Saturday, July 30, 2011

Picking up my stuff

I went with Beverly to travel to Boca Raton, my hometown, to pick up my stuff yesterday.  I slept well on Thursday night knowing that I was finally coming to pick my stuff after a month living in the HOEF transition house.  I woke up feeling refreshed and happy at 5:30 on Friday morning and took a nice bath and got ready to go.  We left the house at 6:30 a.m., long before I am usually up in the morning.  We had a very long drive.  We first dropped Bev’s daughter Kristin off at the train station in North Miami so she could take the train to Jacksonville to go spend the weekend with her boyfriend, who is in the Coast Guard.  We dropped Kristin off around 8:15 a.m. and then began the long drive to Boca. 
We got to Boca around 9:30 a.m., and then I began loading my stuff into Gisell’s truck.  I am so glad that HOEF got me this big SUV to take my stuff because I had a lot more stuff than I realized.  Bev was not her usual self.  She was not feeling well, and throughout our hour-long drive there and back, Bev hardly spoke to me at all because she was in such terrible pain.  I am enormously grateful to Bev for making such a long, difficult drive when she was suffering so much.  I just hope she feels better soon.  Also thanks to Gisell for lending us her truck for this trip.
I called my grandma to let her know I was coming to pick up my stuff, and I was surprised and confused that she didn’t answer me.  Then I remembered why: my grandma and mother had traveled to Colorado to spend the week at my parents’ time share.  My mom was stunned when I told her I was leaving her, and one of her first questions was whether I was coming to Colorado with her.  I said no, and she was mad about having bought me the plane ticket to Colorado, but frankly I just didn’t care. 
I was relieved in a way that my grandma wasn’t home when I came to pick up my stuff because I was in no mood for any kind of confrontation with her. But when I got to my grandma’s house, I made a pleasantly surprising discovery.  My parents and grandma had packed my most important clothes into a suitcase.  They also left me a second empty suitcase which I didn’t end up taking.  Finally they packed up a nice black bag several smaller bags inside for me to put my stuff in.  My parents and grandma were unexpectedly helpful to me in this respect, and I am thankful to them for this unexpected kindness on their part.
I even thought of calling my mom to thank her, but I decided it against it.  In truth I am still carrying way too much rage and sorrow against my family of origin to be able to have a rational, logical conversation with them where I could treat them fairly.  I remember my stomach churning once we reached Boca because I was flooded with horrendous memories of abuse from my whole childhood.  I also cringed as we passed my high school, a Christian school where I was subjected to four years of intense shunning and bullying at the hands of both my classmates and administration that has left me scarred for life. 
I felt a twinge of terror and grief pass over me as we passed the country club where my parents live now and where I spent my teenage years from December, 1988, until I went to college.  I was overwhelmed with sickening memories of so much horrendous abuse at the hands of my parents that I found it hard to concentrate on anything at all.  I was so glad that I didn’t have to go to my parents’ house to pick up any stuff there because I knew the experience would have been way too terrifying for me to handle at this point.  Just driving past the gilded prison of my teenage years was enough to make me feel sick to my stomach.  I have an enormous book collection containing about 3 or 4 book cases, but I have no space for the books now and no need for them either.

I spent around 2 hours loading my stuff into the truck, and unfortunately I was forced to work without any air conditioner because my grandma’s air conditioner was not working.  I took grandma’s cart down, and I brought my essential clothes first.  Then I brought my printer in the cart, and then I brought  my computer.  After that it was around 4 more trips for my books – and just one trip to bring out my remaining clothes.  I was relieved and happy to leave my grandma’s house around 11:30 a.m. before my dad left work at noon so I had no chance of running into him on the road.  I picked up two medications at Walgreens and then Bev drove me home.
We got back to the house around 1:40 p.m. after the drive back, and then Cheryl, Rachel, and Rachel’s daughters helped me bring my stuff up the stairs.  Upon discovering that the air conditioning was not working upstairs, I decided to remain downstairs.  I was so tired from the labor of getting my stuff with no air conditioner that I collapsed on the couch for about an hour.  Then I decided to set up my computer downstairs so that I could access the Internet for the first time in 23 days.  It was a thrill for me to finally have Internet access again.  I was able to begin reconnecting with people who had grown worried about me, including one of my Russian history professors. 
I discovered my Haitian-American friend Mike from FAU was looking for a job and promised to help him with his search.  I told him he should look for opportunities in marketing analysis including areas like segment marketing, target marketing, and diversity marketing.  I thought his analytical skills were most suited to sales and marketing and not to math or finance, and he thanked me for my job advice.  Mike has been a great friend to me at FAU, and when I confided to him that I was being abused, he was appalled by my parents’ and grandma’s behavior and totally supportive of my decision to leave my abusers behind. 
Later that day I called my friend Samantha on the phone.  She sobbed to me in despair about her life and explained to me how she felt abandoned by her children and bullied by her neighbors in Century Village.  Samantha is a youthful woman in her 60’s who dresses in an unconventional and sexy fashion, and the World War II generation residents who dominate Century Village treat her with contempt and disdain because they feel threatened and uncomfortable with her dress.   Unfortunately, they judge her harshly and unfairly based on her physical appearance without bothering to get to know her as the lovely, artistic person that she is. Samantha is also scared to death of needles and that’s why she’s frightened of having surgery to remove a skin cancer.  I will try to call her again Sunday to let her know she’s not alone and wish her good strength on the surgery on Monday.
I called my Iraqi friend Mohammed, and he amazed me with the support he offered me.  He told me that he was very worried about me because I had stopped talking on the Internet for 23 days.  He pointed out how he gave me his phone number and asked me to call him weeks ago, and I said the problem was I had no Internet access for all that times, so I had no way of even finding his phone number.   He told me that I should not hesitate to ask him if I needed anything at all, and he said to me,”My house is your house.”  He also offered to help me with my job search and invited me to come visit him in Washington, D.C. anytime.  I also told him he should definitely come see me if he comes to the Miami area but said I couldn’t reveal my location to protect the safety of the abused women and young girls staying here.  He also wanted to read my abuse survivor’s blog.
I was frankly overwhelmed and stunned by his kindness toward me.  I am not used to people treating me with such amazing kindness because I am unfortunately used to people brutalizing, terrorizing, and abandoning me.  I think it will take me time to learn that I am a valuable person who deserves to be treated with respect and dignity and that I can actually trust people.  My capacity for trusting others is very low because I have been so brutally and frequently betrayed by others with such terrifying regularity.  Thank you Mohammed for your support.  It frankly means the world to me.
Also while I was in the car today driving to Miami with Bev, Julia told me great news.  She said that the mother of the woman who is coming shortly to stay with us along with her 4 year old son and infant daughter knows the people involved in a project at the University of Miami to combat domestic violence among Hispanics.  I can’t wait to talk to Julia about working with her and the people at the University of Miami who are planning programs to challenge domestic violence among Hispanics.  My fluency in Spanish and familiarity and comfort with Latin American culture will enable me to make a real solid contribution to this effort.  I hope our combined efforts can help challenge the rigid gender roles and macho cultural assumptions which are responsible for an epidemic of domestic violence among the large Hispanic community in Miami.  I also hope that together we can help save the lives of brutalized Hispanic women and children.   
I would like to go get something to eat, but my ankles hurt so much that I can barely walk up and down the stairs.  So I will finish this piece, publish and share it, and then get something to eat.  I was so happy that I finally have my Hebrew prayer book with me as it was the first Friday night that I was able to celebrate with my prayerbook.  Before this I was stuck mainly just lighting the candles and then reading a little Jewish ethical tractate of the Mishnah called Pirkei Avot, or Sayings of Our Fathers.  So I was actually able to say my prayers this Friday night, and I was able to sing the beautiful melodies for Kabbalat Shabbat that Jews use to welcome the Sabbath.  I felt an indescribable sense of peace from being able to finally sing Lecha Dodi, the highlight of Kabbalat Shabbat.
I also shared a nice Friday night dinner with Rachel and her daughters, and we had a lovely time together.  Rachel said a prayer to Jesus in accordance with her Christian beliefs, and then I added some Hebrew prayers.  Rachel taught her daughters how to play two games: telephone and going to the store.  During telephone, Rachel and her daughters kept praising themselves for their beauty while playing telephone, and I told Rachel and her daughters how my mother used to call me her Shainamaidele, the Yiddish word for ‘beautiful little girl.”  Rachel was moved by this revelation.  Rachel and the kids also told me how grateful they felt that I have come into their lives.  I feel the same way about Rachel and her daughters.  Later on Tink and CC insisted on making a wish before I blew out the Friday night candles. 
One of Rachel’s daughters began to focus excessively on which clothes she was going to wear.  So I took her aside and told her that when I left my grandmother’s house, I had also left behind over $4,000 worth of fancy skirt and pants suits, including 2 gray suits, 1 red one, one with a leopard print, one brown, 2 royal blue, and 2 navy blue.  I had so many suits I can’t even remember them all, and I told the kids that what  matters is not what you wear but what’s inside you.  I added that I know Kristin and Shannon love fashion, and there is nothing wrong with having nice clothes.  The problem occurs when you begin to define your identity and self-worth with what you wear.  I added that I brought some beautiful skirts with me, and Tink asked me what color they were.  I told her I had a light pink and white skirt with a light pink top – and a multi-colored skirt with a hot pink top.
I guess I began to hate fancy clothes because I associated them with my abusive parents.  They revealed their distorted priorities by spending thousands of dollars to buy me fancy clothes of all kinds while also refusing to pay for my psychological counseling, psychiatrist, and health insurance. They cared about how I looked to the outside world and what public image I presented to the shallow, fashion-obsessed Boca society, not about how shattered I felt inside.       
I had planned to go to sleep early because I had such an exhausting day, but when I came upstairs and saw all the bags in my room,  I knew I had to unpack.  And so I reluctantly unpacked on Friday night, and then I went downstairs to fix myself a macaroni and cheese snack around 12:40 a.m.  Unfortunately, I inadvertently spilled water everywhere because we have a beautiful fountain and my plastic bags ended up under the fountain by accident.  I tried to wake up Bev, the residential director, to help me, but I was unable to wake her.  I woke up Rachel instead, and she helped me clean up the mess I created.  Bev told me the next day that I should have woken her up instead of Rachel because it is her job to handle little emergencies like this.  She told me to knock harder next time to wake her up in another such case, and I promised to do so. 
Late last night when I tried to go to sleep, I started vomiting intensely.  I threw up the mac and cheese snack that I had most recently eaten.  And I was flooded with tears as I began to face the flashbacks to the abuse I had suffered.  The visit to my grandma’s house and the drive by my high school and my parents’ house had been traumatic for me as it re-opened the wounds of my pain and suffering from the abuse at the hands of my parents, grandmother, and peers.  It was frightening for me to experience such intense feelings and to cry softly in the middle of the night.  I was afraid of crying too loudly because I didn’t want to wake anyone else up. 
But I fell back to sleep feeling grateful once again to the wonderful people at HOEF who have given me a second chance at life: to the residential director Beverly and her daughter for their hard work in running this transition house, to Rachel and Cheryl and Rachel’s daughters for their support, and to Julia, Gisel, and Marie for taking me into this house and making me feel loved and appreciated for the first time in my life.  I am feeling transformed day by day, hour by hour, into the free Jewish woman that I was always meant to be.  I am happier and more grateful to everyone than words can possibly say because you all have transformed my life for the better in a dramatic way in a very short time.  I look forward to going onward and upward in my journey toward personal healing and liberation and toward helping others at this house and beyond to overcome their own histories of abuse, pain, and trauma.     

