Incest: The Ultimate Coverup I have been silent for far too long. I want the world to know about the abuse I suffered at the hands of my brother. What he did to me for years and who he really is. But I can’t. I am sworn to secrecy, I am shamed into silence. If I speak up, I […]

Incest: The Ultimate Coverup

I have been silent for far too long. I want the world to know about the abuse I suffered at the hands of my brother. What he did to me for years and who he really is. But I can’t. I am sworn to secrecy, I am shamed into silence. If I speak up, I lose everything, my family, and the literal roof over my head.

But I know I am not alone in this. Every survivor of incest I have spoken to is in the same situation. Our families have all chosen to protect the abuser and let us continue to suffer. We are revictimized every single day when we cannot call our mothers for advice about work. We are revictimized every single holiday when he is welcomed with open arms and we are turned away lest we make the abuser uncomfortable. We are revictimized by every family gathering, every Shabbat meal, and throughout daily life with painful reminders that we don’t belong. Because protecting a molester and the family reputation is more important than our safety, mental health, and well-being.

I never told my parents that my brother sexually abused me, about the worst years of my childhood when he used me for his own sexual pleasure, the premature and undesired sexual education I received even before I hit puberty. Because I knew in my heart of hearts they would not believe me. How right I was!! When they found out, they threatened me “Don’t you dare have our son put on the Wall of Shame!” I cried and said, “Don’t you care about me? I’m your daughter, he hurt me so much.” To which they replied, “You are not our daughter anymore, he’s our son.” How could I argue with that? They had made it very clear where their alliances really laid and it was not with me. The abuse that their son had put me through rendered me no longer fit to be part of the family.

Another friend, whom I will call Esther for the sake of protecting her identity, was raped, physically abused by her father at the age of 6. It continued until she was 12. Her older sister also molested her until she was 17. She too never confronted her family about the abuse or disclosed it to them because they will deny it and disown her. They will call her therapist crazy. All the changes she has made within herself to be stronger and more assertive, they blame on others and say her friends are bad influences. They constantly make her feel guilty for doing what is best for her. She is trying to build up the courage and self-confidence to one day tell them about the horrible abuse she went through in the family.  But like myself, she knows they will deny the truth and not take responsibility.

Another friend, Shira- name also changed, was threatened by her brother, who abused her for so many years, not to say a word because it could destroy his career. Her family has also warned her very strongly not to ever mention a word of it, but they will be otherwise supportive. Some support that is.

The stories are endless. Countless survivors of incest are cast aside, their needs unmet, unable to talk, unwelcome in their own families- because the families have decided to protect their reputation instead of protecting their children. As if it wasn’t bad enough that we were abused by the people meant to protect us and show us right from wrong, now we are told that the abuser holds a more important place in the nuclear family than we do. Our only sin? Being an innocent, vulnerable child that was abused by someone who knew better.

When will it end? When will it get better? Will it get ever get better? Will I ever be able to stand up in public and point to my older brother and say “because of you, because of your abuse” without fear of what will happen next? Will I lose everything if I speak up? I have already lost so much, all I want is a family to love me. Will they ever?

Posted in media, survivors-letters.

12 Comments

  1. Dear Survivor,

    I want you to know that you will succeed. For some unknown reason Hashem put this test in your path, let it not be in vain. You will know the right time to walk away and never look back. I am a survivor of another type of abuse, the reaction was the same…manipulation. When the day come and you feel it’s time to walk away, it will be scary at the beginning, but I can assure you that Hashem is with you and he will put the right people in your path.

    You are not alone.

    Hugs!

  2. I appreciate the candor of the author. Its difficult to write about incest, because its victims are taught that secrecy is critical to survival. The natural outcome of incest is feeling worthless and not valued or believed. The victims believe that life is tenous and nobody cares.
    I can speak openly about my incest experiences because my parents and the perpetrator (my brother) are dead now. I went through many years of therapy since age 18, to sort through why I felt unwanted and felt like a mistake. I knew that G-d abandoned me. I am grossly obese, even at age 59, even though I was molested from age 5 to age 12. These horrors dont just happen in the present. The after effects last forever, as do the flashbacks. Whenever I think I have worked through all of the issues, I am surprised by some experience that takes me back to being a victim.
    I do not know why nobody protected me. My parents nor my extended family, nor my teachers nor neighbors. It speaks to how good I am at covering up, and how strongly people do not want to recognize the signs. My mother was apparently too mentally ill to recognize what was happening under her own roof, and my father was too preoccupied with his business worries to pay attention to me.
    Please develop relationships so that girls feel free to talk and be honest. Loyalty to one’s family is not something that should be valued above all else. Girls need to be valued and addressed with candor and openness. School achievement can be a coverup if the child is not well-rounded and involved in activities out of the home.

