Thursday, March 23, 2006

Surviving Passover: Jewish Survivors of Incest and other forms of child abuse

© (2003, Revised 2006) by Na'ama Yehuda, MSC, SLP, TSHH and Vicki Polin, MA, LCPC


There are many issues surrounding holidays and childhood sexual abuse that have rarely, if ever been addressed in our communities. One of those issues pertains directly to surviving Jewish holidays.

It's not too surprising that many adult survivors of childhood abuse (emotional, physical and sexual abuse) have difficult times during Passover (Pesach), as this time of the year can bring up painful memories of families get together and that routines are changed. Plus there is the added stress of cleaning your home top to bottom, preparing, and "doing it right." These issues alone can be extremely stress producing; yet in a home where violence occurred, would most likely lead to an increase of abuse.

Parents who are already inclined to use their children as an outlet for emotions and urges, are even more likely to do so when under the pressure of increased anxiety.

Many survivors of childhood abuse report that they were abused more around and over a holiday period then any other time of the year. Remember Passover brings with it--on top of cooking and cleaning--an added financial burden.

This is written as a reminder to all survivors of child abuse -- YOU ARE NOT ALONE. It is not uncommon for symptoms of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) to emerge this time of year, even after times of relative remission and/or intensify in those already struggling.

It is not unusual for Survivors to experience an increase in disturbing thoughts, nightmares and flashbacks. Thoughts of self-harm, even suicide, may be an issue. The important thing to remember is these feelings are about the past, the abuse is over, and that it is of utmost importance for you to be kind to and gentle with yourself.

Over the years we have spoken to many adult survivors who find it very painful to even consider going to a seder. This is OK. Someday you may feel different, but if the pain is too intense, it is important that you do things that can be healing. Set healthy boundaries for yourself and do what feels safe for you. If you have a rabbi that is sensitive to child abuse issues, discuss these issues with him or her.

One survivor shared that she felt uncomfortable not doing anything for Pesach, so she'd rent the "Ten Commandments" each year on Seder nights and watch it, forming her own ritual of remembering the events that lead to the Seder night. Another survivor would invite other Jewish Survivors over to her home and they would use "The Survivors Haggadah" for their services. Another person used the time before Pesach for "spring cleaning" her relationships--reconnecting with friends with whom she feels safe, airing out the achievements of the last year and making resolutions for added liberation from her past for the coming year. The survivors above found a way to celebrate a "modified" Pesach, but there are many others for who just try to survive this time of year by pretending that there is no such thing as Pesach.

The goal is for you to do things that are healing and brings about an emotional freedom. Remember you are not alone, not wrong, not bad for having second and third and forth thoughts about how to celebrate and if to celebrate the holiday.

Look into yourself and see what you need, then do what you can to do it. Be kind to yourself for needing to make these adjustments. And remember, when Bney-Israel left Egypt to walk toward a new era--they were walking from a place they knew, but was of pain, to a place unknown, but free. The essence of the Seder night is to remember, and ask why, and be expected to understand and participate only to the extent one can.

Have a gentle, safe holiday!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The mishandling of case of sexual abuse cases in Baltimore

I want to bring this to everyone's attention because I see a connection between the Shmuel Juravel case to a bigger problem in Baltimore. That is the power and control Ner Israel has on the frum community there. I know that Ner Israel has been protecting several alleged sex offenders including Rabbi Eliezer Eisgrau, Rabbi Ken Menken, and a few others.

I can't prove this, but I'm sure that Shmuel's past criminal sexual behavior was covered up by the same individuals who cover up everything else that happens in Baltimore.

There's something that's always bothered me about the case against Matis Weinberg and how it was covered up for years. It also bothers me that there is a link between the Tendler's and the Weinberg's that keeps getting ignored..

The first allegations of Matis Weinberg molesting anyone was back when he was a teenager, one of his victims was his own brother. His parents did what they could to hide these facts from the world, and sent him away. They were not unlike most parents who only wanted the best for their son, but I also wonder if their family name was more important to them, then protecting any potential future victims from being harmed?

