The year before I got my start in anti-rape movement, a legal definitions for sex crimes was created (H.R.4876 – Sexual Assault Act of 1984). It wasn’t until nearly 20 years later that the first National Sex Offender Registry was create. On March 5, 2003, the US Supreme Court ruled that information about potential predators may be publicly posted on the internet.
In 1985, I started working at one of the first organizations that represented incest survivors (along with adult survivors of all types of child sexual abuse). The year after that I was a volunteer speaker at a rape crisis center in Chicago. A few years after that I volunteered as a Rape Victim Advocate while going to school (receiving both my undergraduate and masters degrees). Since the early 1990s I’ve worked as a licensed mental health professional, specializing in working with survivors trauma — focusing on those victimized by sex crimes.
Over the decades I’ve seen so many amazing changes in the anti-rape field for the good.
Back in 1985, professionals (mental health, legal and law enforcement officials) would call “child sexual abuse”, “sexual child abuse”. The word order basically put the blame of the criminal behavior on the child victim — making children “sexual beings”. It didn’t matter if the child victimized was an infant or toddler, the blame of the crimes was almost always placed on the child.
Sadly, the one thing that never changed in the anti-rape movement was antisemitism. Like in many other fields, Jews have always been targets for discrimination and looked upon differently.
The earlier years of the survivor movement was packed with folks who were Christian, who knew little about Judaism. I can’t tell you how many times I was told that “Jews killed Jesus”, or told me “I would go to hell if I didn’t believe in their ‘lord and savior’”. I was young and inexperienced with this type of antisemitism. I just smiled and walked away.
I remember back in the 1980s I was an invited speaker at a survivors conference in the far western suburbs of Chicago. The area was often referred to as the “Bible Belt” of the Chicago suburbs. I was in my twenties.
After my presentation another presenter patted the top of my head. At first I thought it was because I’m short in statute. I looked at the presenter and asked her not to to do that again. I told her it felt condescending. She smiled out of embarrassment and explained she “was looking for my horns”. She let me know “I was the first Jew she ever met — and believed Jews had horns”. I was in a state of shock. I wasn’t prepared in how to respond to that. I rolled my eyes and walked away. I guess my head dispelled her myth.
Throughout the years there were countless subtle statements made to me. I don’t think the individuals realized how offensive their statements were, yet like many other Jews I kept quiet. I didn’t want to embarrass my colleagues in public forums.
Years ago I spoke at a National conference organized by an organization that dealt with clergy abuse within the Catholic Church. After my presentation most people thanked me for speaking, yet once again there were small groups of people who kept bashing Jews and “the Jewish Church”. Out of that small group of antisemites, there was one person who shared their belief with me, that if only Jews believed in their “savior” children wouldn’t be raped.
I remembered being honored when I was asked to be on a panel at a NOW conference. The focus was on clergy sexual abuse of adult women (which is three times more common in all faiths as the sexual abuse of children). I learned a great deal at that conference, yet once again I was the only Jew on the panel, and once again after the presentation I was met by comments from the audience that appeared to be antisemitic. The same thing occurred after I was on a panel discussion at the United Nations Conference on the Status of women. I’m sure those who asked the questions and made the comments were clueless in the words they used.
I’m currently working on a series of articles that focusing on “the use of rape as a weapon of war” during the invasion on Israel by Hamas. I’m doing my best to interview as many professionals (mental health providers, legal representatives and law enforcement officials) in the field, along with as many survivor organizations as possible.
I am so grateful to everyone who has responded, yet am shocked at the few who are repeating antisemitic / pro Hamas rhetoric. I never knew so many prestigious mental health field promoted the propaganda of a known terrorist group. They refuse to look at each individual who was terrorized in Israel on October 7th as being victimized. They are blaming survivors of barbaric sex crimes for being in Israel at the time of the invasion.
So far only one survivor organization has responded and was willing to grant me an interview. The second article in this series will focus on them.