Monday, June 24, 2013

Normal Responses To Trauma:

The following excerpts in italics are taken from the book, Memory and Abuse, remembering and healing the affects of trauma, by Charles L. Whitfield M.D.  Health Communications Inc. 1993

I find this book extremely helpful in understanding my own, my family's, and my community's past and present denial.  The following excerpt from Memory and Abuse explains that it is NORMAL to repress and deny the trauma of sexual abuse, for the victim, for the perpetrator,  for the co-abuser, (my mother) as well as for siblings, who may or may not have been victims as well. 

Since a trauma induces and activates numerous components of our inner life as well as our biochemistry and physiology, what results is usually a painful experience.  If we are developmentally healthy and have a healthy and safe support system in which to work through the trauma we will be able to grieve and heal.  But if we are not developmentally healthy, usually due to having grown up in a dysfunctional family and society that block healthy development, and if we have no healthy, safe and supportive environment, then it is unlikely that we will be able to work through the trauma to completion.  Rather, all of the charged material-physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual-can be repressed and will remain stuck inside of us like an abscess, until it can be worked through and let go.  As countless people have observed, this charged energy is then stored somewhere inside of us.  That somewhere has been called the unconscious, the part of us about which we are unaware....

...When this trauma-associated charged energy is so stored, we are unaware that it is there.  No matter what term or concept we may attach to it we "forget."  We have lost the memory, the awareness of it, and are amnestic.   But how is this charged energy and information transferred to our unconscious?  Many clinicians who work long term with trauma survivors believe that traumatic forgetting comes about through mechanisms such as dissociation, repression and denial...

An example of this charged unconscious energy would be an unexplained fear of men in black hats and tzitzis.   

My primary method of dealing with the ongoing trauma of child sexual abuse, that I had no way to process at the time, was to dissociate it.
 
 Dissociation:  As a defense against emotional pain, dissociation is separation from and loss of awareness of our experience of the present moment, including our beliefs, thoughts, feelings, decisions, choices, wants, needs, memories, sensations, intuitions and other life experiences.  We may also separate from experiencing our inner life reactions to external events with full awareness.  Dissociation is a process of separation and unintegration that functions in parallel on a time continuum.  this means that while we may be in part aware of some of our inner life components, we keep them separated and they are thus not integrated into our experience, memory and life for now.   Dissociation may be acute or longer lasting and may be ordinary and benign, as in daydreaming, or extraordinary and used to defend against the pain of a traumatic event.  It's degree may be mild, moderate or extreme and, like repression and denial, it may be associated with the loss of conscious memory for part or all of our inner life components around the event, even though a sizable memory may remain in our unconscious mind and in our body.

My guess is that some of my family members have repressed their memories of what happened in our family, which would explain their insistence that nothing happened.

Repression: Similar and related to dissociation and denial, repression is an automatic psychological defense against unbearable emotional pain wherein we forget a painful experience and store it in our unconscious mind.  It is usually longer lasting and sometimes "deeper" ("vertical" in repression and "horizontal" in dissociation)

In my opinion, and in the opinion of those who work in the field,  the frum community is in denial about the extent of the problem of child sexual abuse in our community.  This problem is RAMPANT as anyone in the field will tell you.  If this was a childhood cancer, the emergency tefillot, the meetings of rabbonim, the fundraising, the activism would be ongoing.  Because of the secrecy and denial around the issue of child sexual abuse, the community for the most part ignores allegations until they have no choice but to respond.  Even though we know that children very seldom make up such stories.  Even though intellectually normal thinking people realize that I would not give up a normal frum and loving family just to make up stories of abuse that happened many years ago.   Our community denial is very powerful, but it is changing. Slowly.

Denial:  A complex defense that involves not recognizing and thus avoiding our awareness of the reality of a traumatic experience.  While considered a "normal" defense at times because it may allow a graded acceptance of hurt, loss or trauma, denial is maladaptive if it interferes with rational or appropriate action to address or heal the hurt, loss or trauma... 

I wrote the following poem years ago:

Not just in Egypt is De-nial river

but in my family's living room,

and they are drowning me in it.

