It is Tu B'shvat today. The new year for the trees, and new growth begins. There is a God in this world, and He is good. I am eternally grateful to Hashem for bringing me to this day and to this moment in my life. Shehecheyanu, vikiymanu, vehigiyanu, lazman hazeh.
Evil exists, and pain and suffering are a reality that we all face at times. But pain and suffering, awful as they feel, are not inherently bad. They just are. How we choose to think about pain is what makes all the difference.
I have had some excruciatingly, hauntingly, devastatingly painful life experiences. Experiences that I believed would destroy me, and indeed, almost did.
One of the most awful feelings, in the realm of feeling possibilities, is of a child who is trapped, being violated and hurt by her father, the very person who is supposed to be protecting her. Being completely dependent on the mercy of a father, who at times treats you with love, but at times also wants to hurt you sexually, is one of (if not) the most confusing, shaming, and traumatic experiences a child can have. As a child, I prayed for death as a release. At the same time, I knew, that death would bring me closer to Hashem.
And I did not want to be closer to Hashem.
As a child, I believed that Hashem was a child molester just like my father.
I am lying in bed in a room that I share with my sisters in our little white house on Paul street. I am very young, three or four. My father comes into my room and lies on my bed. I stare at the red and white checkered curtains. I am trapped. A familiar numbness creeps into my mind. The numbness will dull the terror. It will dull the pain and shame, just enough so that I can get through this one more time. I am not real.
I can not be real.
I can not be real.
Tatty, NO!! Don't hurt me!! He rolls partially on top of me. I can't breathe. I can't move. Something is poking at me. I can't see what it is. It's cutting me. He's too heavy. I am going to die. I want to die. I have to die. ...Something is in my mouth cutting off my breath. Tatty, NO! Tatty, I need you!...I want to fly up to the sky. But not too high in the sky. I don't want to be too close to Hashem. Hashem is probably like my Tatty and likes to touch and hurt little girls. I know that Hashem sees everything. I don't know why He lets Tatty hurt me. Maybe He likes to watch. Maybe He knows that I deserve to be hurt.
My throat hurts when I think about how Hashem lets me get hurt, and watches. I wonder if I could be dead and still stay far away from Hashem. I wish someone could make it better. Maybe magic will make the bad parts of me disappear and then Tatty won't hurt me any more. I don't want Tatty to hurt me. I don't want him to go away, either. I'm so scared. I wish I was a different girl. Then, maybe, I could be safe. I want to fly to the clouds in between the sky and Hashem, where there are no people. ...I can crawl inside a fluffy cloud and feel safe for a few minutes. I don't have to be me up here. I can pretend I'm good and pretend I'm safe. No one can bother me or fight with me. No one can touch me or hurt me. I can turn into a cloud and float away... Far, far away…At times, my life felt hopeless. Not having a family who loves me or accepts me, at times, feels devastating. Yet, I know on a deep neshama level, that it is not really awful. I did not lose my family, or anything else that is truly important. My separation from my family for the past fifteen years is a gift. A chance for me to heal and grow and develop into the person I am supposed to be. My family is always with me in my heart, and I will always love them. I know that at the right time we will see each other again.
After a very long, and at times excruciating, healing process, I now know that everything that I went through ultimately happened for a good purpose. Hashem gave me everything I need in order to heal from the horrific experience of child sexual abuse.
He also gave me a mission.
It's has not been an easy mission, and not one I would have voluntarily signed up for. I have been put here on earth not only to heal myself, but to help others heal as well.
Life is a classroom and there is no learning like the learning that comes from experience. I know I received the best training Hashem has to offer in order to complete my mission here.
A personal encounter with evil evokes three possible responses. One can be consumed by it. One can avoid and deny it. Or, one can fight it. I have lived through all three responses.
I went through child sexual abuse, it's over, and I am called upon to fight the evil of child sexual abuse in our community. In order to do that effectively, Hashem knew that I must understand it intimately and personally.
When I climb above denial, hate, and fear, and stand on top of evil's head and look down upon its bent neck, I see it for what it really is. Evil is a tool that God put on this earth for us to fight. Evil is created by God, and is a reality only in the lower worlds. If there would be no evil there would be no world, no life on this earth, and no free will. Hate and fear, which is the essence of evil, will never be as strong or as enduring as truth and love, which are eternal. In the end, truth and love always win. The fabric of our neshama is made of truth and love.
If you have encountered evil personally, and been badly hurt by it, I know from experience that it is possible to go through it and come out the other side whole. You need and deserve a lot of time and support, but you CAN heal. You have no idea how powerful you are!
I recently received this e-mail from a frum survivor who I have come to know well through e-mail. Knowing that my journey can inspire others gives me the strength to continue my difficult mission:
"Hashem has given you amazing strength. I know some of your family but such strength I have never seen. The cries I have heard in the past from similar stories are of those who want to get back at their fathers or hate them. That's what gets me about you. You brought yourself from pain to compassion. I DONT KNOW WHAT COMPASSION IS. I'm kinda getting frustrated with myself right now. But I'm not giving up. I really feel with you I'm in good hands and have a Derech ahead of me."
I answered this man that I am a firm believer in the power of prayer. I have used prayer to change in ways that felt impossible. If you want the strength to change, to heal, ask Hashem for that strength. Beg for it, cry for it, and demand it! Then, expect it.
It will come.
Hashem gave you the challenges. Hashem loves you fully and unconditionally. He wants you to turn to Him for help...Because the truth is you can't do it alone. You need Hashem's help. I Pray that God lead you to a place inside where you can love and accept yourself unconditionally, just the way He loves and accepts you. When you can love and accept yourself unconditionally, when you can accept that you are a limited human, and that you will make mistakes, and that you will always get up and try again... When you know that you have all the unconditional love and support that you need from God, When you understand that Hashem does not want perfection from you, only honesty,
...Then you will know that you have healed.