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

In Memory of Esteban

I was touched, moved, and saddened when Julia opened the door to the transition house and told me it was named in memory of Esteban. Esteban was a 10 year old boy who was murdered by his own father, a cruel 75 year old man who killed his son and then himself. I know from first-hand experience how painful it is to be emotionally rejected and financially abandoned by my father. But even I find it hard to fathom that a father could be so cruel that he would literally murder his own child. My heart breaks to think of this wonderful young boy whose life was snuffed out at such an early age. I read the Spanish-language plaque in his memory. I looked at his photographs in the house. And I read some of his writings.

And I thought to myself - what a terrible, irreparable loss for humanity. Who knows what a wonderful young man he might have become. He might have become a good husband and father. He might have contributed to society as a police officer, fire fighter, teacher, Little League coach or Boy Scout mentor. Or he might have gone on to a career such as law, medicine, accounting or business. The world is a poorer place without Esteban.

Sadly we can’t bring Esteban back. But we can tell his story to the residents of this house and our society so he isn’t forgotten. And also we can keep creating programs like the transition house so other children from abusive families have the chance to grow up in freedom, get an education, and improve their lives. Esteban’s legacy is helping other kids have the future that he was so cruelly and unjustly denied.

How I Ended Up at the Transition House at Heaven on Earth Foundation

I had really no idea that I would be here even two weeks ago. I knew that I was reaching the end of my patience when it came to living with my maternal grandmother, but I honestly had no idea where to go. Living with grandma was becoming increasingly intolerable, but I thought I needed to endure it another 8-12 months. Why? Because my best friend in Boston, who so kindly agreed to take me into her home, is happily married and the adoptive mother of a wonderful 5 month old son. As all parents and anyone who is familiar with infants can tell you, a five month old baby will guarantee you a long period of almost total sleeplessness. I was thinking of waiting about 8-12 months until my best friend’s son turns 13-17 months old so that I could sleep through the night.

But then two of my friends and fellow abuse survivors urged me to act sooner. One of my friends on face book, a female abuse survivor, said to me that I was crazy to endure another 8-12 months in this hell. And also my Egyptian male friend, a child abuse survivor from a radical Islamic family and a former political prisoner who served four years in prison, really challenged me to leave this hell once and for all. He said to me, You know, my 19 year old girlfriend has left her abusive family. So why haven’t you left already?

And so inspired by my two friends, I put out a posting on the site USA Survivors of Sociopaths, which is primarily a group of domestic violence survivors in South Florida on face book. I said that I was looking for a place to stay for 8-12 months. And literally within 20 minutes I got back a response from Julia at Heaven on Earth Foundation telling me that her organization had a transition house in an undisclosed location in Miami-Dade County and I should call her after 6 p.m. if I was interested in it.

Then she told me to call her after 8:30 p.m. on a Friday night - and this was a dilemma for me as a religious Jew because it means breaking the Sabbath. But I thought that it was worth it for me to break one Sabbath so that I could continue to live and enjoy myself on future Sabbaths. In fact Jewish law actually commands you to break the Sabbath in order to save your life or another life because breaking one Sabbath allows you to live and observe more Sabbaths in the future. So following this logic and knowing that I was saving my life in the emotional realm and putting an end to 35 years of horrendous captivity and abuse, I made the call. I guess the rest is history. In Hebrew we would say that this is Bashert, and it was meant to be. That it was ordained by G-d.

Day 10 of Freedom

Today is Wednesday, July 6, 2011. It is also day 10 of my freedom, and it has been one of my most enjoyable days so far. It started off well enough when I woke up around 10:40 a.m. I washed my hair for the first time in freedom and I could feel myself beginning to cleanse myself in body and soul from a lifetime of captivity, cruelty, and abuse. It was an amazingly wonderful feeling.

I spoke to Beverly this morning about when she or Julia or Gisel would be able to take me to Boca. Seeing that I had a fair amount of stuff, she said they were trying to fix a van so they could arrange to take me to Boca to pick up my stuff. I have no idea when they will be able to take me to Boca, but I am so grateful and happy to be here.

