Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sexual Abuse Victim Demeaned and Put on Notice for Misconduct at Hebrew Theological College

Hebrew Theological College Dean Doctor Esther Shkop demeans student survivor of sexual abuse and puts her on notice for having the audacity to talk about her experience. Kaylie's* (a pseudonym) courage is to be applauded. The college's actions are outrageous.

Kaylie*, an 18 year old College student in Chicago, had recently posted this image on her Facebook page with this caption:

I'm a survivor of sexual abuse.

This is not a new thing. I've been a survivor as long as you've known me.

Are you going to change your opinion of me just because three evil people took advantage of me?

Are you embarrassed of me? Are you willing to share our story?

Let's see who my real friends are.”

Just a few hours ago, Kaylie* received the following email from one of the dean’s at her school with the subject line “Breaking all Boundaries”:

From: Esther Shkop <>
Date: Thu, Feb 28, 2013 at 12:11 PM
Subject: Breaking all Boundaries
Cc: "" <>, "" <>

I received an anonymous phone call last night with a message from one of your "friends" on Facebook, who expressed great consternation and concern that you have chosen to publicize to "friends" (regardless of their age, sincerity and level of intimacy) your history of sexual abuse.  Your public Facebook page is troubling enough, as is your Google history [which are open to the whole world].  It is troubling primarily because you have chosen to identify yourself by your pathology.  You no longer appear as a full human - but rather as "case study" of a young woman warped by her childhood experiences, and is thus identified wholly by that past.

I am not asking you to deny your pain.  I am asking you to exercise a measure of discretion, and develop a plan to go beyond your past  towards healing.  You seem too intent on wallowing in the past, and drawing sick attention to yourself for all of the wrong reasons.

At the same, you identify yourself as a student of Hebrew Theological College, and by association besmirch your peers as well as yourself.
This misuse of social media is definitely a violation of the HTC Personal Conduct Policy (see page 17 in the Student Handbook). Consequently, the HTC Administration is putting you on formal notice that all inappropriate materials should be removed from your Facebook page forthwith - both on the front page and the back pages.

If you have questions about what is and is not appropriate, feel free to come to speak to me or Mrs. Lipshitz.

Esther Shkop

Esther M. Shkop, Ph.D.
Dean, Machon Torani L'Banot
Blitstein Institute of Hebrew Theological College
2606 West Touhy Avenue
Chicago, IL  60645

Hebrew Theological College’s actions would reduce free speech to misconduct and Kaylie* and her courage to nothing. The school’s actions are the only misconduct, and it is utterly horrendous.

If you believe the school should rescind its notice of misconduct and issue an apology to Kyalie* and other survivors, please contact:

Chancellor, Dr. Jerold Rabbi Isenberg

Dean Shkop

Assitant Dean, Rita Lipshitz


  1. This is disgusting and should not be tolerated! i applaud Kaylie for her strength in coming out about what she went through. I know her personally and she is a special and strong person who has put her painful past behind her. She is someone who is looked up to by her many friends for her strength of character and indomitable spirit and has used her experiences to grow and help others. Seeing this woman's hurtful and insensitive comments puts our society to shame. They are unethical, illegal, illogical and completely untrue. The more we hide what is going on in our communities, the more power we are giving to abusers. This is aside from the glaring violation of freedom of speech presented. Please do not just pass this by, as silence is consent. Please write to the addresses posted.

  2. I just sent this, and ccd everyone I could think of:

    Dear Dean Shkop,

    I can only assume that your PhD is in herpetology rather than one of the Humanities.

    As a Hasidic woman, I am embarrassed at your treatment of another human being, and the horrific chillul Hashem you've committed.

    As a woman who works with survivors of sexual abuse, I would highly encourage you and everyone on your staff to read "When Survivors Give Birth," by Penny Simkin, which although intended for birthworkers supporting survivors, should actually be requisite for anyone in any teaching field as well. Please be sure to have a highlighter handy, because I guarantee you'll learn more than a thing or two.

