

David Tombs.
'Crucificação e abuso sexual', Estudos Teológicos 59.1 (July 2019), pp. 119-32 [Brazilian Portuguese]

Rocío Figueroa and David Tombs.
'The Sodalicio Case in Peru: Lived Religion and the Traumatic Impact of Church Sexual Abuse' in Ruard Ganzevoort and Srdjan Sremac (eds.) Lived Religion and Trauma: Transcending the Ordinary, (London: Palgrave McMillan, 2019), pp. 155-76. DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-91872-3.

Rocío Figueroa and David Tombs.
'Recognising Jesus as a Victim of Sexual Abuse: Responses from Sodalicio Survivors in Peru', Religion and Gender 10.1 (June 2020), pp. 57-75. DOI:
Open access:

Rocío Figueroa Alvear and David Tombs.
Recognising Jesus as a Victim of Sexual Abuse: Responses from Sodalicio Survivors in Peru. Dunedin: Centre for Theology and Public Issues, University of Otago, 2019.
OUR archive:

David Tombs.
'Princeton Research on Religion And Sexual Violence', The Shiloh Project (19 April 2019).

David Tombs.
'How Recognising Jesus as a victim of sexual abuse might help shift Catholic culture'. The Conversation, 13 March 2019.

Rocío Figueroa Alvear y David Tombs.
Reconociendo a Jesús como víctima de abuso sexual: respuestas de sobrevivientes del Sodalicio en el Perú. Dunedin: Centro de Teología y Asuntos Públicos, Universidad de Otago, 2019.

Rocío Figueroa Alvear and David Tombs.
Recognising Jesus as a Victim of Sexual Abuse: Responses from Sodalicio Survivors in Peru. Dunedin: Centre for Theology and Public Issues, University of Otago, 2019.

David Tombs.
Crucifixion, State Terror, and Sexual Abuse: Text and Context.

David Tombs.
Crucifixión, terrorismo de Estado y abuso sexual: Texto y contexto.

David Tombs
Lord When Did I See You Naked. Anglican Taonga, (Winter 2018 [August]), pp. 22-23

Katie B Edwards and David Tombs.
#HimToo – why Jesus should be recognised as a victim of sexual violence. The Conversation, 23 March 2018.

David Tombs.
'Should the stripping of Jesus be labelled sexual abuse?', Otago Daily Times, 16 February 2017.

Media coverage

"Jesus sexually abused when stripped, crucified, theologian says", Morning Report, Radio New Zealand ,18 April 2019.
Listen to the interview

Elena McPhee
"Focus on sexual abuse of Jesus could have benefits", Otago Daily Times, 13 April 2019.

"NZ researchers argue Jesus may have suffered sexual abuse", CathNews, 10 April 2019.

Cameron Doody, Rocío Figueroa.
"Jesucristo fue víctima de abusos sexuales", ReligíonDigital, 10 April 2019.

Elise Harris.
"Theologian, survivor argues that Jesus himself suffered sexual abuse", Crux Now, 9 April 2019.

Rocío Figueroa Alvear.
"They Stripped Me", Tui Motu: Catholic Interisland Magazine, 1 March 2019.

Kaya Burgess.
#HimToo: Jesus was a sex abuse victim, say scholars, The Times, 27 March 2018.

Linda Woodhead.
Is Jesus the latest - or was he the first - victim of #MeToo?, The Telegraph, 27 March 2018.

The New Zealand Herald reprinted coverage from the Daily Mail.
#HimToo article says at Easter we should remember Jesus was victim of sexual violence, New Zealand Herald, 28 March 2018.

John Blake.
How Easter became a #MeToo moment, CNN, 31 March 2018.


The project is funded through the University of Otago Leading Thinkers Initiative, which was established under the government's Partnerships for Excellence Framework to support world-class scholarship at Otago. 3 October 2018.

Project events 2020

7 April 2020David Tombs, 'Seeing His Innocence,  I See My Innocence: Responses to Jesus as a Victim of Sexual Abuse' Faith Thinking on Zoom.
4 May 2020Jayme R. Reaves and David Tombs, 'When Did We You Naked?' Why Naming Jesus as a Victim of Sexual Abuse Matters', Café Theologique, University of Reading.
22 June 2020Tina Beattie in Conversation with Rocío Figueroa
The conversation is 32 mins in total. For Rocío's discussion of work on sexual abuse, see from about 21 minutes until about 27 minutes.
30 June 2020David Tombs, 'James Cone, the Cross and the Lynching Tree', Faith Thinking by Zoom, University of Otago.
11 September 2020David Tombs, 'The Crucifixion of Jesus: A Contextual Bible Study from the Ujamaa Centre' University of Otago, Theology Seminar.
1 December 2020David Tombs, 'A Contextual Bible Study on Crucifixion: Matthew 27:26-31', ANZABS 23rd Annual Meeting, Laidlaw College, Christchurch.