And so this morning I did my laundry for the first time in freedom. I had to borrow some detergent and stain remover from Cheryll and with this I was able to do a small load. It was really easy and really great to do my laundry for the first time in freedom today. The washer and dryer reminded me of the fancy washer and dryer in my mother’s house and I am so grateful to the people who paid for this house so I can do my laundry comfortably. Cheryll was also kind enough to help me by washing my towel along with her other towels, and I thank her for that help.

I threw up a bit last night from nerves but that is to be expected given the amount of stress involved in leaving behind a lifetime of captivity. For the first time since I left my abusers, I was able to do some substantial intellectual work for a few hours which allowed me to forget the abuse for a while. I have been following the freedom uprising in Syria with great interest, and so I did some research on the latest developments in this uprising. I looked at YouTube videos of Syrian soldiers and officers who were defecting from the Assad regime in detail because I believe a split in the army is one of the key necessary factors for removing the Assad regime from power.

I wrote three pieces on Syria today. One was my transcription of excerpts of some noteworthy aspects of the testimonies of these defecting Syrian officers’ and soldiers stories. One was an analysis of the latest developments in Syria with an eye toward seeing when regime change will happen. And one piece was an assessment of what a post-Assad Syria might look like. Anyone who is interested in reading about the intricacies of Syrian politics can check out my political blog here:

Today I spoke on face book with a newly single mother whose abusive doctor and soon to be ex-husband reminded me of my father. She is a mother of two sons from her abusive marriage, and I discovered something unfortunate about mothers who are fleeing abusive relationships. It is much easier for me as a single childless woman to flee my emotionally abusive parents and grandmother than it is for a mother to flee her abuser. The reasons for this reality are numerous. First of all, the mother has to figure out a way to support herself and her children, whereas I don’t have the pressure of having to support children.

But more importantly, the mother who flees an abusive relationship can never really fully leave her abuser behind. I don’t ever have to see my abusive parents and grandmother again if I don’t want to. But unfortunately the mother will be forced to see her abuser even after her divorce because he is also the father of her children. And her children will also unfortunately be exposed to her abuser because even a divorced father has a right to see his children. Therefore the mother can never fully separate from the abuser because he remains a part of her life and her children’s life.

In addition, my friend was encouraging me to pursue the career possibilities which are open to me as a person with Asperger’s, a neurological disorder which is characterized by high intellect and very weak social skills. I was advising her about how to help her 12 year old son, who has such a severe form of Asperger’s that he is afraid of all social contact including even visiting restaurants and stores. She suggested that I could be a counselor for families of children with Asperger’s. I have no interest in this career path but she and I agreed that I could be a very good writer on Asperger’s and that I could use my writing to help parents of children with Asperger’s to understand the inner world of their kids. She suggested I get in touch with her son’s therapist, and I intend to do so shortly. I feel so blessed and excited to be finding new career possibilities every day in freedom.

Later on my Spanish teacher called me and asked me how I was doing. I told her I am doing very well here but I am not yet ready to look for work as a Spanish to English translator. She offered me her total and unconditional support, but she couldn’t really understand my decision to separate fully and completely from my family of origin. She had a hard time understanding that my parents deliberately treated me with intense, calculated, and planned cruelty and that they rejected me as a daughter and a human being. She could hear the joy and pride in my voice and could sense how satisfied and happy that I am feeling already.

Finally today I was speaking to Beverly. She showed me a book which explained to me a little bit about her career. I didn’t realize that she has spent 35 years working with kids in different capacities and that she thoroughly enjoys working with children. Her book explained about the various activities that she plans for the children under her care, which include allowing young children to plant a garden. She also laid out in great detail the educational objectives of each activity in terms of helping the children to develop physically, cognitively, emotionally, and socially. I wish I had a mother like her. And I wish my early childhood education had been so rich and so carefully planned by such a compassionate, caring, and involved instructor.

The book also explained her many experiences, degrees, certificates, and qualifications in regards to working with children. Beverly had so many different experiences for such a long time working with kids that I could not remember them all. The book contained letters of reference from gratified mothers of the children she cared for, and also from some of the older children themselves. She told me the sad and moving story of one child that she took in - a pregnant 14 year old Mexican girl. That girl’s story saddened me so much because her life possibilities were effectively snuffed out from under her when she was just a child. Beverly helped care for the young mother and her baby but I couldn’t help thinking of how many options were closed to that young teenage mom at such an early age. She also included some poignant and sad letters from a young imprisoned father of one of the children she cared for. I felt sad for this young man whose life chances were also limited by both his unstable family environment and his own poor choices.

I also saw the beautiful pictures of the many kids that Beverly cared for as a foster mother. I could see the joy in the eyes and hearts of these young souls that Beverly took under her care. She loves all people - as shown by the fact that she takes in needy children of all races - black, Hispanic, doesn’t matter. She took in the 1 ½ and 3 ½ year old daughters of an exotic dancer for a few years. She also took in a black boy with Downs syndrome for I think it was five years. I only wish she could adopt some of these kids so they could have a permanent and stable mother to love and care for them.

Beverly also wrote several pages describing her career path in detail. She is outstanding in working with people as shown by how many of her supervisors have liked her work so much that they invited her to move with them to their new jobs. I only wish I had Beverly’s social skills. It also struck me that Beverly was subjected to a great deal of sexism and sexual harassment in her career. I was saddened and sickened that the Mayor of one City that she worked for told her to shut up and just allow herself to be taunted by her colleagues. She ended up suing the city and was out of work for two years, which was a very trying and difficult experience for her as a single mother of her daughter Kristin. I got to know Beverly even more as a person through looking at this album and got to appreciate her talents in caring for children on an even deeper level.

I am so happy and grateful to be staying at the transition house at Heaven on Earth Foundation. I am grateful to Beverly every day for her hard work in taking care of the six young girls at this house, and I thank Cheryl for her daily support and Julia, Ibis, and Gisel for their warm introduction to this house and their constant help.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Day 9 of Freedom:

Today is July 5, 2011. It is day 9 of my freedom. I slept very well last night and woke up early this morning at 9:06 a.m. feeling refreshed and happy. I spent my morning with the girls in the house. I encouraged Ceci to read to me from a book about dinasours. Ceci did a great job in reading to me.

Then I showed her and Tink pictures of Washington, D.C., and told them about major figures and events in American history like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, the Vietnam War, and World War II. I asked Ceci why we celebrate July 4th, and then I told her about the Declaration of Independence. I had Ceci on one side of me and Tink on the other, and they sat spell-bound as I showed them pictures of the major sights of Washington, D.C., and explained the historical significance of the sites to them in language that I hope young children can understand. Eventually little Isabella joined us as well. I realized that I wanted to help give these girls in the transition house the kind of love and attention that I was denied as a child. I felt an inner sense of healing in reaching out and touching these little girls in a positive way. I also encouraged Mary and Sophia to read their compositions to me.

Later on I got to meet with Gisel in person for the first time, and that was a great pleasure. She told me that she had four daughters aged 13, 14, 15, and 16, and I asked her how she was able to handle four teenage girls. She and I joked that an overnight stay at her house would be the best form of birth control available. I look forward to many more personal conversations and times spent together with Gisel, and I really appreciate her support.

I also got to meet with Marcela’s friend Patti and her mother Margot. I got to speak to Patti and Margot in Spanish and learn about their family in Lima, Peru, and Miami and Patti’s work as a journalist for a Peruvian newspaper. This was another healing move for me today. Today writing my story was cathartic also.

Julia asked me about what kind of research jobs at FIU interested me, and I told her that I needed more time to decompress before applying for research jobs at FIU.  I am taking things hour by hour at this point and not ready for major commitments yet.  But I appreciate her support too.   I also got a lovely and moving note from Ibis which lifted my spirit. 