  3. Mrs. Lipshitz? Well your name says it all.

  4. Im sorry but as a person who was sexually abused as a child i agree with the school. Facebook is not the place to publicly call attention to the fact that you went through a horror. There is a time and a place for everything and Facebook is not always that place. There are other places for to express all this. Sexaholics Anonymous for 1 and therapy for another. You want to bring attention to the fact that there is a problem in our community then fine do that not on Facebook! Go local leaders get them to listen to you!

    1. Perhaps she posted it as a generakl statement, not as an attention call.

    2. You are either a fool or a liar.

    3. Sometimes one must do the opposite then what others are doing; in order to be taken seriously. We live in a very sick world and sexual predators are luring in every neighborhood sometimes in your own home. How come it's okay to deceive ourselves from that fact and not okay to choose your platform. Walk a mile in this young lady's shoes and then make your smart remarks, judgment calls and conduct guidelines. Abuse changes a human being for life and a survivor's healing can only come forth by speaking out! She made it out alive and is not a statistic. Btw, Ms. Esther Shkop "we are all a case study" in life.

    4. "You want to bring attention to the fact that there is a problem in our community then fine do that not on Facebook! Go local leaders get them to listen to you!"

      So basically you're saying keep everything hushed up so it's not a chillel hashem. You're at best ignorant.
      It's a chillel hashem to hush it up and "local leaders" are often just like you and also try to hush things up. End result, abuse is hushed up, more abuse happens, bigger chillel hashem...

    5. Every day I see jokes on the internet about men masturbating. It is sociably acceptable to make those jokes. I see men point out and comment on women's boobs. It is socially acceptable to say such things on the internet. Just think about that when you decide to start pointing fingers on what people should or should not be saying on facebook. I applaud any woman that can wear her past as a badge of honor and not lug it around as a heavy weighted secret.

      Just because someone's life story makes you feel uncomfortable does not mean that person's life is now a "public call for attention". It just means they are strong enough to be honest about their life, brave enough to call out friends from non friends. Not many people can openly say they'd rather be alone and have true friends, than have lots of shallow friends.

    6. I think she was right to do it.
      This will stop abusers.
      Are you alright with the way the dean spoke to her too,?
      in a demeaning and hurtfull way ? I am horrified that she
      calls herself an educator.
      She would do better to work with non living things- her compassion is not evident. She has a mean streak. I'm wondering if this isnt the first time that she's she applied it to the students and I'm guessing it isnt.
      Personally I think way too many frum people think that they know everything and have less compassion then they should.
      Talking or teaching about compassion isn't having compassion.

    7. It is because of the local 'leaders' that these disgusting individuals have been able to breed and flourish like rodents in a garbage tip. In Australia, the USA and elsewhere, the local leaders have turned a blind eye and acted with carefully guided ignorance whilst children (and adults for that matter) have been abused. It did not begin with my classmates and friends being abused. It did not end with those same friends being told to keep quiet.

      The leaders of yesteryear and today have failed us as individuals, as communities, as Jews, and as a civilized(?) society. They acted to cover up the horrifying acts of many individuals, and the misdeeds of communal organisations in covering up these acts. This has resulted in the continued abuse of more children throughout the world. Some gets caught here? We dealt with it and sent him to teach overseas. See! Never happened here.

      Time to pull your thumbs out. First step is to admit what was done. Next step is to support those who have been failed by the community....give them the support they deserve....however they require it.

    8. I disagree, Facebook is the perfect forum for self-expresson. I don't know what your concept of Facebook is, but it is where I express my views on what's happening in my life and in the world. The First Amendment allows us the freedom of expression and Facebook gives us a forum.

  5. Uh, "AnonymousFebruary 28, 2013 at 7:25 PM", what does surviving sexual abuse have to do with "Sexaholics Anonymous"??

  6. Hi Anonymous February 28, 2013 at 7:40 PM,

    I think you'll find the responses of the "local leaders" is quite obvious, no?

    "You seem too intent on wallowing in the past, and drawing sick attention to yourself for all of the wrong reasons." This is disgusting, narrow minded, offensive and dismissive, but perhaps "correctly religous", so carry on.

    I would be ashamed to be a students of these people.

    Also please provide us with a suggested time and place where a person can deal with these things.

