Sanctuary for the Abused

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


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Monday, March 26, 2007

How To Help Someone That Is Being Abused

When someone that you know and care about is being battered by their partner or spouse it can leave you feeling frightened, frustrated, sad, and helpless. It is often difficult to understand why your friend may not be willing to leave their partner, but there are some things you can do to help your friend.

You Can
Be supportive, not judgmental

She may have hidden the abuse for a long time because of shame, fear, religious beliefs, love, or hope that things would change. Listen to her if she wants to talk. It may be difficult for you to hear but she needs to be able to tell someone that will believe her.

Do not blame her for the violence, put her down or ridicule her for not leaving

The violence is not her fault. Her abuser is responsible for his actions. He will do anything in his struggle for power and control. There are many barriers to leaving that she may be facing. She may have stayed because of financial reasons, fear that he wont let her go (an abuser often will threaten to kill her if she leaves), or fear for the safety of the children (he may even threaten to harm or kill the children). Offer her your understanding.

Tell her about community resources

She may not know what help is available. You can tell her about The Lighthouse and ask her to call. Tell her the staff at The Lighthouse can help her in many ways, including safe shelter, counseling, court advocacy and help understanding legal issues.

Let her know that she is not alone.

Victims are often isolated from family and friends by their abuser. Let her know that you care and don't give up on her even if she hasn't decided to leave him. There are many barriers to leaving that she may be facing.

Help her discover her options

Because of the abusers control and her isolation she may not feel that help is available to her. She may have lost hope of getting out of her situation, lost her self- esteem, and forgotten her strengths. Remind of her strengths, talents, and skills. Help her gain information about her options.

Talk to her about planning for her safety and the safety of her children

Remember, do not talk to her in the presence of her abuser about her options or safety issues and help her to make sure that he will not find any of the information.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

[Agunah (Hebrew: עגונה, plural: agunot; literally 'anchored or chained') is a halachic term for a Jewish woman who is chained to her marriage because her husband's whereabouts are unknown. It is also used sometimes nowadays for a woman whose husband refuses or is unable to grant her an official bill of divorce, known as a get.]

Dear Rachel,

For years I avoided writing this piece, reluctant to rehash painful experiences. But I want to prepare those who are taking that most important step in their lives for something that can literally ruin their happiness.

Everyone checks up on hashkafah, yichus, education and wealth – but the most crucial detail is often overlooked: a hot temper. Men (or women) hide it well when dating, for obvious reasons.

It manifested itself after our engagement, but I was too embarrassed to break it off. Big mistake.

My father, a”h, a kind, gentle man, never raised his voice to my mother. My husband would yell at me over any triviality, often in public. My parents kept telling me to be nicer, more giving, to avoid instigating his wrath. But there is no perfection good enough for such a person.

If his income was limited, it was I who couldn’t manage.
If the children misbehaved, it was I who didn’t raise them properly.
If the house wasn’t perfectly neat and clean, it was I who wasn’t doing my job well.
His short fuse was always lit, ready to blow at any moment.

I stayed in the marriage – because I wanted a better life for my children. There still is a stigma on children of divorce. Don’t think that it was always bad. Such a personality makes for extreme highs with the extreme lows.

What attracted me to him? He was outgoing, aggressive, a real alpha male. Some passive, wimpy guy was not for me! I needed a real man. Well, real men don’t bully their wives and children. Be careful what you wish for! This kind of person believes he is the center of the universe. Everyone but him is crazy, selfish, lazy, stupid, or careless.

I even tried marriage counseling and was told that he would never change, that I would be better off divorcing.

I hung in there, figuring I’d marry off my kids and then decide. Once it was just the two of us, I noticed a new behavior. His outbursts became fewer. He was the focus of my attention, and that was what he always wanted! Like a toddler throwing tantrums because he thinks he’s being ignored – is what I lived with for all those years. He was actually jealous of the time and attention I gave our children!

Who would be out there for me? Single men who were too selfish to have a family? Divorced men who were as bad as what I had at home? No one gets rid of a good thing. Would I want to deal with stepchildren? And how much would my husband demand for a Get?

When he is in a kind mood, all I want to do is love him. But when his temper flares, all I dream about is a violent miserable death for him. His personality type has high blood pressure and other medical issues. During one of his medical crises, I was at the hospital observing other people saying Tehillim for their loved ones. I didn’t. Silently I acquiesced to Hashem’s will. If I was to be a widow, I’d accept it. If He chose to let my husband live, I would accept that too. My husband lived, and I stayed.

