Thursday, December 24, 2009

Rape Victim Advocates Award for 2009 Named

By Vicki Polin
The Awareness Center - December 24, 2009

Years ago an organization called VOICES In Action, would give yellow ribbons out to survivors of childhood sexual abuse. It was an important symbol for us all to wear and a symbol and tradition The Awareness Center is adopt -- for all Jewish survivors of sexual violence.

Survivors of childhood emotional, physical and those who have been sexually victimized as adults and or as children are just as deserving of a yellow ribbon as the men and women of our armed forces who have been held captive as hostage or prisoners of war. Survivors of sexual violence have been forced to learn how to survive being held captive not by foreigners but mostly by their own family members, teachers, camp counselors, coaches babysitters, rabbis or other trusted authority figures.

December 23, 2009 -- It takes a great deal of motivation, tenacity and motivation to advocate for those who have been sexually victimized. The Awareness Center sees each individual person who helps others as heroes.

There have been so many different individuals in 2009, who have stepped up to the plate and have gone above and beyond what most people would do to protect themselves and others from sexual predators, that it has been very difficult to choose between them all. The Awareness Center has several different people in which we are proud to name as Rape Victim Advocates for 2009

The 2009 Rape Victim Advocate of the Year Goes To:

1. The unnamed daughter of Rabbi Israel Weingarten. Her ability to come forward and work with the FBI and US States Attorney has help allowed law enforcement to get this sexual predator off the streets.

2. Shannon Orand - The alleged survivor of Rabbi Leib Tropper and Rabbi Tovia Singer. Shannon has done everything in her power to stop the madness going on in her own personal life as she has been going through the conversion process. It's a harsh reality to know that even those who are trying to convert would be put into a position in which they are manipulated into having "sexual relationships" with those who hold all the power over them to convert to our faith. What happened to Shannon can and does occur to those converting to all faiths, yet unfortunately, her alleged offender(s) were rabbis.

Instead of throwing in the bag and walking away from what she felt was the true faith, Shannon did everything in her power to expose what was happening to her and shared evidence with a few rabbis. Unfortunately, her evidence was not kept confidential and was shared with the world.

Rabbi Yosef Blau stated: “There is a campaign to besmirch Shannon Orland. My information from a most reliable source is that she is sincere and was working for Rabbi Tropper though her geirus had not been completed. She was misled about the public distribution of the tapes. Unfortunately, the pattern of blaming women who have been manipulated by a rabbi, who was an authority figure, is being repeated in this case. Attacking her won’t save Tropper but it can have a devastating effect on her life.”

The Awareness Center is saddened by the lack of professionalism that was shown by those who did not protect her identity -- and supports Shannon in anyway we can. Shannon's efforts should be seen as heroic and for these reasons we are naming her as one of the Rape Victim Advocates of the Year

3. Murray Levin, is a survivor of clergy sexual abuse. It took Murray 54 years to come forward and share his story of being sexually abused at the age of 12 by Rabbi Ephraim Shapiro. The Awareness Center believes that Murray is a war hero -- and like with other warriors he deserves to be honored and shown a great deal of respect. Just as many individuals stand up when their rabbi enters a room, the same sort of respect and honor should be shown to Murray Levin. We say this because over the last few years he has been doing everything in his power to try to speak out and change the laws in Maryland to make the state a safer place for children, including his own children and grandchildren. He has also been a dedicated volunteer for our organization.

Below is the testimony Murray provided earlier this year at a legislative hearing in Annapolis, MD. 

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Suicide newlywed 'was sex-abused'

By Ellen Tumposky, 
The Jewish Chronicle - November 19, 2009

A report that a Brooklyn man who committed suicide two days after his wedding was a victim of sex abuse has riled the Orthodox community.

Mordechai (Motty) Borger, 24, jumped from the seventh-floor terrace of his hotel on November 5. His bride, Mali Gutman, whom he married on Nov 3 after they met through a matchmaker, was asleep in the room.

A spokeswoman for the NYC medical examiner’s office said the death has been ruled a suicide.

