Prayer for Victims of Clergy Sexual Abuse and their Advocates

By Rebecca bat Avraham
teenage girl looking somber

This prayer was written by a survivor of clergy sexual abuse. It is intended to be used by both victims and their advocates. The author of this piece chose to use the language of the Prayer for the State of Israel as a framework to compose this prayer for healing, and explains their reasoning as follows:

"I started using word substitution in the liturgy to make the standard prayers more personal, after my trauma. It was incredibly difficult to visit any synagogue after what happened to me. When I finally got up the strength ("I won't let him take my religion away from me"), I couldn't tell anybody what I was going through, let alone ask for healing or support. I had tried that with one rabbi and was essentially told to pray for my abuser and just let it go. I never wanted to feel that humiliated and invalidated again, and so I tell no one and expect no support from any temple on this issue. 

Instead, to comfort and strengthen myself during services, I've been privately making the usual prayers relate to my experience by using word substitution, like this. The fight I'm fighting, inside and out, is just as intense, powerful, and as part of me as many feel the State of Israel is to them. I realize that there are tensions surrounding this prayer. Israel is a topic many people are afraid to broach, have strong opinions on, are in denial about, and everything in between. Rabbinical sexual misconduct is a topic many people are afraid to broach, have strong opinions on, are in denial about, and everything in between. 

It's a bold move to use this prayer as a framework, but I personally find this prayer familiar and comforting and I wanted to experiment with how it would look, in writing, to change the words to be about another serious, intense, and controversial issue that has been with us for a long time: What would happen if we took clergy sexual abuse as seriously as we took Israel?"

Our Father in Heaven, Rock and Redeemer of Israel, bless the survivors of clergy sexual abuse and exploitation. Shield them with Your lovingkindness, envelop them in Your peace, and bestow Your light and truth upon those who surround them, and grace them with Your good counsel. Strengthen the hands of those who endeavor to uphold the sacred status of the rabbinate, grant them deliverance, and adorn them in a mantle of victory. Ordain peace in their souls and grant them eternal happiness.

Learn more about the author's story at the Forward.