Musings

Orthodox Women Get Raped, Too

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Rape in the Orthodox community is
Not as rare of a thing as I once
Thought it to be.

Until it happened to me, I just
Didn’t see it.

I mean, I knew sexual assault happened,
But I didn’t know
(You know?)

I wish my story was unique. I
Wish that it was some kind of
Freak occurrence. Or
That it had been caused by some
Undercurrent – a
Natural flow of events.
Because then
What happened to me would make
Some sort of sense.

But it doesn’t.
Rape never does.

I naively assumed that rape occurs
Because of something. That
The source could be
Traced to
Mixed signs or
Blurred lines or
Mixed drinks or
Mixing with the (wrong type of) crowd.

I was worldly. But I
Subconsciously held
The opinion that
Most non-consensual touch was
Caused by
Too much trust or
Acting in a way that caused others to feel
Too much lust. And

I had been good.

There was no reason for me to
Think that this would
(or even could)
Happen to me. I had
Worked hard to guard
That which I thought I should. I had
Seldom allowed my hand to brush
Another man’s. And
I had covered my form, confident that
It was a wonderland that was
Unfathomably Sacred. And I
Fully intended to save it.

I never considered that
Someone would break it.

Would break me.

After I was sexually assaulted,
My mind, body, and spirit actively
Revolted against
Everything I had ever known.

It just felt so…
Unjust.

I watched as
My pure copper faith
Somehow rusted. The
Situation was
Disgusting. And
Unfair. I
Spent months
Choking on a
Lack of air
That was one man
Engaging in one act
In one night.

This wasn’t *supposed* to happen to me.
The G-d that I knew…
He…
How could He?

The roots of my belief
Were ripped from the ground and
Left deep unfilled holes. But

What was unexpected was that
The violation of my
Physical boundaries
Wasn’t even the worst part.

The worst part was the
Subsequent Fear. The
Shame. The
Guilt.

Because one of the first responses I
Received to my share,
Said with absolute love, and
Nothing but care, was
“Just don’t tell anyone,
Keep it in therapy.
Because people can be cruel.
Don’t give them a reason to have anything
To say about you.”

And I understood.
And I was quiet.
After all, I wanted to start no riot. And

“I was raped” is not a cool
Fun fact to share at
A speed dating table.

That advice reflected a communal truth:
Many things are better left
Shoved under the table. Should
Remain in the land of whispered fables and
Kept out of public knowledge
For as long as one was able.
Because Rape is a horrible thing for
A Woman to be associated with. 

Especially a Religious Woman. 
Especially a Single Religious Woman. 

(G-d Forbid).

There was the rabbi who specialized in
‘Cases Such As These’
Who I called
‘asking for a friend.’ 
And his final comment freely
Gifted to me,
Confidently, and
Conscientiously, between
Confidants, he said,
“Your friend probably
Isn’t as religious as you’ve been led
To think.”

There is judgement.

It may not be based in justice, but
It just *is*.

And while, clearly, a body’s history is select few people’s business and
Honestly, I’m inclined to keep this life event
Off of online vistas, it is
Vital for us to acknowledge that this is
Something that
Happens.

Rape happens.

I am sitting here sharing,
Baring a soul and body that need no more
Baring because we need
To become aware of this hidden glaring
Truth.

We need
To speak about this.

There is a problem
When there are topics that no one brings
Up in conversation,
Not because of a desire to keep private things private, but
Only because the revelation might be
Met with condemnation
And consternation,
And feelings of degradation
And humiliation,

There is a problem.
When experiences are
Left unspoken
Not due to active choice but
Due to fear of being seen as
Irreparably broken.

There is a problem.
When silence is chosen
Solely because
Our voices are trapped under a
Crushing tower of fear of
The response of others.
It is a problem.

Because it is literally impossible to heal from
Something that we won’t admit has happened and
Is happening.

Orthodox women get raped, too.

I hope to G-d that it has never happened to you
But I know for a fact
That it has happened to other
Good, Balanced, Astute
People in your life.

Knowledge leads to Discussion. And
Discussion leads to Change. And
It is far past time
For things to Change.

I am many things, but I am not naïve.

Religious or not, some people will
Gift no reprieve from
Judgement.
I know that some will decidedly believe that
What happened to me means that
I am tainted.
Some will say, ‘she must have created
An opening.’

No matter what I may say
About my journey since that day,
Some will now see my name and
Picture me in a certain way.

I know that this may limit the men I date.
Or rather, the men who will
‘Be willing to’ date me.

And I’m more than slightly terrified
At the fact that
My public image will shift in others’ eyes
That people will
Craft a narrative about my
Perspective and life,
And surmise things
That I know to be lies.

But the time has arrived.

The time has come for us to write.
And speak.

I haven’t spoken.
But now, necessity has
Woken me.  

For the past few years I’ve
Somewhat stopped writing
And it’s not that I was hiding,
It’s just that I was fighting to
Survive the breaking. The
Making it through every day and
Facing and processing that Shame.

I have received the sentiments:
Are you sure it was rape?
Are you sure you didn’t miscommunicate?
Are you sure it wasn’t just your version
Of a bad date?

