Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Different Ending

Until very recently I could think of only two possible endings to resolving my estrangement from my family.

  Sitting in therapy year after year, I put a huge effort into doubting my memories. Out of a need for my family's love and acceptance and out of loyalty to them, I defended them, and kept myself stuck.

 I was hoping and praying that I would come to discover that they were right and I was wrong.  I was hoping that my therapists would help me figure out that I am indeed mistaken, crazy or evil.  I was hoping my therapists would be able to help me understand how this whole nightmare was a mistake.  I was not really a victim of incest in my Torah family.  I was not really molested by  my grandfather, a Rosh Yeshiva in his Yeshiva.  It was not possible.  I would apologize to my family for my  insanity, for my chutzpah for imagining such a crazy thing, and presto, I would have them back.

After all, that's what my family and the rabbonim promised me.  If I would just stop talking about this, If I would stop saying that my father and my grandfather sexually abused me, I would have them back.

In the second imagined scenario, I learned to trust myself and my memories.  I realized that no one in their right mind would want to remember and experience the things that I remember and experienced.  No one asks for the kind of shame, pain, fear, loneliness, and rejection that I had to deal with.   I imagined that eventually I would somehow be able to prove to my family that my memories are true.  Eventually, they would understand that we all need help.  My family would believe me, embrace, accept, and support me.  We would all go to therapy together, just as I asked and needed them to do all along.

In both imagined scenarios, I had my family to help me.
I could not begin to imagine it any other way.
I just couldn't give up the dream of having a family.
My family, who I loved and needed.

 Neither fantasy turned out to be true.

 In spite of trying desperately for years to convince myself and my therapist otherwise, I now know I am not a bad person.  I am not an inventor of stories, of false memories, not a dreamer of hurtful fantasies, not an accuser of innocents.  I am human, limited, maker of mistakes, lover of people, determined, and very honest with myself.
Where I once only knew that I was not bad or crazy, I now accept it on a deep emotional level.  I gave it a really good effort, being bad and crazy, and it simply didn't pan out.

I now know that my family is not going to believe me, embrace me, nor offer me the acceptance and support I crave.
Where I once only knew this I now accept it on a deep emotional level.

The reality I am living is neither better nor worse than my fantasies.

 The difference though, is that it is real.

What actually is happening, is that I am learning to embrace and accept myself and my family as we are, and to offer myself the unconditional love, support, acceptance, and validation, that no one in my family can offer me.

I am learning to accept the loss of the family of my fantasy, and accept the family that I have.  Each person in my huge family is an individual. Each one with their own story, their own challenges, their own struggles, their own pain.

  I learned in Bais Yaakov that HaShem doesn't give us any challenge that we can't overcome. I believe it because I experience it every day.  I'm learning that I'm OK.  I can handle this.  I have HaShem always, helping me, loving me, supporting me, holding me, healing me.

 And I have myself always.   I pray every day for the wisdom and strength to love and accept myself the way HaShem loves and accepts me.  The way I, and every person, deserves to be loved and accepted;  Fully and unconditionally.

This was not an easy prayer to believe at first.  I want to invite you, my readers to try saying this tefillah for yourself:

"HaShem, please help me to love and accept myself the way You love and accept me.  The way I deserve to be loved and accepted; Fully and unconditionally."

How does that feel?  Do you believe it?
Not believing it does not make in untrue.

The more I said this prayer, the more I felt Hashem's love, and what followed was this:  I now pray every day that HaShem give me the wisdom and strength to love and accept my family, the way HaShem loves and accepts them. The way they deserve to be loved and accepted; Fully and unconditionally.

 Loving and accepting does NOT mean loving and accepting hurtful behavior.

 It means loving their inherent goodness, their humanity, and accepting their limitations.   Although, they won't speak with me,  I have my family of origin always within me.  I love them.  My siblings are not bad people.  They are doing what they need to do to survive,  just as I am.

For my family survival means denying my truth, refusing to revisit the past, and treating me like I'm dead.

