Sunday, September 06, 2009

About Denial - The Rosh HaYeshiva, Sex-Abuse & Ramat Bet Shemesh


By A Guest Writer - A Survivor of Abuse

I was one of those “kids at risk” who went off the derech and no one could figure out why. I was from a chashuv family. I was a good kid, a quiet kid. I had everything going for me. My grandfather was a Rosh Yeshiva. No one knew, or wanted to know, that for years I was molested in the yeshiva by my grandfather the Rosh Yeshiva and also by some of his students. One of those students was my father. When I tried to talk about it no one believed me. They said I was crazy. They said I was lying. They said I was saying it to get attention. (I could think many better, less painful, ways that I could have gotten attention!) They said I had a memory problem. They said I had a “vendetta” against my father. They said everything they could think of to try to discredit me and to avoid the truth. They were in denial.

What's unusual about my story is not that I was molested by frum yeshiva bochurim and a Rosh Yeshiva. Child sexual abuse knows no social or religious boundaries. I believe it happens far more than we care to contemplate. What is unusual about me is that I came back to my roots and I am now living a fulfilling Jewish life. I know so many who went through similar experiences and never looked back. Their souls are lost to Judaism forever.

It took years of soul searching and healing to come back. Child sexual abuse is one of the hardest minhagim for families to change. It's pain and shame handed down from one generation to the next. Until someone swims against the tide of denial, stops the flow, builds a dam, and changes the minhag child sexual abuse doesn't go away on its own.

As I began to heal, It slowly became clear to me that I was not created in my abusers image of God, and that they did not own Torah. It became clear to me that the frum talmidai chachamim who abused me perhaps really were frum and really were talmid chacham...But they had a serious problem that they didn't have the tools or support to deal with. They suffered from an addiction they couldn't even admit to themselves that they struggled with. So they passed the molestation problem down to me, and to other children. For years I battled the current of denial, nearly drowned in it, lost my entire family because of it, and eventually thank God dealt with it, for me, for my children and grandchildren, for the future of klal yisroel.

Or so I thought.

A few years back I made Aliyah and moved to Ramat Bet Shemesh. I thought that I was in a safe place to raise my children. Then, last summer my sons first grade rebbe was accused of molesting some of his classmates. It was horrible, and retraumatizing for me. It brought back my own past. I was ready to leave again, this time for good.

Not because it happened. These things happen in every community. But because of the denial. Denial hurts worse then the actual acts of abuse. When I, or my child, is sexually abused our world is ripped apart. One of the saddest affects of abuse is the loss of trust. Trust in oneself, trust in people, trust in God and in the Torah community. It's hard enough believing that the unthinkable happened. That someone I trusted could molest a child. But when my reality is assaulted at every turn by the people I turn to for support it creates deeper and deeper wounds. Denial is our best defense against that which is too horrible to imagine. But it is insidious and hurtful. It takes a lot of courage to face denial and challenge our existing beliefs.

When I saw what the family of the victims went through because of denial I knew I had to speak up. I wish people would think twice about the possible affect that some of their thoughtless comments have on an already traumatized person or family.

We condemn and our horrified by holocaust deniers and yet we do the very same thing to victims of sexual abuse within our community. Survivors of child sexual abuse have gone through a personal holocaust. It would be unthinkable to question the memories of a holocaust survivor. We wouldn't grill them for details of their experiences. We would wait and see if they needed to talk. Neither would we deny them the need to speak of their experiences. Why do we do these hurtful things to people who have already been so hurt and traumatized by sexual abuse?

If you find out that someone, or someone's child has been a victim of abuse:Offer your empathy and support and ask how you can help.

Just listen.

Don't try to defend the alleged perpetrator because you know them or trust them and can't imagine them molesting.

Perpetrators of child sexual abuse are addicts not monsters.

My father and grandfather were not monsters. They did many good things in their lives. Molesting me was not one of them. Their actions caused a lot of pain.

Don't try to place the blame on someone else.

Don't try to figure out if the child is “lying.”

Frum children especially, don't know how to lie about this.

Believe that something bad happened.

Know that no person would willingly offer themselves to the frum community for the kind of stigma and punishment that families of individuals who have been abused go through when they dare to speak out.

The community reaction of denial and blaming the victim is far worse than the abuse.

Know that until your own child is a victim you really don't understand.

Don't put your child into a school where an alleged perpetrator is teaching.

You are supporting community denial when you do that. You are enabling perpetrators to continue molesting.

Let's end the denial and keep our children safe!

A grateful survivor.