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?