Saturday, January 30, 2010

Look What They've Done To Our People Ma . . .

Look What They've Done To Our People Mamma
By Vicki Polin
The Awareness Center's Daily News Letter - January 30, 2010

It's been a zillion years since I heard the following song. While listening to it I couldn't help but think about the advocacy work I've been doing with Jewish survivors of sexual violence for the last 10 years.  

The movement has become so explosive in the Jewish orthodox world and definitely has not gone in the direction I've hoped for.

The question now is how do we take the insanity and change it into something that is healing and empowering for survivors, their families and the entire world? 

At times it feels as if it's the "War of the Worlds".  It's so sad because when I first got started all I really wanted to do was educate our rabbonim, help those who have been sexually victimized find ways to heal; and join forces in hopes of preventing one more person (adult or child) from becoming the next victim of a sex crime.  Instead all we seem to get is game playing from those who are supposed to be our rabbinic and community leaders.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Thank you Michael Irving for creating the World's First Monument to Child Abuse Survivors

Case of Rabbi Baruch Lebovitz in the death of Motty Borger, son of Shmuel Borger (PIX News)

Newscast of the case of Rabbi Baruch Lebovitz in the death of Motty Borger, son of Shmuel Borger (PIX News). This news report also features Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg (member of The Awareness Center's international advisory board), Joseph Diangelo and Joel Engleman.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Looking for Resources For Jewish Survivors of Sexual Trauma

The Awareness Center is in the process of updating our online "International Resource Guide For Survivors of Sexual Trauma".  

The Awareness Center is in the process of updating our online, International Resource Guide For Jewish Survivors of Sexual Trauma (childhood sexual abuse, sexual assault, rape, marital rape, professional sexual misconduct, clergy sexual abuse, sexual harassment).  We are looking for professionals who are educated and experienced working with survivors for possible inclusion on site.

If you are interested or know someone who fits our criteria for inclusion, please fill out the attached questionnaire or download the form from the link below and return it to us with your CV.  The guide will include various care providers; educators; professional and survivor organizations; holistic health professionals; rabbi’s and outreach workers; legal and medical professionals that work with and/or have experience with JEWISH SURVIVORS OF SEXUAL TRAUMA (including adults adolescents and children).  Please feel free to make copies of this form and share it others.  

Filling out this form does NOT insure inclusion in our directory.  

If you are a survivor and would like to recommend someone who has been helpful to you, contact Vicki Polin at  vickipolin at for more directions.  Click here to Download Questionnaire

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sexual Violence and the National Stalking Awareness Month

Sexual Violence and the National Stalking Awareness Month
© (2010) by Vicki Polin

75% of women who are stalked are also survivors of physical and or sexual abuse/assault.

I know this to be true because I am one of those women.  When I was in my early twenties I was stalked by the man who sexually assaulted me, back then there were no legal definition or laws on the books to protect me from my assailant.  Fortunately, my case was used to help get the stalking laws on the books in Illinois.

At the age of 50 I was once again the victim of an assault in the state of Maryland.  Thank G-d things have changed since I was twenty-three.  Due to the fact that man who assaulted me kept calling me, I had no option but to get an order of protection to stop the harassment.  At least I knew what to do.  Most individuals who are assaulted don't know what constitutes stalking or what to do if this should happen to them.  For that reason I'm sharing the following link that I hope you will share with everyone you know.

If you are assaulted, and or being stalked you have nothing to be ashamed of.  The shame belongs solely with the offender.  If this could happen to me it could happen to anyone.  We all need to be aware of what stalking is, and what you can do about it if it happens to you.

CLICK HERE: National Stalking Awareness Month

Vicki Polin, MA, LCPC is the founder and director of The Awareness Center, which is the international Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault.  

Monday, January 18, 2010

Abusive clergy destroy children

This isn't the title I would have chosen for the story. I would have said childhood sexual abuse alters the life of children.  I do believe that even though a child was molested, that with the right help they can heal and become healthy productive adults.  The abuse will always be with them, yet they can learn coping skills to deal with the effects if they receive good counseling, by those who really understand trauma.  -- Vicki Polin


Letter to the Editor

Abusive clergy destroy children
Times Union - January 17, 2010

Rabbi Yaakov Weiss

It saddens me a great deal each time I read about another member of the clergy who is sexually inappropriate with a minor ("Rabbi takes a plea deal," Jan. 12).

What enrages me is that these offenders just get a slap on the hand for assaulting our children, especially after they attempted to manipulate the child into silence.

These sorts of actions will change the child's life forever. As we know, many of those who have been molested as children grow up with low self-esteem, have issues with addictions and make suicide attempts.

What will it take for our court systems to take these sorts of criminal behaviors seriously? Why is it that those who are caught embezzling funds or are involved with income tax fraud get harsher sentences than some of those who molest our children?

The message that is sent is that money is more important than the lives of our kids.


Founder and CEO

The Awareness Center, Inc. (the international Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault)

Baltimore, Md.

Update: Case of Cantor Michael Segelstein and Chabad of Southern Nevada

Update: Case of Cantor Michael Segelstein and Chabad of Southern Nevada

Las Vegas Mayor,  Oscar B. Goodman and Rabbi Shea Harlig


The law and religion

Churches shouldn’t be able to hide behind First Amendment in abuse cases

Las Vegas SunMonday, Jan. 18, 2010 

The Nevada Supreme Court has been asked to decide to what extent churches are liable in cases involving sexual abuse committed by clergy. The case raises the issue of whether the First Amendment protects churches from these types of lawsuits.
As Steve Kanigher reported in Wednesday’s Las Vegas Sun, the case is rare. Most lawsuits against churches, as those against the Roman Catholic Church, have been settled, so courts have not had to handle this issue.
The case before the Supreme Court was filed by Theressa Ramani, who says she was assaulted in 2001 by a cantor associated with Chabad of Southern Nevada and Chabad of Summerlin. The man pleaded guilty the next year to open and gross lewdness. Ramani said she and her son were then harassed by Chabad after she complained about the attack.
In 2003 she filed a lawsuit in District Court in Clark County against the Orthodox synagogues, as well as some rabbis and individuals associated with the organization. The suit was eventually thrown out because a judge says she didn’t show a direct link between Chabad and the attack and didn’t prove that the man was an employee of the synagogues.
She appealed in 2007, and the case gained stature because of the issues involved. The Roman Catholic bishops of Las Vegas and Reno and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have joined the synagogues in fighting the case. Ramani has been joined by the Jewish Board of Advocates for Children, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and the National Association to Prevent Sexual Abuse of Children.
Chabad and the churches argue religious organizations are protected by the First Amendment from these types of lawsuits. They say if the court holds churches liable for the actions of volunteers or congregants, it would be disastrous for their charities and operations because they would be tied up in expensive litigation. Responding to Ramani’s claims of harassment, the churches say they have a right to exercise discipline or even expel members.
Ramani and the advocacy groups say churches must be held liable for their actions and to exclude them would allow abuse to go unchecked. They point to documented abuse in the Catholic Church by some priests, in which church officials knew about allegations of abuse for years. They argue that the churches are trying to “twist the First Amendment into a refuge for harmful behavior.”
Churches do have the right to exercise their religious freedom and they do have the right to discipline or expel members. The question in this case, though, is whether the group is liable in an abuse case.
The religious provision in the First Amendment was intended to keep the government from establishing a state religion and to allow people the freedom to worship as they choose. It shouldn’t be construed as a blanket protection from liability. If clergy or a church engage in or allow illegal behavior, they should have to answer for that.
CALL TO ACTION:  Should a convicted sex offender who's on the national sex offender registry be allowed on Purim to be drunk and performing in front of children? The Chabad of Southern Nevada thinks it's ok.
Cantor Michael Segelstein is the one on the right wearing a black suit.

Michael Alan Segelstein is currently on both the Flordia and National Sex Offender registries.
Segelstein was originally arraigned on one count each of attempted sexual assault, battery with intent to commit sexual assault and open and gross lewdness. He pled guilty as part of a plea agreement to open or gross lewdness, received one year suspended sentence with conditions and court ordered into counseling and was discharged from probation on December 2, 2005.

It appears that Michael Segelstein is an honored member of Chabad of Southern Nevada. Please contact Rabbi Shea Harlig and let your voice be heard!
Rabbi Shea Harlig, Director
1261 S. Arville Street, Las Vegas, Nevada 89102

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Mazel Tov to Shannon Orand (survivor of "Rabbi" Leib Tropper)

The Awareness Center wants to thank Shannon Orand for her bravery and tenacity.  Shannon was named as one of the 2009 Rape Victim Advocates of the year

The Awareness Center asks that people stand up when Shannon Orand walks in a room as one would do for a rabbi to show honor and respect for this  hero and a role model for other women. 

Jewish Israel would like to wish a heartfelt Mazal Tov to JI member Shannon Orand upon her conversion to Judaism which she received in Israel earlier this week. Welcome to the Jewish people, Rachel (Shannon’s Hebrew name)!