In the 1980's, his parents helped Matis start his own Yeshiva in Santa Clara, CA. It was called Kerem. There were also sorts of rumors floating around regarding Matis's inappropriate behavior towards his staff and students. When the allegations broke of him being sexually inappropriate with boys and cult like behavior the yeshiva was shut down. An agreement was reached that he would NEVER teach again. But then back in 2003, he was involved with another yeshiva, and new allegations of sexual misconduct emerged.

Back in the 1980's when the allegations started circulating his father, Rabbi Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg got involved with Jews For Judaism (which is an anti-cult/countermissionary organization). For those of you know don't know, Yaakov Weinberg was a past Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Israel (Ner Israel is the same yeshiva where there was an alleged group of boys going around molesting other boys. It's the yeshiva where both Mordecai and Aron Tendler attended.)

If I remember correctly Tovia Singer and Tsvi "Harlan" Kilstein were both also involved with Jews for Judaism. First Kilstein was, and when he got in trouble with the FBI, he trained Tovia Singer to publicly replace him. Remember Tsvi Kilstein is very connected with the case of Mordecai Tendler. The Tendler's and the Weinbergs are related through a marriage. They are also very closely tied to each other through the administration of Ner Israel of Baltimore.

Around the same time that the case against Matis Weinberg broke, his mother Chana Weinberg got involved with an organization called "Chana" of Baltimore, which is a domestic violence hot line for frum women.

It just seemed very odd to me. Matis Weinberg's parents started volunteering time for organizations that dealt with cults and abuse of women at the same time their son was being accused of being a cult leader and abusing children. Was this for show? And also a way to deflect from the reality that their son was an alleged sex offender?

I know it's very hard to admit publicly that someone they loved and cared about had some serious problems. This is doubly true when your family can be seen as royalty. Unfortunately, I keep asking myself how many people would have been speared being abused by Matis Weinberg if they would have spoken out against his behavior and gotten him the help he needed?

Remember the quote by Vicki Polin "It takes a community to raise a sex offender." I think the case of Matis Weinberg, and also both Aron and Mordecai Tendler could be seen as an example of this. Let's not keep repeating history. Let's learn from it, and warn our communities.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Letters to the Editor - Truly Missed

Letters to the Editor

Truly Missed
Baltimore Jewish Times - March 17, 2006
 
Thank you for letting us all know the fate of the No. 19 bus, in which 11 individuals were murdered. 

One of those precious lives lost was that of Yechezkel Chezi "Scotty" Goldberg, a man who had dedicated his life to helping survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
 
Between being a prolific writer, and his vast knowledge of resources for survivors of abuse, his loss has had an international impact. Chezi was a valued resource of the Baltimore-based international organization, The Awareness Center Inc. (Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault). He is truly missed.
 
Vicki Polin
Executive Director

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Most Dangerous States for American Kids

By Bill O'Reilly
BillOReilly.com - Thursday, Mar 16, 2006



For those of you who still believe the justice system in America is working, consider the following. For three years, 46-year old Andrew Selva sexually brutalized two boys, ages 5 and 12, in a small town outside of Columbus, Ohio. In a plea bargain, Selva admitted to the court that he raped the boys in a variety of ways. By all accounts, it was savage criminal activity.

But when Selva appeared for sentencing before Ohio Judge John Connor, he received no prison time at all. Instead, Connor placed him on probation, saying, "He's got a disease like I've got a disease. I don't know that prison would have helped, except for revenge, and revenge is not in the sentencing guidelines."

What the sentencing guidelines did call for was a ten-year stretch in a state prison. But Connor believes he knows better, so it is probation for a child rapist. By the way, the "disease" Connor referenced in his own case is apparently alcohol-related; the judge has at least two DUI convictions on his sheet.

This kind of sentencing insanity is increasing across the country because many states, like Ohio, have no mandatory minimum prison terms for child predators and, as we all know, there is no shortage of loony judges like Connor.

While some states have passed Jessica's Law, which harshly punishes child molesters, other states simply will not do anything. The following are the most dangerous to a child's welfare.