If anyone reading this feels that no one else has ever experienced the kind of tzoros s/he suffers, think again. I learned of widows who suffered many years with alcoholics, womanizers, gamblers and wife beaters, all of which at least I never had to deal with. And what really surprised me is that their children did not learn to imitate their fathers. A bad example often teaches children how not to behave. Divorce isn’t always the answer.

I am happy and proud that my sons do not follow in their father’s ways (which made them cringe). My daughters carefully checked out their suitors. Unfortunately, one son-in-law hid his temper until after the chasunah. I can only offer my daughter the comfort in knowing that it is her husband’s feelings of inferiority and helplessness that triggers his temper, making him strike out at the nearest and safest target.

Levity and humor, I learned, tend to shorten the outbursts. When my husband would rant about how stupid I was, I would say, “Nebach you have to live with a fool like me, but how smart could you be if you married me?” When he’d accuse me of being terrible at something, I’d offer to “place an ad in the personals…maybe you’ll find someone better!” That would stop him in his tracks and even make him smile.

We are senior citizens now. I hear widows speak of feeling relieved when their husbands died. Most would never risk remarrying, though some feel that verbal abuse would be better than being alone.

The best middah a person could have is kindness and a soft-spoken nature. There is something to be said for a lack of machismo. Men who have that soft quality inevitably give their wives many years of happiness. I know; I have seen what my parents had.

Unfortunately, most of us discover too late what we have fallen into. When I ask myself if I’d have been better off marrying someone else, the answer is yes. But if it was my destiny to be attracted to such a person in order for my children and grandchildren – the light of my life – to be born, then let my years of unhappiness be a kaporah for my aveiros.

There is still time for you young ones to learn from my experience. Serious misgivings about your Chossen or Kallah may be a warning signal. Speak to your parents or Rav. A broken shidduch is better than a broken family, or a lifetime of regrets.
As Rebbetzin Jungreis says, “Life is a test.” But that doesn’t mean you have to voluntarily register for an impossibly difficult course when other options may be available to you.
- A proud Bubby
We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories by e-mail to or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215.

To all women, men or children who feel that they are at the end of their ropes, please consider joining a support group, or forming one.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Spirituality, Science and Addiction

By William White, MA & Alexandre Laudet, PhD

On the surface, the trends would seem to be contradictory: a surging science-to-practice movement and rising interest in the role of spirituality in addiction, treatment and recovery. A growing number of researchers (including the authors) are responding to these confluent trends by using scientific methods to operationally define spirituality and measure its influence on the course of addiction and recovery. The purpose of this article is to highlight some of this research and explore the implications of research findings to the practice of addiction counseling.

Defining spirituality
The lack of a consensual definition of spirituality in the addictions field (Cook, 2004) has resulted in both theistic (belief in God) and non-theistic (inner strength, moral values) interpretations of spirituality (Kaskutas, Turk, Bond & Weisner, 2003; Arnold, Avants, Margolin & Marcotte, 2002). In its broadest meaning, spirituality can be defined by how it is experienced (a heightened state of perception, awareness, performance or being) and by what it does to and for the individual (informs, heals, empowers, connects, centers or liberates) (White, 1992) Clients describe spirituality as a subjective experience, a relationship (with self and/or with resources beyond the self), a core quality of character and a style of living (Miller, 2003; Corrington, 1989). Spiritual experiences are distinguished from other experiences by their acute clarity and authenticity, their intensity (transcending ordinary experience) and their catalytic power. The term spirituality includes but has evolved beyond its religious moorings to convey experiences that bring a heightened sense of meaning and purpose in one’s life.

In order to conduct scientific studies on spirituality and addiction recovery, scientists have been forced to operationally define spirituality and develop instruments that can measure changes in the degree of one’s spiritual orientation over time. These instruments include the Spirituality Self-Assessment Scale, the Spiritual Well-Being Scale, the Spiritual Belief Scale, the Brief Multidimensional Measure of Religiousness/Spirituality and also the Religious Background and Behavior Scale used in Project MATCH (Gorsuch & Miller, 1999). These instruments measure such dimensions as belief in a higher power, daily rituals of meditation/prayer, life purpose and goals, balance and wholeness, personal values (e.g., honesty, humility, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance), and personal relationships.

Scientists are using these definitions and instruments to answer several key questions about spirituality and addiction.

