By Rivka Joseph
On Pesach we celebrate our freedom from Egypt. Had we not been freed we would still be slaves to Pharaoh. It’s hard to imagine a life building pyramids and doing physical back-breaking labor, it is so far from our reality. But perhaps we are enslaved by a different master today. Perhaps, there are different kinds of slavery enslaving our society. One of which I would like to write about is the context of slavery as it relates child sexual abuse – a particularly burdensome epidemic many of us are facing this Pesach.
So many brave survivors are enslaved by their past, despite working hard to face their demons. They are held captive by the destructive monster of sexual abuse forced upon them. They deal with the effects for life in much the same way the Jews did after they left Egypt. They were freed from slavery and suddenly relieved of all their terrible memories and experiences. It stuck with them, so much so, that they could not trust Moshe and God in the desert. They were traumatized. Apparently, human nature has not changed much in the past 5000 years. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is still very difficult to live with.
Then we have the general community. Those who have not been directly affected by child sexual abuse. These are the people who are chained to other’s opinions or they are living their lives for others, not guided by what is best for them and their families. They judge, they gossip, they blame the victims instead of supporting them. This is the Erev Rav, causing destruction to the Jewish nation.
This Pesach let’s open our hearts. Listen to the stories that every survivor is telling us. But even more so, listen to the stories they are not telling us. If we can silence the gossip, judgment, and blame we will hear untold stories of incest, molestation, rape, and cover-ups. We will hear the lonely survivors crying for help and begging to be heard. Hopefully then, we will do what Pesach really stands for. Opening up ourselves to make room for everyone, because everyone belongs. We are one nation, one community, one family.
Who are the Four Children at Jewish Community Watch’s Seder?
The Wise One- this is the educated person who has taken the time to learn about how damaging sexual abuse is. They educate their children properly about appropriate touch. They educate their community and spread awareness. They support survivors and speak up on behalf of societies most vulnerable. This is the person who does their most to prevent child sexual abuse.
The Wicked One- this is the person who covers up sexual abuse, the person who blames survivors for the abuse they endured. The families who don’t support their children who were abused, the ones who protect the abuser. This is the abusers who won’t give their victims the closure they deserve.
The Simple One- this is the person who unfortunately never had the opportunity to learn. They were never taught that their bodies are holy and private. They were never taught how to support a survivor. They were never taught how devastating sexual abuse can be. They were never taught how dangerous a perpetrator can be. But they want to learn, they ask questions, so we teach them.
The One Who Does Not Know How to Ask- this is the child, the adult, the community that is naively shelter from child sexual abuse. The ones that are taught that it is not proper to talk about our bodies and sexual abuse. These are the ones who are more at risk for abuse. They cannot ask, because they do not know what to ask. We need to start at the beginning and show them that it’s ok to talk, to speak up, and to ask questions. The education will begin when the shame is gone. Even though they are not asking, they deserve to be protected. Especially because they are not asking, they need to be protected, because they cannot protect themselves.