Friday, December 03, 2010

Frustration - Why doesn't the frum world focus on Incest?

Frustration - Why doesn't the frum world focus on Incest?
© (2010) by Vicki Polin, MA, LCPC
The Awareness Center's Daily Newsletter - December 3, 2010

I have to admit that I am very frustrated and have been for some time.  There's a huge population of children and adult survivors who are being ignored.
Why is it that the majority of those who call themselves "advocates" for Jewish survivors in the orthodox world ignore the fact that the majority of cases of child abuse occurs in the home.  

46% of the cases of child sexual abuse involve the fact that the offenders are the victims mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, siblings, grandparents and cousins.  Only a small fraction of cases happen in schools, camps, mikvah's and other locations.  It's only 2% of all clergy that are sex offenders. 
I totally understand that those who want to be called advocates have been using their own voices not only to help others, but also as a tool to help themselves in their own personal healing journey.  This is a very important step to be able to do for some, yet not at the expense of others.  Those who want to really advocate for others, NEED to be trained, especially the lay people who have no real experience in speaking out.  Every community has a local rape crisis center, in which a 40 hour certification program is available.  This should be a required program for individuals to go through prior to calling themselves an advocate for other survivors.  
It is also very important for anyone who promotes themselves as a mental health professional to be licensed in the state they are working, and also have the educational background and specialized training in working with trauma survivors.  You wouldn't go to an eye doctor for a heart problem -- why would you go to a therapist who doesn't have specific training in Trauma to help guide you through your healing journey?
The focus of the work in the orthodox world needs to be on ALL children and adult survivors, and not just those abused by clergy, in mikvahs, at schools or at camps.  
Those who are or have been abused by relatives really need the most help.  Think about it, they can't go to their parents for help, and it's nearly impossible to find orthodox rabbis, teachers, or camp counselors who will do the right thing.  This population of survivors need your attention and need it today!


Anonymous said...


Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I share your frustration! Most CSA occurs in families. I was sexually assaulted by an uncle for many years. Yet my experience doesn't seem that relevant or important as most media attention is focused on clergy abuse. Maybe it because the big dollars gets people's attention. This is so sad for non-clergy abuse victims/survivors. I have been able to find peace only by hoping society will broaden their perspective to the greater danger for children--incest.

Thank you again, Scott

Anonymous said...

The answer as to why we focus on,clergy, is easy, but you probably will not like it. Our families are places we are born into and have no choice in the matter. "You cannot choose your relatives.". All families are somewhat dysfunctional. When the family is dysfunctional in the extreme, we turn to experts, authority, the learned and the wise. Men of the Cloth are presented as the top-shelf authority. The Catholic Church presents itself to the world as The Authority on faith and morals. When we, mothers, discover these too are simply men with a fallen nature and our top-shelf (rabbi/bishop/whatever)are not JUST men,we are tempted to loose hope that there even is a just and merciful God. There is only another, "good old boys club", pretending that,"what they don't know won't hurt them.".

Anonymous said...

"46% of the cases of child sexual abuse involve the fact that the offenders are the victims mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, siblings, grandparents and cousins...It's only 2% of all clergy that are sex offenders."
The stats show that abuse is prevalent in the general population. But...the religious organizations implicitly promote this abuse by not addressing the clergy who abuse. You can't and won't address the abuse if clergy are also doing or abetting abuse. The abuse is always under the radar and now religious organizations can become HONEST and deal with their own transgressions and send a message to their members that ANY abuse to children/women is not to be tolerated. Jesus and Yaweh are on the side of the vulnerable.

Vicki Polin said...

Your story is just as important as anyone other story of child sexual abuse.

It's so strange that the whole movement got started by female, adult survivors of incest speaking out back in the early 1970's. It's only since the backlash hit in the 1990's that incest survivors got quiet.

If you would want help in changing things and going public, please contact me directly at: