There’s this nutty idea people have that being involved in anti abuse activism somehow means that I haven’t moved on from what happened to me, that somehow the efforts I undertake to organize actions against organizations and people who enable abuse are indicative of some underlying unhealthiness, and an unwillingness to heal. I hear it all the time from people. They couch it in sympathy, as if they’re only concerned with my wellbeing when they wonder aloud why I ‘obsess’ over this topic so much.
I have moved on. Quite literally. I moved on from my abusive home. Then I moved on again to a community I now feel a part of. I moved on to a well-paying job that I actually enjoy (most days, anyway). I’ve got a good, reasonably comfortable life here. I’ve got nothing to do with my abusive family anymore, and haven’t for years. I’ve found people who accept me the way I am, and care about me unconditionally. I’ve got everything one needs for a good, peaceful life.
But what about the thousand of kids who don’t have that? What about the ones who are still being abused, still living in communities that enable their abuse, blame them for it, throw them out for talking about it? What about them? I understand that for a lot of people speaking up publicly is dangerous, precisely because of the oppressive nature of these communities and their power structures, but why do people think that concern for the people left behind somehow indicates an inability to move on?
It’s precisely because I was able to so thoroughly move on that I’m even able to engage in this kind of activism. I don’t have a family to lose because I’ve already lost it. I have a job outside the community, so I don’t have to worry about getting fired for my activism. I’ve rejected the shidduch system already, so I don’t have to worry about being disqualified by shadchanim. I’ve built a life for myself outside of the community that abused me, which gives me the luxury of being able to criticize it without fear of reprisal.
The ones still there, the ones we’re all fighting to protect, the ones who will face severe consequences for speaking up depend on us, the people who made it out, the people who can safely challenge the enablers, count on us to do for them what they can’t do for themselves, because of the systems we’re fighting to change.
Don’t tell me to move on and leave it to someone else. Don’t tell me to move on and stop worrying about it. When I was still in the community, being abused by my family, I wish that someone would come and stand up for me. There weren’t. And I couldn’t do it for myself. But now I can. And I’m not going to abandon the people who are still in danger.
If you have the ability to help us fight against Agudah, and its abuse enabling policies, if you have the ability to come fight for the Child Victims Act, justice for survivors of abuse, and a safe environment for the thousands of children in the Orthodox community, join us on September 10th, at 3 PM, in front of the Novominsker Yeshiva, at 6020 17th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY. Make your voices heard. Let the most vulnerable members of that community know that they’re not alone, that we’re there to protect them.
Photo credit: Mo Gelber