I am still waiting to travel back to Boca to get my stuff, but the bottom lines is I am happy here and enjoying the safe environment in this transition house.   

My family of origin

I am glad to be finally able to refer to my family of origin. Because my family of origin has almost nothing in common with me morally, emotionally, spiritually, financially, or any other way. It was the place where I was involuntarily born and forced to live among strangers who hated me and wanted to destroy me from the first day of my life virtually.

I was born into an upper middle class Jewish family. My parents are ambitious, upwardly mobile Jews from Queens. My parents were married in 1973. They lived for a year in Guadalajara, Mexico, where my dad studied medicine. In 1974 they moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, so my dad could attend medical school and my mom could attend law school. I was born in 1975 while my parents were in graduate school.

In 1977, my parents graduated from medical school and dental school, and my dad entered a residency program in internal medicine. In 1979 my brother was born. In 1980, my dad finished his medical residency, and then we moved to Boca Raton, Florida, where my dad opened a medical practice.

Our first house was nice -and not too large. And then once my dad’s medical practice took off, then we moved into a fancy house.

Unfortunately, the material prosperity did not match the internal hell of my childhood. The problem began at birth. The first problem for my dad is that his first child was a daughter. And his mother had so severely emotionally abused him as a child that he developed a pathological hatred of women, and so he took out his rage at his toxic and evil mother on the two women closest to him: his wife and daughter. I think my dad rejected me at birth because by virtue of being female, I reminded him of his mother.
My dad’s mother was a thoroughly evil and toxic person who never did a kind thing to anyone in her entire life. My dad is the youngest of four children and is younger by at least 7 years than his next-oldest sibling. He is almost certainly the result of an unwanted pregnancy, and his mother rejected him from birth. She treated him clearly with intentional cruelty and intentionally denied him any kind of love, respect, and dignity.

He is basically a big abused child who is still hurting inside that his mommy never loved him. Even after he graduated from medical school, married, and started a family, his evil mother wrote him back and told him that she loved her other children better. So no matter what he did or accomplished, his mother never gave him the love he so desperately needed. And so he passed on his rage at his mother to his wife and daughter.

An additional problem from my parents‘ viewpoint is that when I was born with a mild cerebral palsy because I didn’t get enough oxygen to the brain during the birth. I treat this as a minor disability, but my parents clearly have always treated it as a major defect. They have viewed me as defective virtually from birth.

And rather than accept the fact that I was born with mild cerebral palsy and this reality limited my athletic ability to some degree, they tried to force me into athletic activities for which I was totally unsuited. So they forced me into gymnastics in 2nd and 3rd grade even though I have virtually no flexibility. I finally was kicked out of gymnastics as a 4th grader, much to my relief and my parents’ rage.

But my parents attempt to force me into gymnastics rather than accepting my very mild physical disability foreshadowed their later attempts to force me to conform to standards that I would not or could not meet. Rather than loving and accepting and embracing me for who I am, they were continually trying to force me to conform to their own expectations for what type of life I should have. And when I couldn’t or wouldn’t meet those expectations, then they responded by rejecting and abusing me in horrendous ways.

My parents practiced a very sick and controlling kind of conditional love in which the child clearly got the message that our job was to make our parents happy, not to pursue our own hopes and dreams. From an early age, I got the message that I would only receive my parents’ love if I was able to meet their expectations for me. When I was 12 years old, I told my parents that I knew one day they would stop loving me once I stopped conforming to their expectations, and now I know that this has come true.

Seeing my talent in music, they tried to force me to become a classical pianist. I took piano lessons at age 9 to 12. Unfortunately, my piano teacher was a frustrated and unsuccessful concert pianist who took out her disappointment in her career aspirations on her students. This teacher was the kind of insane perfectionist where you could do the piece 99.9% perfect, and she would immediately zero in on the 0.1% that was not perfect. She would berate you so severely for that tiny mistake that you would be convinced you played the whole piece wrong.

Although I was a talented pianist who won a Florida state piano competition at age 11, I grew to hate piano because I associated it with the tyranny of my parents and piano teacher.

I was severely tormented by my peers in middle school and high school. I went to two different private schools: Pine Crest where the style of female tormenting was open public humiliation and taunting and Saint Andrews where the girls systematically shunned me for being an intellectual Jewish girl who had no interest in boys or clothes. I passed my high school years in a state of profound emotional loneliness that came from being tormented at home by my father and at school by my peers and by the school administrators.

During my middle school and high school years, my clashes with my father became much more frequent. My dad would yell at me constantly and I tried to fight back by yelling back at him. My mother did nothing to protect me from my father’s very vicious verbal assaults. I will never forget one horrendous day in 7th or 8th grade when my dad dropped me off at school and told me to drop dead. This day is so deeply seared into my mind that I can remember it as if it were yesterday.

My teenage years were spent in an emotional war zone when I was the family scapegoat, and my father early on got the message from my mother that I was fair game for almost any type of horrendous emotional abuse that he could dish out. I begged my mother constantly to get a divorce so that I could live in peace without my dad terrorizing me, but unfortunately my mother was too afraid of having to support herself and too conditioned to accept male emotional abuse to take any action to protect me from my father.

Realizing that my mother was not going to do anything to save me, I decided that the only thing I could do was to try to save myself. Unfortunately, I soon discovered that this was much easier said than done.
I attended a leading university with dreams of becoming a Russian history professor. From ages 11 to 18, while other girls were busy hunting for boys, I spent my time reading anything I could get my hands on about Russia. My first letter to Russia was a condolence card for the 1989 death of my hero the late Dr. Andrei Sakharov, father of the hydrogen bomb, brilliant physicist, human rights activist, and 1975 Nobel Peace Prize winner. I thought I would earn my PhD in Russian history by age 29 and become an assistant professor and then tenured professor by age 36. I thought I would marry while working as an assistant professor and celebrate my achievement of tenure by giving birth to children.

Unfortunately, my dreams of becoming a Russian history professor were shattered when I was only 18 years old. In my freshman year of college, I clashed with a very powerful professor in Russian studies and I made the mistake of publicly criticizing him in class for his consistently immoral defense of Stalin’s genocidal policies. I clearly did not understand that I was upsetting another powerful male ego through my inappropriate behavior. But when he gave me a B in his course as punishment for having criticized him publicly, I knew that my academic career dreams were over.

At that time I didn’t really understand what had happened to me. I didn’t realize that I had acted inappropriately because I have Asperger’s, which means I have a combination of very high intellect and very weak social skills. And I didn’t realize that I had a toxic view of particularly male authority because of my father’s extremely severe emotional abuse against me. Today I know that actually a professional career in academia was never a possibility for me because I have Asperger’s and thus I lack the key skill which is needed for career success in academia, namely the ability to wade through the minefields of office politics.

And I have come to accept this reality because now I know that I was born with Asperger’s and that my inability to work in an office is caused by an irreparable social skills deficit and an almost total inability to read social cues and interpret body language.

When I entered college, I vowed to myself that I would never return home after college. I entered college with the foolish self-confidence of thinking I could do any work I dreamed of. I thought that once I entered the work force, my problems would go away because I would find an employer who would accept me for who I am and allow me to use my intellectual skills to better the organization.

In my senior year, I launched a desperate and unsuccessful job hunt for a corporate job. I went on about 60 interviews and went through such horrendous rejection that I responded by overeating and my dress size rose from 12 to 16 as a result of overeating. When I graduated college without a job, I was devastated because I knew that I was being sent back to the very same hell at home that I had tried so desperately to escape. I felt trapped by rejection in the corporate world for reasons that I didn’t understand because I did not yet realize I had Asperger’s.

