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Abuse In The Jewish Community

Recently, JDCC invited Ruth Neal to speak about abuse within the Jewish community in general. Abuse is a difficult subject to deal with for many reasons. One is that people are afraid to speak up about it; another is that the definition of abuse is difficult in many cases to ascertain. Abuse takes various forms. It can be sexual, physical, emotional, or verbal. Ninety-five percent of abuse is against women, and the other five percent is against men. Abuse generally means that someone is using their power to control another person or that a person is afraid of someone in the environment because of the consequences if the other person gets angry.

Ruth pointed out that it is interesting to note that there are two main differences with abuse in the Jewish community compared to the general population. One is that it happens more often in families in the higher socio-economic Group whereas in the general population, it is usually found in the lower socio-economic group. The other difference is that Jewish women will stay in an abusive environment longer than the women in the general population. One reason for this is possibly because the Jewish woman is educated in the way that she knows that she is the foundation of the home and may feel that "it's her fault"that this is happening to her. Another possibility for this reluctance to leave is because there is no Support system" available for the orthodox woman to leave. There are no kosher facilities where a woman and her child(ren) can go to if they leave the home, and usually the woman is dependent on the husband for financial support.

Unfortunately, abuse does happen. There was a survey done asking people in various temples if they know of people who are abused or are in abusive environments. The results of the survey showed a positive answer of thirty percent which basically means that one out of every three people asked knew of a situation where abuse takes place. This is too high a percentage rate for us and we need to do something about it. Usually, the women are the losers in this type of situation. Neal pointed out that there is abuse in all economic levels, and that it may be due to personality types. We, as a Jewish community, need to be more aware of this problem and to find constructive ways to deal with it. It affects both the religious and non-religious sectors of Judaism.

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