Domestic Violence Awareness Month Meets Yom Kippur: October 2022
By Alyson Morse-Katzman, Safe Havens' Co-Director
October is a busy month this year. Not only is October full of Jewish holidays, but it is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We see lots of pink, even on our sports teams, and most of us know someone who has been affected by breast cancer. You might not know that October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Unlike breast cancer, we don’t talk so much about domestic violence. It’s not easy to talk about. It is shameful, swept under the rug, and certainly doesn’t happen to people in OUR community. And yet, one in four women will experience some form of domestic abuse in her lifetime. We all know someone affected by domestic abuse--we just don’t realize it. And domestic abuse isn’t something that happens in “other” communities—it happens in all kinds of communities, regardless of our education, political beliefs, sexual orientation, where we live, income, or religion.
Domestic abuse is not just physical violence. Physical abuse is just one way an abuser can control his victim. Abusive partners will use anything to maintain control over their partners—tactics can include financial, emotional, verbal, sexual, and spiritual abuse. Abusers intimidate and isolate their partners and, as they do, their partners’ sense of connection to their community shrinks.
Jewish stereotypes can reinforce a victim’s narrow view of the world. We are “nice Jewish boys and girls,” and “Jewish men make good husbands.” So often, victims think they are the ones at fault, that they must have done something wrong. Our silence on this issue compounds that belief.
As a community, we can help. We can unite to break the silence and make it clear that domestic abuse is not part of a healthy relationship, that abuse of any kind breaks the covenant of marriage. The more that victims hear from us that abuse of any kind is unacceptable, the more likely they will speak up and reach out for help.
So, as we embark on this new year of 5783, let us pledge to break the silence about domestic abuse. Let us begin with this prayer, a prayer of healing and renewal, offered in the spirit of Yom Kippur.
The prayer was created through the Shalom Bayit Program of Jewish Family & Career Services in Atlanta by women and men in the Jewish community who have been affected by abuse. May their words strengthen our commitment to bring about true shalom bayit.
A Yom Kippur Prayer for Shalom Bayit
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 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 the elderly among us who are ignored or imprisoned in their 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.
You have the right to be safe in your own home. Abuse is never your fault.
If you think you may be a victim of domestic abuse or in a controlling relationship,
you can call for confidential help, 24/7:
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
Massachusetts SafeLink Hotline: 1-877-785-2020
Resource to learn more about domestic abuse:
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: www.ncadv.org
Resources to help you learn more about the intersection of abuse and faith:
Safe Havens Interfaith Partnership Against Domestic Violence and Elder Abuse
Journey to Safety, The Domestic Abuse Program of JF&CS