Directed Anger - Surviving Child Sex-Abuse & Incest
[David Morris: I was approached by an adult survivor of child sex-abuse, and asked if I would be willing to publish this. I considered not publishing, because the imagery is so shocking, particularly to the Jewish orthodox sensitivities I share. On reflection, I think the lesson of this piece is that, in the same way a victim's anger must be directed (solely) to the perpetrator and his enablers, so our shock must be directed solely to the violation, and not to the healing process]
SURVIVING and HEALING
From childhood sexual abuse
Anger is an important part of healing. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse blame themselves for what happened. This belief causes a tremendous amount of shame and is one of the reasons why they often never disclose the abuse. The following piece may shock the reader. The visualization exercise of going back in time to the place where the abuse happened and placing the anger and responsibility for the abuse squarely onto the perpetrator was tremendously healing for me. Ironically, it allowed me to let go of rage toward God and Judaism that I had been holding onto for years.
Family members have told me that if this incident had actually happened, then my sister who was eight at the time would remember it too. Always willing to believe that my family is right and that this didn’t happen, ( Like my family, I would rather believe that I’m crazy, or anything else, rather than believe that my grandfather did these things!) I confronted my therapist with my families and my own, denial.
My therapist works with survivors of terror attack as well as survivors of childhood sexual abuse. She told me that it is pretty common for terror victims to have no memory of the actual attack. They often lie severely wounded in the hospital with no idea why they are there or what happened to them. The mind protects us by blocking out that which is too traumatic to face. Many survivors of both terror and childhood sexual trauma are left trying to make sense of the damage without ever remembering what caused it. Terror victims are lucky in the sense that they have witnesses, as well as family and friends to fill them in and support their healing. Survivors of sexual abuse, who do remember what happened, suffer additional layers of trauma as they face the denial of those who should have known and who should have supported them at the time of the abuse, and years later as they try to heal.
(WARNING: The following may be triggering to survivors.)
I was seven. My sister was eight.
We went to the Yeshiva for shacharis with Tatty. Zaidy liked it when we came.
After davening Zaidy took us into his office. He put his hands under my clothes. His finger hurt me and I looked at him shocked.
“Don't look at me,” he said. “Look at the sefarim.”
I looked at the glass doors, behind them rows of meshnayos and shas, some of the books
too heavy to lift.
I made my mind leave the Rosh Yeshiva's office so I wouldn't feel or know about his finger in my underwear.
If I would have looked into his eyes, would he have seen my terror, my pain?
Would I have seen any shame or guilt in his?
But I was taught to listen and so I looked at the sefarim, not at my grandfather. After he was done he asked us,
“Do I need to get married again?”
He told us that he loved one of us more than the other. I knew it was my sister he loved more.
My sister says that she doesn't remember any of this.
She is so lucky.
I am an adult now.
I take the younger part of me by the hand and bring her back to the yeshiva, into the office full of sefarim, back onto the holy territory where she was violated.
She is not scared, because I'm with her. She is enraged.
My grandfather sits on the rocking chair that he kept there. There is a sefer Torah wrapped in a talis on the shelf behind him.
She opens one of the glass doors and takes out a tome of Shas. She staggers under its weight. She is not scared. She knows I will protect her, and that he can't hurt her anymore.
She uses the book to smash all of the glass in all of the shelves. She rips, snatches, out the sefarim and throws them at my grandfather and onto the floor. She is furious. She opens the holy books and rips out the pages, crumples them up and throws them, stamps on them, stuffs them into his open shocked mouth.
I let her do it. She needs to do this.
She uses a sefer as a rock to smash his head again and again. He sits clutching the arms of the rocker.
We are both awed by the depth of her rage.
Then she takes a broken piece of glass and uses it like a knife to cut off the finger that hurt her. She stabs it between his legs for good measure. He starts to rise. I warn him with my eyes. You touch her and you’re finished. He sits back down. She pulls down the sefer Torah from on top of the shelf behind him. She unwraps it and pulls it open. Using a piece of broken glass as a knife she cuts a long piece; Long as an adult scarf.
Holding Parshas Vayehrah she climbs up onto his chair, wraps the Torah around his neck and squeezes it as tightly as she can.
I let her do this. She needs to do this. I let her do this.
Zaidy's face turns blue, scared eyes popping out on top of the words, “Sodom.” He stares pop-eyed at the words hanging down in front of his face. He stops breathing to Parshas Vayerah. He stops breathing, strangled by the Torah, and the child, who he violated together in his office.
She looks at me.
“Are you done?”
She goes over to his shtender and pushes it over. It falls onto his face and knocks his teeth out.
We survey the damage in silence. We take in the bloody floor, the broken glass, the torn sefarim, the wounded Torah, the dead Rosh Yeshiva. We are satisfied. I take her hand and we leave together.
We needed to do this.