Vermont: Even after the national scandal of Judge Edward Cashman sentencing the rapist of an 8-year old girl to just 60 days in prison (under pressure, Cashman later revised the sentence to a paltry three years), the Vermont legislature failed to pass mandatory minimums for child sexual predators. The effort was blocked by Democrats, and Republican Governor Jim Douglas refused to get involved.

New York: Despite overwhelming bipartisan support for Jessica's Law, Democratic Assemblyman Sheldon Silver continues to single-handedly block any vote. Governor Pataki vows to go around Silver.

Maryland: No mandatory minimums for sexual crimes against children. The Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Democrat Joseph Vallario, has consistently blocked efforts to pass Jessica's Law.

Massachusetts: Absolutely no mandated protection for kids who are brutalized sexually. The judge is free to bestow any sentence. Speaker of the House Sal Dimasi, a Democrat, has killed every piece of tough sex offender legislation that has been introduced.

Wyoming: No minimum prison sentences and no GPS tracking for convicted sex offenders. Governor Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat, doesn't seem to care.

Arkansas: No minimum prison sentences. Governor Mike Huckabee, a Republican, doesn't seem to care.

Tennessee: No minimum prison terms for child sex crimes. Democratic Governor Phil Bredensen doesn't seem to care.

Idaho: No minimum prison terms for child sex crimes. Republican Governor Dirk Kempthorne doesn't seem to care.

North Dakota: No minimum prison sentences for any sexual acts with minors. Governor John Hoeven, a Republican, says he is "studying" ways to change that.

Also, the states of Colorado, Wisconsin, Maine, Kansas, and Montana have weak laws protecting kids, but at least there are politicians in those states trying to change things.

In the Ohio case where the child rapist received parole, and in the Vermont case where the man who raped the little girl initially got 60 days, the three victims were poor kids. Their parents had no money, no influence, and no hope of challenging the wicked judges. I submit those awful sentences would not have been handed down if the rapists had abused wealthy children.

But be that as it may, any state that will not severely punish an adult who rapes a child is a disgraceful state. And everybody living there should know it.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Case of Andrew Brian Goldstein

Case of Andrew Brian Goldstein
(AKA: Andy Goldstein, Andrew Goldstein, Andrew B. Goldstein)
Greenville, SC
Kindergarten Teacher - Pinellas, FL
Kindergarten Teacher and Softball Coach - Berkeley Preparatory School, Tampa, FL
Camp Director - Camper's Corner
Senior Counselor - Golda-Meir/Kent Jewish Center, Clearwater, FL
Softball and Soccer Coach - Golda-Meir/Kent Jewish Center, Clearwater, FL
Sunday Cchool Teacher - Temple Ahavat Shalom, Palm Harbor, FL
Oldsmar FL

Convicted of possession of child pornography and unlawful sexual activity with certain minors.  

When arrested, Goldstein was employed as a kindergarten teacher and coach at Berkeley Preparatory School
Detectives began an investigation into Andrew Brian Goldstein, who was 29, of Oldsmar was arrested after someone complained that he had inappropriate Internet communications with teenage girls.
Detectives seized computer files depicting child pornography, authorities said.
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Disclaimer: Inclusion in this website does not constitute a recommendation or endorsement. Individuals must decide for themselves if the resources meet their own personal needs.

Table of Contents:

2006
  1. Berkeley School Faculty (02/25/2006)
  2. Tampa kindergarten teacher faces child porn charges  (03/09/2006)
  3. Increasingly, Male Teachers Under Scrutiny (04/10/2006)
  4. Male kindergarten teachers enduring more dirty looks (04/17/2006)

2007
  1. National Sex Offender Regsitry  (04/11/2007)

 2013 
  1. National Sex Offender Regsitry  (10/16/2013)

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Tampa kindergarten teacher faces child porn charges 
ABC News - March 9, 2006

TAMPA - A Tampa elementary school teacher was arrested late Wednesday on child porn charges, and now detectives are warning parents on both sides of the bay to check their kids' computer usage.

