Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sexual Abuse in the Orthodox Community

A close friend from Oak Park recently made me aware of a tragic case of a young boy in Lakewood who was sexually abused years ago. Shua, who came forward and reported the incident to the police, produced a video which featured a song about how he's coping with the trauma that he experienced. His advice is to "Move On."
I find the video fascinating for a number of reasons. First of all, I am in awe of this young man, who found the courage not only to report his abuser, but to share his experience with the rest of the world. His example will hopefully prompt others to come forward, and as they do, we will successfully rid our community of the habit of hiding such heinous crimes and trying to sweep them under the rug - behaviors that occur too often in the Orthodox community.



In my efforts to recruit students at Orot, I often will give seminars to women doing their year of National Service. This week, I gave a seminar on the topic of "Strategies for Coping with Emotional Crisis", and as one of seven possible strategies, I shared Shua's method of coping, to "Move On." He sings,
What's there to gain when you complain
About the pain ingrained in your brain
It won't change what G-d ordained
History will always be the same
So leave it behind just clear you head
Don't wallow in the tears you shed
Some things are better left unsaid
Move on instead


The young women participating in the seminar immediately pointed out the internal contradiction within the song. If his advice in dealing with trauma is to just "Move On", then why is he singing a song about it? Their question, to me, only highlights the pain and struggle that Shua must be dealing with. This must be the way that he found to cope - to "move on" by sharing his pain with others.
I struggled whether to post about Shua on my blog - mostly because this isn't an issue I normally write about. In the end, I decided to share Shua's song to honor his struggle, bravery and pain, and in the hopes that as we gain greater exposure to stories like his, our community will begin to understand that when we try and hide crimes like sexual assault, we only help the criminals that perpetrate those crimes find their next victim. ]
The more we're willing to talk about  sexual abuse openly, the fewer future victimes there will be.