A couple days ago, I wrote a review of a book called Hush. (See Book Review | Hush)
I received this anonymous “stream of consciousness” email asking me to post her thoughts on the book and on the abuse situation in general. I have done just a tiny bit of editing but the emailer really wished that the note be presented in this raw form. I apologize for its length, but I encourage you to read it carefully and think about its message.
Just to give you a bit of background on who I am. I did not grow up in the Chasidic world but in the orthodox yeshiva world. I went to the community yeshiva for elementary school and then to Bais Yaakov high school and seminary in Israel (and a good one that’s hard to get into.) My brother was and is part of the Yeshiva world as well as the rest of my siblings. My family is a core part of the community and is well respected and liked by everyone. We were not a family with “issues” my family is wonderful and “normal” – or so it seems.
I’m not sure we to begin. I just finished reading the book Hush. I can’t stop crying the tears will not stop coming. Of course the book was moving and well written but most importantly, I think I am crying because I was Devory. I was the little girl who was molested by her brother.
I think I am crying most right now because I am grateful. I am so overwhelmingly grateful for every minute I am alive longer than Devory. I gave myself a chance at life and I didn’t even know it. I hate what she did to herself. I hate that she killed herself but I understand her. I now think to myself “why didn’t I kill myself?” I understand why people feel like they may want to; I may have felt like it at times too. I understand how that guy who (may have) killed himself after he got married last year felt and I understand how Devory felt. I think all us victims feel it and understand it. I am crying now because I am grateful for my life as it is right now. I have SO much to be thankful for. Look how fortunate I am. Look at my life and look what it turned into. I am so accomplished. I am a great mommy, wife, and friend. Daughter, daughter in law, granddaughter, sister and so on…. I have a wonderful job and amazing friends. I live in a great community and everyone honestly loves me. People respect me a lot. I have amazing children thank God but most importantly I have an incredible marriage. And for this I have to thank my husband. Honey, I hope you are reading this and if you are – yes believe it or not it is me I actually wrote this and shared my feeling with others, Thank you from the bottom of my heart! I really do have the most unbelievable husband ever! He has always been there for me, and please god always will be. He stood beside me and encouraged me through the most difficult time of my life. (Admitting that it happened is actually even harder then being abused.) He gave me the courage I needed to heal. And trust me you need so much courage – it is so hard to face the truth. And he waited – he waited patiently for me to understand and make peace with my self in order to be a better wife and mother.
My husband is a lot like Gittel’s. Gittel’s husband is the hero of the story for me. He didn’t know what he was getting himself into. He didn’t know that she had a story and that she was scared and that a relationship would be difficult for her. He didn’t know that she had a traumatic past. He didn’t know it would be harder for her then it is for any other girl. And yet he stood by her, he supported her and gave her strength. My husband did too. I didn’t even know it would be so hard for me. But then when I got married and I was in a relationship and I had to share my life with someone and I was expected to have kids only then did I begin to realize that I was scared. That I didn’t want anyone to touch me. That I didn’t want to share my feelings with anyone. That I didn’t trust anyone. I didn’t realize that I became so good at living a fake feeling life and pretending that everything was rosy and great that I forgot how to actually feel real life. Only then did I realize that I kept a deep dark secret for over 10 years and that I shut out everyone and everything from my life. That I was living a fake life. On the outside everyone said wow look at her she is so pretty and so special and so popular and always so happy, “what a great girl” I want her for my son or nephew or cousin… but they didn’t know. They didn’t know that out of all my friends I did not have one single real friend that nobody actually knew a single thing about me. That although I have lots of siblings I didn’t feel like I had anyone. I felt like I lived in my own world. If anyone ever got too personal I just lied or made up stories. Reading this you probably think I am crazy but no one ever thought I was crazy, everyone thought I was normal and even special! And you know what, I am not crazy I knew I had to lie and hide this to protect my family – my parents and my other siblings (they don’t deserve this label) and I was and am willing to keep it all a secret and hurt myself so no one will ever think badly about my family. And you know what? I kind of still have to.
Like Gittel who only dealt with this after she got married so did I. It wasn’t such an issue for her until she was in a relationship. She too must have made a fake world for herself. Only when she was married and tried to get pregnant did she realize she couldn’t do it anymore. She couldn’t live the lie, pretend nothing had happened. And her husband was there for her when he found out he didn’t leave her but he encouraged her and he told her that she is a really and truly what an Aishes chayil is. And so did mine. He helped me through so much. He helped me admit that it happened and seek a therapists help and encouraged and stood by me through every single step of the way.