Pinellas County deputies say Clearwater detectives received a tip on Tuesday that Andrew Brian Goldsteinwas involved in inappropriate online communications with teenage girls. Detectives with the North Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force investigated and searched his Oldsmar home Wednesday evening.

During that search, deputies say they found child pornography on Goldstein's computer. The 29-year-old was arrested on the spot and charged with one count of possession of child pornography.

Goldstein is a kindergarten teacher and softball coach at Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa. This morning, the school emailed a letter to parents informing them of the arrest and announcing that Goldstein had been fired.

"Mr. Goldstein has been separated from the school, effective immediately. We are working closely with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. At this point in time, there is no indication that his acts were brought onto the school campus or that they involved a student," school spokeswoman Heather Mackin told Action News.

Parent after parent at the school said they were surprised by the allegations, callingGoldstein an exceptional teacher.

"I'm shocked. I'm just totally shocked," Anne Hull offered.

"They both loved him. They enjoyed him very much as a teacher. We had no controversy whatsoever there," added Marja Wolf, whose two children both had Goldstein for kindergarten.

Goldstein also was a counselor at the Golda-Meir/Kent Jewish Center in Clearwater. According to the center's website, he served as senior counselor there for the last several years and coached softball and soccer. He was involved with the center's summer camp for the last 14 years and also taught Sunday school at Temple Ahavat Shalom in Palm Harbor.

Investigators believe Goldstein communicated online using the AOL Instant Messenger screen name "CDMANG." Detectives say parents should check their children's AOL buddy list to see if they have received any communications from someone using that name.

"I think this is, although an unfortunate incident, a good opportunity for parents to sit down with their children and reinforce social responsibility on the internet," Mackin added.

Anyone who thinks their child may have had contact with Goldstein online should contact Pinellas County detectives.


Goldstein, meanwhile, was out of jail on $10,000 bond. No one answered the door at his apartment Thursday.

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Increasingly, Male Teachers Under Scrutiny
By Steven Isbitts
TBO News - April 10, 2006

ST. PETERSBURG - In an era of highly publicized sex crimes against children, male kindergarten teachers have become a target for people suspicious of men who work with young children.

Some local teachers say they take questions from peers about their career motivation and, sometimes, from students' parents. Many have sensed an increase in looks of suspicion shot their way.

Thanks to those reactions, men who hug, nurture and mold wide-eyed 5-year-olds for a living are quick to defend their integrity and career choice. Some in the small local fraternity of male kindergarten teachers lately have raised their guard.

On March 10, they took a punch to their collective gut when Andrew Goldstein, a kindergarten teacher at Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa, was arrested on a charge of sexual performance of a child.

Goldstein, 29, was in possession of a compact disc containing videos of naked prepubescent girls posed in sexually provocative positions and engaged in sexual activity, according to a jail affidavit.

"Right away, I felt that the negative press would impact males in our profession," said Samuel Williams, 38, a kindergarten teacher at Ippolito Elementary School in Riverview.
"I kind of look at it as I have to counteract that publicity and that behavior every day," said Williams, who began teaching three years ago after an investment banking career.
"I have had many people ask me why I want to teach little kids, but they ask as if there's something inappropriate in my motivation. There's a real double standard."

Dan Hodges, 56, a kindergarten teacher at Mount Vernon Elementary in St. Petersburg, said the Goldsteinarrest was a wake-up call to avoid behavior that could arouse suspicion.

"People should not just judge the group on one incident, but that happens," said Hodges, an Air Force veteran and former landscaping business owner.

"It's tough because kindergarten has never been a man's job," he said. "When I came back to teaching, I had to have a talk with myself. I had to ask myself what people would think and, 'Am I going to turn into [Mr.] Rogers?'"

Requests For Female Teachers
Negative comments and raised eyebrows also have affected aspiring male kindergarten teachers in recent years, said Pam Fleege, associate professor of early childhood education at the University of South Florida.

