Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of my separation from Builder. I celebrated by joining some of my job training classmates at a seminar on sexual assault. (It was very empowering, not triggering.) The organization hosting the event at the Queens Borough President's event, SAVI (Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention) started off by describing services specifically to four groups they considered "marginalized" in reporting sex crimes or domestic violence--immigrants, trafficking victims, and the LGBT community. Guess which group was number four?
Ding ding ding! That's right. Orthodox Jews for the win!
Am I saying that all Orthodox Jewish men are rapists or abusers? Far from it! I'm sure there are many kind Orthodox men out there. I didn't happen to be married to one, but one bad apple is easy to dismiss as just that. I am saying, however, that Orthodox women who are victims of this sort of crime are reluctant to report it. Look what happened to the girl who went up against Nechemya Weberman. Booed out of shul on Rosh Hashanah. Look what happened to me. My own rebbetzin told me that Builder "didn't do anything to me." (Seriously, what do you call being raped?) Besides community pressure to keep silent, how many Orthodox women even call it rape if their attacker stood under a chuppah with them? Fathered their children? Made Kiddush for them? Even in the secular world, marital rape is still a crime almost impossible to report. How much more so in the Orthodox world, where women are taught that they are responsible for shalom bayis? My own kallah teacher taught me nothing about my right of refusal. If I didn't have a secular background, how long would I have tolerated being the victim? Would I have continued to cry silently, then shrug it off as an inescapable part of marriage? How many more times would it have happened? How many more times will it happen to other women before we end it?