Wednesday, June 1, 2011

White Institute Conference on abuse: "Thank you to Survivors For Justice"

Dr. Asher Lipner wrote:
Dear Friends and Fellow Advocates,
Last week I sent out thank you's to several people who participated and contributed to making the conference on sexual abuse in the Orthodox community at the William Alanson White Institute a historic success.
It seems I have saved the best for last.  "Acharon Acharon Chaviv". Often times the people who are behind the scenes and who initiate and catalyze change in the community are overlooked for the efforts they have made.  Aside from the importance of "hakaras hatov" gratitude, it is also very important for us to acknowledge how change comes about so that we can learn from it, emulate it and carry on its message.
Survivors for Justice is an organization that has helped publicize the stories of many survivors who are now leading advocates, by cultivating an excellent relationship with the media.  SFJ has been front and center in speaking out each and every time that there is a story in the press about another abuse case.  (This is something the RCA and the OU have promised to do, and is clearly their job, but as the saying goes "B'makom She'ayn Ish..."  When you want something done you got to do it yourself).  They ran an amazing and powerful radio advertisement campaign to encourage Jewish parents to report their children's abuse directly to the police.  (You can still hear the ads on their website).
One of the survivors who was involved at the time with SFJ, Joel Engleman, who had connections to the William Alanson White Institute, reached out to them for help in educating the community and in providing clinical services.  The Institute was very interested in learning more about our community and in offering us their expertise. They asked SFJ to introduce them to a psychotherapist who worked in the Orthodox community, and I had the great honor and privilege of being invited to meet with the Sex Abuse Services team of therapists in the very same building that housed the conference to present a case.  This was in February of 2010.   Since my first presentation focused so much on explaining the cultural environment in which I work, I was invited back a second time to present the case I had prepared, in more depth, and to receive free supervision.  I obviously learned more than I taught, but the collegial dialogue was refreshingly welcoming and respectful.  There I met Dr. Julie  Marcuse, the director of the program, and Dr. Richard Gartner, who literally "wrote the book" on treating survivors,  and many other expert clinicians who expressed great interest in our community and the efforts to solve the sex abuse problem.
Shortly afterwards, SFJ hired Dr. Alison Feit from WAW, Sex Abuse Services, to give a "Master's Class" to clinicians and others working with. It was an eight week course with intense discussion, readings, and excellent lectures. SFJ paid for the entire thing including dinner each week, and worked with me to reach out by invitation only (no advertising) to key people who were felt to be "players" in the community.  I am proud of the fact that I "made the shidduch between" (introduced) Rabbi Eidensohn and Dr. Feit, and the Rabbi later invited Ali to participate with a chapter in his book. Other members of the class were Robin "Raizy" Sadowsky, LCSW, Rabbi Blau, Chaikie Travis, LCSW, Bassie Rosenblatt, LCSW, Shloimie Ehrlich who works with teens at risk in Monsey, Yitzchak Schonefeld from "Cholent", Michael Jenkins, LCSW from Footsteps, Sondra Kotzen, LCSW, from Sephardic Bikur Cholim, and others not from our community. It was a wonderful mix of backgrounds and experiences, and everyone benefited greatly.
Because SFJ is unique, among other ways, in its lack of self-promotion, all of us need to be aware of the pivotal role it has played in standing up for the rights of survivors, and in educating the community.  So thank you Survivors for Justice, for all you have done, for all you continue to do.   I look forward to working with you on many more projects.
To find out more, please visit them at WWW.SFJNY.ORG and show them support.

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