 

...A key to our healing is in increasing our awareness of the experience of our True Self from moment to moment and remembering what happened, experientially and cognitively, to and for us in the traumatic events.  to accomplish these we need a safe and supportive environment and plenty of time.  
But growing up in an unsafe and unsupportive environment, whether in a dysfunctional family of origin and/or society of origin, not only do we not get the opportunity to process and heal from the traumatic events in our lives, but we usually get the opposite, and are blocked from doing so and often re-traumatized.  In a dependent position like that of a child the only way to survive all of this painful experience is to separate cognitively and experientially from the trauma and the pain and pretend it is not happening and/or it did not happen.  

After observing this phenomenon in countless people we can call it traumatic forgetting, amnesia or any of a number of other terms such as: "selective inattention, "thought stopping, "cognitive avoidance.."not thinking of the unbearable idea," keeping something out of consciousness, ""splitting off," or "dissociation."  Whatever name we may give to traumatic forgetting, it can be helpful to understand it by these three descriptive clinical names that we have given to our innate human capacity to avoid overwhelming psychological and emotional pain:  repression, dissociation and denial. (pp99-103)


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Dear Rabbi Nosson Nussbaum, Rabbi Tzvi Berkowitz, and Rabbi Hillel Tendler,

Regarding the letter that you sent to the parents of Torah Institute:  I believe that it is our responsibility as adults to protect innocent children from harm.  Based on my personal experience, as well as ongoing stories of abuse I have heard over the years, I don't think my father should be left alone with a child for even one minute.  I will not be silent and allow one more child to go through what I did.  I am forty years old and safe from my father.  Other children may not be.

I find it very disturbing that you signed a letter to the parent body of Torah Institute stating that you know that the serious allegations I have made against my father are not credible.  I would hope that there is a basic obligation to hear from both sides before making a  decision about truth and credibility.   I have learned through my work with the Bet Shemesh child protection organization,  that any allegations of child sexual abuse must be traced back to the source.  I have never met or spoken with any of you, yet you seem to think you know a lot about me.

You mentioned in your letter that "several parties outside the school" looked into the allegations and found them not credible.  They likely are Rabbi Yaakov Hopfer and Dr. Aviva Weisbord.   Neither Rabbi Hopfer nor Dr. Weisbord  have the ability to be objective in this case as they are both personally connected to my father.

Dr.  Weisbord treated me for a period of approximately six months when I was 18-19 years old.  She has not been in contact with me since.   Dr. Weisbord told me at the time that she was seeing me only as a favor to my father.   She told me that she doesn't usually see her friends' children because it wouldn't be ethical.  She told me that she made an exception in my case because, "I have so much respect for your father."  When she pushed me to tell her the truth about the molestation, (She wanted me to tell her it was my uncle who abused me.) and began to suspect she had made a big mistake, she terminated treatment with me very suddenly telling me, "You have serious boundary issues in your family.  I don't think you want to tell me about it, and I don't think I want to know."

Since then I have heard first hand that Dr. Weisbord's "professional" diagnoses which she apparently has no problem sharing, is that I am crazy.  The fact that Weisbord will even admit that she knows me, or that I was a client of hers, is a basic breach of client confidentiality.

Dr. Weisbord has a lot of hard questions to answer about her blatantly unethical behavior in my case.

When I was twenty, a friend of the family shared with me that my fourteen year old brother molested her six year old daughter.  The family friend was upset by my mother's reaction.  My mother's response was that my father needed to learn (Torah) with my brother more often, and that my parents would be speaking to him about staying away from girls.  When I told my therapist at the time what had occurred, she told me she legally had to report it as what my bother had done was sexual abuse.  I begged her not to.  My family was already very angry with me and I didn't want to give them more reasons to reject me and hate me.  My therapist and I finally agreed that she would ask her rav, Rabbi Goldberger, what to do and would follow his psak.  Rabbi Goldberger told my therapist to make the report which she did.  The family friend would not press charges so the case was dropped.

I am concerned not only for the children in T.I. but also for my nieces and nephews.  Incest is often a painful legacy passed down in families from generation to generation.

My family has not spoken to me about our family problem since I was twenty seven.  They have completely cut me out of their lives because I could not deny my painful experiences or promise to keep them a secret.  I am now forty and in a completely different stage of life.  They have no idea who I am today, outside of my recent communications.