I cried at my college graduation and did not really attend the ceremony because without a job I didn’t want to graduate. I came home in a state of total despair, and within weeks of my graduation, I was forced to flee my house. My dad subjected me to intolerable and terrifying forms of verbal abuse, and so I fled to Boston to accept a job at a bank. Unfortunately, once I got to Boston, I was overwhelmed with the double transition to a new apartment and a new job.

I remember six weeks of total sleeplessness. I also remember that I networked successfully within the bank and received a special position that only one employee every 1-2 years out of hundreds of employees received. My job in 1997 was to study the implications of the Euro which was scheduled to be implemented in Europe in 2000.

Unfortunately, I clashed with one of the managers and ended up crying on the job. I was fired from my first job on my 22nd birthday just 3 weeks into the job. I was devastated. This incident marked the beginning of a long and horrendous ordeal in the office work place where I was fired from job after job after job for lacking basic social skills. I was fired from at least four jobs that I can think of off the top of my head in 1997, 1998, 2003, and 2008. I lasted ten weeks at the longest of these jobs.

I was diagnosed with Asperger’s at age 25 but did not accept this diagnosis until a few months earlier. For many years I did not want to accept the diagnosis because its implications are stark and painful: they mean that I cannot function in an office setting and therefore cannot pursue a wide range of careers such as law, accounting, business, stock analysis, and most of all my dream career in academia. Asperger’s is a painful diagnosis because it severely limits your career options, and there is no way around this.
I used to think that the only way to make a living was to work in an office because the most common careers that interested me required working in an office. I thought I was condemned to live as a terrified prisoner in my parents’ house because I was unable to become financially self-sufficient.

I made my first attempt to attend counseling in late 2002-early 2003 when I was 27 years old. I went to a Jewish counseling agency in New York City and thought I was making progress for a few months. Then I was horrified when I saw the form that the counselor had filled out where she indicated that the problem was “family conflict.” She was drawing a false moral equivalence between my father the primary aggressor and me as the primary victim and implying that my father and I were engaged in mutually destructive combat with equal responsibility for both parties. She refused to acknowledge that my father had abused me because the forms of abuse were verbal, psychological, and emotional, not physical or sexual.

Unfortunately, this counselor operated according to the logic of moral equivalence which poisons international relations. This logic suggests a moral equivalence between Israeli Jewish terror victims such as women and children and their Arab Muslim murderers. The logic also suggests a moral equivalence between genocidal murderers such as Saddam Hussein and their victims. And it also suggests a moral equivalence between Iraqi Shi’ite civilians who are blown up at Friday prayer and their killers.

After this devastating experience, where the counselor did not even acknowledge my suffering, I did not go back to counseling for another three years. I resumed counseling at the age of 30 when I attended FAU for graduate school in taxation. My parents pushed me to attend this graduate program in hopes of once again sending me back into the office workforce where I had failed so many times before. I told the professor that I could not work in an office - and begged her to tell me if I could earn a living in the field of tax without working in an office. She said it was possible to make a living in tax without working in an office but very difficult. I reluctantly attended the tax program in hopes that I could find a way to earn a living in the field with my own business.

While earning my degree in taxation, I also applied for and held a job as a research fellow in economic development. This job was one that paid well - and I flourished at it because it involved phone-based research and also financial calculations. I got along very well with my supervisor and worked on two projects. One was understanding Community Land Trusts as a mechanism for workforce housing and also suggesting ways for Palm Beach County to raise funds for workforce housing. The other project involved projecting the property tax base for Palm Beach County through 2020. This experience was my best job so far, and my parents told me not to apply for it because it didn’t involve tax. I know that I am great with research and can do it as long as I am not working in an office. Now this is the kind of job I am seeking - writing and research that involves Spanish and/or Russian and also Spanish to English document translation.

My parents repeatedly tried to pressure me to work for the IRS. Their reasoning was sound enough: it is an intellectually stimulating career which is good for a woman and allows a woman to combine career and family. However, my parents forget to take into account two minor facts. One, I don’t want a family of my own. Two, the IRS career is not suitable for me because it involves public confrontations with dishonest taxpayers, both individual and business, that I would find very upsetting and distasteful.
During my time earning this degree, I attended counseling with a super-tough Israeli Jewish woman who was good in some ways and bad in others. She helped me in two key respects. First of all, she helped me to realize that my mother was colluding with my father against me and was a co-perpetrator alongside my father against me rather than a co-victim of his emotional brutality against women. It was a very eye-opening revelation to begin understanding that my mother was part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

The other thing that she helped me to realize is that I had unconsciously picked up and imitated my dad’s verbally and emotionally abusive behavior. I used to do things like scream and yell and slam doors and make a scene which I learned from my dad - and which I didn’t even realize were inappropriate behaviors. I thought these were normal forms of fighting because they were definitely the norm in my family of origin. She helped me to begin learning to take responsibility for my own actions and make sure that I did not abuse my parents or others in the same vicious way that I had been abused.
I remember the counselor telling me that she had a hard time listening to my story because it violated her stereotypes of a loving Jewish home, or the Jewish concept of Shalom Bayis, peace in the home. I told her she should not be surprised because some Jewish children grew up facing physical and sexual abuse too.

Unfortunately, her counseling of two years contained at least two major defects which proved very harmful to me in long run. First of all, she was a cognitive behavioral therapist. This meant that she focused on making temporary fixes to my behavior without understanding the underlying root causes of my behavior. I remember asking her on several occasions if we could explore my history of severe emotional child abuse because I thought that my emotionally inappropriate behavior was ultimately caused by this history. I wanted to talk to her about my memories of growing up as an emotionally abused child, and she would not allow me to do this.

The other problem with this counselor was that she gave me the false illusion that I could successfully work in an office. As a result, after earning my masters degree in taxation, I made the mistake of taking a job in a small tax firm in South Florida. I was 32 years old. I told myself that if I succeeded in this job, I would continue in the office work place. Given my painful history of failure in the office setting, I also vowed to myself that if I failed in this job I would not ever return to work in an office again.
Unfortunately, I got stuck with an emotionally abusive boss who failed to train me in the complex mechanisms for using tax software and who yelled at me every time I made even minor mistakes in processing returns. Within ten weeks, he ended up asking me to sign a form that explained all mistakes and gave him cause for firing me. I quit the job before I could be fired as I saw the handwriting on the wall.

One week after I lost this job, my parents pressured me to enter a training course for H&R Block so I would learn how to prepare tax returns. I told my mother that I didn’t want to attend this course because I thought it would bring back painful memories of being so recently fired at my last job in tax. I remember that I was fired on August 18, 2008. I went to the tax course exactly one week later on August 25, 2008.

On the way back from the tax course, I was so emotionally distraught that I drove very unsafely. I made a U-turn into oncoming traffic. I was hit from the side by another car, and my car was completely totaled. In addition, the airbag didn’t open, and I was knocked unconscious for 20 minutes.
When I came to, I was being pulled out of the car by EMTs. I had major bruises on almost every part of my body. But at least, unlike my dear friend from college who died in a similar car crash at age 28 where the airbag didn’t open, I was alive. And I was not only alive but I had no paralysis. I was not stuck in a wheelchair and I had no brain injury either.

I knew that I had survived by some mysterious form of divine intervention. I remember telling my mother when I came to from the accident that I was spared so that I could pursue a career as a Russian political and historical document translator. But before I could launch myself in this career, I first needed to recover from the accident. I had to learn to walk again, and I was in such severe pain that I could not get in and out of bed, I could not turn on my side in bed, I could not do my own laundry, I could not prepare my own food, and I struggled to get on and off the toilet. I had to learn to sleep on my back because I could not turn over in bed. I also could not go in and out of the shower without assistance and excruciating pain. I remember three weeks in a wheelchair and five weeks after that with a walker. I remember being so tired that I often slept in the middle of the day. I also remember my parents took wonderfully loving care of me at this time, which surprised me because of their generally severely abusive treatment of me. It took me about 3 months to recover from this accident.

