My daughter has been divorced for a few years now, after being an agunah for many years. Baruch Hashem, she has children, and she’s such a good mother and loves her children so much that she would have wanted to have more. But the monster she was married to abused her and the children so badly that she had no choice but to ask for a get. It took many years to receive it, and a few more years of therapy, and now she’s ready to look for a shidduch.
I’m an old lady, and I want to see my child happy. But where does she even begin at her age? And how can she trust another man after what the man who claimed to love her did to his own family?
In case you think he has a problem dating, I want to mention that he dates whoever he wants, gets invited to meals and simchas, and his married friends say nice things about him, even his rabbi, who knows what kind of person he is! Where are the rabbanim for yashrus?
He did not get any nicer. I hear he has a bad name out there among women he dated. But people still run to set him up! Why do they do that? So other women can get abused and have their lives ruined? Maybe if their daughters got abused like my daughter, they would understand. No one runs to do anything for my beautiful daughter. I know this is not the first story you heard like ours, but I want to help my child, and I don’t know how. Double standard, no?
Yes. There are double standards in many areas of life, particularly more evident where it relates to shidduchim. And that is because there are those who are even worse than the one who does wrong: the enabler. An enabler is somebody who enables one to continue doing wrong.
Why do people enable? Most enablers are usually kindhearted people who want to believe that others are just as good and, given the opportunity, the wrongdoer will redeem himself for what he has done wrong. Enablers typically feel that everyone deserves a second chance, and by supporting the person, it will give him encouragement to correct his ways. So, oftentimes, the enabler will make excuses for the perpetrator or even cover up for him. The perpetrator is so charming that he manages to convince the enabler that what is being said about him is either not true or a major exaggeration, to the extent that the enabler views the victim as the perpetrator! Moreover, there are perpetrators who leave a string of victims, and still the enablers continue to be protective of the perpetrator.
Regarding the rabbanim and yashrus, here are the hushed-up facts that everyone knows but is scared to bring to the forefront. I will always say what needs to be said, regardless of backlash. And I want to make it clear that I am not in any shape or form speaking against rabbanim, chas v’shalom. On the contrary, it breaks my heart to hear how rabbanim are often mistreated and made to fear for their positions. People need to know what’s really going on behind the scenes before they vilify a rav for not doing what they feel he should be doing.
Rabbanim nowadays are in a difficult predicament. Sadly, there are people who don’t respect their mara d’asra the same way as in years past. Gone are the days where a congregation felt honored to be led by their esteemed rav. What’s really going on in certain situations is that the heavy-duty machers of some shuls try to control the rabbanim like they’re employees. And if the macher is a bad person, or the bad person is friends with the macher, he has full immunity where the rav is concerned. It is no secret that rabbanim get fired just as easily as an employee in any other field. Not only that, but rabbanim also get threatened with lawsuits if they step on the wrong toes, and they are not empty threats either. That’s the reality of what’s happening today. Is it any wonder that rabbanim can’t get involved in controversy regarding a congregant?
When people call a rav for shidduch references about a particular congregant he sometimes has no choice but to be extra careful and leave out the negative aspects. I’m privy to several cases where a few victims of an abuser called the abuser’s rabbi. In each case the rabbi was validating to these women and even advised them to reach out to law enforcement. In a different case, the woman in an abusive dating relationship was told by the abuser’s rabbi that had she called him before dating the man in question he would have advised her and said, “If you were my daughter, I would not let you go out with him.” In a recent incident regarding this man, a woman called his rabbi after the physically abusive relationship ended, to let him know what she endured and because she still felt threatened by him. This woman was also aware that previous victims contacted the rabbi inquiring why such an individual is even allowed in shul. The rav validated her and urged her to report him to the authorities for what he did to her. The woman later shared the rav’s comments with someone, who promptly reported back to the abuser, and the rabbi was rudely confronted for having spoken against him.
In that rough situation, the frightened rabbi called the woman and screamed at her and told her that what she did by naming the rav is not good for her neshamah. Not only that but he had the audacity to tell her that she misquoted him and tried to retract what he originally said about the abuser. Even more shocking, this rav made sure to tell the person who reported back to the abuser nice things about the abuser in an attempt to turn the victim into a liar to get himself out of trouble.
