Wednesday, December 1, 2021

SURVIVOR SPEAK! (2)

The Jewish Orthodox world is grappling with serious and multiple allegations of abuse by a trusted therapist and author of a plethora of children's literature. Literature designed to teach children to speak about their feelings, to educate them about trust in themselves, in others, and in God.  Walder has betrayed an entire generation of children and parents who are now left wondering...If a man like Walder can fool us and abuse innocent children, Is trust in anyone ever possible again?  How do we trust our intuition to know who is safe?

 As an advocate for survivors of sexual abuse  I am publishing two letters that I received from two different survivors of childhood sexual abuse.  The first is directed to Chaim Walder.  The second is addressed to his victims.


Dear Chaim Walder,

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse I have something important to say to you....

When you chose to use your victims for your fleeting moments of pleasure, I’m sure you assumed they would never speak out and you’d be safe forever as you continued to groom the international Jewish community into trusting and admiring you. Here’s the thing though, those moments you were willing to sell your soul for, permanently damaged the girls you saw as playthings.  They will never ever be ok again because of what you did. And although they were “just kids” (ironic right, kids who are so insightful and deserve to be heard, I think I remember it being you who made sure to empower us all as kids to speak our stories), turned into adults and you don’t control adults the same way you control kids. So as someone who was hurt by someone just like you, I will sit back and observe your downfall, as I offer my unwavering support and love to those you hurt. I hope justice is served in this world for the sake of your victims, and that you  receive the maximum punishment in the next world as well. I will be following the next series coming from Chaim Walder closely - “Adults Speak Out”

Dear brave survivors of Chaim Walder,

As a survivor of sexual abuse myself, I am here with you, support you and believe you. Always. 

You are not alone. 

I share your pain. 

You have incredible courage and strength by speaking up. 

You did nothing wrong, he's the one, and only one. Shame on him. 

I believe you and always will. 

You are a hero and survivor for speaking up. By doing so, you are saving so many others from being abused by him.

I look up to you and I am very touched by your incredible strength and courage. 

I know it is so painful and horrible but you did nothing wrong. Shame on him. 

You're body is clean and pure even if it doesn't feel that way. 

By speaking up you are taking back control. 

You deserve justice. 

You deserve respect, support, and healing. 

Sending you love, strength, and hope. I am praying for you. R.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

SURVIVORS SPEAK

SURVIVORS SPEAK!

A letter to the survivors of Chaim Walder

Note:  This letter was sent to me by a survivor  of childhood  sexual abuse. 

As survivors in the Orthodox community we are aware of the unique courage and personal risk involved in coming forward about abuse by a public figure of stature.  We thank this brave survivor for offering her support and validation to those who are suffering, not only from the abuse by Walder but from the immense pain and trauma caused by (some in) the communities disbelief and denial.

Dear Survivors, 

                            I'm writing to you after two sleepless nights of thinking about you. I'm addressing you with overwhelming feelings of compassion for all that you've been through. With validation for all the pain you must've experienced for so many years. With empathy for the shame, helplessness and hopelessness that I imagine have been your constant companions.

                My admiration for you is beyond description. I am greatly impressed by your courage and bravery to come forth with the truth and I want to support you in your quest for justice. It must've been so hard to come out in the open, and I appreciate the fact that you went out of your comfort zone in order to protect society. I know that it's easier for the world to deny your story. I know that we all want to believe that our world is a safe and moral place. And at the same time I also know that your story is true. So painfully true.

                 As an incest survivor I know how hard it is to admit to the truth. I know how painful such a devastating reality is. How unsafe and untrusting it makes one feel. How much work it demands from a person. How much anxiety, depression, guilt and shame tend to follow. How badly we all wish these things didn't happen in our community. Knowing all this I know that you didn't make this up! I know that it's the last thing anyone wants to make up!

                 I can imagine you have been grappling with this for years. I can imagine your fear of the world's denial and your devastation when the denial actually came. It must be so really difficult and heartbreaking when society makes you doubt yourself, but I really hope that you can trust yourself. Your body knows the truth.

                 With tears in my eyes I want to tell you that my heart is with you. I hope that Hashem sends you all the strength in the world to get through this difficult time. I pray that you get to a place of complete healing and recovery from this inexcusable crime which was done to you. 

You did not deserve it!

                  I don't know what will come out of the story but I want you to know that you are         brave heroes! You are courageous survivors! This world might be an upside down place but there is a world up there in which there is complete justice. You and I know the truth. Hashem knows and sees the complete truth. Just remember, that's what ultimately matters.

