The long-term effects of sexual abuse in the Orthodox Jewish community

Sexual abuse in the Orthodox Jewish community may have lasting psychological, physical and social effects for victims.

It is difficult to imagine sexual abuse occurring in religious communities like the Orthodox Jewish community. However, more and more people are coming forward and alleging they were sexually abused at hands of rabbis, Torah teachers, family friends, respected elders and others. While the extent of the problem in the Orthodox Jewish community is unknown, the Washington Post reports 132 people made abuse allegations in 2011 alone.

The effects of sexual abuse may be extensive and long lasting. Unwanted sexual activity made by force, threatening or otherwise taking advantage may have psychological, physical and social consequences, which may last well after the abuse occurs. The impact of molestation may be made worse among Orthodox Jews, including the large enclaves in Miami, Baltimore, Los Angeles and New York, because it often goes unreported or unaddressed. This may occur because people do not like to talk about such things, the victims may not be able to express what is happening to them, those involved may be too afraid to report the abuse or because Jewish tenets prohibit people from reporting other Jews to secular law enforcement officials.

Psychological effects

Regardless of the age when the molestation occurred, those who suffer sexual abuse may experience immediate psychological impacts, as well as long-term emotional effects. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sexual violence may result in psychological issues including the following:

  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Distrust of other people
  • Denial
  • Shock
  • Fear
  • Withdrawal

While the immediate emotional consequences may fade with time, people who are sexually abused often experience chronic psychological issues such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and generalized anxiety. In some cases, those who experience sexual violence may also become suicidal and suffer from low self-esteem or self-blame.

Physical effects

Long after they have healed from the immediate injuries, people may continue to suffer from a range of physical effects as a result of sexual abuse. In addition to genital injuries, people may suffer other gynecological complications, sexually transmitted infections or cervical cancer. Victims of sexual violence often also experience chronic pain, migraines and other frequent headaches, and gastrointestinal disorders. Unplanned pregnancies may also result from abuse involving unprotected intercourse.

Social effects

As they recover from being sexually abused, it may seem that people should want to turn to their family, friends and others who care about them. However, that is not always the case, and sexual violence may strain their relationships with their families and friends. People who experience molestation often isolate or ostracize themselves from their families and the community. They may reach out less often and avoid contact with their loved ones, and turn to other people or fixes for emotional support.

Due to the trauma of sexual abuse, those who have been molested often experience a diminished interest in sex. In some cases, they may even avoid sexual activities altogether. This may put tension on their relationships with intimate partners or make it difficult to connect with people on that level. In fact, people who have suffered sexual violence may be less likely to marry, according to the CDC.

Seeking legal counsel

The impact of sexual abuse is often long-lasting. Consequently, those who experience molestation may require immediate medical care as well as ongoing treatment. This may lead to undue medical expenses and other losses for which the alleged abuser may be held liable. Therefore, those who have been sexually abused may benefit from consulting with an attorney. A lawyer like those at the firm of Andreozzi & Associates, P.C., can explain their rights and help them better understand possible legal options.