Unfortunately, my parents soon resumed their abusive behavior toward me after I finally recovered, and so in response I moved to my maternal grandmother’s house in Century Village in early 2009. I saw an amazing article in the Wall Street Journal dated February 28, 2009. It indicated that Raoul Wallenberg, an amazing Swedish diplomat who rescued up to 100,000 Hungarian Jews from the Holocaust in l944 before disappearing into Russian custody in January, 1945. According to the article, Wallenberg’s half-brother and half-sister were still searching for him, and also they had substantial evidence that Wallenberg might have been alive in 1960 in Soviet captivity or even later.

Raoul Wallenberg was one of my childhood heroes which my maternal grandfather had adored and taught me about as a young child, and grandpa went to his grave convinced that Wallenberg was still alive. Many years later, I now think he was right. I wrote a 70 page paper about the Wallenberg case which I have not yet had the time to post on the research site for the Wallenberg case - and my own thinking is he was probably alive in 1960 and 1964 and possibly alive in 1970 or possibly even later. I think he must have died before 1985 because otherwise Gorbachev would have released him.

I met a Venezuelan Jewish woman and I was going to work with her on setting up a GMAT course for Venezuelan students who were looking to acquire US MBAs so they could work for U.S. companies and escape the repressive and anti-capitalist Chavez regime. Unfortunately this project fell through because the woman insisted on total control of the project and thus working with her sounded unwise to me.

Then the Iranian people began their freedom uprising in the summer of 2009, and I thought about pursuing a PhD in Iranian studies so that I could support their struggle and one day possibly travel to a free Iran. Unfortunately, I flunked a practice GRE because I am still afraid of pursuing an academic career in light of my negative and traumatic experience in Russian studies at college. And also Iranian studies today is dominated by sympathizers of the current regime who honestly can’t understand that no Jew can safely travel to Iran under current conditions because the Iran Islamist regime is openly dedicated to the destruction of my people Israel and the Jews.

So in April, 2010, I resumed studying Russian language in a serious fashion. I faced a choice between studying Russian or Persian or Arabic. I got interested in Arabic to try to understand the Quran and its commentaries. I got interested in Persian because of the Iranian freedom uprising. And I have a lifelong interest in Russian history and culture which began when I was only 11 years old and participated in the tail end of the Soviet Jewry movement in the late 1980’s. I had to ask myself, which language would I continue to study come hell or high water, and the answer was obviously Russian because of my long-standing passion for Russian studies.

I had studied one year of Russian in college, but that was 13 years ago and so I had forgotten almost everything I learned. I resumed my Russian language study in April, 2010. Within a year, I had reached an intermediate reading knowledge of Russian. I had studied at home and with a little practice from Russian-speaking neighbors. Now when I read Russian historical and political documents, I can often although not always understand 80-90% of what I am reading. I can’t translate it word for word yet although I am working on this skill.

I recently also underwent 2.5 years of additional counseling, including from one counselor who lasted for 2 years until my parents stopped paying her fees because she challenged my parents’ emotionally abusive treatment of me. Most recently I have attended low-cost counseling at the Association for Community Counseling in Delray Beach, where the counselors are nothing short of fabulous human beings. And so I have become a stronger human being.

What are my goals and dreams now? First of all, to write my story as a Jewish survivor of severe emotional child abuse from an upper middle class family so that I can inspire other survivors of both domestic violence and child abuse, both male and female. In addition I want to share my story with the wonderful folks at Heaven on Earth Foundation who took me in and are helping me every day so they can understand the dynamics of verbal abuse in an upper middle class Jewish environment. I also want to make my story available particularly to Jewish psychologists and counseling professionals and non-Jewish counselors who work with Jewish abuse victims so they can better understand the particular cultural dynamics of emotional abuse in a Jewish home environment.

Second, I would like to do research for a professor at FIU on Latin America because I am fluent in Spanish and very familiar with the history and culture of Latin America. And there might be other research opportunities for me at FIU and University of Miami as well.

Third, I want to apply for Spanish to English translation jobs. And fourth, maybe with a little more study I can apply for English to Spanish translation jobs.

Now that I have an intermediate knowledge of Russian language, I can apply for research jobs that require knowledge of Russian.

In addition, I am tracking events in Syria and Iran closely and supporting the freedom uprisings in both those countries. I also maintain a blog on Iran and Syria and in support of Israel and the Jews and of global human rights. In the unlikely event that a free Syria not only liberates itself from Assad’s tyranny but also establishes peace with Israel and the Jews, I will learn to speak Arabic and then fly to Syria so I can write a book on Syria’s freedom struggle.

In short, having liberated myself from a lifetime of severe emotional abuse at the hands of my parents and grandmother, I am now looking to become a self-sufficient and independent woman. I am also looking to use my experiences as a survivor of emotional child abuse to help other survivors of abuse of any kind, whether from a spouse or partner or from parents.

Finally, I want to express once again my gratitude to the wonderful folks at Heaven on Earth Foundation who have taken me in and given me an opportunity to pursue my dreams at a safe environment. I thank Julia, Beverly, Ibis, and Gisel for your help, and also Cheryl for her support as well.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Sunday July 3, 2011

I am so glad to be here in the safe house - its nice to know that people here care about me -that the abuse is finally over- my stomach burns and I can't sleep - but thats ok - thanks to Beverly, Julia, Giselle, and Cheryl for opening your home and hearts to me - for giving me hope again - for helping me to start dreaming big dreams again for the first time in many years
Sunday, July 3

June 30, 2011-July 1, 2011

This was the best and most liberating decision I have ever made for myself. For the first time I am not living in fear anymore - no one can pick on, batter, harass, or yell at me anymore. No one can terrorize me anymore. And no matter what happens, I’m not going back to slavery.

I am a free human being for the first time in my life - and I am looking forward to a new day - a new dawn, a new life. I am now able to make my own decisions for the first time in my life. I have finally freed myself from a lifetime of captivity and slavery at the hands of emotionally abusive parents who have terrorized me in a deliberate and calculated fashion my entire life.

I am now a survivor. I am no longer a victim. The abuse is now part of my past and not part of my present or part of my future. I can think for myself - I can find my own ways to earn a living - and I can become the person that I am meant to become. My stomach still burns, but I am confident that I have done the right thing - and now I have a new and wonderful life to look forward to. This is one of the hardest but also one of the happiest days in my whole life.
Friday July 1, 2011

going to tell the parents and grandma tomorrow about my decision - by phone and in the safe place to stay - I will ask someone from the org to be there with me for support when I make the call- maybe I am scared of breaking my ties to my abusive family of origin forever - but I know its the right move and I'm not ever going back to slavery and captivity
Thursday June 30-Friday July 1, 2011

Before travelling to transition house - Thursday morning, June 30, 2011

I am taking the freedom train today - today is day 4 of my freedom - I can't wait - I am staying over for a few nights in the transition house to make sure its right - and then coming back to get my stuff and move in there permanently - i won't be on the computer again til Sunday -or Monday - I don't want to take the computer with me - that will only raise their suspicions -

i slept so well last night - and I feel soooo good walking up to the morning of freedom - it day 4 of freedom - and I am truly facing a new dawn - and I am so excited and happy - and I decided to postpone the conversation with my family - until I am certain that I am staying in that transition house - in fact i am thinking that maybe I will do the conversation first with grandma and then with mom and dad by phone while I am at the transition house on Sunday - this way I will be doing the conversation with my folks from a safe place - and if they respond by abusing me - then i can just hang up the phone -