Members of the Beit Din were Chief Rabbi Dov Lior of Hevron, Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu of Safed, and Rabbi Rafi Ostroff. Another highly respected Rav officiated over the conversion.  To read more click here

Monday, January 04, 2010

Glossary of Initials and Other Professional Degrees, Organiazations & Other Jargon

Glossary of Initials:
Professional Degrees, Organizations  and Other Jargon
(© 1994, Rev. 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2003) By Vicki Polin ,MA, ATR, LCPC

American Art Therapy Association
American Bar Association
American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work.
Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology
Academy of Certified Social Worker
American Dance Therapy Association
Academy of Dance Therapist Registered
American Medical Association
American Mental Health Counselors Associaton
American Psychological Association
American Psychiatric Association
Assistant States Attorney (can be in either Juvenile and/or Criminal Court)
Art Therapist Registered
Art Therapist Registered - Board Certified.
American Yoga Association
Bachelor of Arts Degree
Board Certified Diplomat (given by ABECSW to social workers)
Bachelor of Science
Bachelor of Science in Nursing
Bachelors Degree in Social Work
Certified Addictions Counselor
Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor
Certified Compulsive Gambling Counselor
Certified Expressive Therapist
Certified Rehabilitation Counselor
Continuing Education Units
Certified Massage Therapist.
Department of Alcohol and Substance Abused (Illinois)
Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine
Dept. of Children and Family Services (Illinois)
Department of Child Protection
Diplomate in Clinical Social Work. (Given to Social Workers by the NASW..)
D.D. Dually
DSMIV Diagnosis and/or Developmentally Delayed and/or Chemically Dependent
D. Ed.
Doctorate in Education
Dipl. Ac.
Diplomat of Acupuncture
Dipl. Hom.
Diplomat of Homeopathic Medicine
Doctor of Napraprathy  or
Doctor of Naturopathy
Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
Doctor of Podiatric Medicine
Doctor (can refer to an DSW, M.D., PhD, PsyD . . . ).
Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
Doctorate in Social Work
Dance Therapist Registered
Fellow International College of Prescribing Psychologists
Guardian Ad Litem. In Illinois, all children who are wards of the state are appointed a G.A.L. by Public Guardian's office. In some counties is the child's attorney in both juvenile and criminal court.
Honorable Life Member (given to art therapist's by AATA).
Illinois Association of Addiction Professionals
Illinois Art Therapy Association.
Illinois Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Professional Certification Association
Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault
Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
The International Society for the Study of Dissociative Disorders
Individual Treatment Plan
Jewish Coalition Against Childhood Sexual Abuse
Juris Doctor (degree given to an Attorney).
L.A.N. Local Area Network
(Community Mental Health Centers boundaries for funding).
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (in Illinois, Master Degreed Mental Health Provider.). Can accept most insurance for payment.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker. (in Illinois, Master Degreed Mental Health Provider.). Can accept most insurance for payment.
Licensed Certified Social Worker (in Maryland, Master Degreed Mental Health Provide). Can accept most insurance for payment.
Licensed Certified Social Worker - Clinical (in Maryland, Master Degreed Mental Health Provide). Can accept most insurance for payment.
Licensed Dietitian.
License of Law (requies a Masters Degree in Law).
Licensed Mental Health Counselor (Requires Masters Degreed)
Licensed Marriage, Family & Child Counselor.
Licensed Professional Counselor (in Illinois, Bachelor Degree Provider).
Licensed Practical Nurse
Licensed Practitioner of the Healing Arts
Licensed Social Worker
Masters of Arts (can be in any field)
Masters of Arts in Art Therapy (From some programs).
Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault
Masters of Education.
Marriage, Family and Child Counselor.
Medical Doctor
Masters of Divinity.
Mental Health Center
Mental Illness/Mentally Ill.
Mentally Ill/Substance Abuse.
Masters of Public Health.
Masters of Science (can be in any field).
Masters of Science in Nursing.
Masters degree in Social Work.
Master's of Science in Social Work.
National Association of Addiction Professionals
National Association For Drama Therapy
National Association of Social Workers.
National Board of Certified Counselors
Occupational Therapist Registered.
Public Aid.
Pre-Admission Screening for nursing home and/or residential treatment. Needed for individuals on Medicaid (State of Illinois)
Police Department.
Physicians' Desk Reference (book describing medication).
Doctor of Philosophy (can be in any field, i.e. psychology, social work, chemistry...)
Doctorate of Psychology.
Ritual Abuse
Registered Dietitian
Registered Drama Therapist (by the National Association For Drama Therapy).
Registered Nurse.
Qualified Mental Health Professional (Master Degreed Level Professional).
Qualified Mental Retardation Professional (Master Degreed Professional).
Screening, Assessment & Support Services. (Needed for individuals on Medicaid in the state of Illinois prior to being admitted to a psychiatric unit or facility.
Social Security Administration
Social Security Disability Income
Social Security Income
Treatment Prescribed Treatment

