Social Justice

Overcoming the Shonde

In honor of October’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Met Council (Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty) is campaigning for the Jewish community to take a stand and combat DV in the Jewish community. To learn more, visit www.metcouncil.org. “My name is … Read More

By / October 29, 2009

In honor of October’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Met Council (Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty) is campaigning for the Jewish community to take a stand and combat DV in the Jewish community. To learn more, visit www.metcouncil.org.

“My name is Rachel, I am now 39 years old, turning 40 in just a few months- this is my story about my life. I came to the United States at the age of 24 with my family. When I first arrived, I took classes to learn computer skills, word processing, and typing, and landed a job in the jewelry district where I was soon promoted to work with large accounts. As a single Jewish woman in the city, I was able to spend time socializing and dating.

At the age of 32 I met my husband-to-be. Our dating felt perfect–though looking back it wasn’t–but for the 8 months we dated it was good. I hoped to have a large family and raise my children with him. I remember once while were discussing how hard things were for his divorced sister, he said “no man should beat his wife” and pledged to always care for his wife and children.

Our wedding was beautiful–people are still talking about it. We had two singers and an outside chuppah adorned with flowers.

I woke up the next morning- the morning after my wedding night- and the cycle of abuse began. It first started with just words and attitude- he would question my every move.

The day after we married he asked, “Why don’t you go to work?” When I answered that, as we planned, I was going to take a vacation in honor of the wedding, he forced me to stay home for three weeks. He had me be dishonest with my workplace and basically ruined my career. When I returned to work, he kept me home late in the morning, causing me to be late, and called throughout the day disturbing my office. He also started to criticize how I dressed, and said things like I wore too much make-up and then not enough make-up.

Around two months after the wedding he started to physically abuse me and would deny it to my face, even though I had bruises. A year later, I got pregnant hoping that this would help our marriage. He still didn’t care; when I was sick and asked him to take me to the doctor, he was too busy out with friends.

When I was five months pregnant, he beat me up. When we went to the hospital, my husband denied the abuse to the doctor, even though I had bruises. At the hospital he started to verbally abuse me, and luckily the doctor put this in my medical records.

When our daughter was born, he was upset the baby wasn’t a boy. He never helped with the baby, but had me leave my job and work for him. There was never any stop to the abuse; even while I was holding the baby he would hit me with a belt.

I remember the last time he abused me– he began by criticizing me and then took the baby away to put her in the crib. Afterwards, he pushed and spit on me while cursing me and my family. He left the house and I decided I could no longer stay with him. I was scared. I put my daughter in the stroller, put on a jacket, and left empty-handed. We went right to the police and then filed for a protection order in family court. We moved into my parents’ home–the only safe place I knew.

I took nothing with me–my baby and nothing else. I tried asking him to give me clothes for the baby- but he wouldn’t allow me to get any of my stuff or the baby’s things.

I reached out to people in my community for assistance. Then I found Met Council. I started to work with Met Council in October of 2002. I remember coming for the first time on a cold day without a jacket; I left with money to buy a jacket. Since then, Met Council helped me with phone bills, utilities, food vouchers, and legal fees. Additionally, I meet with a social worker for support and attend a support group with other victims.

I continue to fight for my divorce in family court. I have finally received a civil divorce, but he continues to withhold my Get (a Jewish divorce document) which would allow me to remarry. I do have full custody of my daughter and an order of protection against my husband until 2021–when my daughter turns 18. My ex-husband did not comply with visitation, and by his choice has not seen our daughter in over 5 years.

Even now, my struggles continue. I often feel alone. I have few adult friends and don’t always feel that people understand what I went through. Some are critical of my situation. I am shy and don’t want to keep asking for help.

I still don’t have my Get, so I am trapped to him. We are trying to find a way to make him give it to me. In the meantime, I live for my daughter. She is beautiful and healthy and is doing well in school. I hope to someday be able to create my own life, but for now, I am safe. I have her and that is enough.”

Over the past year and a half, Met Council has a seen a dramatic increase in the number of DV cases coming to our doors from the Jewish community. Part of the reason is positive — as a community, we are more aware and willing to acknowledge this issue and offer support. And part of the reason is that as the recession causes an increase in overall stress and difficulties for families, more and more clients from a wider range of backgrounds are reporting instances of family violence.

Unfortunately, Jewish victims- both women and men- may face unique barriers in dealing with family violence. These barriers include shanda (shame), the idea that Shalom Bayit (harmony in the home) is paramount and the responsibility of the woman, lack of community resources, denial of the problem, and, most painfully, the lack of family and community support.

This October and beyond, let’s recognize that this is an issue in our own community and look for ways to help those who are suffering.

–Shana Frydman, LCSW

Director of Met Council’s Family Violence Program.

To get involved in raising awareness and helping to combat this pressing issue,go to www.metcouncil.org.

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