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
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.
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
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
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.