For me, survival is remembering and speaking my truth, trying to help others heal, and living a happy fulfilling life in spite of my family's rejection.

I could easily have gotten stuck in the past.  Sometimes, I did get stuck for a time in the pain, the shame, the rage, that comes from abuse.

But always, with Hashem's help I got out of the rut and kept moving.  I am so grateful.   I truly feel and know that I have been very blessed.


  1. Powerful piece. I have a tough question for you. How are you so sure your memories are not false? False memories are a real phenomenon that seems real. There are many studies on this with reputable therapists on both sides of the isle. You seem very sure. but how? There is a great article in this weeks Ami on the validity of false memories, and the questions concerning suppressed memories. Just maybe your fantasy is for real, and it did not occur after all.

    1. I did not see the AMI article and can not respond to that. But, after researching the FMSF (False Memory Syndrome Foundation) here is what I know:

      There never was a real diagnosis of “false memory syndrome” There is no such diagnosis in the latest DSMF, the diagnostic manual for mental illnesses.

      The FMSF organization was started by parents who were themselves accused of incest. The abuse in their case was later corroborated by relatives.

      One of the founders of the "false memory" foundation was a writer for a pedophilia magazine and was quoted as saying that pedophilia is a “responsible loving choice.”

      I desperately wanted to have false memory syndrome because it would be far less painful then the reality. I tried it on for years. The reality I came to accept is that my father is the one with false memories. My families current behavior speaks volumes and validates my memories. If my father is innocent then why is he so scared of me? Why is my whole family so afraid of what I know that they have to kill me off as they have? If I am indeed mistaken, or have "false memories" then what would stop them from trying to talk this through with me, and go to therapy with me as I ask? Why won't they discuss the past with me, or even entertain the idea that my memories may not be false? Can any of them sit with the idea that I was possibly molested by my father and grandfather for even a minute? Not in my experience.

      The FMSF sues therapists for emplanting false memories in their patients. This simply doesn't apply to me. I was never convinced by a therapist that I was abused, nor hypnotized by anyone to help me "remember" being abused. I always knew I had been hurt, although I repressed and dissociated some of some the details. I didn't have any words to go along with the experience, so I couldn't talk about it until I learned the 'language' of sexual abuse at age 19. As a child I didn't have the strength to survive and think about what was being done to me, so I pushed it deep down and pretended it was someone else who it happened to. Someone very bad. This is a common response of traumatized children.

      I haven't heard about FMSF in a long time, but I hear about incest, dissociation, and trauma disorders often. I hear about court cases that were won on the basis of recovered memories. The false memory movement seems to have petered out as we learn more and more about traumatic memory and how it is processed. Traumatic memory is processed differently and more accurately then regular memory.

      an excellent book that helped me sort this all out for myself is Memory and Abuse by Charles Whitfield. I hope this answers your question, and by the way, I appreciate the respectful tone of your question.

  2. I appreciate your response. Sad thing though because you have a lot of misinformation. The suppressed memories piece, is the one that is losing traction. I wonder if your family refused to sit down with you because of your terms or other emotional reasons. You have a situation that is most unusual. In today's day and age the accused are never believed by an entire community. There are a few loud mouths who protect them. You are alone on an island save for few people who don't know your family. I must admit that I find you not so believable because of all of this. I read your entire blog. Towards the beginning of your blog there was some push back. The questions were much better then the answers that you gave. Most notably when it was pointed out that in the jp blog you claimed anal rape, and on your blog you claim oral rape. Your response that jp made it up is frankly not believable. Your misremembering exactly what happened is however very in line with false memories.

    1. What is sad here is that you seem to be invested in me being alone and isolated. You also seem to very much want me to have "false memories," even though I told you that I wish I did have false memories, and tried for years to convince my therapists that I did, but it just doesn't apply in my case.

      You also ignore the fact that it is debatable wheather "False Memories" even exists. Repression has been a well known and documented phenomena in trauma survivors from the beginning of the study of psychology. "False Memories" in comparison, is a very new idea invented by people accused of child sexual abuse.

