Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Secrets That Must Be Told: Announcing A New Hotline In Israel

By Yechezkel Chezi Goldberg
Jewish Press - December 10, 2003

Chezi Goldberg
Sruli is a quiet shy boy who has a horrible secret. No one knows what his secret is. He cannot tell.
Pinchas is a strapping young yeshiva bachur with a good head. No on knows that he holds a terrible secret alone in his heart. He never thought he could tell anyone what happened to him 14 years ago. So he never did tell. He kept that secret locked away where it haunts him as he grows through life.

Avi was known as a trouble-making student throughout high school. Actually, the change was quite sudden. Throughout his primary school years he did well, even excelled. Suddenly, half way through his first year in high school yeshiva, something happened. He never told anyone. How could he tell?

Who could he tell? Who would understand? Who would be believe him?

Yidi suddenly stopped going to the mikva in the mornings as was his family custom for generations. His father was angry with Yidi. Abba could not understand Yidi`s stubborn change of heart and over time, their relationship worsened. Eventually, Yidi became so aggravated with his father`s non-stop onslaught of pressure that he go to the mikve that he finally left home. Yidi felt ashamed of his reason for not going to the mikve. He had tried to tell a friend once, but he felt that his friend was not helpful. In fact, the friend seemed callous and cruel about it. Yidi swore he would never divulge his secret to anyone. It was too risky.

These young men have secrets that must be told. Until now, they have felt cornered and unable to turn anywhere for help, guidance, understanding and direction. Now that has changed. Each of these young men has a story to tell and now there is an address where they can turn for help.

The Hotline For Religious Male Victims of Sexual Abuse (972-2-532-8000) has been launched in Israel.
Sruli was molested by his Cheder Rebbe. He wasn`t the only one to be molested but nevertheless, he felt quite alone. By contacting the hotline, Sruli and his parents were able to get initial help putting the molestation in perspective and then, with the help of staff, they were able to map out a plan of action. Reaching out to the hotline ended the isolation.

Pinchas was at a Purim party when some older bachurim became drunk and molested him. He was deeply traumatized by the event. The abuse continued afterwards in yeshiva, as the group continued to verbally abuse him. While he never forgot the horrific event, he never told anyone. It caused him deep, psychological scars including making him wonder if he could ever marry, after being put through such a terrible experience. No one understood how such a great bachur could be unmarried at 32. If they only knew the story. By contacting the Hotline, Pinchas was able to retrace his life steps and get the help he desperately needed.

Avi was away from home at sleep away camp when his counselor molested him. Avi had stayed back from a camping trip with a cold. One counselor offered to stay behind. That night, he invaded Avi`s bed space without a word and proceeded to molest Avi. Avi was never the same again. The counselor threatened Avi to keep the secret quiet. Since the counselor was bigger than he was, and since his father was a well known powerful community Rabbi, Avi was convinced that no one would believe him anyway. Who could he tell? Who should he tell? Who would understand? Calling the hotline was the first step out of the darkness.

Yidi stopped going to the mikve when he once accidentally came upon a local man acting inappropriately with a young boy. Although Yidi himself was not involved physically in the incident, what he viewed was traumatic for him. He ran from the mikve as fast as he could and he never went back. He also never forgot what he had seen. However, he did not feel that he could discuss the topic with anyone that he knew. As a result, Yidi seemed continually haunted by the scene as it replayed itself in his mind, countless times over the years.

Although Yidi was not molested himself, what he saw with his own eyes, continued to disturb him for years. It was hard for Yidi to concentrate. It affected his faith in G-d since the man who was doing the molesting who looked — in Yidi`s eyes — a ``rabbinic``man. Then, after Yidi left home, the story and images seemed to leave his memory. One day, he was visiting friends for the weekend when his friend asked Yidi if he wanted to visit a mikve before the Sabbath. Suddenly, Yidi went numb. He went pale. His friend had no idea what had happened. When Yidi recovered his wits, he realized that the past nightmare had returned.

Yidi had felt in the past, that he had nowhere to turn. Now, Yidi had somewhere to go with his story.
He knew he had to release this secret or these demons would chase him forever. The hotline is a place to turn to, where those answering the hotline do indeed, understand and they have the necessary tools to deal with what is haunting Yidi.

Some secrets must be told or they simply eat away at our neshamas and destroy our lives and our families. I must stress that the important issue is to share the secret, to lighten the load, the stress and pain by reaching out for help.

In the Orthodox community, it took years until it was considered permissible to set up hotlines for abuse for women. Many of the taboos encountered in helping female victims have been torn down; some still remain. Yet, religious men still have nowhere to turn when they are victims of sexual abuse.

The new Israel-based hotline, reaching out to male victims, is a daring venture, precisely because, even in the non religious world, today in our supposedly enlightened 21st century, people have a harder time digesting the concept of men being molested and abused. These victims need a place to turn for help and guidance. They need to be able to end their isolation.

Especially within the religious world, where discussing sexual matters is not encouraged and is often frowned upon, it is particularly difficult for victims to find a person to talk to. Add to that the complicated nature of sexual abuse, and the confusion victims endure as a result of the abuse, it is clear that a Hotline to help male victims is long overdue.

Discussion of sexual topics is often taboo. Victims of sexual abuse often have fear of suffering further community ostracism, difficulties in finding shidduchim and even exclusion as an outcast, because of the nature of the attack they suffered.

The Hotline has a simple and straightforward agenda. To help, assist: offer guidance and direction to male attack victims and their loved ones.

We wish them great success.

The Hotline For Religious Male Victims of Sexual Abuse (972-2-532-8000).

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