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Communities often attempt to silence sexual conduct and misconduct and the associated secrecy and shame it fosters. Intentional secrecy surrounding sexual knowledge, sexual abuse and sexual addiction profoundly harms children and families in any community and especially one that is sincere and devout, such as Judaism. The Chasidic community in particular has an extreme level of secrecy to the degree that the word ‘pregnant’ is not said aloud, because it’s considered too sexual. Mordecai Salzberg, LCSW, is a sexual addiction therapist who works primarily with Chasidic Jews, and speaks about the havoc that this secrecy is wrecking.
The goal of this episode is not to attack any one particular community but rather to bring healthy and meaningful awareness for those affected by these topics and to make them informed that there is hope and healing possible with awareness, conversation and therapy and the experiences described come from years of Mordechai’s firsthand client interactions.
Shame from sexual abuse can begin at a young age. In a traditional Chassidic home, a child is commonly chastised and often made to feel ashamed about natural curiosity or asking questions about human biology. These children are often unaware that the topic is to be regarded as private and kept within their family until the moment they are scolded for bringing it up. Ill equipped and uneducated adults often respond with panic and shame, desperately trying to ensure that no one hears their child speak of “such things”. To make matters complex, parents have an intense fear of being thrown out of the community. There’s no margin for error. If something shameful is innocently spoken or if a major incident such as rape happens, most families attempt to hide it, to protect their place in the community. If a young boy discovers his own body and gets caught masturbating, deemed “the sin”, he could be publicly shamed by his family or mentors, without explanation.
Victims of sexual assault and abuse are often not provided with the tools to understand the difference between when they themselves do something wrong versus when someone has wronged them. They are shamed for speaking up and instructed not to speak of sinful things. Even when believed and validated, it is rare that anything significant happens to their abuser. The family downplays the event for fear of bringing shame to the community by admitting that someone amongst them could commit such heinous acts. Often, that same abuser continues to abuse without being brought to justice. Abusers are often trusted individuals such as school staff members or religious leaders. Being assaulted by a stranger from outside the community is rare. Sadly, every male client of Mordechai’s who struggles with sexual addiction was molested as a child. They often feel that they became “perverted” at a young age and “steeped in sinful desires” after an adult introduced them to sexual touch.
It is not uncommon for an accuser to get in more trouble than their abuser. Families gets angry at the individual who speaks up for causing a commotion. In the Chasidic Jewish Community, as in all groups, abuse is often only seen as a problem once made public. The family of the molester or pedophile will be shamed and the siblings will be considered ineligible for marriage matches. Although complex, children still deserve to be protected from molesters who should be brought to justice.
When a family does come to the community leaders with an abusive situation, it is uncommon to file charges or bring the perpetrator to justice. This misinterpretation of the Jewish legal concept of “moser” (informant), perpetuates the generational cycle of shame and abuse. Sometimes, a family will simply relocate, so as not to re-traumatize those who have been assaulted. Uneducated and without given therapy, these children are statistically likely to become abusers themselves.
At the end of this episode, Mordechai discusses two controversial topics which is available exclusively as premium content here: https://hopetorecharge.com/product/the-fatal-price-of-sexual-shame-and-secrecy-mordechai-salzberg-bonus-content/
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Connect with Mordechai:
- “When a family has a secret, the secret is really the problem.” @MordechaiSalzberg MatanaJacobs #HopetoRecharge
- “Families are being destroyed by not taking care of people who are engaging in these behaviors. If you’re worried about destroying families, stop child molesters.” @MordechaiSalzberg MatanaJacobs #HopetoRecharge
- “What I’ve seen again and again is the bravery and the beauty of my clients picking themselves up, growing, and healing in ways that they never thought possible. Just tapping into human resilience, human growth, human vulnerability, and completely changing themselves.” @MordechaiSalzberg MatanaJacobs #HopetoRecharge
- “When people have the courage and the willingness to do the work, they can, they do heal.” @MordechaiSalzberg MatanaJacobs #HopetoRecharge
- “Nobody’s trauma is their destiny.” @MordechaiSalzberg MatanaJacobs #HopetoRecharge
- Sexual shame
- Secrecy surrounding sexuality
- Bringing molesters to justice rather than keeping up appearances
- The responsibility of community leaders to act
- Divorce or staying married when a spouse is dealing with sexual sin
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