Friday, January 01, 2010

Reflecting on the Last 10 Years: Connecting To Judaism and Jewish Survivors of Sexual Violence

© (2010) By Vicki Polin

With the start of a new decade, I can't help but reflect on the last ten years of my life.

If someone would have told me on January 1, 2000,  that I would be doing what I have been doing for the last ten years -- I would have no option but to asked them what drugs they were taking?

To get started I really need to flashback to 1997, when I injured both of my hands and feet in an accident.  I went from being an artist and having a successful private practice to not being able to do much on my own.

During a three year period I was in and out of casts and braces on my hands and feet.  I couldn't hold a pen, paint brush, telephone or a toothbrush -- yet I was able to move the tips of my fingers just enough to type.  This was the same year that AOL changed their pricing plans so there was one set fee per month no matter how long you were on line.  Needless to say, 1997 was is the year I found the easiest way for me to communicate with the outside world was on line.

In the beginning I was dabbling in various "New Age" chat rooms -- up until one of my cousin's kept giving me links to the Jewish Community OnLine.  Her actions lead me to be connected to a Jewish community -- this is also the reasons why I consider myself to be a "Cyberian" Jew.

The longer I was in these chat rooms I started to realize how many unsuspecting Jews were being proselytized to by those connected to various "Hebrew" Christian groups.  One thing lead to another and I became a part of a group of counter-missionaries on line, which lead me to learning more about my own heritage and studying Torah on line.

Back in the summer of 1999 I took a major risk and stopped studying on line, and went to Neve Yerushalayim (a woman's yeshiva/seminary) in Jerusalem, Israel.

During my time at Neve, several of the student learned I was a psychotherapist and that I had specialized in sexual abuse/assault.  One thing lead to another and they started coming to me for help. I did my best to find resources for them within the orthodox world, yet found nothing.  It was around that time that I started changing my private practice web page into The Awareness Center.

There's times I really miss being naive about what I thought was needed to bridge the gap between the Torah observant and secular Jewish worlds in dealing with sex crimes.  I never expected the divisions, the denial and or the attacks on my own personhood.  I really believed that all I needed to do was take the knowledge and information I had about sex crimes and transform it into a Jewish context.  I now laugh at myself at my naiveté in thinking that our religious leaders would be eager to learn in hopes of making the world a better and safer place for our children and to find ways of reaching out and healing those who had already been harmed.

Ten years ago I never expected to find all the attacks against Jews who practiced differently then another.  I really miss my innocence and the notion that we all believed that "A Jew is a Jew is a Jew".  That we were all put on this earth as equals and should be respectful to those who do not believe the same as ourselves.

One of the things I've always believed and try to promote was that we are all in this together.  Just as in the days of the holocaust, Hitler would not care about how we daven (pray), if we daven or who we daven with.  He would have all seen us as the same.  I do not believe that one group of Jews is better nor more important then another.  It breaks my heart knowing that not everyone views the Jewish world as I do.  When I refer to the Jewish world I mean Jews from all movements and non-movements in Judaism (Unaffiliated, Humanist, Jewish Renewal, Reform, Traditional, Conservative, Orthodox, etc.)

Vicki Polin - Founder of The Awareness Center
As we all know there are often events that happen in our lives that effect who we are as peoples.  As many are aware, I am a survivor of child abuse and am the survivor of two assaults as an adult.  All of which has lead me to be the person I am today.  Another event that has always had an impact on my connection to Judaism was the fact that during my high school years the American Nazi Party wanted to march in my hometown.  I'll never forget seeing how Jews from all movements of Judaism came together to do what we could to say "NEVER AGAIN"!  I really wish that we could all come together again and say those same exact words when it comes to fighting in the war against sexual violence within ALL of our communities -- committed against girls and boys, women and men.

If we could all join forces like we did back in 1977 to fight the American Nazi Party's plan to march in Skokie, I know it is possible for us to win this war against those who commit these heinous acts in our communities internationally.

My hope is that the following film staring Danny Kaye will be an inspiration to you all, remind you of the history of my hometown and most important remind you of how we are all need to see each other equally as Jews.