"It's very sad. Male students have come to me after they've been challenged by their own families and friends," Fleege said. "Some are accused of being pedophiles. But they mostly get a lot of, 'What are you going to say when a parent confronts you?'"

Confrontations with suspicious parents are rare, teachers say. That could be because parents who are uncomfortable with a man teaching their children often request a female teacher.

Those requests are honored every year by Carol Hughes, principal of Leila G. Davis Elementary in Clearwater. She leads the only Pinellas County or Hillsborough County public school with two male kindergarten teachers.

Tamara Lowe, whose son was in Goldstein's kindergarten class years ago, said that when her son was assigned to Goldstein she contacted Berkley Prep officials to "express concern about the wisdom of having a young man teach kindergarten."

If a male teacher encounters fearful parents, the key is to involve them in the class as much as possible, said Brian Esparza, who teaches at Leila G. Davis.

"You just have to get to know them, let them get to know you, and win them over," Esparza said. "You get those kinds of parents, but I hear a lot more of the flip side, people happy that their child has a male role model in kindergarten."

Principals take many requests to place children with male kindergarten teachers. That opportunity, though, is available at a small percentage of schools.

In Pinellas, eight of 418 kindergarten teachers, or almost 2 percent, are men. In Hillsborough, there are 13 men and 764 women, again almost 2 percent

In Pasco County, the numbers are higher than the 9 percent national average. That nationwide number, though, is at a 40-year low, the National Education Association says.

Of the 884 Pasco kindergarten teachers, 105 are men, almost 12 percent. In Pasco, kindergarten, first- and second-grade students are educated together, based on their achievement levels.

Pasco Credits Recruitment
Renee Sedlak, Pasco's director of human resources, thinks her district has attracted more men via extensive out-of-state recruiting. Male elementary education graduates are more common outside Florida universities, she said.

It is critical to have more men teaching kindergarten, local school administrators and male kindergarten teachers say, especially with the growing number of children from single-mother households. But a teacher shortage, it seems, has quashed efforts to target a diverse teaching staff.

"At this point, we're just looking for any qualified teacher," said Kim Swartzel, a Pinellas recruiter.

Local districts do not have recruiting strategies to bring in more male teachers.

"Most districts think diversity is about people of color rather than males in elementary school, and that's a shame," said Clayton Wilcox, Pinellas school superintendent.

"Society didn't have the same fixation on child abuse issues years ago. That has to be one of the factors pushing men out of the lower grades."

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Male kindergarten teachers enduring more dirty looks
A Tampa teacher's arrest on child-pornography charges fules parents concerns
By Steven Isbitts
Tampa Times - April 17, 2006

ST. PETERSBURG -- In an era of highly publicized sex crimes against children, male kindergarten teachers have become a target for people suspicious of men who work with small children.


Some teachers say they take questions about their career motivation from peers and, sometimes, from parents. Many sense an increase in suspicious looks shot their way.



Thanks to those reactions, men who hug, nurture and mold wide-eyed 5-year-olds for a living are quick to defend their integrity and career choice. Some male kindergarten teachers lately have raised their guard.

On March 10, Andrew Goldstein, a kindergarten teacher at Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa, was arrested on a charge of sexual performance of a child.

Goldstein, 29, was in possession of a compact disc containing videos of naked prepubescent girls posed in sexually provocative positions and engaged in sexual activity, according to a jail affidavit.

"Right away, I felt that the negative press would impact males in our profession," said Samuel Williams, 38, a kindergarten teacher at Ippolito Elementary School in Riverview.

"I kind of look at it as I have to counteract that publicity and that behavior every day," said Williams, who began teaching three years ago.

"I have had many people ask me why I want to teach little kids, but they ask as if there's something inappropriate in my motivation. There's a real double standard."

Dan Hodges, 56, a kindergarten teacher at Mount Vernon Elementary in St. Petersburg, said the Goldstein arrest was a wake-up call to avoid behavior that arouses suspicion.

"People should not just judge the group on one incident, but that happens," said Hodges, an Air Force veteran.

