“Survivors of abuse want us to know that the community has power, and there is power in the community.”
 – Dr. Shana Frydman, Executive Director of Shalom Taskforce

These events are part of a series of workshops and education organized by the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council under a grant by the New York City Council Domestic Violence Initiative awarded by Council Members Matthieu Eugene and Chaim Deutsch.

Abusers can be good people in other aspects of life (and even marriage), and that's what makes it so crazy-making. Abuse isn’t only violent. There are so many ways that the abuser hurts their victim.

Coercive sex in marriage is marital rape. Marital rape is against halacha. And it is a crime.

Financial abuse can be devastating with long term consequences. Not allowing your wife to buy things for herself without consulting with you, taking her paycheck, not including her in financial decisions is abuse. So is taking out fraudulent loans in her name and not telling her that you haven’t been paying the mortgage or insurance bills. It can take decades to recover from this type of financial damage and the PTSD from collections calls is very, very real.

Abuse is not only about the black and blue marks. Domestic violence is much broader than physical abuse- and in the communities we serve, it is more often non-physical, coercive control.

The greatest power of community to make a difference is in taking a stand to say such behavior will not be ignored, tolerated, sanctioned or excused. At a certain point, the abuse happening in someone else's home is your business, you have to take a side, and you have to say something. This will make the biggest difference. The abused should not feel like the odd one out. The abuser should.

Dear friends and family: Stop asking, “Why don’t you just leave?” The decision to leave a relationship is very complex and dangerous. Please don't judge us for staying. Please respect and support us during our journey.

Sometimes, there really isn't two sides. Sometimes, it really is one abusing the other with no provocation at all. We are not to blame for what happened, so please stop treating us like we are to blame.

It doesn’t matter your age, education level or socioeconomic class. Anyone can be an abuser. Even people who are respected by the community. Can be a doctor, lawyer, teacher, computer technician, rabbi, store owner. Anyone.

Leaving an abusive marriage takes strength. Instead of questioning the rationale for leaving, congratulate them for the courage to do what they had to do.

The Community has Power.

One of the most significant barriers to accessing help is the deep shame associated with being a victim of domestic violence. The pain survivors experience at “failing at marriage” in our Jewish communities can be immobilizing. Survivors cannot imagine what life after a marriage could looks like. There is also great fear that their children will be negatively impacted by a separation and divorce and they will be left without a sense of belonging and community.

Community can have tremendous power over the individuals and their choices.

The Power of Community

Community has great power and potential to make positive change. When we as a community acknowledge these issues, we are part of the solution.  We allow for choice by maintaining a non-judgmental stance. When we are inclusive of all families, we create space for survivors to envision a safer  alternative. By supporting community-based programs, survivors are given opportunity to come forward and get the help they need. We often think as individuals we cannot really make a difference, but if we can each spread awareness, be upstanders, and help surface critical discussion about healthy relationships; we are the ambassadors needed to make this change. It in this way, we can fight for the innocent and using the power of community for the good.

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