Activists working to expose sex-abuse scandals in Orthodox yeshivot said that a report in the New York Post that Mr Borger had been molested as a yeshivah student was accurate — despite angry comments posted from Mr Borger’s acquaintances. The Post, quoting an unnamed source, said that Mr Borger had told his wife about the abuse after the wedding. He was seen on security video footage in the hotel lift appearing agitated.

On the internet, the story prompted a huge number of comments asking questions about Mr Borger’s private life.

“He is a survivor” of sex abuse, said Vicki Polin, founder of the Awareness Centre, a Baltimore-based coalition. She said that Mr Borger had told his parents about the abuse, but they had not sent him to therapy or gone to the police.

Mr Borger’s father, Shmuel, the founder of Amudei Shaish Boys’ Choir, has posted an audio message on the web lamenting his son’s death after a “magnificent wedding” and noting that “a chosson’s week of sheva broches” turned into seven days of mourning.

He urges people to reach out to friends and family. “Don’t be ashamed to say I’m sorry,” he advises.
Ben Hirsch of the group Survivors for Justice said that while he does not know the truth of Mr Borger’s death, he does know of several suicides as a result of sexual abuse. 

“The community’s protection of the abuser can sometimes do more damage than the abuse itself.”
Asher Lipner, vice-president of the Jewish Board of Advocates for Children, said that sex-abuse victims can develop post-traumatic stress disorder.

“A young man who is newly married… it could trigger flashbacks to a time when he last experienced sexual contact, which was abuse,” he said.

He said there was growing pressure on the Orthodox community to publicise sex abuse in yeshivot, adding: “There is an incredible amount of pressure put on someone not to talk about what happened. For over 40 years we’ve had in our community 100 per cent denial that the problem exists. When you have a dirty secret and you cover it up, it grows like a cancer.”

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Thirty-three Days

© (2009) by Vicki Polin, MA, LCPC

Over twenty-four years of working with survivors of sex crimes,  I have watched many individuals struggle with trying to figure what they need to do to heal.  

For many it can take years to just tell another person that they had been victimized, let alone to make a police report or even enter into counseling. There are many different factors that one has to consider when trying to understand how and why a survivor will or might respond to a particular situation.

Each survivor has to decide for themselves what is best for them on so many different levels. No one can decide for them. And yet it is vitally important for each individual who has been sexually victimized to know that they have choices and what those choices are. By being provided with accurate information, the survivor (and or their family members in cases of child sexual abuse) will be able to make an educated decision.

Both adults and children who are survivors need people in their lives who are unbiased, without an agenda, and who are not connected to their personal lives, community or that of their offender(s) -- and who can provide them with a safe place to open up and share their experience, thoughts and feelings so that they are able to come to a place where they can choose for themselves what to do next. This is especially true since the ability to make choices was taken away from them by their offender during the time that they were being victimized. A survivor needs to take back the control and the ability of deciding for themselves.

We all need to realize that when a boy or girl, man or woman are sexually harassed, abused, assaulted or violated in any other way; their lives are forever changed on many different levels.

The victimized individual will have to deal with issues pertaining to their ability to trust, to feel a sense of safety and security. The sad reality is that once a survivor start talking about what happened to them, there is a strong possibility that they will also lose friendships, sometimes their employment, connections with their synagogue, community and in some cases -- connection with family members.

No one is immunized to being sexually victimized, no matter what their life experiences is, who they are related to, their age and or social economical status, or even what they do for a living. Not even me.

I have to admit that I am still in a state of shock and have not spoken out publicly before about the fact that this past summer (July 2009) I was assaulted.

Due to the fact my case is currently in litigation I am not at liberty to go into some of the details of the assault. The reason I am speaking out now is because I feel it is important to share the fact that it took me thirty-three days to make a police report. ME, Vicki Polin, who is the founder and executive director of The Awareness Center; a licensed mental health professional who has been advocating for survivors of sexual violence for the last twenty-five years!

I was in a state of shock following the assault. The offender was a relative of dear and trusted friend, a relative of someone whom I looked up to and respected and someone who has been like a father to me. I don’t know what I was thinking, yet I didn’t do what I would have expected of me... I was confused by my own hesitation to make an immediate call to the police. Instead I found myself care taking the family of the offender instead of taking care of my own personal needs.