"It's tough because kindergarten has never been a man's job," he said. "When I came back to teaching, I had to have a talk with myself. I had to ask myself what people would think and, 'Am I going to turn into [Mr.] Rogers?' "

Negative comments and raised eyebrows also have affected aspiring male kindergarten teachers in recent years, said Pam Fleege, associate professor of early-childhood education at the University of South Florida.

"It's very sad. Male students have come to me after they've been challenged by their own families and friends," Fleege said.

"Some are accused of being pedophiles," Fleege said. "But they mostly get a lot of, 'What are you going to say when a parent confronts you?' "

Confrontations with suspicious parents are rare, teachers say. That could be because parents who are uncomfortable with a male teacher often request a female teacher.

Those requests are honored every year by Carol Hughes, principal of Leila G. Davis Elementary in Clearwater.

Hughes leads the only Pinellas County or Hillsborough County public school with two male kindergarten teachers.

Tamara Lowe, whose son was in Goldstein's class years ago, said when her son was assigned to Goldstein she contacted Berkeley Prep officials to "express concern about the wisdom of having a young man teach kindergarten."

If a male teacher encounters fearful parents , the key is to involve them in the class as much as possible, said Brian Esparza, who teaches at Leila G. Davis.

"You just have to get to know them, let them get to know you and win them over," Esparza said. "You get those kinds of parents, but I hear a lot more of the flip side, people happy that their child has a male role mode."

Principals take many requests to place children with male kindergarten teachers.

That opportunity, though, is available at a small percentage of schools -- 9 percent of kindergarten teachers nationally are men.

It is critical to have more men teaching kindergarten, local school administrators and male kindergarten teachers say, especially with the growing number of children from single-mother households.

A teacher shortage, however, has quashed efforts to target a diverse teaching staff.


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Berkeley School Faculty
February 25, 2006



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Florida Department of Law Enforcement - Sexual Offender
As of April 11, 2007

Picture of an Offender or Predator
ANDREW BRIAN GOLDSTEIN

Date Of Photo: 08/21/2006

Designation: Sexual Offender

Name: ANDREW BRIAN GOLDSTEIN

Status: Community Control, Department of Corrections #: R48770

Date of Birth: 09/20/1976

Race : White

Sex: Male

Hair: Blond

Eyes: Hazel

Height: 5'05"

Weight: 190 lbs

GOLDSTEIN is registered as a Sexual Offender.
Positive identification cannot be established unless a fingerprint comparison is made.

Aliases: Andrew Goldstein

Scars, Marks & Tattoos: Not Available

Address Information: 2220 Muirfield Way Oldsmar FL 34677-1941 Pinellas Source: Dept. of Corrections

Received: 04/13/2007

Type of Address: Permanent

Crime Information - Qualifying Offenses

Adjudication Date: 08/21/2006

Crime Description: POSS OF PHOTO/PICTURE SHOWING SEXUAL PERFORMANCE BY A CHILD; F.S. 827.071(5) (2 COUNTS) / Unlawful Sexual Activity with Certain Minors 16/17 yr old; F.S. 794.05(1)

Court Case Number: 0605007

Jurisdiction & State: PINELLAS, FL

Adjudication:  Guilty/convict

Victim Information
Gender:  Unknown
Minor:  Yes

If further information is needed, please contact the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Sexual Offender/Predator Unit at (1-888-357-7332) between the hours of 8am and 6:30pm, Monday through Friday.

Positive identification cannot be established unless a fingerprint comparison is made.

Any person who misuses public records information relating to a sexual predator, as defined in this section, or a sexual offender, commits a misdemeanor of the first degree. Please see 775.21(10)(c) for more information.

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National Sex Offender Registry
October 16, 2013



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Some of the information on The Awareness Center's web pages may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc.

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For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml . If you wish to use copyrighted material from this update for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


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"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." –– Margaret Mead

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Monday, March 06, 2006

Nobody's Child: Surviving without a Family

Nobody's Child: Surviving without a Family
© (2006) By Vicki Polin, Michael J. Salamon and Na'ama Yehuda


One topic rarely discussed by survivors of childhood sexual abuse is the issue of going through adulthood without a family. This very difficult reality is one that many survivors feel ashamed of.

