Thursday, March 17, 2011
As Purim Rolls in The Awareness Center Closes
On Friday, March 18, 2011, The Awareness Center will be sending out our last daily newsletter -- as our organization will be closing at the start of Shabbat.
It's been an amazing journey over the last twelve years since transforming an idea into a functioning organization. Who would have ever thought that in such a short period of time so many Jewish survivors of sexual abuse/assault would have felt so empowered that would feel safe enough to speak out publicly.
I really wish I would have kept count of the number of Jewish survivors who called The Awareness Center looking for help, yet all I can do is estimate that it's been at least 18,000 or more. Considering The Awareness Center averaged about 150 - 200 e-mails a day, and then times that over a 12 year period -- I'm guessing that we received close to a million e-mails. I've also lost track of the number of workshops and conferences we were invited to speak at, or the number of legislative hearings our membership provided testimony at.
The Awareness Center has always been an extremely grassroots organization with very little funding, yet even so -- I believe we were able to make a huge impact in helping to make positive change in the course of history for so many people. I think one of the most important goals our organization was able to foster is the fact that so many Jewish survivors no longer are remaining silent, every day more and more individuals are speaking out against sex crimes and helping other survivors to know they are not alone.
Shining a light on sex crimes has never been easy task, especially when you are letting a community know that someone they love and respect -- was also a sexual predator. Everyone connected to The Awareness Center always knew the risks of taking on such a monumental task of having a Jewish sex offender registry. We knew there would be a small group of people who would do everything in their power to try to silence the messengers -- yet The Awareness Center prevailed. We knew that what the attackers were attempting to do to us, was NOTHING compared to what the survivors of sex crimes were forced to endure. If we didn't forge forward nothing would have ever changed.
I have so many unique and wonderful memories of running The Awareness Center, yet there is one very special moment that will stay with me forever.
Never in a million years did I ever think that The Awareness Center's message would reach into the more insulated orthodox communities. It was a world which was very unknown to me. A few years ago The Awareness Center started crossing paths with individuals connected to the Bobov, Satmar communities, along with that of other chassidish movements. When this first started happening I was very grateful for my cultural diversity training. You see, I grew up in a very liberal lifestyle without any real religious training. It wasn't until a few years before I turned forty, that I started searching out and learning about my Jewish identity.
I'll never forget the first time I met my dear friend, Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg in person. Prior to meeting him I had only heard his name and had his e-mail address. I was searching the internet to learn who he was, when I stumbled upon an article talking about him getting shot. I was in total shock. This was the first time I've ever heard of someone advocating for children getting shot. I immediately sent him an e-mail asking him if he was OK. Before I knew it I was speaking to him on the phone, and the next day he was taking the Chinese bus from Brooklyn, all the way down to Baltimore to meet with me.
Our first meeting was one of the most ironic moments of my life as I'm sure it was for him too. Here I am, a woman who has an undergraduate degree in women's studies (Feminist studies), meeting with a rabbi who is Satmar. At the time I kept flashing in my mind to the day that I was carrying a "Chicago NOW" banner in a Pro-Choice march in Washington DC. As you can imagine our cultural differences were as different as night and day. Yet, we had a few major things in common -- we were both dedicated to helping those who were sexually victimized within Jewish communities and we were both dedicated to ending these sorts of heinous crimes.
Though The Awareness Center's journey is coming to an end and we are forced to close due to lack of funding, I know deep in my heart that the Anti-Rape movement within Jewish communities globally will continue. I am also so grateful for every survivor who stayed alive to speak out, every individual who volunteered their time and am so thankful for The Awareness Center's board of directors and international advisory board. We never would have been able to accomplish as much as we did without them.
The Awareness Center does still need your help though. We still have bills that need to be paid. If you can find it in your heart to financially support us we would be greatly appreciative.
Vicki Polin, MA, LCPC
Founder - Director