Tuesday, April 05, 2011

When Good People Do Nothing

The following is a letter forwarded to me and numerous other people who care about sex abuse in the Torah world. It is a shocking and emotional account of one abuse victim’s experiences and survival in her ultra Orthodox community. Take heed, my friends. The enemy is silence and complacency. I have taken the liberty of editing the letter for clarity.

To those who do not care:

I am a young woman 25 years of age and come from what is to be considered an ultra orthodox home and community.

I AM A SURVIVOR. And as you should be well aware, the horrors of growing up in a home which was unsafe and to this day remains so are like none you can imagine.

From being physically and emotionally being abused by my parents teachers and peers; to having been orally raped and molested by my older brother for a number of years; and God knows what else happened in that house; to finding out my younger brother has been abusing other children amongst them my baby sister… I have learned some hard lessons and one of those is that the Jew is not my friend. This was so kindly taught to me by you - my fellow Jew.

My father walked in on my brother undressing me when I was about 12 yrs old. He was unbuttoning my shirt - not a commendable act for any boy or man to be doing to a child. And definitely not something a yeshiva boy should be doing.

My father took my brother and walked him out of the house. He then went to finish his shmone esrai - never saying a word to me. When he finished davening he went to find my brother walked him around the block and gave him a little speech. What was said I will never know.

Yet the one thing I do know is no one ever said a word to me. I remember hiding under a pile of freshly washed clothes in a laundry basket for hours until my grandparents who were with us for Pesach started wondering where I was.

This - my friend - is what I think about every Pesach. Here comes another holiday I cannot enjoy - a holiday where we should be celebrating our freedom and all the miracles God has done for us and continues to do for us.

But all I want is to not have to celebrate… not have to sit at someone else’s table… not have to put on a smile.

Just this one year I want to sit home and not have to pretend to care about something I do not really care about. Instead I sit in a stranger’s home - at a strangers table year after year hoping I will enjoy just a bit of this freedom. Instead I have memories of forced oral sex; of horror and dread; of anger and guilt; of shame and hatred.
I have never said this to anyone before. In fact the most anyone has ever heard is yes I was abused by my brother… yes I have a witness and no there is no statute of limitations…

But my father who has failed miserably at protecting me still holds himself on the wrong side of the fence. He wants so badly to believe his sons are innocent he, like so many others have been twisting the knife that was stuck in my back so many years ago over and over and over again.

Thus some years later I felt I was ready to make sure my other siblings were safe, that my parents could no longer continue to emotionally and physically abuse and neglect them so I went to Rabbi S. at the suggestion of someone who was very close to me. Requesting Rabbi S's help in making sure the younger 2 siblings would be safe. I tell Rabbi S I need his help. He tells me it’s too late.

How do you think I feel Rabbi S when I come to you to ask you to take the children out of the home… and you tell me it’s too late?! Is it too late because my younger brother is abusing other children including my sister?

Rabbi S how do you think I felt knowing I was a survivor myself when you told me this? Did you ever call or check to see if I was ok? Did you see what you could do?

No. Instead I had to go and make the call when I heard my parents talking about sending my brother off to another country - the call you should have made to the authorities.

Rabbi A. when I called you asking you to stop him from getting on that plane and you promised me you would… you did not. How did you think I felt?

Therapist H. why did you not call the authorities when I told you he was leaving this country to make sure he cannot harm others? How can you ignore my request; ignore our future and let my parents send him off so proudly to an unknowing yeshiva where… guess what?! He may be still abusing children! Yet for some reason you all allowed this to happen; allowed a child molester to leave the country and to continue on his path of destroying our future.

Yes for the first time in my life I am blaming you: my parents, supposed rabbis, teachers, and many a bad therapist. Not one of you has shown me that I can trust rely or expect anything different than more abuse.

Tonight I want to free myself of this and handing over this terrible guilt, and shame I carry with me to all of you. It was your job to protect the children. But you did not do so. You are the ones who should be ashamed and feel guilty, not me.

I want to walk away and say it’s over I have no reason to look over my shoulder; no reason to be afraid anymore. They cannot hurt me anymore. I am safe. I am a survivor. They can never hurt me again.

How is all this supposed to make a person feel? How is it supposed to help me keep faith in humanity at all? After being treated like an outcast for so many years unwanted and left out on the streets like a can of worms. Where were you my bretheren? Where are you now?

As time goes by and I get older I keep coming to the same realization that in calling ourselves the chosen people shouldn’t we be taking care of our future generations? Shouldnt we hold the children in the highest regard? Like God does? On Chanukah who did they send out to war? The young ones under Bar and Bat Mitzvah. Why? Because there is something in the kol of yeladim (voice of children). How can we call ourselves better than others when we cannot find it in ourselves to defend our children against monsters?!

Help me understand why you stand down, how are you not ashamed to walk the streets after all the things you have done and continue to do to protect my abuser and those of hundreds of other Jewish children? How can you look at yourself in the mirror and not be disgusted by what you see?

Yes you have the appearance of an ehrliche yid. And yes you have the name. But tell me… make me understand how you can leave children mere children crying in their beds at night afraid of who may visit them; who will threaten them next; and who will take away what little dignity they have left?

How can you sit idly by and watch as you and your friends kill hundreds of innocent young yiddishe kinderlach every single day - by shunning them and their families who only want to protect our precious diamonds. How can you sit silently and watch as we destroy our own people; our own future?