I was very concerned thirteen years back when I heard that a former student had accused my father of child sexual abuse. I had thought/hoped that his abuse had stopped with me. It occurred to me that maybe the reason the abuse stopped when we moved to Baltimore was because my father had access to other children. 

I told a parent of a child in the school that I was concerned that my father was not safe around children. It got back to my siblings and they went to Rabbi Hopfer for advice. Rabbi Hopfer told my siblings to give me an ultimatum. I was to promise never to talk about what my father did to me, or they would cut me out of the family. I told them there was no way I could ethically promise that. 

I wrote Rabbi Hopfer a letter asking him why he had not contacted me before he gave my family this cruel advice. He did not respond. Some months later I called him up several times, and finally he called back. I asked him again why he had not contacted me before telling my family to cut me off. He became very defensive and angrily asked me why I believed that my father's other accuser was credible? Why had I not bothered to check it out? 

I told Rabbi Hopfer that I had checked it out and that although I was not in the room (or the car where it happened) and could never know what really happened to this student, that based on my own experiences with my father I believed that it was possible that he had abused again. 

I told Rabbi Hopfer that I wished that he and my family would also admit that they were not in the room when my father was abusing me and could never be completely sure what my father had done to me. 

I asked him again why he had not contacted me. R Hopfer said he had already spoken to me eight years earlier when he had visited me in the hospital.  I wrote down the rest of the conversation that Rabbi Hopfer and I had right after I hung up with him:

Me: I am a different person now, in a totally different place than I was eight years ago. I was going through a serious crisis then. A lot has changed. I think you should have realized that and called me. Do you remember our conversation in the hospital?

  R' Hopfer: No.

  Me: So you made the decision to break up a family based on a conversation you had eight years ago that you don't remember?

( I do remember the conversation I had with R' Hopfer nineteen years ago in the hospital.  I told the rav at the time that I felt like a holocaust survivor whose family had been with me in the camps, and were now insisting that the holocaust never happened I told R' H' that I was confused and hoped that my family was right and I was indeed crazy.  The alternative was to lose my family. The last thing I wanted to believe was that my memories were true.  I told him I would rather believe my family, believe that I was crazy and live in a mental hospital, than trust my memories.)
 
  R' Hopfer: I made my decision then that you were not credible and I stuck with it.

  Me: I think you should have contacted me. Why don't you believe me about my father? Do you think I am crazy or evil?

  R' Hopfer: No, but your siblings say that your story is inconsistent. First you said your uncle abused you, then your grandfather, then your father. 

  Me: When I first started dealing with this, I did not want to believe that my father abused me. Like you, I would rather have believed just about anything else. My therapist at the time, Aviva Weisbord, wanted me to think it was my uncle.

  R' Hopfer: Your own therapist doesn't believe you. 

  Me: The only therapist I worked with who is unethical enough to break confidentiality and speak to you about what she believes and doesn't believe about me, is Dr. Weisbord...and she is also a friend of my father. 

  I'm trying to understand why you would advise my family to do such a terrible thing? What good could this possibly accomplish?

  R' Hopfer: They have to choose between you and your father. They can't be loyal to both of you. They can't stand seeing the pain you are causing him.

  Me: I wonder why you and my family are so focused on my father's pain, which I didn't cause, yet no one seems to worry about my pain. I have lost my entire family because of this. And you have ruined any chances of my family taking any responsibility in dealing with this. Any chance of healing our relationship. If they want to cut me out let them at least own their own decision. Don't you realize that they take your advice as a psak, as da'as torah?

  R' Hopfer: Yes. I realized that.

  Me: would you consider changing your ruling.

  R' Hopfer: No, I still think they have to choose.

  Me: Is it because you don't believe me, that my father sexually abused me?

  R' Hopfer: Yes, I don't believe that he did that.

  Me: How can you be objective about this considering that you trust my father so much? He has taken over your shiurim for you when you are out of town. He has taught your children. Don't you think it would have been more responsible to send my family to someone else for advice about this? Someone who is not so close to the situation?

  R' Hopfer: I believe that I made the correct decision.

