Op-Ed: Abuse in Our Communities
We’ve seen the world just get shaken up and enlightened as to what is happening unfortunately in regards to abuse. I highly praise the religious world for coming out so strong against abuse and the abuser.
Across the board, whenever someone and especially a big personality is caught with misconduct, there is a strong desire to make a cover up. Abusers are at times people who consider themselves strong and powerful, and they tend to pick on the weak and helpless. Many have an interest to side with the strong guy, especially if he is your buddy etc. Being such I highly praise all those who stood up strong against this abuser. It also sends a strong message that such behavior will not be tolerated. Deterrence is a very important key when it comes to this. If not for fear of consequences/ the law, no one would ever be safe.
The information I want to share now can possibly cause a second earthquake. We know of a horror that exists. There are abusers and victims, both usually very damaged people. There exists an even greater horror that most people are not aware of. And that is- the unknown victim. There are literally countless hundreds and thousands of victims walking around who are currently suffering from various psychological issues, who have no clue as to the source of their problems.
You will probably ask: how is this possible?
I need to give an analogy here: imagine we went into a Time Machine back 100 years and I am holding a smartphone. Now as I’m walking down the street holding my smartphone some curious person stops me and says:
“Excuse me, what are you holding?” I tell them this is a telephone.
“What?” “I said it is a telephone”. They actually have heard of something called a telephone, they don’t have one themselves , they might’ve seen one before. “Excuse me sir, that is not a telephone- maybe it’s a photo with a lightbulb behind it.”
As I try to explain to them what it is, a big crowd gathers around me and they are all asking questions. Soon newspaper reporters show up and many different versions of what kind of creature I am and what I’m holding start circling. Some say I came from Mars, some say I am a KGB spy, some say I broke out of jail. Within a half hour the FBI shows up, arrests me and starts interrogating as to what I’m holding in my hands and if I am a spy. I tried explaining to them (as much as my deep knowledge of smartphones goes): do you have a phone? They say yes. I say have you heard of a camera? They say yes.
This is also a phone, but instead of this phone working with wires it works with waves kinda like a radio. They look at each other and scratch their heads, they examine the device, signal and consult with each other. After a while they come back and say: “you might’ve told us a nice story, maybe one day we will believe it, but for now we need to keep you locked up until you tell the full truth”.
After the analogy I need to tell you something which may be like discovering America. (Just please don’t arrest me) Regarding this information, the closer one is to it, the more naturally they will resist accepting it.
There currently exist victims of abuse who are suffering horribly and not they nor anyone around them knows the source of their issues.
To explain: I’m guessing you have heard of memory loss from trauma. People who were in car accidents many times wake up in the hospital and don’t know how they got there. The trauma expert we went to told us that during his training they brought in a woman who was riding on a bike, and woke up in the hospital without any memories and how she got there. After she physically recovered from her accident, she wanted to go on the bike again but could not.
Each time she would sit on a bike she would have anxiety and panic attacks and could not move the bike. The reason why she was having these panic attacks it’s because her brain actually did remember the accident on a bike. It was so traumatic that it got deleted from her conscious memory as a form of protection to stay calm.
The subconscious mind however remembered it, and when she saw a bike the memory started surfacing and causing her panic. They actually did an amazing treatment to help her called RTM which calmed down the subconscious brain, which upon completion she was able to get back on the bike on the spot.
To be physically abused (I’ll leave out the descriptions of the horrors that happen. I will later describe some of the outcomes and a little bit around it in a clean way that you’ll be able to figure out a bit what happens, but I will (for many reasons) keep a clean language here) is so horrifying that besides for the embarrassment and shame it is also extremely traumatic. Many times the human brain decides for survival to forget about what happened.
Just to enlighten as to how common this is, I heard from a big expert who deals with many divorce cases etc. that the number one cause of divorce is this. That means if you look at anyone who divorced, the chances are more than probable that at some point in time one of them (it’s a little bit more common for a girl to get touched than a boy, but it does unfortunately happen to boys many times too) was abused and touched in the wrong way. That left psychological scars and damage which later erupted in their marriage which continued to constantly wreck damage in their marriage until it totally fell apart. While we are at it, those who are abused many times become suicidal with deep urges and side of them to end their life, some of them go on drugs, some of them end up becoming abusers themselves, having extreme behaviour, many never get married and those who do are much more likely to divorce. If they do remain married there is a whole lot of suffering that goes on.
When entering marriage, a woman who was abused gets triggered by her husband. Her subconscious mind thinks that this is the same individual who abused her.
Can we imagine for a minute: let’s say someone just finished an hour of extreme torture and abuse. Then the abuser invites the victim to dinner. What kind of romantic harmonious image would that take on? Well such dinners actually do happen every day in many houses. The woman feels here is an evil monster who hates and tortured me. The husband can’t understand what the.. he’s doing wrong!
