Monday, February 28, 2005

Finding A Rabbi: Tips For Survivors of Sexual Violence

Finding A Rabbi: Tips For Survivors of Sexual Violence

(2005) By Vicki Polin, MA, LCPC and Michael Salamon, PhD

Suggested questions to ask at an initial interview:

1. How old are you?

2. Where were you ordained (get smicha)?  Who ordained you?

3. How long have you been practicing as a Rabbi?

4. What is your educational background? What degrees do you hold? Where did you get them?

5. Tell me about your experiences working with survivors?

6. Do you ever give hugs if someone asks for one?
(In many movements of Judaism this type of contact is frowned upon and may be considered immoral/unethical.)

7. What are your professional plans in the next few years?  Do you have any plans to move to another city or state?

8. If you left this area, would you help me find another rabbi to talk to?

9. Do you think sexual relations with one of your congregants can sometimes/always/never be helpful?
(If the rabbi responds other than "never," leave.  You may also want to consider reporting the rabbi to the rabbinical organization he/she belong to).

10. Do you think child/adult sex is sometimes/always/never OK? 
(If the rabbi responds other than "never," leave.  You may also want to consider reporting the rabbi to the rabbinical organization he/she belong to).

11. How do you deal with your own Secondary PTSD / Compassion Fatigue / Vicarious Victimization?
(If a rabbi works with congregants who have been victimized, after awhile they will burn out unless they have the right kind of support system)

12. Have you had any special training in working with survivors of sexual abuse/assault?  If so, what is that training?

13. Are you a survivor of childhood sexual abuse or of a sexual assault as an adult? If yes, have you received counseling for it?

14. Could I reach you in a crisis or emergency?  What boundaries do you have regarding emergency phone calls?

15. What are some of your hobbies and interests?

16. Would you tell me a little about your philosophy of life?


After The Initial Interview:

How do you feel about yourself?  Do you feel more depressed?  Do you feel validated?  Do you feel empowered?

It's important that you feel comfortable in the setting that you will be communicating with your rabbi.  It's not uncommon to notice the furniture, paintings and books in the office. Did they make you feel comfortable or did you notice things that made you feel uneasy?

Was the Rabbi direct and open in answering all of your questions or did he/she avoid any of them?

Did you get the impression that this person feels he/she has all the answers to every problem (if so, this is not the rabbi for you), or did you get the feeling he/she was interested in exploring with you, with no preconceived expectations of where you'd be going?

Does the Rabbi have values/interests similar to yours?

Did you get the feeling that this person is a sensitive, wise, mature person with whom you can share your healing journey?


Things To Keep In Mind
Trust your own judgment!  Choose a Rabbi that you might also choose as a friend -- someone you can trust who has similar tastes, attitudes and values.

His/Her office should be a place where you feel comfortable and protected as well as encouraged to take risks.

You need a companion, not a crutch.  Remember, YOU are in charge of your life.

If the Rabbi is himself/herself an AMAC (adult Molested as a Child), it is important to find out if the Rabbi has had therapy.  It is unfair and incongruent for a Rabbi to expect YOU to do work with him/her if she/he hasn't been willing to do his/her own work.

Believe in yourself -- You're worth it!

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