Day 3 of Freedom - June 29, 2011 - Wed

tonight I cleaned my room in grandma's house - for the last time - and grandma wondered why I was cleaning at night - I couldn't tell her - I planned it all very carefully - while at the movies with my family - I stole a private moment with my male cousin who supports me to tell him my plans - and swore him to secrecy - he liked my plan and supported me and promised not to tell anyone - and I had panic attacks today - but this is to be expected - I went to the South County Mental Health Center in Delray today for the last time and happily told them my news -and also - I spoke with a Haitian male social worker who offered me great encouragement, support, and perspective - I felt so happy inside today knowing I am free - and also - once I finished cleaning - it was my head that cleared and my mind and soul are ready for the freedom journey
later that night....I am sweating again - and panic attacks again - but I am going forward no matter what - I am going to freedom and this is my goal, my dream, and my life - I am claiming my birthright as a human being - the right of freedom of speech - to speak freely about how my family has terrorized me in the past - and how I am finally overcoming the legacy of their calculated and intentional cruelty and deception toward me -

Day 2 of freedom - Tuesday June 28, 2011

I am in day 2 of freedom - the second day of the rest of my life - yesterday morning the transition house at Heaven on Earth foundation confirmed my ticket is reserved - and I feel so safe - its hard to explain - I know its meant to be - and I know I am free - I am now an abuse survivor - not a victim anymore
I booked a seat on the underground railroad for female survivors of domestic violence and child abuse - and I can't wait to board the train - just the knoweldge that my slavery / captvitiy is over is such a huge relief - I have panic attacks but this is to be expected - I am determined to live in freedom - and I am happier than I ever though I would be

I am traveling to the freedom station on Thursday night to stay overnight in freedom - and I am most thrilled -thank you OP - and thank you Kareem - and thank you G-d and thank you Elana - and thank you the Heaven on Earth Foundation and Julia and thank you Mike I. and my Nigerian male friend thank you my new friends Wahleyah and Nikki and others - thank you Stephen S. and thank you Mark K - thank you Kineret and thank you Rabbi EW - and thank you Dorothy R. and thank you my new friend Cheyenne and Megan Clark - and Lorraine - and thank you Dawn and Luis

First Steps to Freedom

wish me luck tomorrow morning - I call a transitional housing shelter to arrange an appointment to visit with them -Sunday June 26, 2011

I am going to move to transitional housing in about a week - its with the heaven on earth foundation - in undisclosed location in Miami-Dade county - I stay overnight with them on Thursday night
Monday June 27, 2011

I have to laugh

This decision to seek my freedom is at least several months in the making.  About four months ago, grandma threatened to throw me out of the house if I dared to speak to Arabs and Muslims.  I'm a Jew and also a proud religious Zionist, but in her narrow-minded worldview, grandma thinks that all Arabs and Muslims are Nazis.  Therefore she thinks that if I have Arab and Muslim friends, I must be a self-hating Jew and an enemy of Israel and the Jews.  Of course she doesn't understand that I have both Shi'ite and Sunni friends from Syria, Iran, Iraq, and the USA who support Israel and the Jews. 

She doesn't grasp the fact that I spoke with a pro-Israel Syrian Muslim opposition leader in exile and asked him to consider speaking up for compensation for the Syrian Jews who were forcibly expelled and murdered primarily in 1947.  She doesn't understand that my Iranian friend just fled Iran because she is a follower of Ayatollah Boroujerdi, an unusual cleric who supports separation of religion and state, peace, democracy, and gender equality and doesn't hate the Jews.  She doesn't understand that my friend was tortured and imprisoned by the Iranian regime for having contact with me as an open Zionist Jew.  She also doesn't realize that I am only in contact with the tiny minority of Arabs and Muslims who are pro-Israel and pro-Jewish in the first place.  

When grandma threatened to throw me out of the house, I threatened to move to Boston to stay with my best friend and her husband and new baby.  My amazing friend offered to take me in even though she and her husband had just adopted a new baby.  I knew by then that it was only a matter of time before I left my grandmother's house.  My parents responded to my threat to move to Boston with a promise to buy me an apartment.  For a few months, they also stopped terrorizing me psychologically for the first time in my life.  The fact that my parents had the capacity to stop terrorizing me psychologically shows that they knew exactly what they were doing when they subjected me to so many years of horrendous emotional and verbal abuse.  It shows that they worked in a very cold, calculated, and cruel fashion to harm me in body, mind, and soul with their verbal abuse. 

Once they thought they had lured me into complacency, all of a sudden my parents broke their promise to buy me an apartment on the bogus grounds that they could not afford it.  This is simply bullshit because my dad is a physician, and he just bought my brother a dental practice and an apartment.  My brother will pay my parents back for the apartment with his earnings from his dental practice.  My parents' calculated deception in this case was another painful reminder that I could not trust them.

And when grandma subjected me to seven vicious verbal assaults in a matter of 9 days, I simply responded by making immediate plans to leave this abuse.  And indeed once I actually fled the abuse and moved into the transition house at Heaven on Earth Foundation, my mom was suddenly promising me this apartment all over again.  My parents must think I am a complete idiot if they honestly think they can lure me back to a lifetime of captivity with such a blatantly false promise.  I know that they have no intention of ever buying me an apartment and that they are dangling this offer before me as a ruse. 

In addition I have begun to taste freedom - and I like freedom better than slavery, captivity, and deliberate and planned emotional abuse from parents and grandmother who reject me as a daughter and a human being.  I know that I am better off without them because in my parents' case, they clearly do not love me and cannot accept me for who I am as a human being.  Throughout my life, rather than embracing me for who I am, they have been trying to force me to conform to their own image of me. 

In my grandmother's case, she loves me dearly but she does not and cannot understand me.  She raised her two daughters to believe that women exist to serve men and that men can and should verbally abuse the women under their control.  I reject the starkly horrendous implications of grandma's patriarchical ideology, in which women are objects of male control with no right to be treated with love, dignity, and respect by their husbands and sons.  Grandma continually tried to socialize me to accept this barbaric worldview, and I reject it thoroughly.  At least though I can say that in her own imperfect way, grandma does love me.  She does love me although she can never understand me or my worldview.

Day 5 of my freedom - July 1, 2011

Today is the fifth day of my life in freedom. I got to the safe house last night. I had trouble sleeping last night because I knew that today was D-Day for me. I feel so safe at this place and internally that I told m parents and grandmother the truth about my decision.

Grandma’s reaction was one of confusion but also silent support. She had seen that I was leaving - as I had packed up all my stuff from her house in a bunch of pillowcases and one suitcase type bag.

Mom’s reaction was one of surprise and confusion. Mom wanted to try to bring me back and I told her it was out of the question. I had originally planned on 30 days or even 60 days of no-contact, but my mother requested to keep in touch with me by phone once a week. I said yes she could keep in touch with me by phone once a week - on condition that she does not attempt to convince me to come back. She reluctantly agreed to this condition on my part - and if she violates it I will stop taking her phone calls.

My dad expressed rage at having lost control of his victim, and his reaction was only a powerful confirmation that I had made the right decision to leave him behind. I heard him yelling at my mom in the background as he spoke to me - and as he has yelled at her for his whole life.

My friend tried to tell me to reconcile with my family - and I told her it was out of the question. She didn’t really understand my decision at all.

I got support from the receptionist at my parents’ synagogue, from one friend, and from one of my professors.

July 2, 2011 - Day 6 of my freedom

Today is day 6 of my freedom. Yesterday I went food shopping with Cheryl, and I spent a total of $37. I spent almost $10 for 72 Shabbos candles which to me is a wonderful investment as it means I will have enough Shabbos candles to last me for 36 weeks or 9 months, and I am allowed to stay at Heaven on Earth Foundation for up to 9-12 months. So I now have enough candles to last me for the rest of my stay at Heaven on Earth Foundation. Cheryl took me shopping right before Shabbos, so it worked out perfectly.