  7. I really don't think name calling is necessary or nice as well one wrong does not give the right for another.

  8. Dear Kaylie, I commend your bravery in publicizing your abuse. You actions will G-d willing go a long way to give other victims of abuse to come forward, to remove the stigma associated with abuse and further bring to light a problem that is too often swept under the carpet. You are also helping to expose people like Ms. Schkop, who are completely unqualified to deal with kind of issues and who ruin the lives of young women. I will share this article with as many people as possible.

  9. Dear kaylie,
    You did the right thing. It is your right to post what you want on Facebook. I am proud of you and you are changing the world one step at a time. Ignore the haters and don't even waste a second thinking about dr.shkop! You are awesome and amazing!

  10. Kaylie.....don't stop have taken a step toward reclaiming yourself. It is difficult and the world is full of Shkops. Ignore them, they don't care about anybody but do not need more of them. Good luck on your journey. Stay strong.

  11. stepping into the light is allways difficult.
    But the reaction of the university is actually one that is more common then you think.
    Even my own friends do not all know about my abuse as a child.
    The reason being that I don't need to talk about it anymore, and don't want to distress them with problems I had in my past.

    But it is necessary to hold every pain to the light, and give us a chance to comfort people like Kaylie.
    I wish her all the best.

    NEVER SHUT UP when telling the truth!

  12. Why is "Ester" in the email spelled differently from "Esther" in the signature block?

    1. She clearly Typo'ed her own name :)

    2. Or it's not really her email. She is bring vilified despite the fact that she has supported this student all along. The disgrace here is how people have assumed the worst without knowing a of the facts.

  13. abuse in any form is never okay,
    not for any reason.
    and going to rabbis is useless.
    More than 25 years ago a sibling of mine went to the rabbis in the community for help. They were told that her husband was punching her in her pregnant belly and they all hushed it up. one of the rebbitzins when told of the husbands violent tendencies said well you know their are two sides to every story .. I said shocked - even if the husband is punching a helpless child- I ask how can there be two sides to that?
    Everyone of them sided with the husband and told her to go back to him. It was in their best interests not hers or the childs. and to add insult to injury people in the commmunity would come up to us and tell us what a wonderful human being the husband was?
    Finally I had enough and bentched all of them that all their children should marry such a wonderfull person just like him.
    Thats when you see what people are really made of.
    you can only guess what their reaction was!!!
    abuse is not alright and it hurts all of us.

    1. That was the perfect response! I hope your sister has left him and is able to keep her children away from their violent father

  14. Aside from the general inappropriateness of her response, the principal totally distorted the intention of the writer. She wrote:

    "It is troubling primarily because you have chosen to identify yourself by your pathology. You no longer appear as a full human - but rather as "case study" of a young woman warped by her childhood experiences, and is thus identified wholly by that past."

    Yet, Kaylie's words were very clearly trying to say, "This DOESN'T change who I am! I am NOT defined by my sex abuse." She specifically asked her friends NOT to view her differently. And yet, that is EXACTLY what the principal did, telling her she is 'warped', 'no longer a full person', has a 'pathology', is 'wholly identified by her past', and is 'drawing sick attention to herself'!

    Additionally, when the principal writes, "...and by association besmirch your peers as well as yourself", she's basically proving how right Kaylie is when she asked, "Are you embarrassed of me?"

    It's almost like every single message that Kaylie was trying to convey in her posting, every problem she was trying to fight against, the principal is proving she is guilty of!

    1. Exactly. I cannot see how Kaylie's experiences as a victim give her a pathology. The pathology belongs to the abusers. She is a victim, who I very much hope has been receiving competent and caring counseling.

      I know Dr. Shkop, and hold her in extremely high regard. I am not sure why her letter has the tone that it does. However, it certainly appears to be urging more silence.

      Personally, I feel that a personal history of being abused is not something I want broadcasted to the world. But, being told that you must not discuss this, that it is shameful, just helps the abusers. The abusers thrive on silence and secrecy and shame of the victims.

      I wish Kaylie well, and fervently hope that HTC is able, as an institution, to find a kinder and more caring approach to this young woman.

