Saturday, December 09, 2006

Should Our Rabbis Be Following The Lead of the Ohio Bishops?

Should Our Rabbis Be Following The Lead of the Ohio Bishops?
By Vicki Polin, Executive Director - The Awareness Center, Inc.

Many survivors of sex crimes, parents, rabbis and community leaders are not aware that if a person has been sexually victimized, and then reports the crime to the police they may be eligible for the federally funded, Crime Victim-Witness Compensation Act. This is a fund that covers medical expenses, including counseling for those who are victims of violent crimes. This includes sex crimes. The funds are usually dispensed through the states attorneys office. If a survivor didn't report the crime to the police or no police report was taken, the individual will not be eligible for compensation. Then the financial burden lays solely on the individual who had been victimized.

One issue almost every survivor I know struggles with is financial. Many have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, have difficulties with depression, concentrating, unable to hold a job, have physical health problems, or spend most of their funds on counseling.

Many survivors cannot afford to pay the cost of private therapists -- who often have the most experience in working with sex trauma. What commonly happens is that survivors end up seeing professionals in a community mental health center or a hospital clinic. The problem with these sorts of settings is that often the professions are straight out of graduate school and or don't have any specialized education or training working with survivors of sexual trauma. It would be like having a heart problem and seeing a podiatrist. Both are doctors, yet their knowledge base is different. The other issue is that often those who work in either a community mental health center or hospital clinic only stay for a year or two. If the therapist isn't taking clients with them, the survivor is forced to be assigned to someone new. This is can be extremely difficult, especially when developing trusting relationships is often a key element to working with survivors of child abuse.

Many may laugh at what I'm suggesting -- don't you think it would be wonderful if every synagogue would sponsor a fundraiser to help The Awareness Center help survivors of sex crimes? Remember the statistics, one out of ever 4 women and one out of ever 5 men in their shul is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Off hand I don't know the statistics of adults who are raped. The problems are in every community, yet everyone seems to rather "save the whales," then help those who are survivors of sex crimes.

One of The Awareness Center's long term goals is to establish an educational healing retreat center, which would offer weekly workshops for survivors, parents, rabbis, cantors, medical and mental health providers and community leaders.

My personal belief is that a survivor should not have to be re-victimized by care providers who don't have the needed education and experience. I also personally believe that when someone has been victimized they should not have to pay out of pocket to get the help they need. A fantasy I have is creating a fund to help those who can't afford to get the right help, yet that's a long ways off.

As you know The Awareness Center is struggling to make ends meet. Next week we will be forced to take a sabbatical, yet it does not mean we are shutting our doors. Our web page will remain up, yet we will not be able to answer phone calls or emails until our bills are paid. Our goal is to help survivors find quality help. Without your financial support we can't do that.

Please send checks to:
The Awareness Center, Inc.
P.O. Box 65273
Baltimore, MD 21209

Below you will find an article regarding what the Ohip Bishops are doing to help survivors of priests. We need to be following their lead.

Ohio bishops start sex abuse victims fund
Associated Press
December 8, 2006

CLEVELAND — Ohios Roman Catholic bishops have created a new $3 million assistance fund to help victims of clergy sex abuse.

The Diocese of Cleveland, seven other Roman Catholic dioceses in Ohio and the Parma Byzantine Eparchy have contributed money to create the voluntary Counseling Assistance Fund.

Its the right thing to do, said Timothy Luckhaupt, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Ohio. Weve harmed people. We should help them.

The Catholic Conference is alerting mental health agencies and is asking all the states parishes to publicize the fund during Mass.

To be eligible, victims must have been living in Ohio at the time of the abuse, not be part of a diocesan counseling program and must not have a pending legal claim against the church. Claims are evaluated by a panel that the church said is independently appointed by county Probate Court judges and other public officials.

People whose claims are approved may obtain services from any mental health provider licensed in the state where they live.


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