I’ll let you guess some of the other issues that happen because of this. Including, such women have a much higher rate of losing pregnancies! The mother’s mental stress goes right to the fetus etc. It often affects the health of her children as well.
If we take a look at our other “dropouts”, the majority of them were touched!
A major challenge we have here is: the symptoms usually get mis-diagnosed. No one wants to believe that this happened to them/ their son/ daughter. When they go to therapists, psychiatrists, Rabbis, mashpiim, kalah teachers, mekubalim, and whoever else they think will save them, each one gives an answer that fits into their “comfort zone”. Somehow no one feels comfortable enough to start imagining this person is being currently viciously violated by their own uncle/ brother/ cousin/ step father/ father/ teacher/ principal/ therapist/ mother! (All of these cases plus more do happen!)
Going back to our trauma expert who helped us. He tells us that he gets cases every week of people who are severely abused and do not know. For example: he recently had a young woman coming to him who the parents claimed she became schizophrenic at 17 years old. Now let me ask you, how does someone all of a sudden become schizophrenic at 17?
He has cases when people come to him and the psychiatrist claims this person is bipolar . This expert claims that at the first session he can right away tell if someone was abused. There are many tell-tale symptoms including: the focus n their eyes, the way they speak, fears they have etc.
Whenever he suggests to one of these patients that perhaps they were abused, they usually go into a panic and deny it completely. So he starts to do EMDR treatment (This is an amazing treatment you can look it up yourself I’m not here to teach so much about it, just that it helped us a lot) which brings out hidden memories. All of a sudden the patient starts to remember themselves going through uncomfortable situations that are currently causing them stress.
I want to bring out from this two messages. One: if your child (or yourself) displays symptoms of abuse (look them up yourself 😉 ) chances are more than probable that they are experiencing abuse! And most therapists are currently not equipped to deal with this. It must be a therapist who has past experience and success with abuse cases specifically. If not, you’re just wasting your time and money going to them.
Secondly, for those who are suffering they should know that it is possible to heal, and usually completely.
I once heard a victim speaking up and saying how they are left with certain psychological scars that will remain for the rest of their life. If I can beg to differ, my guess is that this victim has not yet met the right professional who can help him.
Another major issue is dealing with the abuser. Firstly, usually no one wants to believe that someone they know is actually abusing people in the most horrifying way. Even if they do come to realize without any shadow of the doubt what is happening, the bystander usually has many reasons why they’d rather not speak up. The vast majority of cases of abuse happen within the family for many reasons. Besides for the bystanders own hesitations to speak up and tell someone, the abuser usually comes with some very convincing arguments as to why they should keep their mouths sealed shut.
The victims themselves are usually completely helpless, and not able to speak up and fend for themselves. It is not possible to come with any claims to the victim “why didn’t you tell someone etc”, only someone who has no clue as to what type of mental suffering the trapped victim is in will pose such a question.
If the victim does speak up, I would highly recommend taking their words seriously, and not to go to the abuser to try to confirm the story. (This does happen! What do you expect the abuser will say? He’s got it all prepared. He doesn’t want to get caught or it may be game over. He’s got excuses ready why he was secluded with this girl or boy. He has many interesting ways to deny what this child is saying. It’s very sad to say, but it happens, and the bystander usually feels much more comfortable to believe this adult telling them that nothing horrible happened, everything is just fine.. (just this child’s life is in middle of getting ruined, nothing much..) )
There are the blanket general rules for abuse, then there are many specific cases. One thing I can say for sure that goes across the board everywhere: if you realize someone is getting abused and do not stop it, it will not stop by itself. Usually it starts off “smaller “, the abuser wants to test out if they can get away with it, and then it snowballs into a mountain. (I remember once hearing how a nazi judge after the war claimed to the Americans that he didn’t realise the extent of how much murder would happen. He thought he was “only” sending one innocent man to death so he’s not so bad.. the American explained to him that once he crosses the line to become a murderer, numbers don’t really matter..)
The abuser, if not stopped, may then go abuse hundreds of innocent children , without exaggeration!
I believe there is a strong link with the uptick in such crimes and the ease of internet access. In the past generation if someone had a passing urge or subtle desire (who doesn’t have?) for misconduct, it could take time and effort to act upon it. We would hope that by the time someone could act upon their desires, the urge would pass. The effort needed plus one’s better judgment could be a deterrent for the subtle desire. Nowadays, within seconds one can bring up images of the lowest depravities possible. Seeing such images does not calm down and satisfy the desires, it only helps push the viewer down into trouble. If not given proper attention/ mending, more misconduct can come out as a result. This is widely known, so I don’t think I need to elaborate here.
There are definitely different degrees of abusers, we were “lucky” enough to have met the most extreme type. Our abuser is estimated to have hundreds of victims, who he damaged in a most vicious way which cannot be described now. Let me just tell you, that the torture was enough to cause extensive psychological damage, and can only be imagined it would occur in a dark cellar long ago. Whenever I got to hear of some of the vicious and sadistic torture he performed I would get sick in my stomach for at least a few days. They eventually stopped telling me..
