October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month, symbolized by the purple ribbon. The prevalence and ramifications of domestic violence are staggering.
Here are some facts you should know about domestic violence:
Domestic violence is an abusive pattern of coercive behaviors used to establish power and control over an intimate partner, including intimidation, verbal abuse, emotional or sexual abuse, economic control, violence, or threats of violence.
The Shalom Bayit program at JF&CS works to dispel the myth that abuse does not happen in Jewish homes. Abuse affects individuals of all ages, incomes, sexual orientations, educations, cultures, and religions. And Jewish families are not immune.
In a recent Yom Kippur reflection, Rabbi David Rose described in vivid detail the reality of domestic violence:
"What if every day was Yom HaDin, The Day of Judgment? What if every single day brought fear and trembling? What if this constant judgment was never just?...
So it is for millions in our midst who suffer in abusive relationships. I constantly felt like I was being judged," a woman who had left an abusive relationship told me. "What made it so frightening was that the rules by which I was being judged constantly changed. I never knew what would set him off. I walked around on eggshells, paralyzed, in never ending fear, just waiting for the next explosion." For many who suffer in abusive relationships there are periods of calm and tenderness but those spells never seem to last. "When after days or even weeks of his behaving like an angel he would again belittle me, make fun of me, embarrass me in front of our children and friends, criticize me for things that he complimented me for just days earlier, there was a strange kind of relief that things were back to 'normal.'"
"Normal" for too many, mostly women, sitting in our midst in synagogues and temples this Yom Kippur is living with constant fear and trembling.
Ending domestic violence requires a collaborative effort involving every part of society. Domestic Violence Awareness month is a time for each of us to recommit to ensuring every individual's right to live free from emotional, physical and sexual abuse and from economic control, social isolation and ongoing threats of intimidation.
In the Jewish tradition, the celebration of Sukkot offers a meaningful opportunity to raise awareness about the prevalence of abuse in Jewish homes. The sukkah can be seen as representing the temporary shelter many battered women seek when fleeing from violence in their home.
Several years ago, women from our Shalom Bayit support group created a Sukkot healing service. An excerpt reads:
"Today we shall begin by listening to the silence of our absence in Jewish history and ritual ...
Here we stand, each on our way to healing and on our way to becoming unafraid. We come together to offer support and comfort, now knowing that there are those who can protect us on our journey. We engage in ritual so that each of us might experience a moment of freedom, a moment of peace, and a moment of safety.
As each participant who wishes to do so casts her piece of paper into the flame, she may say the following, or she may ask the group to recite it for her:
I, who have experienced terror and rage, shall no longer live in fear.
I, who have been humiliated, shall no longer live with shame.
I, who have known violation, shall know strength.
I, a woman of compassion, shall not be hardened or immobilized by my strength.
Today I add my rage to this flame that I might reclaim my dignity, accept my goodness, and affirm the value and sacredness of my individual self."
This month -- and throughout the year -- let us all resolve to be vigilant in recognizing and combating domestic violence in our communities, and let us build a culture of safety and support for all those affected.
If you are experiencing abuse or for more information about ways that you can make a difference, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.