• Does a spiritual void in one’s life heighten vulnerability for the development of a substance use disorder?

• Do self-defined spiritual experiences play a role in recovery initiation and, if so, what are the active ingredients within and measurable effects of such experiences?

• Does spirituality play a role in recovery maintenance and, if so, are these dimensions different than those that influence recovery initiation?

• What is the relationship between spirituality and religiosity as they interact over the course of addiction and recovery?

• Does a focus on spirituality within recovery mutual aid societies and the professional treatment of substance use disorders enhance long-term recovery outcomes?

Spirituality, recovery, history
The questions now being raised about spirituality by scientists are not new. The potential role of spiritual experiences in the resolution of alcohol problems was a central theme in early Native American cultural and religious revitalization movements and within the late 18th century writings of Dr. Benjamin Rush. When members of the Washingtonians described transformational experiences that did not include references to God, they were charged with the heresy of humanism. Debates raged through the 1840s over the relative merits of religious, spiritual and secular recovery experiences. It is among the lay alcoholism psychotherapists of the early twentieth century that we first see theology consciously transformed into therapy (in the work of Courtenay Baylor) and the later secularization of this approach into one emphasizing psychological technique (in the work of Richard Peabody). One of the innovations of Alcoholics Anonymous, which followed on the heels of the lay therapy movement, was to emancipate spirituality from its explicitly religious roots by charting a course between explicitly religious and secular pathways of recovery (White, 1998; White & Kurtz, 2005).

The beginnings of modern addiction counseling were marked by an emphasis on the role of spirituality in recovery. This interest in religious and spiritual influences on recovery faded in the wake of new biopsychological models of intervention, but is increasing once again. No, the questions being asked about spirituality and recovery are not new, but this is the first time in history rigorous scientific methods are being employed to answer them. This column has recently explored religious and secular styles of recovery. Now, we focus our attention on what we are learning about spirituality and recovery.

Spirituality and addiction recovery: the science
While research on spirituality, addiction and recovery is in its infancy, there are some consistent findings to date. First, we know that individuals with higher degrees of religiosity and spirituality are less likely to consume alcohol and other drugs and to consume less of such substances when they do use them. Conversely, studies are confirming that people with lower levels of spirituality, meaning and purpose in their lives are at increased risk for substance use disorders (Miller, 1998). Some investigators have conceptualized excessive alcohol and drug use as self-treatment for existential pain (Ventegodt, Merrick, & Andersen, 2003). Second, there is growing evidence that spirituality can serve as an antidote for substance use disorders. The most consistent finding is that clients with higher scores on measures of spirituality are more likely to be abstinent following treatment than those with lower scores (Waters and Shafer, 2005; Miller, 1998; Avants, Warburton & Margolin, 2001; Jarusiewicz, 2000). The influence of spirituality on recovery is independent of religiosity. For example, degree of religiosity at treatment admission does not predict or only modestly predicts positive treatment outcomes, but self-reports of having had a “spiritual awakening” through involvement with A.A. are highly predictive of recovery three years following treatment admission (Kaskutas, Turk, Bond & Weisner, 2003; Project MATCH Research Group, 1997). Another finding of note is that previous religiousness or spirituality is not a prerequisite to gaining the benefits of a spiritual orientation during the stages of recovery initiation and maintenance (Christo & Franey, 1995).

Clients in treatment speak of spirituality in terms of a turning point in their lives, protection and support from a higher power, guidance of an inner voice, life meaning, gratitude and service work with others seeking recovery (Arnold et al, 2002). The depth of this spirituality rises with length of recovery (Jarusiewicz, 2000) and produces a wide range of benefits. A spiritual orientation to recovery is associated with a higher quality of life, life contentment, optimism, social support and lower levels of stress and conflict (Corrington, 1989; Pardini, Plante, Sherman & Stump, 2000). Most clients in treatment recognize the benefits of spirituality to their long-term recovery (McDowell, Galanter, Goldfarb & Lifshutz, 1996) and support the availability of spiritual components of treatment (Arnold, et al, 2002).

The authors’ studies in New York City confirm many of these findings. We are conducting a NIDA-funded five-year prospective study of 354 previously heroin- and cocaine-dependent individuals self-identified as in recovery from one month to 10+ years. Our interviews with these individuals confirm that spirituality reduces the risk of relapse by serving as a protective buffer against the stress of early recovery (Laudet & White, 2005) and that a spiritual orientation toward recovery increases as recovery progresses (Laudet, Morgen & White, in press). When other factors are controlled (e.g., problem severity, drug choice, gender, ethnicity, etc.), higher spirituality at our first interviews predicts sustained recovery at the follow-up interviews.

