Posted by Elizabeth Schön Vainer

As many of us enjoy Sukkot, a time when families and friends gather under temporary shelters, we also arrive at the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I find this intersection quite powerful. Sukkot is associated with warmth, love, and for many of us, the knowledge that even though oursukkah is fragile, our homes are safe. Yet, for so many people – including many Jews in our community – the fragility, vulnerability, uncertainty, and instability of the sukkah reflects the ongoing reality of their lives.

As we circulate our domestic violence awareness posters and video this month, you might ask, “What does Love Should Be Safe mean anyway? Isn’t it obvious?” But then again, what does “safe” mean? 

Several years ago Journey to Safety intentionally changed the term we use from domestic violence to domestic abuse when describing our program. Why? Because so often the kinds of controlling behavior that make a dating, live-in, or martial partner feel unsafe are not explicitly violent.  Punching walls, making threats, throwing objects (as a warning), controlling finances, and regularly interrupting sleep are all examples of abusive behaviors, even though they don’t result in a physical injury. And there are many other behaviors that make abuse survivors feel unsafe, exhausted, and overwhelmed. 

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