  In the end my father is still the principal of an elementary school. If the rabbis in Baltimore care at all about the safety of the children in their community they would insist that my father be evaluated by a professional who is trained to evaluate potential offenders. If they continue to try to "protect" him and demonize, discredit, and isolate me, they are continuing to perpetuate a tremendous evil for themselves and their community. They will be responsible for any new victims of abuse by my father. 

 My siblings insistence that the abuse didn't happen is not untypical.  Helise Pollak is a specialist in treating trauma and incest.   I have known Helise for a number of years.   She makes it clear that it is very common for siblings to deny abuse by a parent, whether they know about the abuse or not. I would like to refer you to two excellent books for a better understanding of these issues; Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman, and Memory and Abuse by Charles Whitfield. 


If you have any information about anyone else besides Dr. Weisbord and  R' Hopfer, or my siblings, who "looked into this" and found the allegations against my father not credible, please be in contact with me as I am very willing to discuss it with you.


Be aware that this letter is posted on my blog and will be seen by Torah Institute parents.
Sincerely,
Genendy

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

I Was Treated Differently Than My Siblings

I remember sitting in "therapy" with my mother years ago listening to her explain to the therapist how she knew from the time I was very young that I couldn't be trusted.  She said I always made things up, just like I was now making up my memories of abuse.  She explained that when I was three years old she was missing the baby's plastic pants and asked me if I knew where they were.  I looked my mother straight in the eye and said, "No."  She later found them on my doll.  She knew then that I was a liar and would always be one.
 I'm sure that my siblings picked up on this message.

I was not allowed in the library from age ten.  At age ten my mother found me reading a children's book, "Tomboy" (I will never forget the name) about a girl my age getting her period.  A friend at Bais Yaakov loaned it to me. My father told me that reading such a book was like eating pig. From now on my parents would be checking all of my books before I read them, even the ones from the Bais Yaakov library.

I was treated differently than my siblings in many ways.  As teens, my sisters were allowed to drive the family car.  I was not.  My sister had a radio.  I was not allowed one.  My mother took my tape recorder, without telling me what she was doing, and had the radio 'professionally' broken.  My older sisters were allowed to go to the mall at age eighteen.  I was not.  When I questioned this unfair treatment my mother said I couldn't go to the mall because I was "interested in too many things."  She expressed concern about me reading greeting cards in a card store.  I had to promise that I would not go into the greeting card store if she allowed my older sister to chaperone me to the mall at age 18.

I remember one of the arguments I had with my father around this time, when I started questioning being treated differently than my siblings.  He became very angry with me and lifted his hand. I told him to go ahead and hit me if he wanted to.  In front of my mother he said, "OK, get down on all fours." When I did, my mother protested and insisted that I get up.

Although I was physically safe at age 18, I was not emotional or psychologically safe.  Dr. Weisbord, my therapist at the time, told me that she was only seeing me because she was a friend of my father. She told me she didn't usually see her friend's kids, as it would be unethical.  She made an exception in my case because of her respect for my father.

I had been brought up with a very clear message that I was not a good person.  I was a liar.  I was a manipulator.  I made things up to get attention. (needing glasses for example)  Not even serious physical illness was taken seriously.  At age fourteen I was sick for a month with pneumonia before I was taken to a doctor.  My baby brother caught it as well, and was given antibiotics within a day.  I understood that I was bad and it was my parents job to "make me" good.  They told me they knew me better than I knew myself.  I received the message often that the reason for my parents controlling behavior was that I was a danger to myself because of my inherent badness.  (A fundamentalist Christian message.)   We tend to believe what our parents tell us as children and I believed that this was true.  I was told that before I married I would always obey my parents.  After I was married I would obey my husband.  I was told what I was supposed to feel and believe about every situation.  I was not allowed my own thoughts or feelings.  Until after I was married the only real and valid thoughts and feelings belonged to my parents.

As children my father would threaten that he would "put us to bed and take all our clothes off," as a way to bring us into line.  The control and humiliation continued into adulthood.