There is a psak from the Chabad Rabonim that to report abusers is not a halachic problem of mesira, and if you don’t it’s an issue of . לא תעמוד על דם רעך .The Torah doesn’t want us to idly watch someone suffer and not help. Filling out a police report usually doesn’t get the abuser in jail, it takes a court case with testimonies to accomplish that, but it usually does stop the abuse from continuing. Now the abuser is under watch.
The abusers usually threaten death. At least 95% of their threats are bluff, meant only to frighten. They are afraid to kill because that will lead to an investigation. If their victim ends up committing suicide, they don’t care, we’ll blame the parents.. Especially once there is a police report, the victim can feel safer from the abuser’s threats. It’s not worth it for them now to start up, they’ll get caught too quick..
Now this sounds nice in theory, I’m sure many people though would have great reservations before calling the police on their brother/ son/ uncle etc, and may be afraid of backlash from other family members.
In schools they teach children: if a stranger touches you, tell your parents. Being that the majority of abuse cases happen within families, I say: if your relatives touch you, tell a stranger! Not literally any stranger, it should be someone you trust, but not a family member. I would like to share a story our therapist told us. There were once a few individuals who were committing some highly improper conduct. This went on for a while until some of the victims finally spoke up to the Rabonim. The Rabonim in that area called over the abusers, and gave them an ultimatum of either going to this therapist and they would need to hear from him that they are not dangerous any more/ won’t commit another crime, or face a police report. They decided to go for therapy, and it stopped their crimes.
If I can add a word to abusers here: some of them may feel they fell down a slippery path that has no return. For an abuser to go on their own initiative to proper therapy will benefit themselves and others, the doors of repentance are always open.
I must give a disclaimer here, that this option doesn’t always work, every case is unique. However it is a path usually tried, and many times courts do this as well. Sometimes it’s a better option to file a police report immediately though.
If I can just analyze this story for a minute. The abusers did a crime against grown up victims, time and time again. It seems like each victim was too humiliated to speak up, something which allowed the abuser to continue. It’s not possible to pass judgment on a victim, just pray you’ll never know of their suffering. However the ones who did overcome their shame and spoke up, saved others from falling prey.
This is regarding victims. To bystanders- not only will they be saving victims and the abuser from further problems, they have a Torah obligation to speak up (besides for the legal obligation to report if the victim is a minor).
Regarding shame: in theory the victim really has nothing to be shamed about. Naturally that is a strong feeling they have, and many times the abuser tries hard to plant it into their minds that the victim is at fault, caused and started the situation etc. In reality, the shame does not belong to them. They suffered enough.. plus, what is the outcome from such shame? It usually results in keeping silent and letting the abuser continue to abuse them and others. Family members of an abuser: also theoretically don’t automatically deserve shame. These things can unfortunately happen within the best of families. Sometimes the cause their child became an abuser is because they themselves were abused as a child, something which gave them a tendency to take on extreme behavior. This is definitely not an excuse, but many times with the right help much could be avoided.
I believe family members deserve shame when they knowingly allow abuse to continue. There are times they remain silent out of fear, confusion etc. But these benefits of the doubt לימוד זכות) ) has to be taken within proportion and doesn’t always work. Many times it’s a choice of their honor versus the other’s blood. Such people in my opinion deserve to be shamed in this world and the world to come. Without outside intervention, these crimes are definitely not stopping, as much as they’d prefer to close their eyes and pretend they didn’t see.
If their son joined a terrorist group, dressed up in Jewish clothing and carried out attacks r”l, would they cover over and let it continue to protect themselves hoping no one should know who did it? The damage done here with abuse is many times much greater than what a terrorist can accomplish, just it gets less attention.
To end off with some light, everyone should know that proper help is available. Victims and abusers can be treated and heal if they want to and get the proper help.
Knowledge is power, by us being aware and informed we can prevent many such tragedies from happening. The future of Klal Yisroel is in all of our hands. Every generation has their challenges, perhaps this is our last challenge we need to pass before Moshiach comes, to stand up for our brothers and sisters as did Yehuda for Binyomin in front of Yosef. כל המציל נפש אחת מישראל כאילו הציל כל העולם כולו , And for sure here where anyone who puts an end and saves one situation of abuse definitely ends of saving many more from falling into the same situation.
Last but not least, there are many out there that are currently in deep pain. I hope the message is being given across that you are not alone, and you can completely heal. Those who rise up from the ashes, from the most difficult situations usually end up becoming the greatest beneficiaries to our people and to mankind. With these lines, I am trying to add a little bit of comfort for myself as well. If my words will help others, it will help alleviate some of the great pain I personally experienced.
May HaShem speedily bring us to a time when there will be no evil left in the world, and the yetzer hora and even nachash hakadmoni will only help us serve Hashem.