  3. I too was molested by my older brother from the age of 7 until 14. I never realized that he was molesting my other sisters too. I always thought it was my secret, my fault and my shame. Eventually my father was also outed in the family as a pedophile. He molested and sodomized his own children and grandchildren, and probably countless more children that we don’t even know about. It was made very clear to me, even by my siblings that were molested too, that this was a family secret and not to be told to anyone. The only way I could protect myself and my family was by leaving them all behind and starting a new life. It was actually too late because my father and a different brother had already molested my daughters. And horrors of horrors, even though the family knew how dangerous my brothers and father were they never stopped their children and grandchildren from visiting with them.
    So today, I have no family of origin and my daughters are angry at me that I didn’t protect them, even though when I found out I became their biggest advocate.
    My dreams are difficult, especially when a Jewish holiday is on the horizon and I did believe for years that G-d hated me. Now, I try to practice gratitude daily for the smallest of things and live each day richly, because no one can steal that from me anymore.

    • That’s sounds like a horror story! I’m so so sorry to hear this. It hurts to hear such a thing! Did the abuser got ever punished ? Praying that Gd will heal you, your sisters and daughters.

  4. You will find a family that loves you when you create your own out of your friends and one day with a loving husband. While your parents gave you life, they unfortunately have not merited to be your family and have disgraced the word and role. Move forward and continue to strengthen yourself and reveal your endless value. You will hopefully one day soon gain your independence so that you can separate yourself in mind and body. Much hatzlacha!

  5. Dear Survivor,
    My heart bleeds with yours today as I read your story. Please know that there are people such as myself who would have never let you down. We are with you in spirit all the way through all your pain. If I were your mother I would have been a lioness to protect you. I hope you are eventually able to rise above the victimization and shame and realize that you are loved and cared for. I also hope that you will one day find the courage to risk your family’s relationship with you and become free of the constant torment. I also hope your friends, “Esther” and “Shira” would do the same. I am behind you and praying for you. I hope that one day I’ll read another article written by you that tells us of how you told your family and how you overcame it all. Brachos to you, “Esther” and “Shira.”

  6. Your bravery in writing about your experience is what will make it better. You’ve opened up a discussion about a horribly taboo subject, which is the first step in ending that taboo. This article is already creating conversations that will lead to more awareness, understanding, and compassion.

    So thank you, so much, for your courage. There’s no certainty that it will change the way your family is treating you, but your daring and determination will certainly help others, and, in turn, yourself.

    I wish you continued courage and much נחת-רוח and ברכה in your life.

  7. I am grateful to all survivors who have the tremendous courage to share their heartbreaking, most personal stories.

    I want to lift up another type of childhood sexual abuse that is often not recognized or discussed. But that exists and its effects are every bit as devastating. Non-Touch Sexual Abuse, which is as traumatizing to its victims. It is also devious as so many only know of or understand the lasting negative effects of physical abuse, and so Non- Touch abuse skirts under the radar. Non-Touch abuse includes voyarism, exposing private parts, not allowing children (once they are of age) privacy as they bath or use the toilet, showing porn or other suggestive and developmentally inappropriate sexual materials, using language or having sexually explicit conversations with children that include inappropriate sexual jokes, innuendo etc…there is a complete lack of healthy sexual boundary between the adult abuser and the children/adilescents that are victimized – all of these behaviors are for the pleasure of the predator. Often this type of abuse continues for years, well into adolescence. I can tell you from experience that the impact is as disturbing, difficult, heart wrenching and lasting as any other form of abuse.

  8. Thank you for your bravery in sharing your story. I am a “second hand victim of incense”. I married into a family that incest was the norm and yet at the same time was a deep dark secret that nobody talked about. I didn’t find out for years about all of the abuse done to my husband as a child and to his siblings, and then somewhere in the chain of events, my husband became an abuser himself. I am now divorced with three children that do not have a healthy functioning father, and numerous sexually abusive uncles and cousins.
    Incest is truly the darkest form of sexual abuse. It attempts to destroy the very essence and soul of a child. Hashem should bless you to have the continued strength to survive and flourish despite this horrendous tragedy.

  9. I feel weird replying on a social forum but I wanted to share my feelings. I had a very similar situation in the kind of abuse, the same age, and who was involved. For me, it was a few brothers though. I didn’t tell my parents until I was 14 though because I was scared and embarrassed and convinced it was all my fault. However, I finally told my mother and she was great about it. She asked me how I wanted to deal with it (my brothers were already married) and I said I wanted to keep it a secret because I was embarrassed and I didn’t want to be the girl with THAT story. I know in many cases, its hidden and the parents make the victim feel terrible about it but it’s not always the case. I was the victim and I dont feel comfortable bringing it up or being put through it. Am I a terrible person for hiding it?

  10. What a horrible thing to go through! However, I do wonder if the situation can be taken care of and healing brought about without exposing him. I believe there is a difference between underage abusers and adult abusers. I believe it’s more likely the parents who should be on the wall of shame than the brother. His age at the time of abuse should be taken into account, as well as whether he tried to right his wrongs when he got older. I in no way support abusive behavior, however, it is possible that the brother’s behavior was not evil and malicious. Not always does the brother know better at the age he is. This does not take away from the victim’s pain, but it can be dealt with in a different way than an adult abuser. Not necessarily if someone took advantage of his sister when he was a young teen does that mean he will go on to abuse others. Especially if he went and got himself help. Of course, I do not know if this is the case in this situation. The parents, on the other hand, should really know better and should be protecting ALL of their children and dealing with the issues instead of ignoring or denying them. I hope my post does not cause anyone any pain.

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