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clergy

The Time For Change Is Now

spotlightI mentioned that I would not be writing anything regarding my abuse on this blog until the article was published in the New York Times. For three reasons I have changed this decision: 1) It has come to my attention that the article when handed to the editor was so long it would take another week or so before it goes to press. I know that should not make a difference in my world, but somehow it does. I have been trying to prepare myself for life, as I know it to possibly change after this weekend. I have been anxious to say the least. 2) I decided to write this now, because many readers have brought to my attention that not only does this blog help other survivors gain the courage to speak, but also it can, and should be a catalyst for change across all aspects of this sickening problem of sexual abuse. 3) Finally with the premier of the movie SPOTLIGHT I felt the timing important, as the awareness and cry for victims rights is rising across the nation.

First and foremost the legal system:

legal scaleLet us take a look at how sexual abuse is generally defined legally.

The US Code Chapter 109A defines sexual abuse in the following manner[1]:

  • Section 2242  Sexual abuse: “… (1) causes another person to engage in a sexual act by threatening or placing that other person in fear (other than by threatening or placing that other person in fear that any person will be subjected to death, serious bodily injury, or kidnapping); or (2) engages in a sexual act with another person if that other person is – (A) incapable of appraising the nature of the conduct; or (B) physically incapable of declining participation in, or communicating unwillingness to engage in, that sexual act; or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title and imprisoned for any term of years or for life.”
  • Section 2244  Abusive Sexual Contact: “… knowingly engages in or causes sexual contact with or by another person, if so to do would violate – (1) subsection (a) or (b) of section 2241 of this title had the sexual contact been a sexual act, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; (2) section 2242 of this title had the sexual contact been a sexual act, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than three years, or both; (3) subsection (a) of section 2243 of this title had the sexual contact been a sexual act, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than two years, or both; (4) subsection (b) of section 2243 of this title had the sexual contact been a sexual act, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than two years, or both; or (5) subsection (c) of section 2241 of this title had the sexual contact been a sexual act, shall be fined under this title and imprisoned for any term of years or for life. (b) In Other Circumstances. … knowingly engages in sexual contact with another person without that other person’s permission shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than two years, or both. (c) Offenses Involving Young Children. – If the sexual contact that violates this section (other than subsection (a)(5)) is with an individual who has not attained the age of 12 years, the maximum term of imprisonment that may be imposed for the offense shall be twice that otherwise provided in this section.’
Definitions used in this chapter: As used in this chapter – “… (2) the term “sexual act” means – (A) contact between the penis and the vulva or the penis and the anus, and for purposes of this subparagraph contact involving the penis occurs upon penetration, however slight; (B) contact between the mouth and the penis, the mouth and the vulva, or the mouth and the anus; (C) the penetration, however slight, of the anal or genital opening of another by a hand or finger or by any object, with an intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade, or arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person; or (D) the intentional touching, not through the clothing, of the genitalia of another person who has not attained the age of 16 years with an intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade, or arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person; (3) the term “sexual contact” means the intentional touching, either directly or through the clothing, of the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks of any person with an intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade, or arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person;” [See full legal code by following link at footnote #1 below.]

To most of you reading this, the above will all just be legal jargon, but if it weren’t for the current state driven statutes of limitations it would be a lot more than that to me and many many others. I intended to provide here an alphabetical listing by state of statutes, but it would render my readers’ unconscious or numb long before they reached “Colorado”. As of 2013 there are eight states that do not have any statute of limitations for prosecuting felony sexual assault. Delaware has no statute of limitations for ANY sexual offense.

Over the past decade or more as sexual abuse scandals have become so prevalent in our country many states have changed their statues and continue to do so. “Many states have extended he time period of the existing statute of limitations regarding civil claims”, others “have temporarily lifted their statute of limitations in order to give victims an opportunity to raise civil claims against their predators.” And additionally some “states have also found additional reasons to toll the statute of limitations, such as in circumstances when an institution conceals evidence of a child sex crime.”[2] In particular cases involving clergy have been front and center. “Clergy sexual offenders in the Church were more likely to be targeting whomever was around them (and they had unsupervised access to) regardless of age and gender.”[3] Hmmmm, sound familiar?????