I believed I was bad because I felt bad.  I was told that any suffering I experienced was my own fault. If I didn't want to suffer, I could make it go away because I had made it up anyway.  I was told that I made all of my feelings up.  I believed that there had to be something very wrong and bad about me from a very young age.  Why else would Hashem allow my father and other men to repeatedly molest me?  Why else would my parents treat me differently than my siblings?  It made sense to me that they knew that I was bad and were protecting me from myself.  I grew up in shame and terror of my badness, and in fear of my father.

It took many many years of distance from my family to rid myself of the poisonous messages I grew up with.  It took me many years of therapy to learn that feeling bad is not the same as being bad.  It took me years to learn to accept that as a child I did what I had to do to survive.  All children who are sexually abused by a parent blame themselves.  It is a matter of survival.  No child can afford to believe that the person whose survival they depend  on is unsafe.

As painful as my family cutting me out of their lives has been, I believe that it is the only way I have been able to get to the place I am now, and do the deep healing work that I have done. I believe that there is a good reason Hashem has allowed this...and I know it's not because I'm bad.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Healing power of Storytelling

There are two reasons for this blog:  Children's safety, and my own healing through telling my story.  For me the two go hand in hand.

 There is an invaluable educational technique I learned from Vivian Paley's book, "The Boy Who Would Be a Helicopter-the uses of storytelling in the classroom."  

Once or twice a week the children in my Gan have the opportunity to tell a story and have it written down verbatim. Later we act out the story together.  The child who told the story chooses who will play each character in his story, including himself.

One of the things that I noticed using this technique over the years, is that no matter how disturbing a story is to us adults, when it comes from another child it doesn't scare the children.  They delight in the opportunity they are given to express their thoughts, ideas, and feelings without sensor.  They have a voice that is being heard and taken seriously.  This is a gift that I did not have as a young child.  Fear, aggression, joy, love, conflict, and all kinds of wild happenings, both real and pretend, are the subjects of these stories.  

A few years ago a parent in my Gan was tragically killed in a car accident.  On the day of the funeral two students, both boys, (one a student from the previous year) stayed in the Gan.

My co-teacher and I decided that storytelling should be one of the choices that day just in case the boys needed to talk about what happened  Both boys chose storytelling, telling me they had an important story to tell.

My co-teacher and I did not plan to act out the stories that day.  We were overwhelmed by what had just happened, and questioned the value of acting out this very raw trauma.  We were beside ourselves when the older boy insisted that we do what we always do with our stories and act it out...We decided to go along with him, trusting that he knew better than we did what he needed to do to process the horrible tragedy.   We went with our gut as we both felt in over our heads.  Neither of us had dealt with anything like this before.

 The older son directed the show as he chose children  to play the part of the cars, and his father who was killed.  I realized that the child had not chosen a role for himself and I asked him who he wanted to be in his story.  He answered with confidence, "I am Hashem."   (Hashem did not appear in the story when he had told it earlier that day)  As my co-teacher and I gulped back tears I read the story as the children acted out a car hitting their father's car from behind, and their father's body being hurt so badly that he died.
  I asked, "So where does Tatty go now?"  The little boy pointed to himself and smiled, "He goes to  me. Hashem."
I asked,  "What does Hashem do?"
He answered,  "Hashem makes it all better."  

 This week, a four-and-a-half year old child in my Gan told us a true story that happened in her building the day before.  A neighbor in her building was sexually abused by a stranger and she was told about it and warned not to go out of her apartment without an adult until the perpertrator was caught.
She said, "It's a scary story."
The other children, as I expected, didn't think it was so scary.
 
"A time when the girls come home from school , we heard from a neighbor downstairs that there was a guy with the (neighbor) girl.  He was a stranger guy, and he was touching her all around on her body.  He knocked on our door and pretended to come in our house.  She told her Ima and I had so many questions about it I didn't eat lunch for a long time.  My mother told me to talk to you about it.  Now I'm scared to go slow and I have to hold hands.  I was so scared I didn't want to go to Gan.  I didn't want to go to my aunt.  I didn't want to go anywhere.  I just wanted to sleep in my Abba and Ima's bed.  Now I only want to hold adults hands and not kid's hands because kids go too slow for me. 
 I was just thinking that if I'm with my mother from now on, until we hear he's dead or something happened to him, then he won't do anything to me. If I'm with my mother or father, or my aunt, or you, or any adult.  The guy probably doesn't have a house and isn't married or anything.  People who are married do nice stuff like invite you for Shabbos."

