|Over the next few pages are the story of a brave young man who found the strength to speak out against abuse. Hopefully, his experience will shed some light on what’s happening in the dark parts of our community.|
“The honest truth is, I myself don’t know how to start. Damn, it could be so painful”, says a good Jewish boy from an ultra-orthodox Jewish community, if you could really call it that. For him, there couldn’t be a description more hypocritical.
It wasn’t his childhood that was so difficult; in fact, it was a decent upbringing. He is one of seven siblings, he loved reading, and he grew up with an education better than most people in his circles.
On a bright September day, he heard the news that terrorists had hijacked planes and flew them into the twin towers. He went over to his “family friend” to discuss the matter. You see, this young man was very sensitive, and the news that New York City was ambushed by terrorists worried him. He was hoping to find comfort in his confidant, and family friend named Zurich; instead, his confidant turnout out to be a villainous snake.
The young boy went to Zurich’s house who was then his family’s entrusted neighbor. He was invited warmly by the man’s children to wait for their father. Finally, Zurich was available, so he invited the young boy to a private room to discuss what was bothering him.
Zurich then asked him a few questions, questions about his dilemma…and violated him. The boy walked home with a comical and confused look on his face. A serial killer would have had a great laugh. He didn’t know what to make of what just took place because he was a young and innocent boy. He didn’t even know he was violated. He didn’t even know what happened was wrong. He didn’t even know his first sexual experience had just happened, or that it was with a man, or that it was against his true wishes, or that it would leave him scarred for life, or that he would have to go for years of therapy to undo all the damage that was done to him. However, he did know it was not normal, so he was very scared, kept to himself, and didn’t share any of the event’s details with anyone, not even telling his own parents.
This continued for five years. The boy turned thirteen, and he became a Bar Mitzvah boy. One night a few weeks later, he had come home very late, and his mother asked him, “Where were you?”
In a moment of vulnerability, knowing his mother saw right through him, the boy proceeded to tell his mother exactly what had transpired. His family was present. His mother was so shocked that she burst out crying. She gave her son a huge hug and told him that under no circumstances should he ever go back to that man’s house. The boy was very shaken; just yesterday, just earlier that very day, he thought Zurich was his friend. Confusion was freezing him and he didn’t know who or what to believe. His brothers explained to him what actually happened, how abnormal the incident was, and the boy was devastated.
“How could a tzaddik do this to me!?” he thought to himself. “How could G-d let this happen? What kind of a G-d would let this happen to an innocent child!? What have I done wrong!!!” The words in his heart shook his emuna. More than once in the coming times, his yetzer hara would try to dissuade him from the completion of mitzvahs (unsuccessfully, but only because this young man had no one except the Abishter).
About a year later, the young man was fourteen years old when his older brother had asked him if he wanted to go to the Rebbe’s house. The young man had a very bad feeling that the rabbi wouldn’t believe him… and he was right! The young man’s parents and his older brother were all there. His mother and father proceeded to tell the community head all that had transpired. In an act of unparalleled cruelty, the Rebbe said to them “ich veis nischt, in ich gleib nischt”, or “I don’t know, and I don’t believe you”. Appalled, his mother gave the rabbi a piece of her mind and the rabbi said nothing, as he stood there in a furious stupor. The young man’s father stood wordless, utterly shocked at this breach of trust and the false character the rebbe displayed. Needless to say, the family never stepped foot in the rebbe’s house again; the young man swore it.
From that day on, the boy’s nightmare took on a new character as he had to live, gaslighted, in that hell-hole community, while trying to stay sane and continue life. Molestation causes significant trauma, and this trauma became very apparent by now; psychological scarring had already take a great toll on the boy. He became apprehensive in speaking with some men, he would avoid seclusion in general, and he would empathize and cry beholding scenes of nature in which suffering occurred. He withheld himself from many community events, his guard was up, and trusting other people was a leisure he didn’t have. When that young man turned sixteen, he had the opportunity to leave his community, releasing him from the chains, the burdens, the distortions, the agony this community reminded him of.
He had moved to Brooklyn, and when he did, his mother was concerned where he would eat, sleep, and find therapy in this new place. The young man was never alone though, because there were people in his new community that were willing to help. Thanks to them, and the good Lord Above, he had everything he needed and he was well watched over. His older brother found the boy a very good therapist who had helped him in an unprecedented way. He helped him move past his trauma, finding inner peace to push away the scars, reviving him like the undying phoenix. The young man, for the first time since the darkest phase of his youth, found a rebirth. He would later acquire access to an excellent high school, a heavenly summer camp, many, many meaningful, personal connections that would last him for life. He even completed two half-marathons.
