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)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Forgiveness and The High Holidays

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.

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.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Case of Aron Stonikoff

Case of Aron Stonikoff
(AKA: Aaron Stonikoff)
Astoria (Queens), NY
Accountant, Times Equities, Inc. - New York, NY 

Convicted of possessing child pornography.  Images of a sexual performance by a child less than 16 years of age.

Table of Contents:

  1. Accountant faces kiddie porn rap (08/18/2009)

  1. Queens County District Attorney - Press Release (04/29/2010)

  1. New York Sex Offender's Registry (01/08/2012)

Accountant faces kiddie porn rap
By Brendan Brosh 

New York Daily News - August 18, 2009

An accountant who works at a major Manhattan firm is facing up to seven years for kiddie porn, Queens prosecutors said.

Aron Sotnikoff was slapped with 54 counts of promoting sexual performance by a child and 54 counts of possessing a sexual performance by a child. Sotnikoff, 28 who works as an audit manager at Rosen Seymour Shapss Martin & Company, was arraigned Monday night in Queens and freed on $20,000 bail, authorities said. 

"When all the facts come out, I believe he will be completely exonerated," said his attorney, Jonathan Kaye

Prosecutors said a tip to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children led to the Far Rockaway man's arrest as well as others in Missouri, New Mexico and California

"This case was developed as a result of the cooperation of a network of law enforcement organizations throughout the country ... working to combat Internet-based child exploitation," said DA Richard Brown

Sotnikoff, ordered to surrender his passport, is expected in court again in October.


Queen's County District Attorney's Office Press Release
April 29, 2010


New York Sex Offender's Register
January 8, 2013



Monday, August 10, 2009

FRUSTRATION: Those trying to attempting to manipulate reality

August 10, 2009 -- Today was not unlike many other days were The Awareness Center received a phone call from someone who was attempting to manipulate reality.

The individual who called was trying to convince me that by placing the names of alleged and convicted sex offenders on The Awareness Center would mean that the alleged and or convicted sex offender would not be able to earn parnassa (earn a living) for his or her family. The caller went on to say that the sex offender’s children would not be able to get into a good yeshiva (seminary) or find good marriage partners because of what was posted. The caller went on and on about the damage I was causing to the Jewish people.

Today’s caller could not seem to grasp the notion that according to statistics more than half of the known child molesters re-offend over a 25 year period. The caller was also unable to grasp the concept that on average one sex offender would molest over 117 times in their life time.

The man who called today also had a difficult time understanding the fact that the majority of cases of child molestation occurs in the home and not at schools, places of worship, camps, etc.

In the Jewish world the newspapers and orthodox rabbis seem to only focus on sex offenders who are rabbis, teachers and camp counselors; and have been neglecting the fact that the majority of sex offenders are called “mommy”, daddy”, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, grandma, grandpa and or cousin. The fact is that over 46% of the cases of sex crimes committed against children occur in the home.

Today’s caller was unaware that incest survivors have no place safe to go for help. It often does no good for them to tell a non-offending parent or other relative what’s going on. All too often most adults who are in the lives children who are being abused do not want to get involved, especially when it comes to making hot-line reports regarding their suspicion that children they know may be at risk of harm at home. Then there’s the whole issue that in many cases child protective services are inept in helping incest survivors because the juvenile justice and court systems always seems to focus on keeping families intact.

Another issue is that Jewish communities around the globe seem to be unaware that according to statistics female children are sexually victimized more often then males. In the orthodox world it is only cases which involve male victims that seem to be making it into the news.

We all need to be focusing our efforts on reaching out to the female Jewish survivors. We need to be doing what ever it takes to encourage them to to also come forward and share their stories. The shame always belongs on the perpetrator and not on those who have been sexually victimized.

The Awareness Center has also been receiving so many phone calls and e-mails from survivors begging us to reconsider and stay open.

For the last ten years I’ve been the dyslexic worker -- I’ve been paying to work. The Awareness Center has no funds to remain open. It’s gotten to the point that I’ve been trying to sell my own personal possessions to pay the organizations bills and to keep our phone lines and web page open. I’ll be honest with you, it pains me a great deal to know that we have no choice but to shut down in a little more then two weeks.

The reality is that we need to raise $2,500 just to pay off our bills. This does not include the personal loans I’ve made to the organization. We need to raise another $1,500 to consider staying open in the month of September.

I just don’t have it in me to keep things going without some sort of significant funding. If you really want the organization to stay open, each and everyone of you will help us find the funds to function. The Awareness Center is considered a non-profit organization with 501c3 statues. All donations are tax deductible.

Vicki Polin, MA, NCC, LCPC, ATR-BC
Founder and CEO

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

CALL TO ACTION: New York Mayor violates law to fund Ohel and Agudath Israel of America

CALL TO ACTION: Make sure the news media is aware that both groups in which Bloomberg helped do not believe in making hot-line reports when children may be at risk of harm.

Watch CEO of Ohel on Youtube:

Mayor Bloomberg Skirted Law To Fund Jewish Groups
By JTA - August 04, 2009
The mayor of New York City violated government contracting rules in funneling money to two Jewish groups, The New York Times reported.

Between 2002 and 2006, the Times wrote, the office of Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave $1.1 million to the fervently Orthodox Agudath Israel of America and $400,000 to Ohel Children’s Services from a special discretionary fund. By law, the funds can be disbursed only if requested by a City Council member.

The Bloomberg administration contends that Councilman Simcha Felder requested the funds, but the Brooklyn Democrat told the Times he never made the request. A Bloomberg contradicted Felder’s account.

Though neither of the Jewish organizations is implicated by the revelations, they come at a time when the Orthodox community is reeling from the recent arrests of five rabbis and other Orthodox Jews in a money-laundering probe in New Jersey.