  15. Hi Kaylie - I did write an email expressing my disgust to the Dean. I would like to praise you for being so courageous. I am in my late 20's and only now, after a couple years of therapy, opening up to some close friends about my experience being abused as a child. Please continue to open up and heal. Your bravery and willingness to open up has truly inspired me. You have nothing to be ashamed of, this is part of your past and part of what makes you - you.

    Thank you again for being a trail blazer!

    1. Agree 100%. I sent her an email as well. I did not receive a response.

  16. While private schools may very well have the right restrict freedom of expression, discrimination and harassment is a violation of school policy and Law. Dr Shkop's email clearly states that she believes Kaylie has a "pathology" which makes her "less than human." While one will hopefully question the validity of this conclusion, Dr Shkop freely acknowledges that she perceives a disability. And, based on this perceived disability, she berates Kaylie creating a clearly hostile environment and invokes a vague policy, which no doubt is not applied to students who disclose religious orientation, ethnicity, etc, and presumably most other "pathologies," such as having a cold. This is indeed harassment and discrimination. The American's with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination based on disability, including "perceived" disabilities which may or may not be factual but are nonetheless perceived, according to Court decisions. Not only was the school's response completely callous, offensive and outrageous, it was itself a violation of school policy and the Law.

  17. Everyone should also contact the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation who financially support this place. When an organisation who funds you starts asking questions, you quickly answer them.

  18. I just reread this letter again and it's actually more revolting the more you think about it.

  19. Kaylie, if you ever see this, you should be making arrangements to study somewhere else.

    For a community "leader" to treat a young person in this way, should have you running away fast from whoever they represent and never ever returning.

  20. Dr. Isenberg

    I have just read the following story

    I am appalled by your lack of compassion for a victim of sexual abuse.

    I quote Dr. Shkop's letter here: " It is troubling primarily because you have chosen to identify yourself by your pathology."

    Pathology? I beg to differ. She is the victim of someone else's pathology, according to her statement the pathology of "three evil people." She does not say if any of those three evil people are on staff at your institution, but the way you are attempting to silence her arouses my suspicions.

    I am just a Facebook reader who came upon this story and it outraged me. You are violating her First Amendment rights just like those three evil people violated her human rights. You are just adding to the abuse she has already
    suffered. You should be ashamed of yourself!

    Dennis OMalley

  21. Kaylie, if you read this, I would love to loudly proclaim to you, "Eschet Chayil!"

  22. "Kaylie" - you have now won friends all over the world. Justice, justice shall we all pursue. What is just as evil as the perpetrators themselves are those perpetuate their injustice through their refusal to pursue justice, like this Mrs Shkop. When did our religion become the organised power-structure that it has, rather than us all being guided by the plain ethical wisdom of our faith? When we all join hands, those false gods masquerading as holy people, will come tumbling down.

  23. Would someone delete that spam from 10:52 PM?
    More than a few thoughts from a female therapist who likes to think the Jewish educational world is not completely off its rocker:
    (a) It is a you go girl, when it comes to shouting out about violence of any kind, especially sexual violence.
    (b) Dr. Shkop is not a perpetrator of sexual harassment and the school she represents is certainly not a hostile environment. On the contrary, the norm at this parochial college is language that is not, sexual, behavior that is not sexual. No jokes, no blue comments allowed.
    (c) The community in Chicago is known nationally for sexual abuse prevention efforts, educational programs that begin in some of the elementary schools and arc to include teachers, especially in high schools and higher education, and counselors in day and overnight camps. Mental health professionals have teamed up with counselors of the Arch Diocese of Chicago to learn from them. Even parents are a part of outreach. The goal, zero tolerance of sexual assault and abuse of all kinds.
    (d) Should we compare Jewish norms and attitudes toward women with those of other cultures, we'll find that Jewish men put their wives above themselves—are taught that they should-- and those who walk the walk are respectful. That said, there are always exceptions to group statistics. Kaylie knows one.
    (e) Dear Kaylie, you must know that your school discourages talking publicly about sex. Your activism would begin with that, working with the administration to change this. There isn’t a tribe in the universe that is free from sexual violence, not even ours, and it should be exposed, weeded out. This isn’t news to your administrators, certainly not to Dr. Shkop. And you would be right to do this, even if you fail initially. Activism begins in the home, or in your case, the home school.
    (f) Not having read your Facebook page, I can only hope that you have already worked with rape victim advocates and have a good therapist to work your way to survivorhood. We need you to teach other women how to speak out, report, and fight back.
    (g) Best of luck, kid. You're a member of a huge club. And there's nothing second rate, nothing sick about anyone of us, or any of the one in three women who are sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, most of them between the ages of 16 and 25. Not sick, not by that definition, victimhood. You go girl.

