By Zvi Gluck
In the days before Tisha B’Av, I penned an op-ed titled The Heart Beats On, sharing my thoughts on the terrible destruction that Klal Yisroel has witnessed, both during the times of the Bais Hamikdash and today, as abuse and addiction have ravaged our communities, leaving a trail of devastation and heartbreak in their wake.
As a result I have received no less than 30 emails, voicemails and phone calls. The stories were similar and unique, with all sharing a common denominator of having come from individuals who were over the age of 40 and had been abused as children. What was it that made them keep their secret buried for years? Some had been threatened by their abusers, while others were silenced when they tried to talk to an adult so as not to tarnish the family reputation or ruin potential shidduchim. And then there were those who suffered in solitude, the overwhelming shame and guilt preventing them from ever seeking help from a trusted adult.
It is important to realize that without proper treatment, the effects of molestation can haunt a victim for life. While the individuals I heard from in the last few days are proof positive that the agony and torment can lie dormant for years, when it finally emerges it does so in an unstoppable torrent. Much like fault lines can be indicative of impending earthquakes, untreated trauma foreshadows subtle but serious damage: three of the people who contacted me were divorced and had formed only limited relationships with their children and former spouses, never once realizing why they couldn’t maintain a healthy marriage and family lifestyle.
Ironically, the reason for their problem had been there all along. Being abused had eroded their ability to trust others and even though on the surface they were leading seemingly healthy lives, ever widening cracks were slowly but surely building up to a seismic disaster with catastrophic repercussions.
One person I spoke to was a man in his sixties. A father and a grandfather who runs a successful business, he called me sobbing uncontrollably after reading the op-ed, telling me that he never got the help he needed after being molested by repeatedly by an uncle and wondering if it was too late to get help for the pain that continued to plague him nearly 50 years later. And then there was the letter that came from a woman whose abuser had threatened to kill her if she ever told a soul that she had been molested. She explained that, for victims, every day is Tisha B’Av, the fires of abuse reducing their hearts to ash, much like the flames that consumed the Bais Hamikdash 2,000 years ago, and called the Jewish community to task for sweeping incidents of molestation under the rug as they defended predators in order to spare them shame and embarrassment.
“If chas v’chalilah you are one of those choosing to directly assist the abusers, you are the right hand of the cruel predators, choosing to open fire and to burn homes and pure Jewish souls,” she wrote. “And if you choose to see nothing, to do nothing and to say nothing, you are choosing to support abuse and to add another piece of wood to the burning furnace and to burn yet another pure, suffering soul.”
We have spent the past four years raising awareness of these issues, erasing the associated stigmas so that no one will ever have to suffer in silence. Our ever-increasing call volume, the number of new cases that we are opening and the many awareness events that we have held just this year alone are proof positive that we are making progress. And looking ahead to the future, we are putting together school curriculums to educate students and working with our lay leaders, parents and educators to recognize potential threats and put a stop to them before the damage can be done.
But we can’t do any of this without you. If you are reading these words, we need you to understand the very real threat that abuse, which so often leads to addiction, poses to you, your family, your friends and your neighbors.
Abuse doesn’t discriminate. Not a single segment of our community has been spared by this plague which has been striking with abandon all across the religious spectrum. We have the ability to put a stop to this epidemic and the time has come for us to draw a line in the sand: if we protect abusers because we feel bad for their families and don’t want to sully their good names, then we share in their guilt. We need to direct our compassion, our allegiances and, yes, our financial support to the innocent victims whose lives were shattered through no fault of their own. If we stand with them and get them the help they need, we can finally put an end to the never ending nightmares that haunt them 24/7.
You can either be part of the problem, or part of the solution.
Which one is it going to be?
Join us on Tuesday, July 31st as we launch our 36 hour “I Give With Heart” Mendy Klein Legacy Campaign, with all donations quadrupled by our generous matchers. The campaign will allow us to continue our lifesaving work, helping those who are suffering get help and educating our community, from children through adults, so that we can finally eradicate abuse and addiction from within our midst. We urge you to visit the campaign online at www.IGiveWithHeart.com and become part of the Amudim solution with your generous donation.
Zvi Gluck is the founder and director of Amudim, a crisis support center for those who have experienced loss, abuse, addiction and other traumatic events.