Monday, August 24, 2009

Too Embarrassing To Offer Help?

Too Embarrassing To Offer Help?
© (2009) by Vicki Polin

A friend of mine on Facebook posted a picture of a sign hanging in the women's bathroom of a store. The sign listed the phone numbers for both domestic violence and rape crisis hotlines. I personally believe signs like this should be posted in all bathrooms for both men and women.

When I was reading her entry I was reminded of something that happened to me about five years ago in Baltimore. It started on a day that I wasn't feeling well and ended up passing out in a parking lot of a Barnes and Nobel. I ended up falling face first on to ground of the cement parking lot and ended looking like someone bashed my face in.

A few days later I was feeling much better and had to run some errands in preparations of the coming Shabbat (Jewish sabbath). I have to admit I was a bit embarrassed about going out looking the way I did, yet I needed to get things done.

At the time I kept kosher and Shabbat. I was dressed modestly, wearing a long skirt, which covered my knees and a blouse which covered my elbows and neckline. I basically looked like a Torah observant woman (an orthodox Jewish woman).

My first stop was to go to Seven Mile, which is the local kosher grocery store. As I walked from my car to the store, through the parking lot -- I noticed people staring at me. To be honest, I think I would have looked too considering how black and blue my eyes were and how swollen my face was.

As I shopped I was also extremely aware of the looks many women gave me who were also in the store. They all would turn away as soon as they noticed I saw them looking at me. I know they turned away in hopes of not embarrassing me.

While continued shopping I over heard two women talking. One of the women said to her friend "I wonder who beat her up?" I wish I would have said something, yet I didn't. I guess I didn't want to embarrass them.

I finally got out of Seven Mile and became apprehensive of going on to my next errand (which was to go to a non-kosher grocery store to pick up some items the first store didn't have). I remember sitting in my car in the parking lot for a minute, trying to muster up the courage to go in.

Within minutes of entering "Shoppers", I was approached by the first woman who saw me. She wanted to make sure I was OK. She also gave me a card with the local domestic violence hot-line number on it.

I remember thanking her and told her I really, "Just fell".

She gave me a hug and said, "Just in case, you have the number". As I walked through that non-kosher grocery store I was approached by at least a dozen women and a few men, all saying the same thing. All wanting to make sure that I was safe and that I knew there was help out there for me if I needed it. It was sort of funny because not one of them wanted to believe the truth, they all just wanted to make sure I was safe and that I knew, "no one had a right to hit me like that".

When I got to my car I started to cry, not because so many people approached me wanting to be helpful. I was saddened by the fact not one frum (orthodox) woman came up to me to offer me support. The reality is I wasn't embarrassed that so many people wanted to help me -- actually it was a relief to know that strangers really cared and if I needed help they were more then willing to be of assistance. I was grief stricken because my own people turned their backs on me.

If the orthodox world is unable to offer support to strangers who look like they were battered, how do we really expect them to help children who are currently being abused or help adult survivors?


Vicki Polin, is the founder and director of The Awareness Center, Inc., which is the international Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault (JCASA)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am very sorry for you but as a member to the ultra-orthodox community let me explain:

If I would see a battered women it wouldn't accure to me that she was beeten up. I never saw such a thing happen not in my fammily and not by my friends. So this would be the LAST thought comming to my mind.

In the other hand - by non-orthodox people this is more common so it came up to their mind. Even in places that this doesn't actualy happen - they are exposed to the media which lets them know all this!

So please don't judge the ortadox Jews not right. It is no secret that the Chesed done by the ultra-orthdox communities are countless... so to think that they are careless is wrong!

I hope you understand this true explanation.

[I don't say that our community is 100% clean from all of this - but it is sureley unheard of]