In 2011, when President Barak Obama ordered the U.S. Navy Seal Team Six to hunt down and kill Osama Bin Laden, a movie came out and it fascinated the young man. He had a fantastic teacher with whom he had a very special relationship. The teacher told the young man that if he would be a good student, the teacher would take him to see the movie as a reward. Needless to say, the boy was terrified, but also excited. He thought to himself, “here we go again. Another man I trust looking to ‘be my friend’ and ‘help me’ if I do what he wants”. It also didn’t help that both events somehow revolved around matters of grave national security. Nevertheless, he gave this man, a better man, a chance; it was also a new chance for the young man to trust people again.
So a few weeks later, after achieving better grades, they both went out and saw the movie. The young man was very emotional as he watched. He remembered the trauma he had gone through, but only this time, he was impressed that the teacher was a genuine, honest, harmless, and loving pedagogue. He cried when he beheld a young CIA officer who didn’t give up hope in finding out where Bin Laden was hiding. The young man garnered great courage from this, and as simple as it sounds, a movie ultimately led to what came next.
The young man had a lady friend who had also gone through similar abuse. She had given him the cell phone number of a “guy who helped out survivors” of child abuse. They had talked and agreed to meet up one Friday afternoon. The moment the young man met this angelic helper, he knew that the final stage of his healing process had begun. The helper and the young man had met numerous times, sometimes alone and sometimes with the accompaniment of his lady friend. After a while, this helper suggested that the young man call the authorities and report the matter. The young man hesitated, but what eventually pushed him over the line to say yes, as wild or juvenile as it may sound, was the scene he remembered from the movie he saw about the capture of Osama Bin Ladin, that a CIA officer never gave up the hope of bringing that rotten devil to justice. The young man met his therapist, they had agreed it was the right move to go forward to the police, and so one breezy, untouchable afternoon the young man and his friend went down to the police station and filed a police report. The young man spoke with a detective for over three hours and after his meeting, he knew that, at that moment, a moment he waited for so very long, he was no longer a victim, but rather survivor that reclaimed his life.
The police arrested the scourge who had violated him so many years ago. A mixture of hope and revenge filled his heart. He thought that the day when the wicked triumph over the innocent was finally coming to an end. He had great hope that his suffering wasn’t in vain, but rather, would serve to stop, punish, and prevent future acts of harm to young people.
Sadly, after all of his work to bring down this predator and make known the danger Zurich posed, the unthinkable happened: his violator was acquitted and all the charges were dropped. He felt utter disbelief that a court, a place of justice and truth, could be so corrupted as to let such an obviously guilty man go, maybe to do this again. A court liaison asked him later if he would go through this difficult process again, even though he was unsuccessful. “I’m not unsuccessful” he replied. “I was successful all throughout the trial. By simply exposing the truth, by exposing that man for who he really is, by letting his own community members even wrestle with the question, ‘is this man who we trusted actually who he says he is’ was enough for me to feel successful.” “I’m proud of what I did, and I would gladly do it again,” he responded sharply, “if I could stop this from happening to another living soul. And I would do it again. And again. I would go through all the rehashing, and pain, and memories if it means shining a light on this creep that hides behind his mask, if it means other people will take care not to let their kids near him.”
Sadly, the system doesn’t always work to punish those who are truly guilty. Instead, it allows community members to work twice as hard to destroy innocent people’s reputations, scar already damaged victims, and allow monsters to run free to devour without stopping. One day, someone finally catches the evildoer red-handed, and everyone wonders, “weren’t there any signs??” There were. There were signs, and signs, and more of them. No one wanted to listen.
Epilogue/letter from the editor:
The events you have just read are true descriptions. Names and other details, including the name of the author, have been omitted. Because the abuser has unfortunately, successfully defended his case in open court, any reference to his alleged crime is considered defamation of character, a crime in itself. As well, the author has chosen to remain anonymous because of the widespread, public defamation of his own name. This need for anonymity should speak for itself at length about the disgraceful miscarriages of justice surrounding sexual abuse in youths, as well as the abhorrent reactions from unsupportive, malicious community members. Lastly, it was the intention of the writer to remain anonymous in order to allow readers to envision the presence of these cases within their own communities, free from identities, but rather simply as the story of “a young man”.