Monthly Archives: April 2015

How to protect our children from sexual abuse

Last night I attended a deeply powerful evening of talks to raise awareness about the dangers of sexual abuse.  The talks were given by a psychologist, a Beit Shemesh police officer in charge of sexual abuse investigations, and three survivors of abuse who each shared part of their personal stories.

I took notes to share with you what was said but to sum up each talk would take away from them all.  Instead, I’ll share what I felt the takeaway messages from the event were.

Sexual abuse is pervasive, it is deeply damaging, and it is only by becoming educated that we can combat this horrific scourge.

The first step towards protecting our children and community from sexual predators is understanding what the problem is.  Sexual predators are in every community, in every city and they don’t look like the pervert that you learned as a young child to stay away from – you know, the derelict wino with a bottle in a paper bag and grubby fingernails. They usually look just like the kind of person you’d trust your child with – they work very hard to cultivate this image because it’s this facade that gains them access to children.

80 – 90% of abusers are someone the child knows.  To me, this means that a big chunk of our efforts and awareness needs to go towards making sure that adults or older children whom our children spent time with don’t have have unsupervised one-on-one time together.  Please read what I wrote here about the grooming process; it’s critical to understand how predators operate.

Years ago, I remember a classmate years ago sharing some information with me when I was about 11.  Being the age that I was, I heard what she described but wasn’t able to process what she was saying.  I now understand that she was raped in the public bathrooms on a class trip.  At that time, I told her to tell the teacher and she told me the teacher told her she was making it up and not to talk to anyone about it.

This response sounds really horrible – and it is.  And unfortunately it’s very common.

How in the world can we rub salt on the gaping emotional and physical wounds that abused children have already experienced by responding like this?

We deny what is uncomfortable because it’s easier to look away than to deal with the uncomfortable truths in front of us.   It’s easier to blame the victim than deal with the abuser, easier to say a child is making something up than to believe that someone we think is trustworthy is capable of horrendous actions.  This is part of what this evening was about, to get people to stop looking away and denying the pain of victims and start recognizing and taking steps to limit the damage of sexual predators.

The religious Jewish community has unfortunately historically been more supportive of abusers than victims, but this is changing as people become more educated. To make our communities safe for children we need to stop keeping sick and unhealthy secrets; we need to stop pretending that this doesn’t happen in our communities.  It does and it happens much more than it should because we’ve been focusing on looking good and keeping our image untarnished rather than on doing good and confronting evil.  Looking away empowers and protects predators and dramatically increases the risk for our children.

After hearing all of this information, it leaves a parent saying, “Okay, we understand how serious this is, but how in the world can we protect our kids from something so pervasive?” It’s frightening and overwhelming – after all, we can’t watch our kids every minute and it seems that short of that there’s no way to keep our kids safe.

A very helpful booklet filled with information was given out to attendees that covers prevention tips, red flag warning signs of potential sex offenders, boundaries, common tricks and lures, 10 proactive strategies for parents, facts and statistics, an explanation of grooming and more.  You can go to www.safelyeverafter.com to read more information.

The part I personally struggle with about talking to my kids about this is not scaring them.  As a parent I have to do my part to proactively protect them, but there are situations when I’m not around that they need to know what is appropriate or what isn’t, and how to respond when something doesn’t feel right to them.

I don’t want them to feel the world is filled with scary, dangerous people waiting to hurt them but I also don’t want to casually give over information and downplay it to the point that it seems I’m saying something unimportant.  So what to do?

Rather than this being a bigger conversation that takes place a couple of times a year, I think an ongoing conversation is a way to discuss this in a way that doesn’t feel so intense and scary.  Talking about it in this way also increases the likelihood that our kids will better internalize the information.  Our focus should be on how to empower our kids with this information.

I’ve always stressed to my kids to listen to their instincts even if logically they can’t understand why they feel that way.  I’ve also continually stressed to them to respect one another’s boundaries, that the parts of the body covered by a bathing suit are private and that if anyone tells them to keep a secret to tell me right away.   These are all included in the ten basic rules.  Something I haven’t done but after reading the handouts is to practice with them different responses they can use if they felt uncomfortable in a situation.

