OPINION: After years of silence, we have learnt to talk about sexual abuse

OPINION: After years of silence, we have learnt to talk about sexual abuse

by Yehudis Goldsobel, Independent sexual violence adviser for the Jewish community

Yehudis Goldsobel
Yehudis Goldsobel

WE ARE currently marking Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week across the country and I’m spearheading a campaign to recognise our community is not immune from these horrendous crimes. 

We must no longer allow abusers to hide among us and victims must know that they need not suffer in silence. 

The whole community has to acknowledge that this has been the status quo for too long. Enough is enough.

Sexual abuse is a universal evil. No community is immune. I’m delighted that the United Synagogue has recognised that sexual abuse is occurring to men, women and children in our community every day. Prompted by Chief Rabbi Mirvis, the United Synagogue is now setting up a support network to encourage victims of these terrible crimes to report their abusers and seek help. It also recently delivered training to community leaders to help them recognise possible signs of abuse, particularly in children and the vulnerable, and teach them the steps that then need to be taken to protect the victims and report the abusers to the police and social services.

Unfortunately, this has all come too late for me and countless others. I experienced years of sexual abuse as a child from a member of the Jewish community. It took me a long time to gain the courage to reveal the abuse I was suffering and even then my cries for help were initially ignored within my community. It took years for me to pluck up the courage to contact the police and social services and only then did I realise that I wasn’t the only victim of sexual abuse to have felt trapped in my community. Statistically it takes a victim of sexual abuse on average 22 years since the last offence to disclose their experiences.

“I am forever looking into the world but never truly being a part of it. I became different.”

“Triggers. Triggers everywhere. Pulling me back into the darkness that was once home.”

“They didn’t believe in me so I stopped believing in myself.”

These are only a few of the quotes that some of our clients shared with us as part of the national discussion for the awareness week under the hashtag #itsnotok.

#itsnotok has been trending throughout the week, focusing the nationwide discussion of the subject and bringing together the UK in raising awareness of the issues of sexual abuse and sexual violence and reinforcing the need for adequate support for victims and addressing prevention of this pertinent issue.

In a bid to help other victims of sexual abuse within the Ultra Orthodox community and the wider Jewish community and to help break the cycle of sexual abuse, I trained as a Independent Sexual Violence Advisor and set up the charity Migdal Emunah. Migdal Emunah translates as Tower of Faith and has now helped over 200 victims of sexual abuse to speak out, access support and therapeutic services and at times report their abusers. 

We support victims throughout the often traumatic police and court processes and offer counselling and support groups to help them deal with the emotional and physical scars of their ordeals. We also offer alternative therapies such as art to children and other victims who find it difficult to talk about their experiences verbally.

If you or someone you know is suffering sexual abuse in silence right now, please take the first step towards making it stop and visit www.migdalemunah.com. All communication is confidential.

Migdal Emunah is working closely with other organisations and statutory bodies to help develop a culture of zero tolerance when it comes to sexual abuse within our community. We also need your help. 

Our biggest challenge, is to get the entire community to recognise that abuse is cross communal and occurring within their communities and that they can not deal with the problem from within nor turn their backs to it. A short quote to leave you with: “After years of being silenced, we’ve learnt to talk again.”

  • As a voluntary organisation we are desperately in need of funds. To donate please visit www.migdalemunah.com
read more: