The Silence Breakers

Jerusalem Post Magazine, January 14, 2016

Mina Karp can’t really remember exactly how old she was when her life changed forever.

She must have been six years old, she told the Magazine, in her first interview with the press. She had been living in Jerusalem’s haredi (ultra- Orthodox) neighborhood of Sanhedria.

Her mother agreed to let her go to synagogue on her own. The young Karp was excited because there was an aufruf in which a bridegroom is called to the Torah for a Shabbat celebration.

During the celebration, a young haredi man, about 15 or 16 years old, motioned to her and asked her if she wanted to help make “goody bags” and get some candy. Of course she did.

“I found myself going after him, and we went quite a ways, and I didn’t understand why we walked so far…. He took me to a dark storage room, and he took off my stockings – because I was haredi – and the ‘touching’ [of his and her genitals] began. That’s when something else in my life began.”

What began were years of confusion, shame, guilt, helplessness, even more incidents of abuse by others, and, until recently… silence. She never told her mother, out of fear that her naive, conservative mother would yell at her or brush it off; nor did she tell anyone in her community. She kept it in, not really understanding the exact psychological gravity of such an event until she became an adult.

“I thought that talking about it would be part of my redemption,” the 28-yearold said of her recent decision to speak out.

Karp eventually married and, together, she and her husband left the haredi fold, but the healing process consumes her daily. Living a new life in Ashkelon, Karp hasn’t followed efforts in the haredi world, and in the religious Jewish world in general, to prevent what she considers “soul murder.”

The last few years have seen an increasing number of efforts – some organized, and some grassroots – to lift the veil of silence over a topic fraught with fear, shame and stigma among both victims and religious community leaders.

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