Knowing that over 80% of victims of child sexual abuse are abused by someone the child's parents know and trust I asked her this question:

"What if someone who is married, invites you for Shabbos and then bothers you?"

 "If we go to someones house for Shabbos and they are mean to us we tell my mother and father and my mother and father will probably say, "Why were you nice to us on the phone and then when we came to your house you were mean to us?  Do you want us to come or not?"  
We're not allowed to be mean on Shabbos or any day."

This is a child who is unconditionally loved and supported by both of her parents.  She is encouraged to express her feelings and to trust her instincts and experiences.  Yet, she was so frightened by knowing there was a child victim of sexual abuse in her building, she couldn't eat and was experiencing anxiety about leaving the house.  One can only imagine how traumatized the child is who it actually happened to!

After we shared the story I emphasized how amazing and brave the neighbor girl was to tell her Ima about the man who touched her.  Because of her bravery all of the neighbors are watching out for all of the children in the building and keeping them safe!


Sunday, June 9, 2013

What Is Therapy??

I imagine that the process of serious long term therapy is something like what we will all go through after we die.  Serious therapy is like  sitting in front of a mirror, week after week, year after year.  If you really are prepared to do the work of therapy you must be willing to take huge risks and allow yourself to be extremely vulnerable.  You must allow yourself to expose parts of yourself that you may not want to see or know.  You learn to know and admit that you have limitations.  You learn to be extremely self aware.  You learn to take complete responsibility for who you are, and for what you know, feel, and believe.

 After fifteen years of serious work in therapy I don't expect many surprises.  I have sat naked in front of a mirror for fifteen years and have been to hell and back many times.  No one should have to face the kinds of memories, the terror, the shame, the pain, that I have had to face and make the kinds of choices that I have been forced to make. 

Every day I am forced to choose again between myself and my integrity, and my family.  Every day that I am true to myself  I lose my entire family all over again. The grief is endless.  I never stop sitting shiva.  I never stop wishing that things would be different.  I never stop loving my family and caring about them.  I never stop wishing they would share some of this very heavy responsibility that they forced on me.

 Rabbi Hopfer told me this himself.  When my family told him that they couldn't stand to see the pain my father was in he advised them that they had to choose between me and my father.  They chose my father, and who could blame them?  They have eleven siblings.  They have only one father.  They all need my father much more than they need me.  I understand and I don't blame them.  But the pain of such a huge loss is not lessened through understanding.

Why didn't rabbi Hopfer tell my siblings the truth?  Why didn't he tell them that no one can possibly choose between a sister and a father. Why didn't he tell them that they can't take sides and we have to find a way to work through this as a family? Why?

Why did he cause all of this pain?

 Aren't the Nazis the ones who told Jewish mothers they had to choose between two children and then killed one in front of them?

 I was the one not chosen.

 Rabbi Hopfer gave my siblings permission to kill me.  They see this as Daas Torah.  When Daas Torah is used as a means to escape responsibility it is neither Daas nor Torah.  Can any of my siblings sit with the possibility that I might be telling the truth for even a few minutes?

I have done this agonizing work in therapy for fifteen plus years on behalf of my entire family.  I have sat with the possibility of my being crazy, being wrong, being evil, being mistaken, and finally, the horrible possibility of being able to trust what I remember.  I know that I am closer to the truth than any of them.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Statement from the Orthodox Union and RCA


 
 
Policies Headlines
Jun 6, 2013 -- The Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America reaffirm that any individual with firsthand knowledge or reasonable basis to suspect child abuse or endangerment, or the sale of illegal drugs, has a religious obligation to promptly share that information with secular law enforcement. Further, those deemed “mandated reporters” under secular law must obey their state’s reporting requirements.

Lives can be ruined or ended by unreported child abuse or endangerment, or drug sales, as we are too often tragically reminded. The Torah’s statement in Leviticus 19:16, “Do not stand by while your neighbor’s blood is shed," obligates every member of the community to do all in one's power to prevent harm to others.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, President of the RCA, and Rabbi Mark Dratch, Executive Vice President, received the following letter from Rabbi Israel Belsky, confirming his position reporting to civil authorities in matters of child abuse.



