Any other year, in the weeks leading up to Pesach we at Migdal Emunah would be preparing ourselves for the influx of new clients, as families reconvene to spend the festival together leading to genuine trauma for victims of sexual abuse. This year however, it is different. The increased demand on our services began several weeks before Pesach and we expect it to continue to grow over the coming weeks as the country remains in government imposed lockdown.
The Lockdown has shaken up all our lives and tipped the world that we know on it’s head. No longer are we leaving our homes for work, for errands or everyday activities. As adults, we are all struggling to come to terms with our new routines of working from home and spending the entirety of our time with our families. For children this is just as exasperating, with no school, clubs or sports to attend, they are to be entertained, educated and fed at home. For many children this is their ideal scenario, for those children and young people being sexually abused – this is their living nightmare.
We know that over 90% of sexual offences are carried out by people familiar to the victim, most commonly from within the family. Children being sexually abused have lost their only respite, the ability to leave their home. These children will be dreading every minute of every day of the next few months, living on edge, trying to protect themselves and/or their siblings from the most horrific of acts.
People across the community express their Jewishness differently. However when it comes to Seder night, -we are all doing the same thing. We recount the story of our ancestors and – we endeavour to pass on our family traditions and recipes to our children. We focus on the children, teaching them the ma nishtana and encourage them to ask questions. We describe in detail the Four Sons, the righteous one, the wicked one, the simple child and the child that doesn’t yet know how to ask. Yet who is missing? The fifth child. The fifth child is a shadow of his or her former self, a shell, a child that is traumatised, with no freedom to celebrate.
We implore our community to be vigilant in what they may hear over the coming months. Take an extra moment to listen out for your neighbours. Please look out for the fifth child, the child that might not yet be able to verbalise their trauma, but needs an adult to be there for them. Make that call, that referral or that signposting to us at Migdal Emunah. We are here for any family that experiences sexual abuse and are now providing counselling and support services over the phone and online.
Please let’s not forget the most vulnerable in this different world we are all trying to understand. Let us not forget our basic safeguarding of children and young people, whether that be online, on the phone or those children of key-worker still attending school. With our world relocating to online platforms, double check who you are welcoming into your home. Ensure an open door policy in your home for the foreseeable future and do not leave your children alone with anyone on a live online stream.
We are only able to provide our quality services through the continued generosity and support of our donors. With the ever increasing numbers of users over this coming period we invite you to join us in this important work. Donations can be made via our website www.migdalemunah.org.uk/donate. It costs £75 to sponsor a session with a therapist for a child and/or a family. Please use this opportunity to help us cover the cost of one or more sessions. Chag Sameach to you and your families.