A Sheitel Macher’s Journey in Empowering Abuse Survivors
I have been honored to be the SHALVA Orthodox Outreach Coordinator for close to 9 years. I have also been a Sheitel Macher, or wig stylist (think hairdresser) for many years. The relationship between a client and hairdresser is special. My chair/office/salon is a safe space and I have listened to many women’s stories, both joyous and challenging. Over the years I have been able to pick up on patterns of unhealthy behaviors in their relationships. I tried to be supportive with the knowledge that I had, but I felt I needed to know more. When the opportunity to work at SHALVA became available, I jumped at the chance to take a more active role, hoping to be part of the solution and better help my community. Once I started my 40-hour domestic violence training, I realized that being supportive to a person whom I suspect may be in an abusive relationship requires extra sensitivity and an empowerment lens. I learn more each day and have gained deep insight and perspective that I can share through my work at SHALVA, as well as in my personal life and as a Sheitel Macher.
Why Do They Stay?
I wish to share with you some insights about what a person in an abusive relationship may be thinking. Hopefully, this can help to answer the popular question “why do they stay?”, which I get asked all the time.
- I don’t think this is really abuse. Maybe it’s not so bad?
- It’s all my fault.
- If I leave, I have no place to go.
- I am afraid that all the threats he made he will act upon.
- If I leave no one will believe me, everyone thinks my husband is amazing.
- My husband says, “If you leave, I will kill you” or “If you leave, I will kill myself”.
- I will be judged because I stayed for so long.
- I can’t leave my dog. Will they allow pets?
- I will bring shame to my family.
- I’ve been isolated from my family and friends. Who will be my support system?
- How will I be able to move if I have no income?
- My kids will be taken away from me.
- Who will watch my kids when I have to work?
- I need a lawyer, how will I afford this?
- How will I pay for anything like food and clothes?
How Can I Help?
Those are just a few things that I have heard, and there are likely many more thoughts that survivors have that they don’t share. We need to keep in mind when we suspect abuse or know there is abuse going on, we should not tell the survivor what to do. I have learned that support means meeting the person where they are now, NOT where I think they should be. I encourage them to consider what they think is best and safest for them, while supporting any decision they choose to make (even if I don’t see it their way). Most of all, I believe them, I don’t judge, and I ensure what they have shared with me will be held in confidence.
If you are not sure how to best support someone you suspect is in an abusive marriage, feel free to call SHALVA at 773-583-HOPE or check out Show You CARE.