Let's be clear - any form of violence as you describe is inexcusable.
Yours is a different question - what is the best advice one can give to the "victims." My best advice to all these is not to play the role of victim. As inexcusable as violence is, it is equally lamentable that the victims of the abuse wallow in self pity. Sure, we feel badly for them, but we should feel worse if the victimhood degenerates into depression and withdrawal from the world.
It is the perpetrators of the violence who should shrivel up, but they somehow manage to go on as if nothing happened. The victims are the ones left devastated.
But the victims need not succumb to devastation. Something has happened to them, but they did not invite this, they did not ask for it, and they should not allow the violence to ruin their lives.
They should make a conscious decision to reject victimhood and self pity, and move on to embrace life.
To whatever extent possible, I would reecommend leaving the abusive scene, and then moving onward and upward. That is my best general advice. Answered by: Rabbi Reuven Bulka
My response is to get help. Immediately. Speak with an advisor you trust and with whom you can speak confidentially, such as a rabbi or a therapist, to help you weigh the pros and cons of various approaches. If you don’t have such an advisor, contact a local domestic violence help line. (An example of such an organization in the Washington, D.C. area is the Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse (JCADA), whose website is www.jcada.org and whose confidential help line number is 1-877-88-JCADA.)
A domestic violence professional will support you and can help you find safety. He or she will help you develop a plan of action, which might include contacting the police -- as awkward, as uncomfortable, or as unfamiliar as it may be for you to do this. The police can recommend prudent steps you can take to protect yourself and others. In some cases, a restraining order may be called for. In other cases, an arrest might be appropriate.
One thing should be clear: if you are the victim of domestic violence, you are being mistreated. Such behavior cannot be justified either by Jewish law or Jewish tradition. Especially within an intimate relationship, we Jews are called upon to be respectful and loving. The value we should be striving for within our families is “sh’lom bayit” -- “domestic harmony.” Someone who threatens violence – or who carries out acts of violence – against members of his or her household (or against a romantic partner) is behaving sinfully, and should be stopped.
You may be in danger, and your first obligation in such a situation is to protect yourself. “Im ein ani li, mi li?” – “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” asks Hillel (in Pirke Avot). Often, victims of domestic violence are made to feel that they are somehow responsible for their own abuse, and they therefore may be tempted to keep silent, and to refrain from revealing the abuse. This simply encourages the abuser to continue his or her abhorrent behavior. If you don’t speak up, who will?
Not only is it a mitzvah (Jewish obligation) to protect yourself, but you also have an obligation to protect other vulnerable people. Particularly if they are children, you should take steps to insure that they will not be harmed.
You may be tempted to refrain from taking such steps. You may feel ashamed, or ambivalent about exposing your domestic abuser. Such feelings are natural – but they should not be allowed to dissuade you from speaking up. Ultimately, speaking up is not only the best thing you can do for yourself and other potential victims, but for the abuser as well.
There are two levels of advice that I can give to someone who is a victim of domestic violence:For an adult (or a teen in a dating situation) the number one thing to do is GET OUT! There is no obligation in Jewish practice to stay with someone who abuses you.
For a minor child the advice is the same but not as easy to follow, so to that individual I would say:Tell a teacher or other school employee, tell a friend’s parent, tell your doctor, tell your Rabbi, each of them can help you get out of the situation.While there is an obligation to honor one’s parent, that obligation is voided when abuse occurs.
For teens in dating situation besides ending the relationship, make sure you tell your parents about what happened, you will not be in trouble, it is not your fault, and your parents are there to help and support you.
I would advise anyone wanting to learn more to visit this website of the Union of Reform Judaism: http://urj.org/life/family/violence/ for more information on resources for dealing with domestic violence.
Always remember, there is no obligation to stay in an abusive relationship, and there are those around you who do care about you and want to help you, reach out to them.
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