This is why I am still crying – we all unfortunately know that this is out there. And there has been so much support and understanding from all of you to help this issue get out there – and thank you for that. But many of you think “thank GD it didn’t happen to me” or worse, “of course this didn’t happen to me”. And I wont marry someone who is “damaged goods” (and bloggers out there, this is you’re line, I read it myself many times on blogs) or I wont let my kids near someone who is damaged. But in our “secret” orthodox world you have no idea who or when you will meet or befriend someone who is a victim like me. Who knows? If my in-laws knew this about me they may not have let us get married. But they didn’t know and you know what they don’t either know something else, they don’t know their own son was abused too. And I have to say they are really truly amazing parents. They just have no idea – just like my parents. And you have no idea either. It could be any of us. Don’t judge. Don’t be harsh. Don’t say we need to do something about this, get rid of the bad guys and then just turn your backs on us victims and isolate us. We are a part of you and we need you to accept us. I beg you please be there for that person help them through it don’t think of them as a crazy person like Devory or the others who have done like she did. Realize that it wasn’t our fault we didn’t do anything wrong it happened to us and we already suffered so much, please be there for us now. Don’t just say those schools or shuls they need to fire those Rabbis they need to do “something”…. Be that person who does something. Please don’t think of us as damaged goods anymore please accept us and love us and realize we already suffered enough. Don’t say I wont let my kids marry someone like that…
We are doing so much to get rid of the people who are abusing others; but we need to do more to accept those of us who have been their victims. Don’t avoid us, don’t treat us different, just be our friend. Let your children be our friend, let your children marry us. Please. Those of us who have been abused and who are still here today did not end it all. We survived it and we know we will be okay. Our lives are so much more precious. We know that it didn’t have to be this way. I didn’t have to survive. I didn’t have to have the great life that I have now. But I do. And I am so thankful for my amazing children, family and husband. And most of all, for my life. I will forever make every minute count. I will count each blessing that I have and realize that I may not of had it had a chosen a different path. I will cry harder then you when my babies are born and when I send my kids off to school. I will cry so hard when I walk them down the aisle and when they have their children. They will be tears of joy because I will remember that I was given a second chance. And I want you all to know that whether you have been abused or know someone who has been abused, please take the time to make this second chance at life meaningful don’t turn your backs on it and don’t ignore it. And please don’t think that we are crazy or to stuck in our “victimhood”, but just like I am finding my life to be a second chance, you can too. Make my choice matter. Help me and help every victim who made this choice have a meaningful life. Our moments on this earth are so precious – we really chose to be here and I know that we can never forget it. This is something that will always be a part of our past and who we are. We cant replace our lives with new ones we can only make ours better.
Don’t treat us as damaged goods anymore. Accept us. Let it be ok for us to say something. Don’t look at us with pity. Realize we are special. We are just like you. And even more. We chose to live.
Of course we need to stop abuse and all this openness and acceptance by you is amazing. It wasn’t like this when I was going through it 15 years ago. I don’t think I even realized what abuse was. This awareness will help people feel more comfortable reporting abuse and it will also help victims be stronger so that they wont also have to live with the fact that not only were they abused but they also have a secret that is eating at their hearts and making them disappear day by day further away from real life. This is so important. I don’t mean to put this down at all. But we also need to be accepting so that we can tell everyone who is thinking about choosing to end their life that they should choose to live and that if they live it will be okay. We will not judge them but we will make it comfortable for them to be here. We will love them and accept them.
I know I rambled a lot and this is pretty crappy writing but I wanted to share my thoughts before I gave it a second thought. And if I read it back I might delete much of it because it is really hard for me to share my feelings. So thanks for sticking with me and reading my random thoughts.
I think to sum it all up my point is that those of us who have chosen to live and overcome our abuse are just like you. We don’t want to read that you won’t let your child marry one of us, we don’t want to read that the victim probably caused it to themselves, we don’t want to feel like second class citizens because of something that someone else did to us. First of all, it’s all wrong. And second of all when we do read or hear that, it makes us feel like maybe it wasn’t worth living through that hell just to suffer again from your fear of us. Give us a chance and know that if you do your life will be blessed. It will be so much more special and meaningful because of it. I promise you – mine is!
Thank you for taking your precious time and reading this…. It means a lot to me