I was raised ultra-orthodox (Chabad) in a large wonderful family right in the middle of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, NY. I attended the popular elementary school Oholei Torah and during summer breaks I was generally at a Chabad sleep-away camp. For high school (yeshiva) I attended Chabad schools in Europe and Israel.
I was sexually abused when I was twelve years old. I was enrolled in a sleep-away camp at the time and the abuser was someone that I trusted for almost three years (since the age of 9). He was fun, kind, athletic, the sports director, the camp canteen manager and most importantly, everybody admired him.
The abuse occurred only once, but that was enough to shut me down, and everyone else out, for almost 8 years. I did not utter a single word about the incident to anyone until I was approximately twenty years old.
I did not mentally process what occurred until years after the abuse although my body knew something wasn’t right almost immediately (the next morning when I cried and did not know why). A little while later it dawned on me that I was actually abused; I was part of the statistics and conversations my friends and I occasionally referred to.
The pain of seeing my abuser was common and did not subside. We were in the same camps and even playing on the same courts in the same games. Until this day whenever a similar first or last name of his is mentioned my body reacts. Conversations about sex, abuse, rape, suicide, pain, intimacy, love and relationships were distant and avoided at all costs. I survived them, barely. From my perspective, religions – all religions – were in fact shams and schemes and could not be authentic since God allowed all kinds of abuse to occur and allowed people to suffer without any apparent upside.
Many of us have experienced searing emotional pain, lack of self-expression, self- hatred, thoughts/attempted suicide, disempowerment, rejection and many believe that life will never be “normal” again.
Some, including myself, have believed at some point that we were a danger to society. Personally, I believe that this point is what most people don’t understand. To better understand this, imagine your worst nightmare and then imagine you being the nightmare. Then, carry on believing that to be true and walking around with it for many years.
I publish this story in hope that for those of you who are struggling with whether or not to reach out to someone. I hope that you find the courage to do so knowing that there are people like you that have suffered, yet are determined to survive and thrive. You are much more powerful than you can currently imagine and you can have a fully expressed life once again, but it begins with that one step.