Woodmere Psychologist Tackling Abuse in Jewish Community

by Susan Varghese

Long-time Five Towns resident, psychologist, and author, Michael J. Salamon is spreading awareness about abuse. Salamon has just released his fifth book, titled Abuse in the Jewish Community: Religious and Communal Factors that Undermine the Apprehension of Offenders and the Treatment of Victims.

“Early on, one of my internships was at a shelter for abused woman and children,” Salamon said. “ When I started working, I was exposed to several people with a history of abuse. And, because of the way it was handled in the Jewish community…well, it was basically not handled.”

Salamon grew up in Cedarhurst and is currently a Woodmere resident. He is the founder and director of the Adult Development Center, Inc., a psychological practice in Hewlett. “My job, family and friends [made me stay in The Five Towns]. A lot of the same people I grew up with still live here,” Salamon said. He went to Queens College and then to Hofstra University for his doctorate. “I had a passion for music, I played guitar in bands, and put myself through school through playing gigs.”

His latest book addresses the issue of abuse in the Jewish community, the factors, and signs of abuse, just to name a few.

According to Salamon, the reasons of abuse being swept under the rug in the religious community, in all religions, are religious, psychological, and social factors. “Nobody wants to believe that you can be religious and still be abusive,” he said. “But, it happens… the Jewish mentality is that you don’t want to bring too much attention to yourself.  You don’t want to advertise anything that can be misconstrued as overly negative about the population.”

Salamon noted that lack of awareness is a huge problem in handling abuse. “I think the only way to deal with it is to be more aware of it.  I think that reporting abuse and abusers and teaching people how to recognize when they’re being abused is important…to understand when they’re being groomed into being in an abusive relationship and preventing it.”

The signs of abuse can be subtle, Salamon explained. “The first thing is that people don’t realize when they’re in an abusive relationship because the person who’s abusing tends to overly give them gifts and be attentive. But, slowly, over time makes small demands of them that eventually become increasingly abusive. Then they change the whole dynamic of the relationship and turn it into, ‘Well, if you really cared about me, you would…’ With children, it’s a matter of tricking them into a relationship and then scaring them. ‘I gave you a gift, why don’t you do this for me,’ or ‘If you tell your parents, I might have to kill them.’”

Abuse can also lead to lifelong problems, Salamon said. “They develop all kinds of disorders, anything from eating disorders to severe depression to post-traumatic stress disorder to borderline personality disorder. The borderline personality disorder is one of the most important characteristics of someone that’s been abused. Someone who’s borderline that doesn’t have a good explanation for why they developed it… the odds are that they had some traumas in their life.”

Salamon’s past books include Every Pot Has a CoverThe Shidduch Crisis: Causes and CuresHome or Nursing Home: Making the Right Choices, and The Basic Guide to Working With Elders.

The Shidduch Crisis, is related to the way people can be forced together in matchmaking and how it is reflected in the divorce rate in the Orthodox world. Salamon noted that the divorce rate for Orthodox people could be as high as 30 percent. Every Pot Has a Cover discusses the idea that people do better when they meet individually. Although they can be introduced to each other, if they’re given an opportunity to meet and see if they have any chemistry first, they have a better chance at marriage.

Salamon is married and has three children, but keeps his family and his practice separate. “We have a rule in the house, we don’t bring work home. I don’t bring it home with friends, either.”

On his off time, Salamon noted that he still picks up his guitar. He writes songs, but shrugged it off, “Those aren’t that good,” he said. “I don’t have a favorite song, whatever strikes that particular moment. It could be Frank Sinatra one day or Nickel Back the next.”

He’s had his practice since 1986 and noted that making a difference in his patients’ lives seems to be his biggest reward. “Early on when I was working with abused mothers and their children, it was clear that I was able to get through to people who were in need of help. I felt good about what I was doing.”

Original post found on The South Shore Standard site.

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