There are many reasons why an adult survivor might not have contact with their family of origin. Some grew up in foster-care or were adopted into other families. Others lived with their families during their childhood, but as adults they felt the need to create a separation in order to heal. In other situations survivors may have been cut off by their families following disclosures and/or confrontations. Regardless of the way in which the separation occurred, many Jewish survivors end up feeling alone and confused. Many may not have anyone close enough to turn to, or are too embarrassed to speak about their feelings. This can be especially trying during times of need.

Adult survivors are often overwhelmed by a sense of shame when discussions of Shabbat, Holidays, or plans for other celebrations come up. Younger adults may feel that everyone but them goes "home" for the holidays, and often struggle with feeling inferior to those who have homes to go to. Going home might not be an option for these survivors, either because of potential risk to their personal, emotional, and physical safety, or because they have been disowned by family members and are no longer welcome in their parents, siblings, or other relatives' homes.

It is important to be aware that sometimes being invited to another family's home for Shabbat and other Simchas (celebrations) can open up a can of worms. The experience can be overwhelming to an adult survivor of any age. Every family has its own set of customs and rules, jokes, rituals, and history, and to an outsider, adjusting can be difficult. When someone comes from a violent family and put in to such a situation it would not be uncommon for memories of abuse to surface. Being with a loving family can also awaken acute feelings of longing and jealousy. The survivor may have to deal with the fact of how different and painful celebrations were for them during their childhood, resulting in an emotional reaction, which results in a deep sense of loss and grief for what they never had nor will have.

All too often adult survivors feel a deep yearning to be invited somewhere but are embarrassed to tell anyone. They do not want to appear as if they are needy or begging, and don't want their friends to feel as if they "have to" be invited. Some survivors might not be able to manage the kaleidoscope of emotions that going to someone else's house for a holiday or Shabbat may bring up. They may feel safer if they spend the holidays alone. Some survivors avoid the topic of holidays completely or make comments such as "I don't 'do' holidays." Others might feel the need to make up a story of where they'd been in an attempt to ward off the feelings of shame that come with admitting that they had no where to go to, that no one invited them, that they are "rejects."

While Holidays are notoriously difficult for survivors, there are other times when survivors are faced with the painful ramifications of their abuse and/or their disclosure of it.

If a survivor does not have a health care proxy, their parents and then their siblings are automatically legally obligated to make life and death decisions for them if they are unable to. This may not be the survivor's choice yet if they do not have a health care proxy signed prior to a medical emergency this is the standard hospital/medical procedure. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse may have no one to write as a health care proxy, no one to care for them when they are ill, to escort them to and from medical tests and appointments. A survivor may have no one to go to when they are in need of money, help, or advice. They may have no one to list as "next of kin" on medical records or on bank notes. Can you imagine how awkward you'd feel in their place? Can you imagine the shame a survivor might experience?

Survivors of abuse who are cut off from their families are orphans, maybe not in the traditional sense of the word, but definitely in the social and emotional sense. While we may never be able to completely take away the feelings of loss and grief that survivors almost without fail--have to deal with, there are ways with which we as a community can help.

One way we can assist, is by inviting the survivor into our family's circle--by making him or her part of our holidays, celebrations, even our sorrows--by giving the survivor a new family to belong to and be accepted by. As described above, this may be difficult for the survivor and yet it is the best way to help them. "Laura," an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse was regularly invited to her closest friend's family functions. "The Cohen's" were aware of Laura's childhood and wanted her to feel at home with them. Time and again they told her that their family was her family, even joked that they should legally adopt her and change her last name to Cohen. At first, Laura felt uncomfortable with this concept. She always thought of herself as a "throw away child," as someone not worthy of having a family and could not figure out what the Cohen's saw in her. She questioned whether she could trust their acceptance of her as real. However, with time she really felt as if she was a "Cohen." Within a year Laura already knew everyone in the family: aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents, and felt accepted by them all. Then something happened. Maybe if Laura wasn't a survivor and wasn't told over and over that she was part of the Cohen family, it wouldn't have had such an impact on her. The Cohen family had a big get together with all of the cousins, uncles, aunts, and grandparents, but Laura was NOT invited... She was devastated and felt re-victimized. What the Cohen's did not know was that Laura's estranged family of origin would have family functions and let her know about them but would not invite her. Perhaps if the Cohen's had been aware of this they would have made sure to invite her, too. Laura felt too ashamed to share how her family treated her. She was afraid that if others found out they would believe she was a horrible person. Laura never told the Cohen's how she felt. She didn't tell them how upset she was for not being invited. She just pulled away.

