Search URJ.org and the other Reform websites:

After the Stanford Rape Case, a Look at Sexual Assault and Jewish Values

After the Stanford Rape Case, a Look at Sexual Assault and Jewish Values

The recent Stanford University sexual assault case has been a difficult event to read about and to comprehend. We respect the integrity of the legal process and the judge’s authority, but based on news reports about the case, the statements and the resulting judgement are far from what we expected. The victim's strength of will and character are admirable. We also pray for healing of body and spirit for the victim, her family as well as for the perpetrator and his family, that they may understand the callous magnitude of their actions and statements.

While we are aggrieved this conversation is necessary, we are gratified at the intensity and breadth of the ensuing national conversation spurred by the Stanford case.

The Stanford case, is, unfortunately, just one case in too many like it.

A 2015 study by the Association of American Universities found that 1 in 4 women experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact during their four years of college. It is also deeply concerning that the same study found that no more than 28% of the most serious incidents are reported. College should be a safe space of learning and growing, not a place for persistent predatory behavior. Colleges do too little to prevent assaults from happening or to support the victims after a crime occurs. Institutions that do not treat these crimes with reasonable seriousness disempower the victims, creating a sense of helplessness. A culture of silence only compounds the crime.

The pervasiveness of sexual assault goes beyond college campuses. Last year, more than 6,000 cases of military sexual assault were reported. Even within the general population, the U.S. Department of Justice reports that on average, one American is sexually assaulted every two minutes. While women are more often the victims, men too face the danger and trauma of sexual assault.

Yet we also know that victims are often reluctant to share their stories, largely out of fear of retribution.

The guiding principle of sexuality in the Jewish tradition is k'doshim tih'yu, “You shall be holy.” (Leviticus 19:2). Sexual assault is a blatant violation of the victim, and it cuts into the very holiness of our society.

We work tirelessly to create safe and welcoming communities of acceptance. We teach that everyone is created in God’s image, b’tzelem Elohim, and that we have an obligation not stand idly by while injustice and inequality exist (Leviticus 19:16).

These more public conversations about sexual assault are long overdue. Each of us is responsible for our own actions and for creating a culture of respect and responsibility that makes everyone safer. As the conversation continues, let us all stand up in unison to call for measures that will re-educate all members of our society on the sanctity of the human body, that every individual deserves honor and respect.

As we look ahead past the summer to a new school year, we pray that every student experiences a time of wholeness, development, and security, and that none will know the violence of sexual assault.

Miriam Chilton is the Union for Reform Judaism's vice president of youth; prior to this, she served as director of strategy, operations and finance, for URJ Youth, Camp and Israel Programs. Miriam has a Master of Arts in Business Administration and Master of Science in information systems from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Ithaca College. When she's not out in the field trying to engage more young people, Miriam is an active member of Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield, N.J.

Miriam Chilton

Subscribe via Feedly

Submit a blog post

Share your voice: ReformJudaism.org accepts submissions to the blog

Blogroll