      The other sad thing here, and one of the reasons for my blog, is that my situation is far from unusual. It is happening over and over in the frum community. Especially when the alleged perpetrator is well known and respected, as my father is, people tend to rally around them and try to discredit the victims(s)

      The terms that my family won't agree to, and the reason they will not discuss this with me, is that I don't agree to keep this a secret.

      The few "loud mouths" that are protecting my father are the rabbonim in Baltimore. I have actually gotten many supportive e-mails from Baltimore. Those who support me in Baltimore are not yet strong enough to go up against their rabbonim, even if they believe they are wrong. The fact is that Baltimore has a big problem that at some point they will have to confront.

      I took a look at the Ami article. I know about Loftus and have studied her research for years. Remember, I really, really, wished I could apply "false memories" to myself. Their are many problems with Loftus's work, and I question Ami's reasons for the article, and why it is so one sided. Why did they not interview a trauma therapist as well? What is Ami's agenda?

      I am not willing to discuss details of my abuse with an anonymous poster who seems to have an invested interest in my isolation.
      I will tell you though that I was abused for a number of years by multiple perpetrators in multiple ways. Journalists have been known to misquote.

      I believe that trying to discredit me and other survivors by crying "false memories" is a ploy that is mostly being used by people who have themselves been accused of child sexual abuse. Do the research.

    2. Genendy,
      It never ceases to amaze me how you can respond so calmly and clear-headedly to responses that are so clearly biased and mis-informed.
      I found the tone of the Anonymous reader's second response aggressive and agenda-driven. As Shakespeare once said, "me thinks thou dost protest too much." It is a sad reality that such narrow, protect- the- perpetrator thinking is what is allowing a plague amongst clal yisrael of abuse of children, rachmana litzlan. May HaShem's truth be revealed speedlily in our days. And may all those who choose to close their eyes to the truth, no matter how painful, finally have the opportunity to do tshuva, and seek forgiveness from those whose pain they have compounded with their arrogance.

  3. This was very powerful! I love your prayer for self love. That is awesome! I might even try saying that one. As for the prayer for your family, that is just WOW! I recall that I reached a point in my healing, too, where I was able to let go of the anger and hate and just accept. May this acceptance bring you peace. Love, Chani

  4. This note spells out very clearly, the challenges of a child survivor -

    This is my deepest, darkest secret.

    As a child I didn’t understand what had happened at the time of the abuse. I did know that I must not tell anyone, ever. Later the memories took on new and more troubling meaning when I became a teenager. They started to appear more often and made me feel increasingly apart from everyone else. In my mind I instigated and enjoyed the abuse – even as a five and nine year old – no matter the age difference. Discussing what had happened would have meant shame and blame.

    I always worried someone might look at me and know, so I paid close attention to others for any sign they might have figured it out. No one ever did. By my late teens I reached a sort of mental equilibrium on the matter. I couldn’t stop the images from appearing altogether, but I generally controlled when they appeared.

  5. I'm proud of your strength ,
    I love the prayer you presented above.
    You are not alone.
    We applaud your courage, and your faith in Hashem even though you could have turned away bitter and disillusioned.
    Hashem should continue to send you the strength and wisdom to deal with this issue and all things.
    It makes my heart hurt when I hear how you and others have had to carry and hide your burdens , such a burden that no child should have to carry let alone into adulthood.
    Do not let those who would shake your determination and faith in yourself and what you know is true, from doing the right thing.
    Bullying comes in many forms and fashions.
    Making you doubt yourself and making others doubt you is bullying.
    It is so hard to believe that someone can know about such terrible doings and yet try to mask it , make excuses for it, ignore , or downplay it, or deny it.
    It still exists and still hurts those who are the most vulnerable.
    Your coming and educating the frum groups as well as others is important.
    Its unfortunate but it as long as abuse and molestation exist it must be condemned publicly.
    You are doing the right thing, and continue to
    be strong and courageous,