Spirituality, life meaning and addiction counseling
So what does all this mean for the addictions counselor? These studies confirm that spirituality can be a catalyst of recovery initiation, a protective shield in early recovery and an increasingly significant dimension of long-term recovery maintenance. As such, spirituality is a valid area to explore in the assessment and service planning processes. Clients’ understandings of spirituality exhibit significant shifts in how spirituality is defined and utilized over the course of recovery. Addiction counselors would be well advised to support each client’s unique, stage-dependent interpretation of spirituality (with or without belief in a higher power) and to approach spirituality within the larger framework of life meaning and purpose.

The role of spirituality in recovery initiation requires that we remain open to the power of sudden, transformative change. Many clients talk about a “turning point” in their lives in spiritual terms. Such experiences often occur in the context of near death experiences (from overdoses, suicide attempts, violent victimization), HIV/AIDS, addiction-related deaths of close friends and incarcerations. Addiction counselors can play an important role in enhancing the enduring influence of such experiences.

The evolving role of spirituality in long-term recovery dramatically underscores that recovery is much more than the removal of alcohol and other drugs from an otherwise unchanged life. Early recovery is marked by the stressors of disengaging from alcohol and other drugs and cleaning up the debris of one’s addiction. The successful resolution of these tasks is often followed by existential panic: “I’m sober. Now what do I do?” (Chapman, 1991; White, 1996). Moving through this crisis involves a transformational journey marked by major changes in character, values, identity, interpersonal relationships and lifestyle. Spirituality is a potential sense-making framework through which these transitions can be planned and retrospectively understood via story reconstruction. Addiction counselors can play an important role as a guide in this process and help each client construct a recovery-enhancing narrative of his or her life.

Acknowledgment: Support for preparation of this article was provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (Grant R01DA14409). The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

William White ( is a Senior Research Consultant at Chestnut Health Systems and author of Slaying the Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America.

Alexandre Laudet ( is the Director of the Center for the Study of Addictions Recovery at the National Development and Research Institutes, Inc. in New York City.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007


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Thursday, March 01, 2007


by Rabbi Mark Dratch

Victims of abuse are often told by others to keep their secrets. They are warned that making their abuse public would be a shonda (a shame and embarrassment) for the Jewish community, for their families, and for themselves. Even worse, they are told that going public is a hillul Hashem, a desecration of God’s Name. And this warning is used as a tool to silence those who need to speak.

It is unfathomable that concerns for God’s reputation would condemn a victim of abuse to a life of suffering. What really is hillul Hashem, the desecration of God’s Name?

Hillul Hashem and its corollary, Kiddush Hashem (the sanctification of God’s Name), are predicated on the idea that our behavior has consequences. How we act makes a difference. And it matters not only to the people around us and not only to our own reputations, but it matters to God and His reputation as well. Our duty as Jews, as a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” is to bring the world closer to a recognition and appreciation of God. We are God's representatives to the world, and all that we do impacts upon how others view Him. We are responsible, through our actions, to make God beloved by others,1 and to glorify His honor in their eyes. Thus, the Torah is concerned about Kiddush Hashem (the sanctification of God's Name) and Hillul Hashem (the desecrating of His Name):
"And you shall not desecrate My holy Name but I shall be sanctified amongst the Children of Israel" (Lev. 22:32).
Although nothing that we do can violate God's ultimate sanctity, everything we do can affect His Name (read: reputation).

While this discussion will focus on human activity that affects the sanctity of God’s Name, it is worth noting that God Himself is also responsible for His own reputation, and He too is capable of committing both kiddush and hillul Hashem.2

Moses convinced God to forgive the Jewish people for the sin of the golden calf by raising the threat that such divine punishment will have on His reputation:
“What will the Egyptians say?” And Ezekiel said that it is God who personally desecrated His own Name when He exiled the Jewish people from its land."3
Although the concepts of kiddush Hashem and hillul Hashem are most often discussed in relation to the obligation, in extraordinary circumstances, to sacrifice one's life for the sake of God and His Torah,4 we will focus on the significance of kiddush Hashem and hillul Hashem in less ultimate, yet equally consequential, situations, one's daily conduct, and then turn our attention to its significance in exposing abuse and abusers.

For the REST of this wonderful article & references CLICK HERE

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