By a survivor

Recovery from abuse is a long and bumpy process. I have gone through so much and now I am finally starting to feel like a person again. I can walk on the street and feel like I belong in the world. But as I lift my chin and face the world I am getting triggered left and right. Everywhere I turn I see people just like the ones who hurt me so badly.

People think abusers are monsters with horns, green faces and sharp claws. But they look exactly like you do. Maybe better. I was abused by the men of a supposedly chashuva family and they are not only part of society but respected and trusted. We know of abusers who went on to become sought-after therapists, Roshie yeshivas, respected rebbeim in top schools. Evil people are all over the place. But I have done so much inner work and I have learned that there are also people who are not evil.

But what bothers me even more than all the abusers sometimes, are the regular people. The ones who are so innocent, who have nothing to do with abuse, who probably won’t even say the word sexual abuse because they think they are way too pure for such things. The people who think that because somebody has a nice beard and is frum and looked up to, it’s impossible that he can be a rapist.

Guess what? I would love to believe that too, with all my heart. But the reality is not that and burying our heads in the sand is allowing it to continue. That’s why I am getting triggered everywhere I turn.

I see teachers leaving their school and I think about the teachers in my super yeshivish high school who turned a blind eye. To me and to so many other girls who I am now discovering also suffered abuse. But all the teachers cared about was, did you do your homework and are you following all the tznius rules. If you look trapped and miserable, if you are acting out, screaming, somebody hear me! save me! That is not important at all. The only thing that matters is “derech eretz”. What a beautiful chinuch.

Recently I called my former school’s guidance counselor. I begged her to please provide some awareness in the school, some way for a girl to reach out in school if their home is unsafe. But she said they can’t because they don’t want to ‘expose the girls to such things’. I wonder if she would say the same thing if her daughter got ‘exposed to such things’ through the abusers they ignore, rather than through the prevention steps they should be taking.

I see families, and I think not only of my own family that I will never have again. They were abusers, it was hard to cut off but it was also a huge relief. But I think about my husband’s family. Parents in law and numerous siblings in law who should have been the ones closest to us, giving us support as we went through the darkest most terrifying challenges. But instead many of them chose to be skeptical if my story was even true. They went behind my back and talked about me, when all I needed was family that I could actually trust. They judged me, and if we ever got upset they acted so confused saying they were always there for us. Why couldn’t they understand that I can feel who is there for me, and who is judging me and looking down at me for things they would never have the strength or courage to do. They hurt me so badly and are not even willing to hear how hurt I was.

I know that not everyone is bad. I know that many teachers, rabbis and therapists are good people who would never hurt a child. But when I see Roshei Yeshiva with long beards and I think if they would hear my story, they would rush to defend those rapists. They would say it’s a chilul Hashem. They would allow the abusers to keep abusing even more vulnerable children instead of realizing that THAT’S the biggest chilul Hashem in the world. Why is it so hard for them to understand that taking a firm stand against abuse no matter who the perpetrator, is the only way to protect our children. I shudder to think of the amount of responsibility, hundreds of broken neshamos, destroyed lives, that will be heaped on them in the next world as a result of their righteous protection of anyone with the title ‘Reb’

Now I am healthier. I have gone through so much trauma. I have worked and am still working so hard to get over the devastating effects.

But now that I am ready to rejoin the ‘regular world’, where am I supposed to go?



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