Hello. My name is Chaim, I am 18 years old, and this is my story.
I am survivor of child sexual abuse. A survivor! No longer a victim! I will not continue to all allow these thoughts and these feelings to overcome and control me. I want my life back.
I am the oldest of six children ka”h.
Growing up in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, both my parents had a job and I spent a lot of time with a babysitter. There was one babysitter in particular which my parents hired very often. She was loving and affectionate from the very first time I met her as a 5 year old boy. She would pick me up from school and take me to the park and played games with me that I enjoyed. She took care of my younger brother too. The more she cared for me, the more I trusted her. She was so caring for me that when I was with her, I felt like I was the only person in the world.
Slowly, things began to change. One day she suddenly became very angry at me. She went into a rage and slapped me repeatedly – she said it was because I wet my pants. I began to scream as loud as I could, yelling as powerfully as my voice would allow for until she finally stopped.
That wouldn’t be the last time she hit me.
She seemed to enjoy beating me and would find the smallest reasons to do so. Over and over, at the slightest provocation, she would hit me with all of her might. The trust slowly melted away and turned into a combination of fear and anger.
When she noticed that I was afraid of her, she would be sweet once again. She would take me to the park, play games with me, buy Ice-Cream or other treats for me and go back to being loving and affectionate. And then, as suddenly as they stopped, the beatings started up again.
This roller coaster between sweet and caring and then to mean and violent kept going on and on.
The only time I had a break from her was when my family would go to upstate New York for the summer. It was just after returning from one summer upstate, that the real hell started.
I was still a young boy, less than 7 years old, the first time it went from “only” physical abuse to sexual abuse as well. When she would help clean me up after the bathroom, she began caressing and fondling my private parts. She then went onto performing oral sex on me.
It still didn’t stop there. I wish it did but she she just seemed to get more and more evil as time went on. One day, while helping me clean up after the bathroom, she inserted her finger into my anus. “Ouch”,I shrieked. It hurt so much. I looked down and saw blood trickling down my leg. I was in so much pain and begged for her to stop – but she wouldn’t. She kept inserting and removing her finger over and over again. I couldn’t understand why this lady who I once thought loved me was doing something so painful and wouldn’t stop no matter what I did.
When my parents came home, I went to tell them what “Ida” had done. But the words could not come out. Each time I opened my mouth, all I could do was cry.
Inserting her finger inside me seemed to be something she enjoyed and she would do it all the time. When I pleaded with her to stop because of how much it hurt, she would laugh and then beat me. Life seemed helpless.
This abuse did not stop until after my 8th birthday.
Unfortunately for me though, abuse continues long after it actually ends. I began to be afraid of people; I definitely did not trust any woman. Even someone helping me with something simple like arts and crafts would have me thinking that they have another agenda. They wanted to hurt me; they were going to hurt me. I didn’t trust anyone. I couldn’t understand how someone could do something to me that hurt so much – and keep doing it even when I begged her to stop. I feared that everyone was like this and doubted that anyone could be trusted.
At some point, I felt like I lost “me”. The actual and literal definition of the word disappeared. I didn’t exist. That’s the only way I can explain what those years from hell were like.
As the years went on and I grew older, this hurt and pain became part of my personality. I had been living with it so long, it was who I had become. Shortly before my Bar Mitzvah, my parents and I were sitting around the table discussing the guest list. Suddenly, her name came up – I froze. My parents wanted to invite her. Feelings began to well up inside me: shame, guilt, anger, hate until I couldn’t contain it. I burst out crying – the tears that had been trapped inside me for over 5 years – and I told my parents that if she comes to my Bar Mitzvah, I will not be there.
My parents were stunned. At that time, no one spoke of sexual abuse in our community and my parents could not believe what I was telling them. As a matter of fact, I didn’t know if they did believe me. They didn’t know if I was telling them the truth and if they did, they had no idea what to do.
Needless to say, nothing was done and I, all of 13 years old, was left to deal with this myself. My secret was out but it was not discussed again. I wish there were organizations I could go to and speak about what happened to me but I did not know of any.
To add even more pain and confusion to my life, I was then informed that my father was sick with cancer. I needed to grow up overnight. My mother needed me, my younger siblings needed me and my dad needed me.