Finally I consulted with several different professionals who are also victim advocates, none of whom had a connection to my personal life nor my community. It took thirty-three days before I found the strength to make a police report. I was fortunate to have a friend with me when I did this. The offender was charged with second degree assault and forth degree sexual assault. I was fortunate to have had a group of friends with me the day that the case went to trial, as their presence gave me the strength to do what I needed to do. The man who assaulted me was found guilty on both charges.

The reason I am making this public at this time is because I want others to realize that if it took someone who has been advocating for survivors for a quarter of a century thirty-three days to make a police report, it makes perfect sense that it could, and often would take others much longer.

If you have been a victim of a sex crime--you are not alone. You are not a bad person, and you deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. The shame and blame belong totally to the individual(s) who assaulted you and also with anyone who attempted to cover up the crime(s). I want to encourage everyone who has been sexually victimized to make police reports, even if it takes you much more then thirty-three days to do so.

Vicki Polin, MA, LCPC was the founder and director of The Awareness Center, which was the international Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Assault. She is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor with over thirty years of experience working in the sexual trauma field.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Lisa’s story: How do we help sexual abuse victims survive?

© (2009) by Vicki Polin, MA, LCPC

The story I am about to share is not uncommon, yet is one in which is rarely discussed in the Jewish community: The Awareness Center was contacted by an adult survivor of child sexual abuse who was recently sexually victimized by the relative of a good friend. We'll call her "Lisa."

It took Lisa weeks to make a police report because she feared losing her friend and her community.  She became very irritable, depressed and was having difficulty sleeping. She finally called a rape-crisis hotline, which helped her to make a police report. 

Lisa’s fear was that if she did this she would lose everything that had meaning to her, yet she also wanted to feel safe again.

Lisa did everything in her power to do the right thing.  She wanted to maintain a friendship with the relative, yet after making a police report against her offender, the longtime friendship ended. 

Lisa’s story is not unlike many other women put into this same position. She had to make some difficult choices.

She could keep her silence, which would help her maintain the long-term friendship, or she could fight to have the right to choose who has the right to touch her body.

Unfortunately, by choosing to fight to protect her body, she ended up losing a friend -- and the entire community she belonged to. 

Lisa is no longer welcome in the home of her friend, nor in the only synagogue she knew and felt comfortable attending.

The high holidays are approaching and Lisa has no place she feels safe to daven (pray).  She described her experience as being shunned by the only family and home she ever really felt safe in.

Lisa has been in tears feeling that she is being punished for trying to protect herself and other women who might also have been assaulted by her offender.  She said she would be unable to walk into any other shul for fear that this could happen again, and that if she made new friends she could lose them all over again.

We all need to understand that a vast number of those who were sexually abused as children stand a higher risk of being sexually victimized again in adulthood. The Awareness Center  hears numerous accounts of this phenomenon happening several times a month.

As a people and a nation, we as Jews need to figure out what we can we do to help survivors like Lisa!  Please do what you can to start discussions on this issue with your rabbis, other community leaders, synagogues and friends.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Regarding the month of Elul on the Jewish calender

For those of you who are not familiar with the Jewish custom, the month of Elul is a time for self-examination, meditation and prayer as we prepare for the High Holidays.

As we begin the month of Elul, we all must keep in mind that one out of every four children will be sexually violated by the time they reach eighteenth birthday; one out of every 6 women and one out of every 33 men will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime. My wish is that we each and everyone of us will take time to focus on ways as individuals we can help empower those who have been sexually victimize and come up with a plan in how you will do that in the years to come.

My hope for survivors, is that each and every survivor will find ways to heal, reach out to others and if you are good place, to start speaking out about the crimes that were committed against you. Your voice is part of the solution.

We also need to mourn those survivors who lost their lives directly from the abuse, from suicide and or drug overdoses.

