by Vicki Polin
Over the last ten years there's been so much emphasis and media attention on cases of clergy sexual abuse - with the perpetrators being priests, pastors, monks and rabbis - that we seem to be forgetting that forty-six percent of cases of child sexual abuse are perpetrated by family members. We also cannot forget that according to statistics girls get molested two to three times more often then boys -- or that the effects and long-term ramifications are just as horrendous as their male counterparts.
Over the last twenty-six years of my involvement in the Anti-Rape movement I have to admit that I have been amazed at seeing so many male survivors coming forward with their disclosures of child molestation. Even Oprah's on to the male survivor bandwagon, producing two shows on the topic of male survivors of sexual abuse; which will air on November 5th and 12th.
My concern is that girls and adult women who are survivors of child sexual abuse seem to be getting lost in this new shuffle. I have also noticed an altering of history from some survivor groups in which they are forgetting the roots of the Anti-Rape movement. Advocating for survivors of sex crimes did not get it's start in 2002, with the Boston Globe's exposé on the Catholic Church. We cannot forget that if it wasn't for several brave women joining together in consciousness raising groups back in the early 1970's, we would have no idea about how many people were being molested as children, or how many adult men and women were being assaulted.
Why is it that even in 2010 we want to forget the value of the feminist movement? If it wasn't for the brave heroes of the 1970's getting together and sharing personal details of their lives we would never have been able to offer hope and support to those who had been sexually victimized. We would not have begun to educate the public on the issues and ramifications of rape nor would research that effects more then a quarter of the population of the world have been started.
How quickly we want to forget that back on January 24, 1971 the New York Radical Feminists sponsored the very first gathering to discuss sexual violence as a social issue. April 12, 1971 was the historic moment in which for the first time in history there was a gathering of survivors -- all women, who created the very first "speak-out" -- where they shared their personal stories publicly; and over 300 people attended.
I personally got my start in the Anti-Rape Movement back in 1985 working for one of the first incest survivor organizations. During the early years it was mostly only women who came forward sharing stories of child molestation. For the last 12 years of my work has been focusing in Jewish communities on an international basis. I have been amazed to see this same phenomenon happening within the orthodox world. Female survivors of sexual abuse have been taking a back seat to their male counter part. For every 10 males who come forward, there is only one woman willing to share her story, come forward and begin the healing process..
I have also encountered some discrimination at workshops and or with other organizations that have been popping up in the Jewish world; the leaders are all male. I have been told that they believe women are too emotional to be a part of the movement, let alone to speak out publicly. I understand the cultural differences of the Orthodox world in which it is frowned upon for a woman to speak or educate men in public for reasons of modesty, yet why are they not coming out speaking to each other? Will they really loose value as a person if it's known that they were victims of a sex crime? Do we really have to put the shame and blame on them for the actions of a sexual predator?
Vicki Polin authored this article. Polin is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and the founder and director of The Awareness Center, Inc., which is the international Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault