In spring 2011, I reported my experiences of sexual abuse to the police. I was prepared for anger, hate and disappointment from my community, I wasn’t prepared for the endless amount of people who reached out to share their own experiences of abuse. They were men and women; some I knew and some I didn’t. All Jewish, all had experienced sexual abuse at some point in their lifetime. Almost always, as children.
I spent months mapping the service provision in our community, searching for a service whose remit it was to provide support for these people. I realised it didn’t exist. Not only did it not exist, but similar existing service providers did not want to take on this specific cohort of clients.
So 2012 saw me providing emotional support to individual survivors, creating a support group, and applying to become a registered charity. Whilst studying for my degree, whilst working and whilst personally experiencing the criminal justice system.
It’s been 10 years since I started working with victims of sexual violence in our Jewish community. Ten years working against the tide, battling the community’s fear of change, continuously chasing funding, and managing some of the most complex cases encountered in the sector. Ten exhausting, frustrating years.
I want to take this opportunity to dispel two of the worst myths this community buys into.
Now that Migdal Emunah is well established with strong roots in our community it is time for me to move away from the organisation to devote myself to other projects. I want to take this opportunity to dispel two of the worst myths this community buys into. I hear them all the time and I want to finally lay them to rest:
The first is the idea that victims should report their experiences to the police. Victims don’t owe us anything, they do not need to endure the Criminal Justice System so that we feel justice was done. Reporting crimes that have impacted your very core, crimes that were perpetrated by someone known to you, is beyond most victims’ capacity and ability.
Consider the reality of the Criminal Justice process, it has endured years of financial cuts resulting in a chronic shortage of resources and exceptional delays. One friend reported their experiences in autumn 2018, they are still waiting for a trial scheduled for spring 2023, four and a half years later. That is a life changing period of time. People I know have become parents while waiting for their case to come to trial.
In my experience, people in our community with experiences of sexual abuse seek only to stop the perpetrator abusing.
Second, in all these years listening to victims of sexual abuse in our community, not one has said “I want justice”. Yet this phrase is often used by those who profess to be speaking in support of victims and survivors.
In my experience, people in our community with experiences of sexual abuse seek only to stop the perpetrator abusing. That is it. They have only this simple expectation, with the intent to safeguard others from the harm they experienced.
But we frequently hear about victims disclosing for ‘justice’, financial gain, or because they are angry and wish to attack the community. My experience and expertise has given me the platform to state this is categorically not true.