 

With all my love and admiration,

A Survivor who knows

 

Monday, July 26, 2021

The Truth about My Unorthodox Life

 I did not want to be a part of the conversation about the new Netflix show My Unorthodox Life.  

I know intimately the deep dark underbelly of the Ultra Orthodox world about as well as I know the beauty and richness of the very same lifestyle.  I have experienced both, up close and personal. The truth is that everyone has a different and legitimate experience of Orthodoxy and the Orthodox community.  That's fine. I don't argue with someone's feelings, beliefs or experiences.

I observed the deep feelings and reaction the show evoked.  The comments reminded me of just how much I hate social media which turn otherwise normal caring people into abusive haters and allows them to publicly condemn and shame someone for having an opinion they disagree with. Yuck.

So I didn't join in the discussion, although I have what to say.

But then it got personal when an old friend posted something about me:

"I have a friend I have known for more than 20 years. She grew up in a Haredi home. She was raped and abused as a child. 

She often speaks publicly about her ordeal. The response from her old community was a very loud "leave if you want, but shut up. What you say is Lashon Hora."  To this day, there are those who both believe her and yet hate her for going public. 

Ok. Now go ahead and continue posting comments about how people who leave Orthodoxy should not tell their stories."

He forgot to mention that I didn't leave, although that would have been easier.  It took me a long time to separate my experience of sexual abuse, excommunication, and the loss of everyone I loved, from the truth and beauty of Torah. It wasn't simple or easy work. 

The truth that I came to understand, is that religion is a tool that can be used for wonderful life giving ends, and just as easily for evil and destructive ones.  It's all in what we do with it.  It's all about our God given free will.  

When you go beyond human action and reaction to examine the most powerful gifts in our lives they are neither good nor bad. They are simply there. Pure potential. The more powerful and holy something is the more some people want to control it and use it to their benefit, while others want to ban it and shy away from it. Take women for example...powerful and holy, yes we are!  Take sexuality, or the Jews, or Israel!  

Some Christians ban sex, some Charaidim ban internet, some people ban religion and some people ban God. I have never heard of anyone banning fire, but maybe fire is the purest example of a gift that can both save and destroy lives almost instantly based on how its used. Gotta think about that one.

 My point is that these wonderful gifts are banned out of fear of the possibility of their power being used to hurt, abuse, and control, which indeed they have been.  We Jews are an imperfect people.  Always have been, and probably always will be. 

But we Jews are called on by the Torah not to worship any of these gifts as ends in themselves, including religion.  We are commanded never to worship people, never to worship any kind of power, nor to follow those who are committing evil and hurting others, but only to worship God, The ultimate source of all life unconditional love, wisdom and truth. 

Religion is a tool to tap into a relationship with the divine, but if you are using religion to abuse or control, or experiencing religion as abusive, it makes sense that you would leave.  The minute we find ourselves worshiping religion or anything else we have lost touch with reality, in my humble opinion.  

God gave us the gift of free will. This is our ultimate superpower! Let us use it well!


Thursday, June 24, 2021

Breaking (AKA: The Medication Conundrum)

 

Yesterday I attended a workshop called “Breaking the Way We See Ourselves”

We literally smashed mirrors. It was great. It was different, out of the box, and unexpectedly healing. I only found out about the workshop two days ago, and I'm sure it wasn't an accident that I was there.  I don't believe in accidents.

Two days ago, I sat on a hill where I go nearly every morning to pray, meditate and talk to my Creator. The conversation is mostly one sided.

I said, “God, I'm drowning! Help me out here. It took me four years, four years!!! to wean myself off of 27 years of anti anxiety medication, and for over a year now I have been off and doing well. I went off because I don't need medication anymore.  Since I had invasive surgery half a year ago my anxiety is through the roof again and I'm miserable. I don't like myself and neither does my husband . I hate the idea of going on meds again. I had to work so hard for so long to get off! Please, please God, you can do anything!  Help me find some other way to cope!"

I imagined God laughing at me. Saying, “You think you're so smart? I already gave you the solution. You know the medication works. Why don't you just use it and stop making life so difficult for yourself and your poor husband.

The medication works. It does.  But I don't want to be dependent on it for the rest of my life, and I know just how physiologically addictive it is. I also found other things that work, but they don't seem to be working right now.  I know so many other women who are on SSRI's and can't get off even when they don't feel like they need it any more.  Psychiatrists are good at getting people on the drugs, but don't seem to know as much about how to help people get off of them. When I stopped my last prescription my general practitioner told me most people can't quit and I should expect to have to get back on. She has seen it so many times. I want to rely on you, God, not drugs!  How do I know what you want me to do?! I want to do YOUR will, not mine.  I don't know anything! Is this really what you want?! Guide me! Help me!