Friday, June 7, 2013

Child Sex Abuse Expert's Answer to Someone Trying to Discredit Me

Hi,
 
In answer to you letter to me via the blog, I can understand that as someone who has grown up with the family, you may think that you have a good understanding of what the real story is.
 
However, unless one lives with that family, they have no way of knowing. Families are great at keeping secrets from outsiders, and sometimes even from each other. There are many cases of sexual abuse where even therapists believe that the mother always knows, but research has proven that that just isnt so. When the abuse is happening in the home, family members often do not know that it is happening. Therefore, it is even more difficult to know when abuse is taking place in someone else's home. There are rarely clear signs.
 
While I am glad that it appears that that these particular family members that you mentioned are doing well, again, you have no way of knowing how people are really doing. And of course there are many who have been traumatized, and who are able to put their lives together, and do very well.
 
Regarding why the blog writer's story changed: Children who are coping with trauma use any method to survive, just as adults do. That can include changing the story and even lying. Though, usually the lie is that it didn't happen when it did. I ask you, why on earth would someone tell a story that would have her cut off from her family, and be ridiculed by her community? How could she have benefitted from these accusations. At minimum, something is not right in this family that looks so functional on the outside. However, the chances are quite strong that she is telling the truth. This same woman, in a more supportive environment is thriving and helping a lot of other people in need.
 
And finally, her chosen  method of  speaking the truth took her many many years of hard work to finally arrive at the conclusion that her silence was not helping anyone. She rightfully believes that if she can be brave and stand up and tell the truth, others will follow, knowing that they do not have to go through this alone. Here in Israel, religious and charedi communities are getting more and more educated in this area, and it is changing the way sexual abuse is being addressed and handled. It is a very difficult issue to deal with, but the alternative is that the cycle of abuse will continue to hurt more and more innocent children.
 
All the best,
Sincerely,
Helise Pollack

Monday, June 3, 2013

To Whom it May Concern,

I was saddened to read the letter that was sent to the community regarding the accusations against various individuals.

While the writer of this letter may say that the allegations are false, he has no way of being certain that this is so. It is very common for community members to not want to believe that a well know and  trusted member, or leader of a community has broken the law and has deeply harmed others. Furthermore, it is not unusual for family members to take the side of the abuser against the victim, especially when the abuser is well known and respected community leader. The reasons for this are that the family fears being shamed, and they fear the effect this will have on their own families in the community. Many family members choose to stay silent and many take precautions to protect their own children.

As a therapist who has been working in the field of childhood sexual abuse for the last 25 years, I have come across many families like the one you are referring to in your letter. It is a rare thing for someone to stand up and make these accusations without there having been a basis, especially when the personal price is so high.

I am also an acquaintance of the woman that you claim is telling lies. However, my impression of her differs greatly from that of the writer of the letter. This person has rebuilt her life. She has built a wonderful family, and a successful career and she is an active and respected member of her community. She has shown great courage, risking her own privacy and reputation to do what she feels is right in order to protect others, like she herself was not protected. .  

The bottom line is that one has no way of knowing what really happened. However by taking a stand against a complainant, you are doing a most harmful thing. This woman has learned to accept the lack of support from the community, though I would imagine that it doesn’t stop hurting. However, a message is being sent to the many others who have been abused, and who after seeing letters like this one, will not want to step forward for fear of being treated in the same way.

No matter what your opinion is, I would advise all community members to think for themselves and to be careful about making public statements about issues where they cannot possibly have all of the facts.

I pray that as individuals in your community, you will have the courage to form your own opinions, and I urge you to be careful about making public statements regarding issues that you cannot possibly have all of the facts that would allow for you to be fair judges. I do believe that at this time, whether you believe that the accused is guilty or innocent, all members of this family could use the community's support in getting through such a difficult time.

Helise Pollack, MSW (Masters of Social Work (clinical)).
I have also been a Pkidat Saad Lechok Hanoar, which is a child welfare officer.
I have graduated a course in which I was trained to treat children who sexually abuse, and I have 25 years experience working in the field of childhood sexual abuse.
 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Dear Parents of Torah Institute,

Dear Parents,

Over the past few days, many of you have received an e-mail leveling serious and ugly accusations against several individuals, including a member of the Cheder's Hanhala.  The individual making these allegations somehow obtained your and other e-mail addresses in her effort to blanket the community with her accusations.

