Updated: May 30, 2019
Susanna’s story is a representation of non-physical sexual violence. While most art depicts the elders grabbing Susanna, the bible does not mention any contact. However, the men knew they would always be believed over her and used this power to take advantage of her. Susanna is caught in the (still relevant) paradox of being punished for her sexuality and her prudishness at the same time. Even though she was unaware they were watching her, she is expected to have sex with the elders because her nudity “forced” them to lust after her. When she refuses to have sex with them men she is no longer punished for being sexual and is now being punished for not being sexual.
Women have always been blamed for the lust of men. Modesty has always been for the comfort and protection of men and women have been tasked with controlling men rather than men being tasked with controlling themselves. Because modest women are still lusted after and women are still assaulted regardless of wardrobe, women are essentially at fault by having bodies.
Susanna’s side of the story is not seen as relevant in her trial until a man is on her side. This both points out a temporary solution and two massive problems. The fact that Daniel had to speak out for Susanna to be spared points to larger issues but his use of power for her benefit is undeniably the reason she was not killed. The overarching issue is that women are not heard or believed, and women are still only valued by their relation to men/sex. Until this is no longer true it is so important that men stand up for and respect women, back them up when they are not heard, and give them the space to speak for themselves, regardless of how they are serving them or whether they agree with their sexual behavior.