Maybe God is laughing at me. I remember the parable of a drowning man clinging to the roof of a house, the floodwaters rising all around him. A boat comes along and offers to help. The man refuses, saying, “God will save me.” He continues to pray. “God, save me, I'm drowning!” A helicopter flies by overhead and drops a rope. The man refuses to climb it saying, “God, I trust you! I'm waiting for you to save me!” A raft floats by and the man refuses to climb aboard saying, “God, I'm waiting for you! Save me!” 

Well, the man drowns. He arrives in heaven and confronts God, "Why didn't you save me?? I believed in you! I trusted you!"

 God replies, “What do you mean why didn't I save you? I sent you a boat, a helicopter and a raft!

Maybe drugs are like glasses. Some people just need them for life.  Put them on to see clearly and stop complaining that the world is blurry. Take the drugs again to calm your body and mind and help yourself focus. Sigh. 

Not an hour later I saw the add for the workshop, Breaking the Way We See Ourselves. 

 My friend Dina is running it together with another woman Michal. My gut said, this is it. This is your sign from God. You have to go. I had to find a sub on very short notice and I did.  Another sign.

Dina and Michal shared Rav Kooks Torah on why God breaks us. God wants to give us his infinite love, and we are finite limited beings. When something infinite hits something finite there must be a breaking. The breaking is necessary to allow the infinite light to enter. We all have the potential to become infinite and God-like, creators of our own reality, precisely at the places that we are broken. Strong at the broken places.  I have experienced this many times in my life.

We gaze into a mirror and journal about what we see. We write about how we see ourselves and how others see us. The good, the bad and the ugly.

I write that I am a lost daughter, a lost sister, a lost child. I have so many complex parts and I am different at different times and to different people. Others see me as being whole, grounded, warm, caring, distant, overprotective, loving, giving, healing, wise, clueless, and kind. I see myself right now as someone struggling with anxiety and physiological dysregulation. I am struggling to feel calm and safe in my body without medication. I am learning if it is possible to be without it, even when life is stressful.  I am exploring how to encounter and embrace a mind that is not numbed out, and it is so, so hard! I need so much patience and self compassion. I am determined and committed. I am honest. I love truth even when it hurts. I hate lies. I love people. I desire to be a source of healing, compassion and joy in Hashem's world.  I want to bring healing to myself and others.

 I learn through the workshop that I have resources inside of myself that are a gift.  The gift of allowing myself to be in a process.  The gift of silence, maturity and patience.  The willingness to give myself this space and this time.  The gift of not knowing the answer right now.  

We are instructed to write who we are on the mirror. I grab a Sharpie. "I am strong, kind, good, daring, independent, stubborn, sad, anxious, creative, compassionate, wise, clueless, loving, caring, hopeful, self doubting, lost, confused and scared!" 

 After psychodrama, discussion, contemplation, and connection in a group of wonderful women, we pass around a hammer and smash our mirrors. We put the shattered pieces in a small burlap sack labeled “Breaking the Way I see Myself.”  It feels exciting and uncomfortable.  

It also feels like a death of sorts, smashing the need to hold onto any sort of narrative of who I am right now, and what I'm supposed to be doing, and allowing a new opening to welcome in new light.  The pieces of my broken mirror are lying on a mirror tray on my dining room table, the tray I light my Shabbos candles on, reflecting the light and reminding me that I am open to new possibilities.  

Dina Etigson and Michal Oshman live in Ramat Beit Shemesh and will be holding their next transformational Torah workshop in Elul. You won’t want to miss this! Contact Dina at 058-5992259 for more information.







Thursday, October 15, 2020

Are The Children Safe?

ARE THE CHILDREN SAFE?

 I got a call this week from a woman, I will call her Miriam, asking for guidance in dealing with an all too common problem.  The children in her building are playing inappropriate games with each other.   Many families in the building have multiple young children who often play together, especially on Shabbos, in stairwells, hallways, and parking lots around the building.  Sound familiar? 

During lock-down, when children have nowhere to go and not much to do, child abuse is on the rise in our homes and communities. Children are playing for longer periods unsupervised, as stressed parents struggle to cope.  As a community we must stay alert, educate ourselves and our children, and keep a close eye on the dynamics between children and adults.  

In this particular case six families are involved.  One child in particular, a nine year old girl "Sarah" seems to be the instigator.  She is touching the younger children (three and four years old), and has told at least one of them that if they tell she will hurt them. Miriam's child told her. She is lucky. 

 Most children, about eighty percent don't tell, even if the topic has been discussed and they have been instructed that it's important to tell their parents.  Sometimes a child has been threatened.  Sometimes the reason is simply that it's just too embarrassing and shameful.  There is also the excitement of illegal play, and often a feeling of collaboration and loyalty among the children. 

 Miriam's instinct was to speak to the other parents in the building, as well as the parents of the instigator.  I encouraged her to try to get all of the families on board to help keep all of the children safe.  I advised Miriam to let Sarah's parents know that all of the parents are concerned about stopping this play and this is a serious problem. I suggested Miriam tell Sarah's parents that everyone in the building cares about all of the children, including Sarah, and everyone wants Sarah to be able to play, so all are helping to keep an eye on their daughter by not allowing her to play unsupervised with the other children. (I'm sure some parents will not let Sarah play with their children at all, which is completely understandable.) I encouraged Miriam to let Sarah know that all are aware that she has been playing this game, and that no one allows it because it is not appropriate and absolutely not okay.  The message to Sarah and all of the children is one of firm, loving, boundaries and heightened supervision.  

I advised Miriam to be prepared for a defensive or blaming attitude by Sarah's parents.  It is very very difficult to be "that" child's parent in this situation.  Most parents have no idea why their child is behaving in this way.   Sarah was probably exposed to something inappropriate and she needs and deserves help from a professional to process her feelings. So many of our children have access to inappropriate material if not at home, then through friends or neighbors, and may be exposed to things we can not begin to imagine.  If you are a parent of a "Sarah" your child needs and deserves support and help to process her feelings in order to stop acting them out with other children.  If your neighbors respond in as loving and caring a manner as Miriam, you are very fortunate.  As hard as it is to cooperate, please work with your neighbors, reach out for support, and know that you are not alone.

Silence, Secrecy, and Lack of accountability, is what allows child sexual abuse to continue to flourish in our community.  It affects all of us!  It takes a village to allow molestation to continue, and it takes a village to stop it! We must break the stigma and protect our children. We must stop pointing fingers and blaming, and work together to keep our children safe.  We are especially vulnerable now, during Corona.  

 Educate yourself and your community, shul or neighbors, by viewing the award winning documentary Unkept Secretshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhQ2lFYNFQE that can be accessed on Amazon Prime or rented privately as a group.  

Together with Magen, Victim Advocacy Organization , I offer at no charge:

Zoom sessions for parents on prevention.  

Support for parents whose child has been a victim or perpetrator.

Zoom sessions on healing for adult survivors and their loved ones.

Genendy Radoff   www.genendy.safekids@gmail.com  0526516582

Magen Victim Advocacy:  02-3724073



  


  

Thursday, September 10, 2020

What to Expect From Good Trauma Therapy

 I am about to begin my second year of training as a counselor and psychotherapist.  I am kicking off my internship with a client who was sexually abused by a family member.  It's interesting and humbling to be on this side of the office,...the side of the therapist.  I was a therapy client for 25 years and although technically I am just beginning my work as a therapist, I feel like I have over two decades of experience in healing trauma.  My first client tried therapy once many years ago with someone who was "supposed to be excellent" and unfortunately minimized her experience and sent her running, and rightfully so, far away from therapy.  Until now she hasn't tried again. 

 It gets me thinking about my own damaging experiences with therapists who had not done their own inner work, were not adequately trained, nor even aware enough to get themselves the training needed to help me.  These therapists, I believe meant well but added additional layers to my trauma and inability to trust.  As the saying goes, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."  Whoever said that they are so right.

What I needed and what people who have experienced complex trauma need, and what they should be able to expect from me as a therapist and from themselves in therapy seems obvious to me, but may not be to others.

For starters and enders (okay, I know that's not a real word but it sounds right here) they have a right and need to a safe space physically, emotionally,  psychologically and spiritually.  

They have a right to be treated with kindness and respect at all times.  

They are the experts on themselves, not me, the therapist.  I provide a space for them to be seen and heard, and to see and hear themselves.  I am a witness to their pain and their inner world and a facilitator of their own inner ability to heal.

I, the therapist, am human and I am bound to make mistakes.  My clients have a right and responsibility to let me know if something I do or say doesn't feel right for them.  If something feels hurtful or unhelpful I want and need to know.  

The client is not, in any way, or at any time, responsible for the therapists feelings, reactions, or behaviors.  Perhaps that sentence should be in bold.  I'll write it again: The client is not in any way, or at any time, responsible for the therapists feelings, reactions, or behaviors.

Boundaries create safety.  Sessions will begin and end on time. Technical details like payment and times of session will be made clear and be agreed upon from the outset.

Contact between sessions (phone, email, whatsapp) will be allowed with clear boundaries that will be agreed upon from the outset. We will both let each other know as soon as possible if we can't make a session.  

The sessions will be focused squarely on my client and their needs and their healing process.  Not on my own needs or process.  I know this sounds obvious, but I have experienced otherwise so many times.  

Therapy may not always help right away, but it definitely shouldn't hurt and be traumatic!  

Ongoing abuse is a trauma, which is an injury as real as a physical brain injury or broken bones.  It affects every part of our lives.  It lives in each cell of our bodies.  Healing takes time and effort.  You have to want it, and understand that it is a process.  It is not something that gets fixed overnight.  

At times healing from trauma can take over everyday functioning.  Anyone who tells you they experienced trauma and it's not a big deal for them (implying perhaps that nor should it be a big deal for you) is, in my experience, not ready to do the real work of healing.  They are living their lives with limitations that they are perhaps tolerating and accepting, but that definitely effect them and their loved ones.

Each person is different and each healing process will look different.  Trauma therapy happens in stages.  Establishing safety is the first stage and must be revisited at every turn.  Acquiring tools to ground and contain is the second stage.  Trauma work can get very overwhelming and grounding and containment are vital.  So is setting up a support system.  One therapist, once a week, is often not enough for complex trauma work.  Post traumatic stress symptoms can be debilitating.  Family and friends who can be called in a crisis, and a support group, are all part of a good support system.

When the above is in place, the trauma can be taken out and looked at one little piece at a time.  Slowly, gently, carefully and respectfully.  Slower is faster when it comes to trauma work.  The damage can be witnessed, and the feelings felt safely. The memories processed. 

 The mind and the heart can begin to heal.








Monday, August 24, 2020

Watch the film Unkept Secrets online!

Dear frum community, Jewish organizations, and Rabbonim,


I am offering you the opportunity to view an award winning film by Dalit Kimor that I participated in, Unkept Secrets* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhQ2lFYNFQE
  The film will open your eyes to the painful reality of childhood sexual abuse even in our most respected Torah families and the damage it causes to all of us for generations.

Most importantly, Unkept Secrets will give you hope, that we are educating ourselves as a community and we are making important changes! The goal of the film is to help end the secrecy and the lack of accountability that allows this kind of abuse to continue, and to give survivors a voice. 

The film is sensitive to our Torah values of tznius and shows that we as Torah Jews are making important changes and taking responsibility for healing our children and families, who have been hurt through our silence and lack of understanding. 

As Rav Yosef Blau says in the film, when I ask him what the halacha is in making such a difficult and painful film,
"It is a Kiddush Hashem."  

Everyone who views this challenging film is taking personal responsibility for an evil that is happening even as we speak, to so many of our precious children. It is especially relevant now as children are home more due to the Corona virus and child abuse is on the rise. This is not an easy film to see, but a necessary one. 

I live in Eretz Yisrael and I'm a teacher and educator, as well as the author of a memoir about childhood sexual abuse in the frum community, The Price of Truth, which can be purchased from me or at amazon.com.  I am an advocate for survivors, and I run a therapy group for women who have been abused. I am in my second year of studying psychotherapy.

The film can be accessed for free on Amazon Prime in the U.S. or rented from the producer for group viewing for 300 dollars outside of Israel, (500 NIS in Israel) for a maximum of 100 viewers. (Thirty participants at 10 dollars each will cover the cost.) The full version of the film is 70 minutes long.  A shortened version, 58 minutes long, is also available.

A link to the film will be sent out to the recipients of your choice for a 12 hour period. An optional Zoom discussion with me on the healing process will be scheduled for later that day or for the following day, (time zone depending) at no additional charge. 

I'm writing to you from my heart as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse in the frum community. It is time to usher in Mashiach and put an end to the evil of child sexual abuse among us! 

To participate in this important project please send an email to me at genendy.safekids@gmail.com
Sincerely,

Genendy Radoff 

Unkept Secrets won first prize at PriMed doc film festival Marseille 2019, and won a prize at the Chaifa film festival that same year.