Avivah

RBS homeschooling group

>>How many people in RBS are homeschooling?<<   

I can’t how many people are homeschooling, only those connected to the group.  There are always those who are homeschooling who aren’t actively connected to the larger homeschooling community.  For example, I was told there’s someone a few buildings away from me who is homeschooling and there are probably others like her who don’t come to the meetups but they aren’t visible if they don’t hook up with other homeschoolers.

>>Do people from surrounding areas come as well?<<

There are three families from the Beit Shemesh area other than myself who attend, and so far two families from other areas who have come that I met though I’ve been told that others sometimes come as well.  Homeschoolers want to attend activities when they know that there will be someone for their child to get to know, and due to the wide age range of kids at our group, I anticipate that the number of families attending will grow.  It’s a very nice group as it is, though!

>>Are there other anglos in the group?<<

All of them are Anglos but Hebrew speakers are welcome to attend.

>>What has the local reaction to your homeschooling been?<<

People have expressed that they’re very glad that we moved here.  Every family adds something to the group dynamics and we add a lot of boy energy.  :)  There weren’t many boys before we came and we shifted the ratio by doubling the number of boys in attendance.

The families I’ve met are all lovely and we’re enjoying getting to know them!

Avivah

Sexual abuse awareneness events in RBS and Jerusalem, April 26 and 27

childabuse517_2EAC_extended_web[1]Sexual abuse is deeply damaging to a child with numerous long term ramifications.  It strikes at the heart of who they are and affects their sense of security and trust in the world forever.

As parents, it’s critical that we learn as much as we can in order to protect our children from sexual predators.  When we keep quiet about this sensitive topic, we give our power to the people who want to exploit our children.

This Sunday night (April 26), there will be an evening of education and awareness in Ramat Beit Shemesh that I plan to attend.  There will be another event on Monday night, April 27 in Jerusalem.

Below are details copied from the Jewish Community Watch (JCW) website:

For the events in Beit Shemesh and Jerusalem, JCW will team up with Magen, a child protection organization from Beit Shemesh, Israel. Magen was founded in 2010 as a response to a series of cases of child abuse in Beit Shemesh and out of concern of the alarmingly low levels of reported child abuse, indicating that many incidents were not being reported to the authorities.

The upcoming events in Beit Shemesh and Jerusalem will be mostly in English and the speakers will include:

CEO of Magen – David Morris

Founder of JCW – Meyer Seewald

Abuse survivor – Eli Nash

Chief of Detectives – Dudi Katz

Trauma Psychologist – Dr. Norman Goldwasser

An anonymous abuse survivor and member of the IDF

Founder and CEO of JCW Meyer Seewald said: “JCW was founded in response to ONE case of abuse in ONE neighborhood in Brooklyn NY.  In less than four years, it has grown into an international organization. The reason is that the Orthodox community is sick and tired of the cover-ups, and sick of protecting the abusers instead of our innocent children.  We have started seeing a turnaround in the attitude towards abuse in the Orthodox community in the U.S. and we will work with our partners towards the same results in Israel.

“Israel presents a unique set of challenges, because there is a far stricter censorship in the media and there is no sex offender’s registry.  Many parents are therefore unaware of abusers living in their midst. In addition, despite Halachik rulings from some of the leading Rabbis, many communities do not report abuse to the police. There is also the very troubling reality that Israel has become a safe haven for Jewish predators from around the world.”

David Morris, CEO of Magen said: “The shame, isolation, and pain suffered by victims of child sexual abuse is universal and in all our communities. This follows victims and survivors the world over. Therefore, the solution must be to join forces and tackle this devastating problem on an international level. We are therefore excited that Jewish Community Watch, pioneers in Jewish child sexual abuse victims advocacy in the U.S.A., will be joining Magen, the child protection agency here in Israel, to break through the silence and to bring increased awareness of the terrible issue of child abuse to our communities. We are planning that this will be the first of many opportunities for Magen to work together with JCW in support of victims and survivors of child sexual abuse.”

The day after a previous event in the United States, JCW received the following message from an attendee: “Last night’s event was probably the most important event I’ve ever been to. The honesty, rawness, humanity and bravery that was shown by every single speaker and survivor affected me so deeply I really can’t describe it. [The speakers] who were so courageous in sharing their stories just saved countless lives. I have never been prouder to be Jewish than I was last night, when we all stood together and sent a message to the abusers and cowardly murderers that they will never again be free to lay a hand on anyone, with the help of JCW.”

