William Hamilton
William Hamilton

Listen and Speak Out

“I am angry,” Olympic gold-medalist Aly Raisman expresses as part of this Sunday evening’s 60 Minutes interview. “I just want to create change so [that young girls] never, ever have to go through this.” This morning Time published the news of Aly’s having suffered sexual abuse perpetrated by the US Gymnastics team doctor. She joins an alarming and escalating number of individuals who have begun to speak publicly of the pain of having been defiled, molested, and harassed.

The pain is deep. It is pervasive and prevalent. It is outrageous that it has been sustained and even supported for so long. The pain being disclosed daily deserves to be treated with the utmost gravity.

What should be our response? My thinking has changed. I had been of the opinion that men should stop talking and start listening. I still believe we should be listening with more sensitivity to those who courageously share.  Sacred communities earn their sanctity when they provide safe, confidential, healing space for such sharing.  But I now realize that we should also be audible with our support. Listening empathically is necessary. But speaking vocally in support of those who are still doubted or whose vulnerability is scorned is increasingly important.  Anita Hill conveyed this last night on CNN. “It will take men who are willing to stand up for equality in the workplace, on the streets, and in the schools” to begin to repair the climate that enables abuse.

In this week’s portion of Torah, Abraham remarries.  “And Abraham additionally married a woman named Keturah” (Gen 25:1).  The commentator Rashi offers a telling clarification.  Abraham’s new bride, having honorably burred a deceased Sarah, is none other than Hagar.  She has devotedly taken on the new name Keturah for having faithfully awaited their reunification.  This is a powerful moment of repair.  The woman that Abraham had banished years ago is restored, more dignified than ever before. Repair does come too late for many.  But it is never too late for others.

An attorney in the award-winning film Spotlight said, “Mark my words. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.”  This is about association.  Do we associate with predatory perpetrators or do we associate with their victims?  Do we associate with those who vulgarly objectify others or to we lend our willing hearts and voices to support those who continue to silently live in pain?  May we have a share in growing a climate wherein all feel protected, connected, and respected.

About the Author
Rabbi William Hamilton has served as rabbi (mara d'atra) of Kehillath Israel in Brookline, MA since 1995.
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