Monday, March 24, 2014

Child Sexual Abuse

After practicing psychotherapy for more than 30 years, I thought I had heard it all - that was, until I met Izzy. Her story of courage shows us that with emuna, even the darkest of circumstances can be transformed into light.  
Like many abused children, Izzy dealt with the horror of her life by hiding behind a "mask" - she needed to make believe that nothing bad had happened to her. In the end, it was only emuna that provided a reason for her to uncover and face the truth of what happened and to set her life straight. 
When Izzy was six years old, she made the "mistake" of yelling at her mother. When her father got home he said "go to your room, strip off all your clothes and wait in bed." Izzy was terrified. She knew that something "really bad" was going to happen. That was the first of many times she was raped by her father. 
Izzy's mother also wore a mask and so she didn't "see" what was going on.  This was how she had "survived" the abuse of her own father. Izzy calls her parents Mr. and Mrs. Egypt. "Mom and Dad" are words that she cannot pronounce. "Mrs. Egypt was repulsed by me. She would become furious if I touched her or got too close." To others, Izzy's family looked "normal," but the first time that Izzy knew what it was like to be held in a loving way was by a nurse in the hospital. 
In the 1970's, child abuse was less talked about. Izzy was put into rooms with other children. There were toys and candy there but they weren't allowed to touch the toys or take any of the candies. The men were frightening and mean. Only when the children stripped, would the men become "nice" -  then they could play with the toys and eat the candy.  Some men were "affectionate" - at those times, she desperately wanted to believe that the affection was real. 
For years Izzy was taken places where men paid money to do whatever they wanted to children. She was passed around. Films were made of her. Some of those films were violent: "if we cried or resisted, they would threatened to hurt another kid. Once Mr. Egypt pointed his gun at my dog. He acted like he was joking but he killed my dog before my eyes. 
Izzy was always suicidal but nobody would have known it. She had a teacher in junior high school who asked her if she was being abused by her parents. Of course she denied it. Her denial "worked" until she became a mother. As her own daughter grew up, Izzy was reminded of what had happened to her. It wasn't until this point that she developed psychological symptoms. "I started having lots of flashbacks but there was still no way to face the truth of what happened without G-d."
Izzy's husband was also abusive. After the divorce, she and her daughter fled to a safe house program. 
Izzy received lots of therapy over the years. All of her therapists were warm and compassionate people. "It was helpful to be cared for by a therapist who models kindness -  but this can only go so far - it can't get you where you need to go." Izzy said that she wanted her psychotherapists to speak to her about faith. She yearned to come to terms with her fears and sadness at their root but couldn't. "My ultimate healing was to reconnect to Hashem and my mission.  EMDR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing)therapy was able to reduce my triggers, but what did it matter if I wasn't really healed and was not getting the vital tools I needed  and a reason to recover and go on living."
One day Izzy heard from somebody that there was a group leaving to visit the gravesite of Rabbi Nachman of Breslev in the Ukraine. Izzy went to Uman and put a picture of herself as a child above Rabbi Nachman's grave. She saw a copy of the Garden of Emuna there and the book "stuck" in her mind. After Uman, she flew to Israel and met a holy woman at the "wall" who told her all about Rabbi Shalom Arush. When Izzy got home she ordered the Garden of Emunaand read it over and over again - the healing  began. 
When Izzy met Rabbi Arush it was the first time in her life that she felt safe with a man. Continue here...

Need more to read?

By Rabbi Lazer Brody - Rhythm of the Heart

By Rabbi Shalom Arush - The Blessing of Wealth

By Rivka Levy - The Good Friend

By Reuven Levy - Focusing on Me

Have a blessed and successful day?
Dr. Zev Ballen