Abuse is Never Your Fault

October 25, 2019

Abuse is Never Your Fault

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. At this time, every year, we honor the strength of individuals impacted by domestic abuse and we mourn those individuals whose lives have been lost as a result of domestic violence. We recommit ourselves to create safe and loving families and a safer community.

I recall hearing the story, a number of years ago, of a Jewish child who grew up in a home where her father abused her mother, siblings and herself. This child, who later became a rabbi, couldn’t understand why her parents taught her to say “I’m sorry” if she hurt someone, which contradicted the example in her own home. She further reflected on the lack of response from her religious school teacher when she implied that there was abuse in her home.

She spoke of the impact of living with this part of her life hidden; and of the strength she found the first time someone listened and believed her. She finally realized that she had a voice. Her story mirrors those of many young and grown children we see every day. I am aware of the hundreds of individuals touched each year by our Shalom Bayit program. Her story reminds me of the power of listening, believing, and validating the voices of those so often silenced by abuse.

I am grateful for words from my rabbis, over the years, reminding us as a community that we have the ability and responsibility to reach out to one another and provide a shelter of peace and support for loved ones, neighbors and friends.

As I reflect on words from abuse survivors, and think about the many individuals who courageously speak out about their experiences, I share the following prayer of healing and renewal. This prayer was created for Yom Kippur through our Shalom Bayit Program, by women and men in our community affected by abuse. Written to provide support to survivors, to acknowledge that abuse occurs within our community and abusers are responsible for the abuse they commit, the words are applicable every day—particularly as we begin the new year. I continue to reflect each year, since our Shalom Bayit program began over 26 years ago, that we are responsible for reaching out and creating a community where there is truly shalom in every home.

May these words strengthen our commitment to bringing about true shalom bayit (peace in the home)

O merciful and loving G-d, as we gather together in Your house on this, the holiest of days, we feel repentant, alive, and deeply conscious of our past actions. We open ourselves to You as with sadness we face this truth: at times this past year we have acted cruelly. Some of us have abused our power and used control to hurt our spouses, our intimate partners, our children, our parents. Others of us too often looked away, preferring not to see or speak out against abuse in our homes or in the homes of those we know and care about. We have been afraid to interfere.

Today, O G-d, we pledge that we will no longer allow injustice to reign in our homes or in our community. We will not stand by silently and will find ways to contain our rage and our need for power and control. In an effort to create change, we will seek counsel from our rabbis and other trained professionals. This year, too, we will speak up on behalf of children who suffer sexual, physical and emotional abuse; we will not turn away from adults who live in fear of their mates; and we will reach out to help the elderly among us who are ignored or imprisoned in their own homes. This day, O G-d, as we pray for renewal and redemption, we promise ourselves, each other and you that we will support shalom in all homes.

May this year be different. Amen.

If your relationship leaves you feeling bad about yourself, or you are afraid for yourself or your children, you may need someone to talk to. To learn more about our confidential counseling services and educational programming, contact Shalom Bayit at 770-677-9322 or shalombayit@jfcsatl.org.

Wendy Lipshutz, LCSW, Shalom Bayit Program Director