Each of my children, has at one time or another asked why they have never met their grandparents.
I have told them that my family doesn’t want to see me.
"Does that mean they don't want to see us either?" They wondered. What did we do?"
I've answered as honestly and vaguely as I can.
I have told them that maybe someday they will meet their grandparents. I have told them my family doesn't want to see me because they are angry with me, and it has absolutely nothing to do with them.
I explained that someone in the family, isn't safe with children.
My family is angry with me for talking about it publicly, and they cut me off.
They want to pretend that it didn't happen.
My children know about my activism. They have been told many times that when it comes to children's safety there are no secrets. They know that I helped start a child safety organization in our neighborhood.
I hoped this answer would somehow make sense to them.
The older my children get, the more relevant it seems, to tell them the truth.
I have a public blog, and more importantly, I know that if we are to heal as individuals, as family and community, sexual abuse is not, and can not be a secret.
At the same time, I want to protect my children from my pain and trauma.
I don't want them to feel burdened or frightened by my past.
I decided this Pesach, that I was ready to say something to my children from a place of strength.
What could be a better time than at the seder, when it is a mitzvah to talk about our national trauma and redemption?
When we are supposed to feel as if we personally were redeemed.
I was personally redeemed.
The story of YetziasMitzrayim is my own story.
I have come from avdus leceherus.
I begin the discussion with a question and a story.
"Why do we thank Hashem for taking us out of Mitzrayim when he is the one who put us there in the first place?"
One child guesses that Hashem was testing us.
"A little girl is chasing her ball into the street as a car is about to speed past. Just as she is about to step off the curb, she trips. The little girl is crying and bleeding.
But, her parents are so grateful!
So relieved! They thank and praise Hashem.
The little girl is angry.
Can't her parents see that she is hurt and bleeding?
How can they be so happy when she is hurt?
The toddler has no ability to see the bigger picture and understand the disaster that almost took place.
We too, do not always see the bigger picture and understand why painful things happen to us."
But we know that everything Hashem does is ultimately good.
My children are listening.
"I had a very challenging childhood." I continue calmly, as if recounting the time I broke my leg when I was twelve.
"I was sexually abused by my father and my grandfather and it made me feel very bad about myself. At one point, I didn't think I would ever be able to get married or have children.
And now, look at us here at our Seder!
I am married, and I have you wonderful children! As far as I know, I am the only one of my immediate family who has the zechus of living in Eretz Yisrael. Hashem saved me, and not only am I OK, but I now help other people who have been through similar experiences."
As I speak, my oldest son, a teenager, puts his hand on my back.
My daughter, seven, bounces up and down on the couch. Her mind, I think, is on the afikomen wish list I helped her write earlier.
My middle son, soon to be Bar Mitzvah asks, "What is sexual abuse?"
"Sexual abuse is when someone with more power than you forces you to do something with your body that you don't want to."
"Well, you force me to wash the dishes all the time!" He smiles triumphantly.
"I mean, if someone forces you to do something sexual with your body."
"Do you see the difference?"
The conversation moves on, but I stay in the moment savoring my freedom.
Freedom from shame and silence.
Freedom from self hatred.
Freedom from my past which is, in this moment in the past, where it belongs.