  24. Still not sure why Chaim Levin hasn't answered if he checked the facts before posting this story. It may be true. But most people don't mistakenly mis-type their own names. Why not acknowledge that there's been no verification?

    1. Thank you for observing the typo introduced. It will be corrected. Both parties were consulted before the story was posted and the school has apologized.

  25. The school's apology

    1. Thank you for posting this. It is important not to vilify the school. This whole mess demonstrates how well meaning people can go astray. G-d willing the school and the student will be able to find a workable solution to their disagreement about her choice to make such a public statement.

  26. Dear Ester,
    Sex abuse is a terrible problem in our world & always has been, & a big part of the reason for that is that victims are too often afraid to come forward. I have read news reports wherein girls have killed themselves because they were raped & blamed for it, where an 11-year-old was called a temptress, where a woman was put in prison because the detective assume she lied about her rape- while her rapist walked free to rape again. I've heard people I love tell me how they were afraid to go to cops, afraid to tell anyone, how they felt shamed & embarrassed. I saw them struggle, afraid to turn off the light at night, angry at the world, physically hurt, going before a judge, & being told by people in their lives they were liars or that it was their fault. & that is part of why rapists do what they do- they know that society is so afraid of sex & the human body & the darkness of the human soul that many people will shame & blame the victims & protect the rapists - so they can hurt vulnerable people & get away with it, because no one will tell.
    Ignoring & silencing & threatening rape victims is one of the things that makes rape such a common problem in this world. If you want to fight rape, rather than assist it, do not ever presume to tell a rape victim not to talk about how it has effected her. We all need to stand iwth victims & survivors, not protect rapists. Stop blaming the victim. Enough is enough. It is time for us all to unite against the rapists. Please humble yourself & take the time to education yourself & LISTEN to victims & experts (ie doctors) & learn rather than dismissing the painful truth. Thank you. ~ Helen


  27. Being a survivor is one of the most loneliest experience in the world and us survivors are often riddled with shame, though we shouldn't be...

    People may tell us, it doesn't define us, but it does, the difference is whether we chose to live in fear and silence or rather we decide to speak out and reclaim our tragedy. Part of the healing process is speaking out and it is important for us to not feel too ashamed to say, "I was raped and to not feel like it's a dirty little secret that would "besmirch" us and our peers. I guess you haven't read the recent news of young girls killing themselves because of bullying and harassment due to rape culture...

    You telling a survivor to essentially shut-up, reminds me of the same thing my rapist said to me repeatedly while he assaulted me.

    Do not make a woman feel ashamed for being raped and do not tell her how she should conduct herself or express herself afterwards. She was not reducing herself to a survivor but you did when you sent that message and it was very condescending...this woman reached out and was hoping for encouraging and accepting words but instead she got a letter telling her the same thing a rapist would tell her - Be quiet

    Blanche Kiernan

  28. Dear Kaylie,
    You should fight these people to the end! I was sexually abused by a priest over 30 years ago. My attorney sent letters to them, hoping for a quick settlement. They wrote back saying that they knew this happened, because the priest had molested 65 other boys. They knew he was doing this 30 years ago and when it was reported, they would move the priest to a different church. Now they told my lawyer that they will NOT compensate any victims. My lawyer who is one of the best sexual abuse attorneys in the country has given up. I have not. I can't. I have cancer, no money and I will fight to the bitter end. These people are still trying to sweep it under the rug. They must be called out and punished. I am determined. Keep fighting them. They are wrong you are not!


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