Leadship needed on abuse:

I applaud the efforts of the Jewish Council Against Family Violence (JCAFV), which reporter Victoria Siegel recently highlighted in her articles regarding guest speaker Rabbi Joseph Telushkin who JCAFV co-sponsored.

The primary focus of Ms. Siegel’s articles, and of the literature and advertisements that JCAFV itself distributes, is domestic abuse against women (i.e. wives), along with their children; a lesser focus is domestic abuse against children, with the woman’s abuser (i.e. the husband) also being the child abuser.


Few are aware that more commonly child abuse victims — even Jewish children — have two abusers: both parents. Furthermore, distribution of information linking mental illness to child abuse is scarce. A parent who suffers from untreated moderate to severe mental illness is inherently a child abuser. Rabbi Telushkin spoke of “the mitzvah of redeeming captives”. These children are small, weak, powerless and helpless against two strong adults. They are truly captives. We must free these children because they cannot free themselves.

Most abused children do not die. They do not go away. They grow into adults. The terrible effects of child abuse do not stop when the child abuse stops.

The effects continue on, although many survivors are themselves unaware of it. Adult survivors of child abuse are an oversight in our community. Have we forgotten them? Or are we simply unaware of their existence? They, too, need our aid.

I call upon the JCAFV, as well as the Jewish Family and Children’s Service, and the entire St. Louis Jewish community to respond to the needs of these victims.

Discussion and education of these topics is important, but not enough. Counseling is often not enough; many adult survivors require ongoing psychiatric care for trauma and prescription medication; Jewish Family and Children’s Services currently lacks medical doctors to address these needs. Often, the survivor cannot afford the necessary treatment, but does not qualify for Medicaid. The abuser(s) who caused the necessary medical treatment should pay these expenses, but this is unrealistic. When an adult survivor of child abuse is in financial need for medical treatment we should not force the survivor to bear this hardship in addition to the other hardships related to the abuse. Will psychiatrists in the community step forward? Part-time? Accept only the insurance payment and waive the co-pay? Will a member of the community donate funds for the co-pay?

Support groups help by showing victims they are not alone. Our community offers assistance and support groups for alcoholics, gamblers, caretakers of the elderly, widows and widowers, those who suffer from mental illness, WWII Holocaust survivors, women in abusive relationships, parents of special needs children. I have found no support groups for adult survivors of child abuse in the St. Louis area.

Will a leader form and implement one?

“Domestic” or “Family” abuse is a formidable combatant; but not insurmountable. Sadly, numerous victims of this wrong go unnoticed. Please take time to learn how this problem affects others in our community and give tzedakah in whatever form you can to stop it and help those in need.

Name Withheld

Adult Survivor of Child Abuse