It was hard, really hard. The toughest point was when my father was being admitted for surgery. How can I explain the feelings that went through me as my father, the epitome of power for me, my beacon of love and security was lying in bed fighting for his life. But I did not have the luxury to worry about how I was feeling – my family needed me. I needed to be the best replacement I could for “tatty”.
I dug deep inside me, and built up this tremendously strong emotional facade. This was the only way I was able to deal with everything that was coming at me. I pretended to be strong on the outside but inside I was falling apart. I felt like I was being swallowed into a never ending abyss, each day getting deeper and deeper never knowing when this nightmare was finally going to end.
My younger brother was emotionally disabled. My sister was not dealing with my father’s situation well at all. My mother had become a full-time nurse and I was tasked with being the man of the house.
I felt like there was nothing left of me and I knew that I desperately needed help. If I had any intention of ever leading a normal life, I needed to find help somewhere. There wasn’t really a choice anymore.
I felt numb, completely without emotion. I felt like I wouldn’t even care if my father died. It was so horrible. I tried hard to understand how G-d can do this to me. Why would he subject me to hell as a five-year-old boy and for that to continue for years? And then when I finally felt like was old enough to deal with it, I had to be there for my family. And why did my father have to go through all this pain? What did he do? What did my family do that they deserve to have their life torn apart this way?
And why now? Why when I finally thought that I might be able to deal with my painful childhood did this have to fall on me and my family? I didn’t know if I can handle more, I didn’t know if I can go on.
My father did not die. And I still felt that the abuse was not resolved, and I needed to come to terms with it. I brought it back up again with my parents and they insisted that it was impossible that something like this happened in their home. They did not believe me. It was at this point that I realized that I am absolutely on my own. If I wanted to deal with this, I was not going to get help from my family. I had to deal with it all by myself – or at least, without the support of my parents.
There really wasn’t anywhere else for me to turn. I did not have any friends that I felt I could trust or that were mature enough to talk about such topics. I really doubted there was anyone I can share it with. After all, I shared it with my parents and they didn’t trust me. Who else would?
And let’s say someone did believe me, then what? What I be branded? Would I be labeled as damaged goods?
My self image was really suffering. I felt damaged, I felt like my parents treated me as a damaged son. They treated me as if I was not worthy of love or acceptance.
It then hit me hard! I began developing extreme hatred towards my parents. I was very angry at them and I demonstrated my disrespect whenever I could. The floodgates of pent-up emotions once again burst forth. I couldn’t hold it back and the feelings really overtook me. It all came to ahead when one day I received a letter in the mail from a camp that I had applied to. The letter informed me that if I wanted to be accepted I had to undergo a psychological evaluation. They had heard that I displayed excessive aggression during my school year.
And this was it. I finally had the opportunity to get the monkey off my back once and for all. I was going to share my story with the therapist. I vividly recall sitting down in the therapist office. I closed my eyes and made the decision to jump. I was going to dive headfirst into the therapy and share my tale of a very painful childhood with the doctor. I talked and then cried and then talked and cried some more. Actually, I cried a lot more.
For the first time in my life I felt validated. The therapist heard what I said and I felt understood. He gave legitimacy to the feelings I felt and I started seeing some ray of hope.
I’ve been in therapy since I’m 15 and have been slowly dealing with the painful memories and the difficult feelings. I feel hope that I will one day be able to lead a life with purpose.
Therapy doesn’t fix everything though. There still a lot of things that I struggle with as a result of my abuse. I imagine I will continue to struggle with many of them – maybe even forever.
I hope that by sharing my story I am able to empower those who have a situation and a story similar to mine. Like me, I’m sure they feel like their world has ended. There is nothing more important than speaking about the abuse. It does not go away when we ignore it.
For those who had a story like mine, try and get help and do everything possible so that the feelings don’t overcome you and they don’t take over your life. Get your story out! Talk about it! Get the help you need and start living your life! You deserve it!
Secondly, but equally important, is to raise awareness in our community. People should start realizing that these things happen, even in our community. And it isn’t limited to males abusing females or children. Sometimes women abuse too.
I hope that those reading this letter benefit from it. Together we can help to put an end to the abuse that happens in Jewish communities around the world.