Wednesday, December 1, 2004

1,320,000 Jewish survivors of CSA living in the United States today!

© (2004) by Vicki Polin, MA, LCPC
Originally published in The Awareness Center's Daily Newsletter - December 1, 2004

Too many adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse feel that they are alone. There are times survivors feel that they will never “fit in” because of what happened to them as a child.  The truth is that they are not the only ones who feels this way -- it’s a common theme for most of those who were emotionally, psychologically, physically and or sexually abused as children.  It is also a fact that many adult survivors of all forms of child abuse report that keeping secrets and remaining silent -- often leads to a severe depression.

We all have to remember that according to statistics (in just about every country), that one-fourth of the population has been sexually abused by the time they reach their eighteenth birthday.

Considering there are just about 306,000,00 people in the United States, there are just about 76,500,000 survivors of child sexual abuse.  There are about 5,280,000 Jews living in the US -- meaning there at least 1,320,000 are survivors.  According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics there are around 5,432,700 Jews living in Israel -- meaning there are around 1,358,700 Jewish survivors of child molestation.

It’s very difficult to deal with the denial in Jewish communities.  I have to admit that I get extremely frustrated when I hear how much time and money is spent making sure a cow is kosher, that an eruv is in place or the time, money and research put into the kiruv movement (Jewish outreach) -- yet when it comes to shining a light on child molestation, no one wants to hear about it nor fund organizations like The Awareness Center (International Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Assault).

Over the last nine years I heard story after story coming from observant communities where parents are told if they report sex crimes to law enforcement -- their children will no longer be allowed to attend Jewish day schools or yeshivas . . . or that their children will not find a good shuddich (marriage partner).  In some orthodox communities parents are told if they tell anyone their child was molested the school would have no choice but to expel the child “for having sexual relations”.  Instead of getting the needed help and protecting other children from the same fate, parents and community members are bullied into silence.

I often think about the political strength survivors of sex crimes and non-offending family members would have if we all banded together and start speaking out.  I truly believe that a small group of people can make a difference.  We need individuals to be trained by legitimate Rape Crisis Centers in becoming certified advocates. We also need each and everyone of you to learn how to use your voices.  We all must organize and speak out against the injustices we have faced in our communities.

Too many of our rabbis and other community leaders have a responsibility to stop this shame/blame game they have been using against our most vulnerable.  We must demand that they start allowing education programs in their congregations on all aspects of rape prevention and start to offer proper and appropriate help to those who have been victimized as children.  We must demand that our rabbis honor and respect those who have been abused -- just as they would any veteran of war.  Survivors of all forms of child abuse should be seen as hero’s -- especially after they start coming forward to report the crimes to law enforcement and or speak out.

As survivors we all have a responsibility to do our part to ensure our offenders are reported to law enforcement officials and hopefully brought to justice.  We gain power and control over our lives by these actions and also by using our voices.  Considering the fact that offenders have multiple victims, our silence can and does lead to more children becoming the next victim of a sex crime.

If you are a survivor of child abuse remember -- no matter what you are feeling remember you are not alone.  Things can and will change and get better.  I’ve seen it happen not only for myself -- but for other survivors too!  The pain you feel today is real and needs to be honored, respected and embraced. Your feelings are real -- but they will not always be so intense.  I know you will have many good days in the future and you have to believe that will happen.  One of the most important life lessons I’ve learned over the years is that when we are educated on the issues, have the right connections and determination -- each and everyone of us can help to make the world a better place for others who have been abused and also prevent one more child from being harmed.

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