Event Details:

Sunday, April 26 at 7:00pm, Ahavat Tzion Hall: 2 Nachal Timna Street, Ramat Bet Shemesh

Monday, April 27 at 7:00pm, Yeshurn Synagogue, 44 King George Street, Jerusalem

For more information about Jewish Community Watch, visit http://www.jewishcommunitywatch.org/

For more information about Magen, visit: http://magenprotects.org/

I wish sexual abuse wasn’t a reality but it is, and ignoring uncomfortable topics only puts our children at risk.  Please join me in attending one of these events to learn how to protect our most precious gift, our children.

Avivah

Feeling unsettled about moving but it’s short term discomfort

People have asked how we’re settling in to our new home in Ramat Beit Shemesh, so here’s the update!

Right now I’m feeling uncomfortable and unsettled.  It’s normal to be uncomfortable and unsettled after you move!  I’m giving myself a year to get acclimated.  Of course it would be wonderful if the kids all had friends and I had friends and I knew where to go for whatever I needed as well as how to get there.  But for now I don’t and it’s okay for it to take time.

Life is busy and while I appreciate any and all efforts to welcome us, I know that I can’t expect those who are already here to reach out to me.   I need to be proactive and reach out to others.  I was sick for the last couple of weeks and had very, very little energy but now that I’m feeling better I’m thinking about how to best do that.

Despite the short term discomforts of moving, everyone is happy we moved here!  We love our new apartment, my husband and older boys quickly found a shul that they’re comfortable at, there’s a weekly homeschool meetup  that we’re participating in and I love that it’s so much easier for our older kids to get home to spend Shabbos with us with their travel time being drastically cut down!

I could go on at length about the challenges of moving and I could also go on at length about the things that I love about being here, but instead I’ll say that while it will take time until I’m fully settled in, I can see that there’s a lot of potential for connection and contribution here.

Avivah

Surgery for Yirmiyahu postponed

This morning my husband left with Yirmiyahu for the hospital (since I was sick).  He called me after traveling several hours to get there and then waiting at least another two hours, saying that there had been a technical error.

It seems that Yirmiyahu was scheduled for a different procedure than the surgery he was supposed to have.  After they got the logistic mixup straightened out, the doctors checked out Yirmiyahu to see if they could go ahead with the surgery today.  Yirmiyahu has been congested for the last couple of days, and the anesthesiologist said they won’t perform the surgery today since they’re afraid that he’ll come out of the surgery with a lung infection due to pooling mucous.

I had scheduled an appointment with his pediatrician the day before we moved, exactly two weeks ago, to get the necessary blood work done and to speak to her about the surgery.  I asked her while she was doing the blood draw if she could tell me anything about what to expect and she said, no, she didn’t know anything.  “But,” she said, you’re good at figuring things out for yourself.”  In disbelief, I told her that I didn’t think this was something I should have to work out for myself.  Wasn’t there anyone who could tell me about the surgery in advance?  “No,” she said, then patted me on the arm and with a smile wished me luck, telling me she had other patients to see.

When someone from the hospital finally called just before the last day of Pesach and told my husband it was only an overnight hospital stay, I heard about it later in the evening and wondered aloud how that was possible.  It didn’t make sense to me that it was a minor procedure that a very short hospital stay implied.  I kept thinking, this doesn’t make sense.  With no way to reach anyone at the hospital to get my questions answered, I rationalized that perhaps they were going to use newer larascopic surgical techniques that are supposed to cut down the recuperation time.

So the surgery didn’t take place, and we’re not sorry about that.

A couple of good things came out of this twelve hour trip that would have otherwise seemed like a huge irritation and waste of time.  Firstly, a surgeon spoke to my husband at length about what to expect from the surgery, drawing diagrams and detailing the entire process.  The surgery is complex and will take several hours; we’ll need to expect at least a week long hospital stay.  It was good to finally get solid facts.

Secondly, I’m going to get referrals and find the best possible surgeon in the Jerusalem area to perform the surgery.  I’m very unhappy with how badly all of this was handled every step of the way and will not take Yirmiyahu back to that hospital in the north.  This delay gives us a chance to get ourselves organized medically locally and make sure Yirmiyahu will get the care he deserves.