"Scott's" story is another example of a frequent issue that survivors deal with. His family of origin played him--he would get invitations to family functions and events, only to receive a phone call ten minutes before he left the house for the event, with a sibling saying "if you come, then mom and dad won't come, so please don't show up." He faced an excruciating dilemma--if he told anyone about the event (i.e., his sister's wedding, his nephew's birth) he would then have to admit that he never went to the event. He often ended up feeling like he needed to lie and say that he was "too sick with stomach flu" to go. How could he say that he was suddenly asked not to come and not feel ashamed that he was unwanted, and not feel guilty for making his family appear terribly cruel? If "Scott" had an alternate family, a home in the community where he felt he was welcomed and accepted, his family's manipulations would not have been as devastating. Scott would still need to deal with the fact they toyed with him but would not be dependent on them for acceptance and community. He would have other events and celebrations and holidays to participate in as a deserving equal. He might even muster the courage to confront his family and tell them how unacceptable their behavior was and that they need to either include him as part of the family or leave him alone. He might have even been able to make the statement that he no longer depended on them...

One of the many outcomes of the prolonged stress that comes with trauma and abuse is that survivors often have health problems, and issues regarding family also come up during their time of medical need. "Janice" had to have surgery and the doctor's office called her with pre-op directions. They reminded her that she'd need to have "a family member" come to pick her up from the hospital. Janice was panic stricken--she'd been cut off from her relatives for a few years now... She felt terribly embarrassed and didn't want to tell the nurse that she had no family to bring. Janice felt that if she gave voice to her family situation she would admit to being a "reject." Fortunately, Janice had a good friend who was happy to come pick her up. Janice remembered a few years earlier, when she wasn't able to find a friend who was available due to their work schedules. Back then, Janice had no one to come pick her up. She was unable to find anyone to take her to a doctor's appointment, no one to make her a cup of tea and bring some groceries, no one to check on her while she was recovering at home. These are the realities many survivors of child abuse face on a daily basis. How would handle life if you had no one to turn to?

Acknowledging the reality of abuse is upsetting not just for survivors of abuse. Many people who hear about someone who is a survivor feel helpless to make things better. They don't know what they can do to help; do not want to face the reality that even when the abuse is over, not all is well, and survivors still face many challenges, loneliness, and pain. However, the good news is that there IS a way to help and there IS a way to make a significant change for the better in a survivor's life. Survivors are often "orphaned" by their family, but yours can bring them hope and give them a place to call home. This doesn't mean that you need to take responsibility for the survivors--many survivors are more than able to care for themselves (after all, they made it through the abuse part...) but it does mean to offer friendship and support.

If you know of someone in your community who is a survivor of childhood abuse, make it a priority to get to know him or her. Know that it is very likely that he or she is dealing with loneliness and estrangement from their family. Put yourself in their shoes. What would you want to happen if you were lonely? Invite them for a Shabbat meal, to a holiday celebration, to an event. Let the survivor know that they are welcome in your home, that you care, that it is okay to call on you in time of need and that you'd do your best to be there for them.

Abuse causes incredible loneliness, but this loneliness need not continue--it is in your power to become a messenger of healing and hope by opening your heart and home, and teaching others around you to do the same. Together, your community can heal the hidden wound of being Nobody's Child. 


Vicki Polin, Michael J. Salamon and Na'ama Yehuda