Vicki Polin

Executive Director - The Awareness Center, Inc.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Forgiveness and The High Holidays

© (2009) by Vicki Polin, MA, LCPC

Considering it is the month of Elul (a time for self-examination, meditation and prayer), many of Jews around the world are emotionally and spiritually preparing for the High Holidays.  

I was recently discussing the term "forgiveness" with a group of people on Facebook.  One of the individuals in the conversation suggested "forgiveness, helps us to heal our past," another suggested that, "forgiveness, means being able to get on with your life".  A third person suggested,"forgiveness does not change the past". Forgiveness is about the present moment. It transforms us in the moment so we can go forward doing teshuvah and Tikkun Olam.

After advocating for survivors of sex crimes for so many years, I don't believe one needs to "Forgive" to heal. I also personally do not believe the term "forgiveness" means giving up our hope for a better past. I think acceptance is a much better word for that.

I also disagree with the notion that the only way to "get on" with your life is to forgive, again I think the word acceptance for what happened is really the key.

I think Saint Francis of Assisi said it best. Please note he does not use the word forgiveness in the serenity prayer:  "Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

There are times in which one can forgive someone, there's other times when I think acceptance of what happened is all one needs to strive for or accept into their life's reality.

The question I pose was -- Do you forgive someone who has committed a heinous crime against you?  I personally believe it depends on the situation. If someone was a drunk driver and killed a friend or relative, are you required to forgive them?  What if someone came into a bank and murdered someone dear to you?  Or if you were are a survivor of a sex crime, do you have to forgive your offender or should you be told the only way to heal is to forgive? I personally don't think believe it is true or necessarily to heal and know many survivors who have healed without forgiveness.

What if a murderer or a rapist asks for forgiveness, then are we required to give it? I just have a difficult time with blanket statements. They can harm those who need to feel empowered. I think it's a good spiritual exercise for people to have choice on the matter of forgiveness. I also think the only spiritual being who can give absolution is G-d.

I'm not trying to be nick picky, the problem is that the language we use can hurt those who need to be protected, honored and respected, especially when they choose not to forgive.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

2009 Now Conference - Clergy Sexual Abuse

By Victoria Polin, MA, LCPC, NCC
The Awareness Center, Inc - July 21, 2009

Rev. Dr. Traci West, Vicki Polin, Maria Taylor
Being at the 2009 - NOW (National Organization for Women) conference in Indianapolis was incredible. It has been too long since I've been around so many like-minded people.

There were so many things I learned at the conference, including at the workshop in which I was a part of. It was an honor to be on a panel with Rev. Dr. Traci West and Maria Taylor. The three were amazing to listen to, along with those who were brave enough in the audience who shared their stories and experiences. Each and every one of us came from such completely different backgrounds, yet we were all describing the exact same issues.

It saddens me a great deal how we really cannot blindly trust those who are in leadership roles, such as members clergy. The reality is that trust is something that needs to be earned and re-evaluated as time goes by. Unfortunately, there are too many individuals who are giving over their own power to those who are more then willing to abuse their leadership positions for their own personal gain. No matter what faith, race and or social/economical background one comes from the issues and ramifications are very much the same. The only way to end clergy sexual abuse and any other type of sex crimes is by all survivors and those who care about them uniting together.

In the Jewish community when we speak out about sex crimes we fear anti-semitism if when we report sex crimes. In the African American community they fear an increase of stereotyping and racism. Other faiths they come up with similar issues in hopes of silencing, shaming and blaming those who have been sexually victimized. In all communities the survivors and their family members often become outcasts, and are often chased out of the community that at one time felt as if it was their home and family.

It never stops amazing me that no matter what faith and or ethnic group believes, the same exact problems arise when it comes to dealing with clergy sexual abuse. The words used, the names of the offenders and those who cover up the crimes may be different, yet it all boils down to the same thing -- the abuse of power and control.