Two years later, I met
The man who violated me,
And we
Talked about that night.
If he could admit that it was non-confusing non-consent,
Why can’t we?

I firmly believe that
Everything happens for a reason.
Not because of a reason.
But for one. 

And while I would never choose my assault,
This is a chapter of the magical novel that is held in the
Vault of my experiences.
My rape is a part of what crafted me.
It did not stain me and make me dirty. It
Changed me and made me sturdy.  It
Was an experience that forced a shift. It
Caused deep self-analyzation and
Facilitated the creation of
Who I am today.
An empathetic, communicative, grateful being who
Does not shy away
From saying
What needs to be said.

Whether it is Yes
Or No.
Those words no longer stay in my head.
Instead, I endeavor to
Live by example and
Teach young women and men to speak.
And listen.

This is my new mission.

I hold no more shame surrounding my rape.
It wasn’t intentioned or asked for,
It was just a part of my fate.

And that Shame?

There isn’t room for it in my life.
I am too full of joy and purpose.
I don’t have the time or the
Emotional bandwidth to devote towards
Reserving space for this
For this emotion of
Fear.
That emotion no longer belongs here.

My rape happened.

Nonconsensual sexual acts happen,
Both in our community and out, and
They occur regardless of
How people do or do not dress. Regardless of
How much people do or do not flirt or caress.

Regardless, it is happening.

We need to craft the world we desire to live in.
A world in which survivors feel safe from derision, a world in which Respect for their stories and selves is a given. A world in which
Those who have experiences can feel directed and driven to
Utilize this in forging new paths. And
After surviving the initial aftermath can
Take what happened and integrate it
Into their post-apocalyptic chrysalis.
And eventually open new wings and fly.

Those who are engaging in intimate touch need to
Have knowledge of just how much
Lack of consent can adversely impact a life. 
Of how much their actions matter.
We need to start engaging in
Discussions surrounding boundaries and personal power.
We need to pay attention to learning what consent sounds like.

But there is no conversation unless we start speaking.

My rape has painted my life in an unexpected hue.
I now live more consciously, my faith was
Reaffirmed anew.
I grew up.

I grew deeper.

I remember the first time I told a date
That I had been raped.
I was afraid that he would immediately stand up and
Say, “we should go, it’s getting late.”
But he just sat there and fought to
Hold back tears. And
My worst fears were not realized.

I have more to say.
But I’ll leave it for another time, for
Another poem, for
Another day.

Not everything needs to be spoken
All at once.

But I am decisively sharing this
Here and now because
I firmly believe people must
Hear and know that
These things happen
In every social circle
In every social setting.
It’s not just a back-alley-way kind of thing.
It’s not just contingent upon whether or not your clothes are revealing.

Rape happens when an individual makes an active choice to
Disregard the voice of
Another human being.

None of us should ever feel alone.
We need to talk about how it is possible  
To rebuild and renovate the astoundingly beautiful home that is
Your body
And your mind.

Please,
Treat yourself kindly.

You have a voice that deserves to be heard.
You have a spirit that deserves to be seen.

There is a need
For us to shut up the silence.
And start to speak.

16 Comments

  1. sending lotsa love yr way.u r an amazing,strong and brave young woman. many many blessing to u.from Tzfat

  2. Tzipporah Schvarcz Reply

    This is incredibly powerful. I can’t imagine how much strength it must have taken to share this. Your words will undoubtedly help so many people, your strength will give strength to others. Thank you

  3. Wow. This is beautiful and crazy all at once.
    You have so much strength and courage, it’s amazing.
    Thank you so much for sharing this. It means a lot.

  4. Powerfully spoken.
    You met with the offender a couple of years ago and there was this discussion. I’m respectfully suggesting that another component in awareness will come when there is prosecution afterwards. Presumably that will also be a deterrent, yes?

    • thanks for the comment. At this point, I don’t think everything about every story needs to be shared- and legal action was and is not directly relevant to what I’m trying to do with this piece.

      Appreciate the question though and definitely an important topic of discussion in general!

  5. So incredibly powerful! Thanks for sharing!

    In place of empathy & false promises, I commit to help spreading awareness to help prevent sexual abuse in the Jewish community and help survivors find their voice & get help.

  6. Ann Markowitz Reply

    WOW! I love what you just did! You should feel very proud of yourself for speaking out. I know, it feels really scary to bring up pasts, always assuming that you will be unfairly judged that second. You are really raising awareness!!! thank you

  7. Sharon Feifer Reply

    Incredibly moving. So honest. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am sure it will raise awareness and will be helpful to so many others. I will be sharing it.

  8. Your poem is so powerful and your words so poignant ! Thanks for sharing your a real inspiration for your strength and braveness putting yourself out in the world . I’m am sure you are and will make a difference.

  9. Your poem is so powerful and your words so poignant ! Thanks for sharing your a real inspiration

  10. All I can think to say is, I’m so sorry that happened.

    What should we do? What needs to be changed? Is there anything other than victims telling their stories that can be done? Something pre-emptive?

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