Again to be clear when it comes to my personal experience:

  1. I was under the age of consent I had just turned 16, in 1986 I believe the age of consent was 18 and other extenuating legal issues/circumstances apply as well; he was both more than 5 years my senior, and in a position of authority.
  2. There was penetration (not penile, but with fingers). There was contact with the penis and the vulva, but no penetration.
  3. I said “No.” Actually more than once.
  4. I did speak out, but no one who would or could affect change would listen.

So, what is wrong here? Why did Yeshiva University (who heard my story at the time directly from me, and stories from others) permit Mordechai Winiarz (aka Marc Gafni) to continue his employ as the director of the then Jewish Public School Youth Movement? How has he continued to reinvent himself time and again, teaching in positions of authority with full-unsupervised access to victims of all ages? How many more individuals does he need to victimize before someone does something to put a stop to his predatory behavior.

How many other victims of other predators must go invalidated, unheard and without justice?

Second, the clergy:

Clergy Representing ALL faiths... this effects ALL of us, regardless of our beliefs.
Clergy Representing ALL faiths… this effects ALL of us, regardless of our beliefs.

It would only be posturing on my part to provide any answers when dealing with the complexity that is organized religion and its leadership, or other authority figures. I can say only this. Something needs to be done. As a step toward prevention, possibly a better vetting process needs to exist, or some standardized internal system put in place for adults in authority positions interacting with followers?

I’d like to direct you to another blog dedicated to giving survivors a voice. Read Danny’s story – understand that this is so much bigger than one person, one predator, one pedophile, or even one victim. Where there is one, there is many. http://blog.burnandrotinhell.com/2015/11/dannys-story-part-two-this-is-what.html


 

[1] http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/uscode/18/I/109A

[2] Statutes of Limitations for Civil Actions for Offenses Against Children (2013 Update)

[3] The Clergy Sex Abuse Crisis and the Legal Responses by James T. O’Reilly, Margaret S.P. Chalmers ©2014

Don’t silence a cry for help…

Since my initial blog regarding my abuse and my abuser, two other survivors of this man’s terror have contacted me (and I’ve eaten way too much chocolate). There is a sense of not being alone, but sharing this in common is not comforting – it’s just disturbing. I know there are dozens of women Marc Winiarz Gafni has hurt over the decades, and at the time of my abuse I knew of one other he was inappropriate with, and considered his then wife a victim as well, but until the past decade or so the others have only been numbers to me. Now they are people and the shared pain is excruciating. It only fuels my anger more that decades later still no one may be listening.

LISTEN
LISTEN

I understand that times are different now. I understand that people are less afraid to talk about sexual abuse when it comes to the clergy, but there is one thing I will never understand. I am a parent of two daughters (and three sons) a now sixteen-year-old daughter, and a daughter who was once 16 as well. In a million years I can neither both imagine blaming her for being sexually abused, nor envision that people I know would not believe her and/or speak out in defense of her abuser. As painful as recalling the abuse has been, and is – each and every time, equally painful is the reaction to my speaking out each of those times as well. Honestly I don’t know why I bother to tell and retell my story (a story that has not changed for 30+ years). No change occurs; and neither does justice, reparation nor apology. There will always be those few who appreciate, who encourage and who offer support, but they are few and far between.

The Rabbinate is NOT immune to sexual dysfunction or mental disorders. Rabbis (male and female) are human with imperfections; some of these flaws are so severe and run so deep that they are irreparable. These same dysfunctions occur across humanity. It is not “safe to assume” simply because someone is in a position of leadership, (religious or otherwise) that they present no threat to others. I would argue quite the opposite. Individuals in such positions must be held to an even higher standard, and must be placed under a more intense light of scrutiny. These people influence our children and other vulnerable members of our population.

If anyone comes to you (especially a child) to share a painful experience, PLEASE really listen, reserve any judgment and believe what you are hearing. Statistics alone have proven that the majority of those who share stories of abuse are not just lying to get attention (as I was accused of), or being coerced by others to bolster a campaign against a particular individual. Talking about an uncomfortable sexual encounter is not something people do easily, readily or honestly even willingly. More often then not someone who cares knows something is wrong, and it is with his or her support that a survivor speaks.

Anorexia-in-the-mirrorIf you need help, ask. If you are being abused sexually, emotionally, physically; tell someone.  If you are using food in any way as a coping mechanism (over eating, not eating, vomiting); tell someone. I was lucky to have ONE such person I could tell in 1986. Had that person not been there I’d likely not be here now. I don’t think she realizes that I owe her my life. Please be that person for someone if they need you – you may actually be saving a life.

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