We’re all so happy to have Yirmiyahu back home – he was only gone for 12 hours and the house didn’t feel the same without him!  I’ll be sure to let you know when the surgery is rescheduled – I assume it will be sometime in the summer.

Avivah

Traveling back north for Yirmiyahu’s surgery

Pesach was wonderful but I don’t have much time to reflect on it since I’m due in Haifa by 10am Sunday morning!

Back in January, the surgeon put Yirmiyahu (2.5 yr.) on the priority list for surgery after I told him we planned to move to RBS in the summer.  (The surgery is to correct vesicoureteral reflux of the bladder that has caused kidney swelling and scarring; the doctors were hoping it would improve on it’s own but it’s remained at the level five degree of risk, which is the most severe.)

Surprisingly, just a month ago I got a notification that Yirmiyahu was scheduled for surgery immediately after Pesach – I didn’t expect something that soon.  At that point I reevaluated if it was a good idea to move before Pesach since this would complicate things for us.  But we decided to go ahead with the move and also go ahead with the surgery as planned rather than have to find a new surgeon in a different part of the country and wait months before it could be rescheduled.  It’s important to have this done and we don’t want to delay.

We need to be there a day before the surgery is scheduled to take care of the prep; the actual surgery is scheduled for Monday morning.

Yirmiyahu and I hope to be home in three days.  I won’t have online access until we get back but I thank you in advance for any good wishes and prayers!

If you would like to say a prayer that the surgery is successful and that Yirmiyahu has an easy and complete healing, I would deeply appreciate it – his name is Yirmiyahu ben Avivah Michaela.

Avivah

Our warm welcome to Ramat Beit Shemesh

We are here in Ramat Beit Shemesh and LOVING our new home!

Our movers left on Monday at 3 pm and we’ve been working hard since then to get everything ready in time for Pesach.  We decided to paint all of the bedrooms in addition to the main area (which our older two boys did before we moved) and it was a big job.  Everyone was feeling burnt out by the non-stop work by the second day but we needed to get the painting done so that we could assemble the furniture and start upacking.

I hadn’t anticipated needing to do so much of this work and this set me back a couple of days in my unpacking plans.  But now it looks wonderful and somehow we’ve managed to not only paint but to unpack almost all of our boxes in addition to being ready for Pesach!  The curtains are hung, the pictures are on the wall…the season for miracles! :)

Moving as we did at time when everyone is super busy with holiday preparations, we didn’t expect anyone to take much notice of our arrival.  I was pleasantly surprised and touched by those who reached out.

The morning of our move, a friend emailed to say she’d be happy to give me a lift to pick up some Pesach items I ordered, and was available to drive me other places as well.  Then while on the bus from Karmiel to Jerusalem, I got a call from a friend in a different area who said she would be doing her Passover shopping in Beit Shemesh and offered to take me along.  A bit later during the same bus ride, I got a call from someone I didn’t know who said she lives in RBS and heard we were coming – and could she make us dinner that night?  I got off the phone with a smile of disbelief that quickly turned into a big lump in my throat.

We got to RBS and there was a welcome sign from a neighboring family whose son was already hard at work with our boys spackling the walls.  Within a couple of hours of arriving, two boys arrived loaded with bags filled with canned foods, paper goods, and other useful things – their mother is a blog reader who despite giving birth just two weeks before somehow made the extra effort to reach out to us and send us things to make that first day or two of transition easier for us.  Then an hour or two later, our mortgage broker stopped by with gifts to welcome us to our new home.

This is really different from how things in a very small community with limited manpower were!  We felt so welcomed.

We love, love, love our new apartment. I feel very blessed that G-d has sent us the perfect apartment for our family – it has all the features that are important to me.

I’ve had a constant sense of tension for the past 3.5 years regarding living with very noise-sensitive and critical neighbors and have been very, very, very aware of every sound my children make.  As a result, I’ve limited a lot of things that in and of themselves aren’t problematic because I don’t want them to make noise.   It’s such a nice feeling to hear the sounds of neighboring children playing and to let our own children play without the constant monitoring of their every sound.  It’s amazing to be able to relax and let go of the constant pressure I’ve felt for so long.

Moving isn’t easy and it isn’t fun, but I am so grateful to be where I am now!

Avivah