Over the years, these allegations have been looked into by several parties outside the school and have been found to be not credible and without basis, and the other children in the family of the accuser know the allegations to be false.

We are sorry that innocent individuals are going through this agony, and are mispallel that HKB"H send refuos and yeshuos to all in need.

If you require additional information, please call any of us.

Rabbi Nosson Nusbaum                Rabbi Tzvi Berkowitz                       Rabbi Hillel Tendler

 

Dear Parents of T.I.,

This is a response to the  letter that was sent to you by the school, in response to my letter which some of you may have received.

 

 I am concerned for the safety of the children in T.I.   I have no idea if you know that I exist.   There has been a campaign going on for the past twenty years in Baltimore to try to keep multiple allegations of child sexual abuse against my father a secret from you.

 

  It is time to end the silence and protect the children. 

 

I am very interested in hearing who, besides Rabbi's Heinemann and Hopfer, say they have looked into my allegations and found them to be not credible and without basis.   

 

 There are three main conditions that allow child sexual abuse to happen and they all exist in my father's case; They are, opportunity, lack of accountability, and secrecy.  

 

I believe that the lack of accountability in this case, and the secrecy the Baltimore rabbonim are desperately trying to maintain, have allowed my father the opportunity to continue abusing children for decades.

 

 Rabbi Hopfer has gone as far as to tell my family to cut me off unless I promise never to talk about what my father did to me.  My family has done just that.  I was not invited to my siblings weddings and have no idea who they married, who has children, etc.   I have been trying to get my parents and siblings to come with me to therapy for years and try to find healing for all of us.  They refuse saying that their is nothing to talk about.  

 

A sister treated as dead because she remembers being molested by her father, is nothing to talk about?   

 

I have been made an example of for my siblings and any other survivors who may want to come forward.   I believe that my siblings deny the abuse and protect my father because they don't want to lose everything as I have.   They also deny the abuse because like you, they don't want to believe something so painful and devastating about their father.  I know, because I don't want to believe it either.  I have spent years in therapy trying to find another reason for my memories.  All three therapists of the last fifteen years agree that my memories are valid, credible, and true.  

 

 If you had a child who claimed to have memories of you abusing them, even if you were sure it wasn't true, wouldn't you agree that their was a serious problem in your relationship with your child? 

 

A loving parent would try to help their child, not kill them off as Rabbi Hopfer, my parents and family have done.

 

If my family and the Baltimore Rabbomin were not so frightened of the truth of what I have to say they would have no need to treat me this way.  Please, I beg you,  talk to your children and let them know these five important rules of personal safety.  Talk to them as you would about street safety, or fire safety. 

 

Rules of Personal Safety all Children Must Know:  (from Dr. David Pelcovitz)

1.  No one is ever allowed to scare you or touch you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable.

2.  You can tell your parents anything and they will always be there to love and protect you.

3.  The parts under your bathing suit are private and no one is allowed to ask you to show them theirs and vice versa,  or ask you to touch them there and vise versa.

4.  Anyone who tells you to keep a secret from their parents is wrong and you should tell your parents right away!

5.  There are three kinds of touches, Yes touch,  No touch,  and,  I don't know touch.

Examples:  Yes touch:  Someone you love hugs you.

                    No touch:  Someone hits you.

                    I don't know touch.  Any touch that is confusing that you aren't sure about, tell your parents right away and they will help you understand if it was OK or not.

 

 Please do not let my father hurt one more child the way I was hurt.   

 

Pease do  not let your child be the next korbon for the sake of community image. 

 

The parents who don't take this seriously, who scoff at my message, are the ones whose children are likely the most vulnerable.  My father knows which children have parents who would never believe them.  

 

 I have never spoken to the three individuals who signed the letter from the school.  Please ask them why they have not tried to contact me. 

 

 Please feel free to contact me yourself if you have any further questions. 

 

 Sincerely,

 

Genendy Eisgrau