The woman was courageous enough to stand up to the rav, and she called some of the other victims she knew about to discuss what had just occurred. They all agreed that the rabbi had been scared off, because he was very validating to them on the phone, and in fact talked against the man. During that call, one of the victims shared that the rav told her that the abuser is allowed to remain in the shul because of his close relationship with a board member!
My dear lady, everything I am sharing with you is verified information, so you can at least feel validated for what your family has endured. It’s a sad state of affairs that important information that could ultimately save someone from a future tragedy is frequently not disclosed.
I am not justifying an enabler of any kind. The people who are friends with your ex-son-in-law and have knowledge that he is an abuser and turned your daughter into an agunah for a long time, yet portray him as a nice guy, are in violation of the prohibition “Do not stand by the blood of your neighbor.” That also means not standing by idly when someone is in danger. Such people are also in violation of “placing a stumbling block before a blind person.” Whatever twisted reason anyone has to protect your ex-son-in-law or anyone with a long history of abuse, take comfort in knowing that such folks will have to give din v’chesbon for what they are doing.
My heart breaks for the childbearing years your daughter lost as result of an evil person, and I feel distraught for any future victims who are being lured by false charms and misleading references. You did say that your ex-son-in-law has a bad name out in the shidduch world by virtue of his own misdeeds. So, as you see, savvy people know better than to rely just on one’s rav for accurate information. More importantly, we must believe that Hashem will use His powers to protect any would-be victims.
Tragically, your daughter’s dilemma is one of too many. In addition to my sincere sympathy and condolences for the pain that she and her children endured, my heart also goes out to you.
I am happy to hear that your daughter took therapeutic time to heal from the horrors of her marriage and years of attempts to halachically disengage herself from her ex-husband. I don’t know how old your daughter is right now, but regarding having more children, the scientific advances made today in resolving fertility issues are such that even women who are in their mid- to upper fifties are able to give birth to healthy children. And for some it’s even their first child! As we know, nothing is too difficult for Hashem.
Searching for a spouse the second time around is challenging for anyone and especially more so for women. I agree that the trust factor will be her biggest obstacle to overcome. How could your daughter possibly trust another man when the one she married who allegedly loved her also abused her and their children? How could she ever open her heart to another man?
Dating after an abusive relationship or marriage is very tricky because one does not know what to expect. Worse, the victims feel that they cannot trust their own judgment. There is also the fear that it could happen again. After all, an abuser does not abuse on the first date. In fact, an abuser does not begin the cycle of abuse until the relationship has progressed to the point that the abuser feels confident that the victim will not be able to leave.
What makes having been in an abusive relationship so tragic is that the victim has the potential of falling into the same pattern again. People gravitate to the familiar. That’s why you hear stories about people who are always the victim wherever they go. Such people have not had enough therapy to help them identify why they are attracted to abusive types of personalities, especially the grooming process.
Your daughter did not jump back into the dating pool immediately. She did the necessary work on herself first. Now that she has healed, and hopefully is keeping her therapist, she can embark on a new milestone in her life. When she meets a man with whom she feels compatible, she will recognize the triggers in herself as well as identifying his triggers and any mood changes. She will also learn to trust her instincts enough to leave a relationship rather than make excuses for the person or rationalize what is happening. I am sure there were overlooked red flags in your ex-son-in-law while he was dating your daughter. By now, she should be able to use the red flags as a guide when she gets involved with someone again.
Not only that, but abusers do not respect the boundaries of their partners. Your daughter needs to set high boundaries early on so that not only will she avoid the same pitfalls as before, but a potential abuser will not feel that she is vulnerable enough for his taste, and the relationship with him will never take off. Believe it or not, abusers are quite clever when they pick partners. They don’t settle easily. They are methodical and calculated. Your daughter and her therapist need to make sure that an abusive type of man will never feel enticed to date your daughter. n
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis and shidduch consultant. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com. Baila also hosts The Definitive Rap podcast for vinnews.com, Israel News Talk Radio, WVIP 93.5 FM HD2, and talklinenetwork.com. Questions and comments for the Dating Forum can be submitted to email@example.com. Read more of Baila Sebrow’s articles at 5TJT.com.