Project events 2019

29 March 2019David Tombs, 'Recognising Jesus as a Victim of Sexual Abuse: Responses from Sodalicio Survivors', Theology Seminar, University of Otago, 29 March 2019.
4 June 2019David Tombs, 'The Stripping of Jesus: Sexual Violence Hidden in Plain Sight', Ujamaa Centre Public Lecture, School of Religion, Philosophy, and Classics, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
27–28 June 2019David Tombs, 'Interpreting Sexual Violence Against Men in Scripture: Attention to Text, Context, and Silence', in Trajectories in the Interpretation of Scripture: Models, Issues and Prospects Conference, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.
1–3 July 2019Rocío Figueroa Alvear and David Tombs, 'A Missional Theology in Response to Sexual Violence', in ANZATS 2019 Missional Theology Conference, 1-3 July 2019.
4 July 2019David Tombs, 'When Did We See You Naked?', Shiloh Symposium, University of Auckland.
24 July 2019David Tombs, 'Crucifixion and Sexual Violence in the Armenian Genocide', University of Auckland.
11 June 2019David Tombs, 'Responses to the Naming of Jesus as a Victim of Sexual Violence', Beyers Naudé Centre for Public Theology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa.
12 June 2019David Tombs, 'When Did We See You Naked?', Joint Learning Initiative Gender-Based Violence Hub Webinar, Unit for Research on Religion and Development Research, Stellenbosch University, South Africa.
27 September 2019David Tombs, 'The Crucifixion of Jesus: Torture, Sexual Abuse, and the Scandal of the Cross', Centre for Reconciliation Studies, University of Jena, Germany.
16 October 2019David Tombs, 'The Stripping and Mocking of Jesus: Matthew 27:27–31 as a Text of Terror', New Testament Seminar, Stellenbosch University, South Africa.
17 October 2019David Tombs, ''You Did it to #MeToo': Naming Jesus as a Victim of Sexual Violence', Philosophy Seminar, Stellenbosch University, South Africa.
29 October 2019David Tombs, 'Reactions to Naming Jesus as a Victim of Sexual Abuse', Theology Café, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
14 November 2019David Tombs, 'The Stripping of Jesus', contribution to a one-day workshop for a Sexual Violence Toolkit for Anglican Clergy, St John's College, Auckland.
25 November 2019David Tombs, 'A Faith-based Approach to Addressing the Stigma and Self-stigma of SexuaI Abuse', Spirituality and Mental Health Symposium, University of Otago.

Project events 2018

Tuesday 16 January 2018
#MeToo Jesus: Why Naming Jesus as a Victim of Sexual Abuse Matters. Shiloh Lecture. Jayme Reaves and David Tombs, Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom.
Read more

Wednesday 17 January 2018
Research Seminar. Jayme Reaves and David Tombs 'Acknowledging the Sexual Abuse of Crucifixion: #MeToo as an Invitation to a New Conversation', Queen's Theological Foundation, Birmingham, United Kingdom.

Sunday 21 January 2018
BBC Radio Sheffield Interview
. Jayme Reaves and David Tombs interviewed by Kat Cowan.

Friday 9 March 2018
'When Did We See You Naked?', Public lecture. David Tombs, St Paul's Cathedral, Wellington.
Read more.

Saturday 10 March 2018
Bible study. 'Stigma and Silence in Scripture'; Panel discussion. 'Breaking Silence, Stopping Violence'

Friday 26 April 2018
'The Body of Jesus and Sexual Abuse'. Public lecture. Michael Trainor, Good Shepherd College, Auckland.

Saturday 27 April 2018
Symposium. 'Theologians Respond to Sexual Abuse'. Good Shepherd College, Auckland. By invitation.

Tuesday 5 June 2018
Public lecture, Bronwyn Kerr and David Tombs, '#MeToo and the Church: Responses to Sexual Violence' St John's Church, Wellington.

Monday 9 July 2018  
Public lecture, 'Church Responses to Violence Against Women', Commencement Address, St Mark's National Theological Centre, Canberra.

Friday 13 July 2018  
Public lecture. David Tombs, 'Crucifixion, Silence, and Sexual Abuse: Reading Mark 15:16-24 alongside the final report of the Australian Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse', United Theological College, Sydney.

4 September 2018
David Tombs, 'Faith-Based Responses to Sexual Violence: A Framework', Research Workshop, Centre of Theology Inquiry, Princeton, NJ.

3 October 2018
David Tombs, 'Crucifixion, Sexual Violence, and Impalement', Research Workshop, Centre of Theological Inquiry, Princeton, NJ.

4 November 2018
David Tombs, 'Bible Study: Mark 15:16-24', First Presbyterian Church Brooklyn, New York.

19 November 2018
David Tombs, ''When Did We See You Naked?' Re-reading the Stripping of Jesus in the Context of #MeToo', Society of Biblical Studies Annual Meeting, Denver.

19 November 2018
David Tombs, 'Testifying to Unspeakable Violence: Crucifixion, Rape, and Impalement in Aurora Mardiganian's "Ravished Armenia"', American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, Denver.

27 November 2018
Rocío Figueroa Alvear, 'Overcoming Silence – Women's Voices in the Abuse Crisis', Voices of Faith, Biblioteca Angelica, Rome.
Dr Rocío Figueroa Alvear's profile pageDr Rocío Figueroa Alvear shares her personal story on YouTube

7 December 2018
David Tombs, 'Crucifixion, Impalement, and the Palatine Graffito' at 'Joint Symposium on Religion and Violence', Center of Theological Inquiry and Centre of the Study of Religion, Princeton.

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