Thursday, January 26, 2006

Study: Molestation strongest Holocaust trauma

Study: Molestation strongest Holocaust trauma
Ynet News - Jan. 26, 2006

According to new study, sexual abuse traumas have greater effect on survivors than any other experienced during Holocaust years. 'Abuse still causes incessant thoughts, nightmares,' researcher says Ahiya Raved
A new study conducted at the Haifa University reveals that Holocaust survivors who suffered sexual abuse during World War II were much more traumatized by molestation than by any other of the horrifying experiences they went through during that period.
The study, the first ever to focus on the subject, is set to be presented next Sunday in the framework of a conference to mark the international Holocaust Memorial Day at the university.
Prof. Rachel Lev-Wiesel, who conducted the research, said that although the survivors experienced other traumatic events during the holocaust, including the loss of parents, physical abuse and hunger, the memory of sexual abuse remained etched in their minds more than anything else.
"This abuse still causes incessant thoughts on the subject and nightmares," Lev-Wiesel said.
'Survivors told stories with clarity, precision'
The study consists of interviews with 22 men and women in Israel and the United States, who were willing to share with the researcher stories about the abuse they underwent during the war.
Lev-Wiesel said that some people who offered to take part in the study were rejected, because she believed they would not be able to cope with the burden of memories and the self-exposure involved with the interview.
The average age of the interviewees stood at 68 years, and Lev-Wiesel said all have told their story with clarity and precision, in contradiction to how people usually speak of a traumatic event.
This is proof, Lev-Wiesel said, that the survivors retell the story in their heads over and over again, reliving the past daily.
All the survivors interviewed for the study have spent the war years on the run from the Nazis, some at hiding in the houses of Christians, others moving from place to place with the partisans, an easy prey for menacing adults along the way.
According to Prof. Lev-Wiesel, this fact does not eliminate the possibility similar incidents took place at ghettos as well.

Abuser usually close to victim
In some of the cases revealed in the study, the abuse was carried out by relatives or other Jews, which alleviated the trauma and embarrassment among survivors.
In one of the cases the abuser was a man who helped smuggle children from one place to another, in another it was a father who sexually abused his daughter, and in several other incidents – mothers who molested their sons.
Prof. Lev-Wiesel stressed that situations of stress and war do not create pedophiles, but that they enable such people to operate more freely.

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