We can talk about empathy, sympathy and all sorts of other feelings until we have used up all of the words. You can say you understand and you might even think that you do. But you can’t. If you have never been touched or molested or raped, you can never truly appreciate the depth of pain that is experienced. For a child to be violated in such a way, by a person they so want to love and trust, there is no way to heal.
A child has so little control over her world. She is told when to wake up, when to sleep, when to eat and even what to think. The one thing that is hers, is her body. She should be able to control who touches her and who sees her. When that control is taken from her, she feels she has lost everything. She has no power, no choices. She has become a vessel. An empty container to be used wherever and whenever somebody chooses. She cannot cry out or complain about the things being done to her. She can’t stop his fingers from going where they want. She can never erase the feel of his touch or the burning of her skin. His hands are covered in a filth and grime that he wipes off on to her. Her innocence is lost and her soul is tarnished. She can never again think of herself as young and pure. Her childhood disappears and her life becomes a fight for survival.
She prays, but all of her supplications go unanswered, she thinks unheard. She knows that she must deserve this. She knows this is a punishment. She knows she has failed, but she doesn’t know why or how. She pictures her neshama as a shriveled up decaying thing. It’s gray and dingy and almost lifeless. She knows that things that are pure and holy would die in her presence. She sees herself as bad, evil, dirty. She tries to cleanse herself. First with baths or showers, later with prayer, learning, and accepting more mitzvos. Finally, she tries the mikvah. She is sure this will do the trick. The cool water will envelope her and wash away all of her impurity. She will emerge, finally feeling clean and pure and whole.
It didn’t work. Month after month she prepared and davened. She said tehillim, tried to take on extra mitzvos and gave tzedakah. She hoped that each time would be THE time. But this experience was also marred for her. Someone bigger and stronger overpowered her and turned what she so wanted to be a pleasurable, spiritual experience in to a battle. She fought for the right to go and dreaded coming home afterward. She heard the attendant say the word kosher over and over. She knew that word was a mistake. It could never apply to her. She felt she was lying to the attendant. She couldn’t understand how she was able to fool her. Surely the attendant must see that this woman was anything but kosher. She walked home with a heavy heart, knowing she had failed again.
Years later the woman tries again. She sought help this time. She’s determined to overcome her past and heal the wounds. She succeeds in some areas but is stumped on this subject. The words she’s hearing contradict the way she’s feeling. She just can’t see how she can get past the memories of his touch. She can’t forget how he made her feel. She relives the shame and the humiliation every night. She knows what he stole from her. He broke her from the inside out.
She knows she’s lucky to have survived her past. But it came with a cost. Parts of her got lost or died in the process. Parts of her decayed. Some things can be fixed but others will be lost forever. There’s a wound inside that may never heal. It festers and bleeds and will not scab over. All of the evil and pain that has been inflicted on her lives inside this wound. She knows it is just a part of her. It will always be there. What is done cannot be undone.