It's strange how learning that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was known for manipulating women into having sexual contact with him, put me in a state of shock. I also briefly went into a state of denial. How could this American hero also be an alleged sex offender? But then again he's no different then any other member of the clergy who uses their role and position of power to use their own grooming process to lure in their next victim. King is no different then Rabbis Mordecai Magencey, Marc Gafni, Mordecai Tendler, Steven Kaplan, Yaakov Menken, David Kedmi, Hershy Worch, Tobias Gabriel, or many of the other member of the clergy who lured in adults. I personally believe they all should be "Defrocked" and criminally charged. The problem is that with most cases is that it takes those who have been sexually victimized years to come forward. Long past the time the statutes of limitations have run out. I personally feel the notion of statutes of limitations on all sex crimes (against adults and children) need to be abolished.

I also wanted to mention that on my way to the NOW conference I was listening to Carole King's Tapestry CD, with a friend. It's been years since either of us have ever heard it. When the song Smackwater Jack came on, my friend and I looked at each other in shock. We both heard the song millions of times, yet being adults who advocate for survivors the words seem to take on a different meaning. We both started wondering if the lyrics really were talking about clergy sexual abuse. In the past I had always thought of "Smackwater Jack" as being a civil rights song -- bringing an awareness about racism. Yet this time driving to the NOW conference to discuss clergy sexual abuse, it seemed to be talking about clergy sexual abuse, a topic which wasn't discussed back in the early 1970's when the song was written.

Below are the lyrics and also a link to Carole singing it on youtube.

Smackwater Jack 
Smackwater Jack he bought a shotgun
Cause he was in the mood of a little confrontation
He just let it all hang loose
He didn't think about the noose
He couldn't take no more abuse,
So he shot down the congregation
You can't talk to a man with a shotgun in his hand
Big Jim the Chief stood for law and order
He called for the guard to come and surround the border
Now from his bulldog mouth
As he led the posse south
Came the cry "We got to ride to clean up the street
For our wives and our daughters!"
You can't talk to a man when he don't want to understand
The account of the capture wasn't in the papers
But you know, they hanged ole Smack right then (instead of later)
You know, the people where quite pleased
Cause the outlaw had been sized
And on the whole, it was a very good year for the undertaker
You can't talk to a man with a shotgun in his hand

Friday, March 6, 2009

I have a dream . . . Calling For A Rally For Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse at the Lincoln Memorial

© (2009) Photographs by Vicki Polin

I was in hopes of finding others who might share a dream with me.

Last month marked my twenty-fifth anniversary of advocating for survivors of child sexual abuse. For years I envisioned being a part of national rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC for Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse. A rally that brought national attention to the fact that as children we had no civil rights and as adults our needs are often ignored as adults.

One person alone has no voice, yet together we make up one forth of the population of the United States (one out of every 4 child have been molested by the time they reach the age of 18).

Can you imagine the power we would have if all adult survivors of child sexual abuse of all faiths and backgrounds united and formed a "Survivors Union". A group of survivors doing what it takes to make our country safer for children.

If you are interested in helping to make this dream a reality please contact me immediately.


Vicki Polin

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

CALL TO ACTION: NY Assemblyman Dov Hikind

CALL TO ACTION: NY Assemblyman Dov Hikind
The Brooklyn Paper - February 25, 2009

CALL TO ACTION: NY Assemblyman Dov Hikind
Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people; neither shalt thou stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor" (Leviticus 19:16).

"Whoever who saves one soul of Israel, it is said about him that he/she has saved a whole world" (Sanhedrin 37A).

New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind is organization a solidarity rally in Borough Park (Brooklyn, NY) on Sunday, March 1st. Dov Hikind has a radio talk show in which he has been talking about sexual abuse in the Jewish orthodox world of Brooklyn. Because of this survivors, parents and other concerned citizens meet with him to discuss their cases and or concerns about alleged sex offenders living in their community.

Being a lawmaker in New York Dov Hikind is not a mandated reporter. Considering he is an orthodox Jew, someone who is supposed to be following the laws of Torah (the Jewish bible), a parent, and someone acting as an advocate for survivors he should be reporting cases to the New York Child Abuse Hot-line when he suspects a chld is at risk of harm. Unfortunately, Dov Hikind refuses to do this . . . which most likely leading to more unsuspecting children becoming victims of sex crimes.