I want to take this opportunity to formally thank the directors Julia and Beverly for inviting me into this home and program. I am incredibly grateful to them for all their support and I appreciate all they have done and continue to do for me and for the other residents at the house. I also want to thank the board member Ibis for picking me up at the train station, taking me out to dinner, and then taking me home to Heaven on Earth Foundation. Ibis is a lovely mother of 3 children and I enjoyed meeting her a lot. She gave me a copy of Poder magazine and encouraged me to pursue my career dreams and helped me brainstorm about my career options.

I was very deeply moved when Cheryl told me that prior to my arrival, the Foundation had considered admitting a pregnant woman and also a single mother and child. I pray particularly for the pregnant woman and her baby, and I looked at the baby crib with some poignancy. I also pray for the mother and child.

This week was my first Shabbos in freedom, and I took the opportunity while lighting the Shabbos candles to thank Hashem for having granted me this incredible opportunity to live in freedom for the first time in my life. I slept well last night for the first time since my arrival and woke up at 1 p.m. since I needed my sleep so desperately.

One of the main signs of my stress from a lifetime of living in a state of captivity and abuse was a nearly constant stomach problem. The tension in my body tends to manifest itself in my stomach, and I was incredibly relieved that I was finally able to go to the bathroom easily last night and today particularly. I took it as a sign of my bodily healing from a lifetime of trauma and terror.

I was supposed to be driven to Boca to pick up my stuff and then come back to the transition house tomorrow by Julia, but she got busy and so I was told that I will be driven to Boca on Monday to get my stuff by Beverly This is fine wit me as it gives me one more day to rest in the safe house before making the trip to and from Boca, which is a long trip both ways.

Today my stomach burned constantly, and then I realized it was because I am just beginning to face the depth of rage that I feel toward my family of origin for having deliberately terrorized, battered, brutalized, and abused me throughout my life beginning in early childhood. I am angry at my parents for rejecting me as a human being and a daughter from birth and for depriving me of parental love and denying me the happy childhood that I deserved. I think that my parents never loved me, and this is a very painful realization. At this point I don’t love them either, and in fact I am so angry at them that I can honestly say I hate them for the barbaric emotional abuse that they inflicted upon me in a calculated, deliberate, and intentionally cruel fashion.

I am so angry at them that at this point I don’t want any phone contact with them for at least 30-60 days. I don’t want to lash out at them at a time when I am so angry that I am not able to look at their behavior objectively, and thus I just need time to process what they have done to me and heal from the horrendous abuse that they perpetrated against me.

I plan to email my mother in a few days and inform her of my decision, and frankly I don’t care what she says. My parents are a toxic poison in my life, and I need to separate from them so I can heal from what they have done to me. I regard them as an evil wind to be avoided at all costs. I have no wish for revenge against them; I just want them out of my life so that I can begin living in freedom and I can recover from the vicious and intentional ways that they harmed me.

I also realized that I don’t eat very much these days because I have lost my appetite. My family of origin is Jewish, and I am also a proud Jew. But one of the problems with Jewish culture is that no matter how your family treats you, they overwhelm you with food. Also food is regarded as a means for mothers and grandmothers to express love for their children and grandchildren. For me an overload of food is associated with abuse because in my family, no matter how things were going emotionally, you could be guaranteed to receive an overload of food.

I used to receive fish, chicken, pot roast, meat balls, vegetables and fruits of all kind - and that doesn’t even count the gargantuan Shabbos meals. The truth is I don’t miss all this food because it is so thoroughly intertwined with the worst and most toxic sort of emotional abuse, both intentional and unintentional.

If grandma knew how I was eating now, she would be horrified. The supermarket where I went to shop - they had no kosher meat - and so that meant no meat for me. In a way that meant I could save money. So what do I eat now? Cheese and/or cereal for breakfast, tuna fish and blueberries for lunch, and peanut butter and jelly sandwich for dinner. I’m not starving by any means, and the bottom line is I am happy where I am. I don’t need all that food to make me happy.

I am most happy because I know I am in an emotionally safe and loving environment where I can begin to process my pain and work on my issues - where I can begin healing in body, mind, and soul, from a lifetime of trauma and terror. I am happy to be here. This place is a fancy suburban house in a non-descript neighborhood in Miami-Dade county. The house is very big, and I grew up in the same size house as this one. Except in that house we had two parents and two children and way too much extra space that no one needed or used. In this house we have 5 women, 6 minor children, and 1 adult child. So all that wasted space is going to help people who are genuinely in need. And I am glad to be sharing life with them.

Responding to the Jewish healing prayer for an abuse survivor

Today is July 4, 2011.  It is the 8th day of my freedom.   I am a survivor of horrendous emotional child abuse and a religious Jewish woman.  I am currently staying at the Heaven on Earth transitional shelter in an undisclosed location in Miami Dade County.

 I want to respond in detail to the material contained in this prayer for abused Jewish women.

The text contains one section that deeply troubles me:

"In a situation where both the batterer and his victim belong to the same synagogue or chavurah, public declarations would assure the battered woman that the Jewish community supports and welcomes her."

This approach is contradictory and wrong.  By allowing the batterer to remain in the victim’s synagogue, you destroy the victim’s sense of safety in that community.  I was enraged when I told some women in my shul that I was being severely verbally abused - and their response was to invite my parents who were battering me into the synagogue. I knew clearly that these people did not care about me or my safety - and that they were perfectly willing to endanger my safety to gain the income from my wealthy parents.

Also I was extremely moved to learn that one suggested ritual for an abused woman entering shelter is to say the Shehechiyanu blessing.  When Julia and Ibis picked me up at the train station on Thursday to drive me to the shelter, I celebrated my freedom by taking their hands in mine and saying precisely this prayer.  They were deeply moved that I invited them to share this prayer with me. 

I also thought about benching Gomel, or saying the prayer after departure from a dangerous situation.  I wanted to say this prayer but could not remember the words.  Jewish women customarily recite this blessing after giving birth, and I felt that this prayer is appropriate for me because leaving the abuse behind is giving me an incredible rebirth on so many levels.

First of all, I spoke to my Russian history professor yesterday, and he told me that he thought I could apply for Russian language research jobs now.  I am not yet ready to translate Russian documents into English because I need to work on my knowledge of Russian grammar.  But when doing research on Russian documents, I can usually understand 80-90% of the content.  So I am going to apply for these jobs in a few weeks.

Second of all, I am living in Miami and am fluent in Spanish.  This means not only that I can speak to the Spanish-speaking residents of this house in their native language and thus make them more comfortable.  It also means that I can apply for jobs at the local university, FIU, in research related to Latin America.

Third of all, I am thrilled that Giselle told me last night that the Heaven on Earth Foundation is going to help me fulfill my professional dreams.  I can't wait to start working with them soon on this.

Finally, I will be addressing the board of Heaven on Earth Foundation in a few weeks to tell them my story.  I hope to help them understand the dynamics of verbal and emotional abuse in an upper middle class Jewish household which is characterized by extremely rigid gender roles and pathological male hatred of women.

I would also like to make one more point here.  The article suggests saying the Shehechiyanu blessing upon both entering counseling and leaving the abuse.  I think this suggestion is misguided because entering counseling and leaving the abuse are two very separate and distinct stages in the healing process.  Entering counseling means taking the first step toward acknowledging that you are being abused and making the first attempt to help yourself end it. 

But in my case, it took me five and a half years of counseling before I finally found the courage to leave the abuse behind.  I was in counseling amid an abusive situation for all that time before.   Leaving the abuse behind by physically leaving the abuser means that you are mentally and physically putting an end to the abuse - and only once you take that step can real healing begin.  For this reason, I think that Jewish women fleeing abuse, whether partner/spousal or child abuse, should only say the Shehechiyanu blessing upon physically leaving the abuse behind forever.Sh  heche