Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Male molestation and rape in the Orthodox community

By Yechezkel Chezi Goldberg, HY"D
Jewish Journal - Feburary 18, 2004

Chezi Goldberg
It is out there. It happens. It is a reality. In the Orthodox community just like any other and yet, no one wants to talk about it.

I am not surprised.

Somehow, it is easier for everyone to talk about the abuse of women than to talk about the abuse of men. Both are horrible events that require incredible sensitivity.

I think that when a man is molested and raped, there are stereotypes, stigmas and confusing questions that come along as baggage with the event. They include the idea that a man who is raped is weak, questions about his masculinity, concerns of the victim being a homosexual because of the attack, and confusing questions and thoughts about how the victim of an attack is affected long term by the attack.

For example, it is common for male victims to be preoccupied with the concern that because they were raped, that they are from that time onwards, homosexual. This concern can have far reaching ramifications on the victim and the choices he makes in his life.

No one wants to talk about men who are sexually abused.

To the extent that people want to avoid the topic, we are required to deal with it.

It is crucial that victims have a place to turn where they can find a listening ear and understanding, trained advisors who can help them through the crisis and the post trauma stress.

It is crucial that professionals educate the community on the topic so that people can be more sensitive to it.

It is essential that as a community we allow professionals to pass on their knowledge to rabbis, teachers, parents and community leaders. Somehow, we need to find a way to educate children on how to say NO. It is so important that the children who are victims know the difference between good and bad secrets.

If the community puts this discussion on the table, solutions will be found.

It is fundamental that rabbinic leaders find a compassionate way to convey their thoughts to victims who are out there, to let victims know that they are not bad people if they were assaulted, that assault happens and that victims, in the eyes of the Torah and the rabbis, are still considered full fledged members of our community. In the Orthodox community, many important moves forward on the community agenda have occurred after rabbis have given the green light for things to move ahead.

This is doable.

I know from intimate conversations with Gedolim that they are aware that sexual abuse of men exists. I know that these same rabbis have been compassionate, understanding and very insightful when offering guidance and comfort to victims.

In the end, I don`t know that we can ever eliminate sexual abuse across the board. I wish we could. I also wish we could eliminate terror attacks, murder, robbery, fraud and many other problems that threaten society.

Albeit a wonderful ideal, I just don`t know that it is possible to accomplish. However, while we cannot eliminate these problems and the perpetrators of these problems, we can decrease the negative feedback and disapproving reactions which the victims of sexual abuse receive when they reach out for help and support within the Orthodox community. We can empower the victims to take back their lives after a perpetrator has tragically torn asunder the victim`s will and power.

While we don`t have all of the answers figured out, we need to start by making it available and safe for a victim to seek out help and guidance without having to look over his shoulder or to feel guilty about what happened.

To that end, it is important to keep on spreading the word about places where victims can go for help. The Hotline for Religious Men Who Are Victims (972-2-532-8000, in Israel) is just one service answering this clarion call.

I pray that the number of organizations and professionals offering their assistance and direction increase. The more places a victim can turnfor help, the better his chances of receiving the help he needs.

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