I am asking that if anyone goes to this event to start protesting his refusal to protect children. If you find news media folks there bring this to their attention and let them know how you feel. As long as Dov Hikind refuses to report suspected cases of any form of child abuse and or neglect -- he is no friend of children or those who have already been sexually violated.

For more information on Halacha (Jewish Law) go to:

For more information on cases of child molestation in the Jewish community go to:

Vicki Polin, MA, NCC, LCPC

Friday, January 2, 2009

Civil Right of Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse New York’s Child Victim Act of 2009

By Vicki Polin, MA, LCPC, NCC

JCASA (International Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Assault) believes it's ludicrous for anyone to oppose a bill that could take the financial burden of caring for victims of sex crimes from the state of New York and placing it on the criminal(s) who are responsible causing the -- including individuals, organizations and or institutions that helped to cover up these sorts of crimes. According to statistics one child molester will sexually violate at least 117 children in their life time. By not reporting criminal behavior to civil authorities we are all creating more victims, which in leads to placing more financial burden on the citizens of New York. 

According to statistics one out of every four children will be molested by the time they reach their eighteenth birthday. Considering there are just under 20,000,000 people living in New York, means there is roughly 500,000 survivors of child sexual abuse living in the state. A vast number of these individuals will need some sort of counseling or other assistance to cope with the childhood trauma they endured. Too many who have been sexually victimize resort to drugs and alcohol to anesthetize their feelings in hopes of making it through another day. Other survivors develop eating disorders, practice various forms of self-harm, become suicidal and or have other behavioral issues which make it impossible to obtain or keep employed. Who ends up paying for the care of the victims of these heinous sexual crimes? -- The citizens of New York. 

Child sexual abuse is a crime of secrecy. The majority of those who were sexually violated as children never tell anyone -- if and when they do, it's often not until many years after the statute of limitations have expired. The problem is that those who perpetrate these sorts of crimes count on their victims silence, so that they can continue on in their molesting careers. Meaning they are allowed to continue creating more children who will grow up exhibiting a whole mired of symptoms from being sexually violated. 

In the general population most people do not know how something they experience in their childhood (either good or bad) will effect their lives -- until they had many years to live past what ever that event was. Most people do not even start to evaluate their lives until they are well into their forties, fifties or beyond. Considering this fact how can any one expect a survivor of child sexual abuse know the life long impact a sex crime when they are still only in their twenties or thirties. 

Most adult survivors of child sexual abuse will do what ever they can to escape from the pain they have been suffering. They will do what they can to live a normal life. Most adult survivors want to go to college, have good careers, hang out with friends, get married and have children. Unfortunately, many hide the fact that they are having nightmares, flashbacks and or suffering from physical injuries from the sexual victimization. Many have trouble forming healthy relationships, end up in abusive relationships, are sexually assaulted as adults, and many others become so dysfunctional in their daily lives to be able to work. 
We all must also realize that forty-six percent of all sex crimes committed against children occur in the home. The remaining fifty-four percent is made up of babysitters, teachers, doctors, therapists, scout leaders, clergy (of all faiths) camp counselors, neighbors. Out of that fifty-four percent, it is only two percent that involve a clergy member. Considering these facts, The Awareness Center does not believe that the Catholic church has a monopoly on sexual predators, even though in recent years the news media seems to focus only on cases involving sex offenders who are members of the clergy abuse and or those that involve a religious institution. The fact is that clergy and religious institution cases are statistically only the tip of the iceberg. 

As Americans we need to be addressing all forms of sex crimes committed against our children. We need to ensure that when an individual who was sexually abused as a child is ready to take legal action they still have some recourse to do so. We need to be focusing our attentions on all survivors and not just those who were violated by clergy and or those connected to religious institutions. Remember the vast majority of cases of child molestation occurs in the home and not in the church, synagogue, mosque or temple. 

The only opponent to the Child Victims Act of New York is the Catholic church, insurance industry and a small orthodox Jewish Sephardic group. These groups have a vested interest in keeping those who have been criminally sexually violated silent. 

Both adult survivors and children, who have not yet been abused -- living in the state of New York need your immediate help to insure the passage of The Child Victims Act of New York.