Friday, September 9, 2011

rebecca's unsent letters to her family of origin

July 13, 2011

Dear Dad,

I think that you have rejected me from birth simply because I am a girl and thus I remind her of your mother who brutalized you practically from the moment of your birth. Your mother made it very clear to you that she rejected you as a son and a human being because you were the result of an unwanted pregnancy and you were so much younger than your older siblings. No matter what you accomplished in life, your mother rejected and condemned you. Your mother hated you from birth and clearly never loved you.
Basically I think inside you are a bruised little boy who has never received any love and affection from his mother. Instead of coming to terms with what your mother did to you, you have taken out your rage on your mother first at your wife, my mother, and then at your oldest child who had the misfortune to be born female. Since your mother bullied you from a young age, I think that you have taken conscious pleasure in bullying me from a young age.

I don’t think you were ever capable of loving me because you never came to terms with how your mother terrorized and brutalized you. Inside you are basically a frightened child who does not feel internally safe and who takes out his rage on the females closest to him.

I am angry at you for not loving me, for rejecting me, for terrorizing me, for treating me like the family punching bag. I am angry at you for spanking me when I was a small child and telling me you were doing it to
me for my benefit. I will never forget the day when I was seven years old and you were angry at me for some forgotten offense. You told me,”I hope one day you will have children just like you.” I knew even at that young age that I would never have children.
I can never forgive you for telling me, “you are not my daughter.” The brutal and intentional ways you hurt me are simply cruel and unforgivable. And also I can never forget the horrendous day that you dropped me off at school and told me to drop dead. How do you think this made me feel? I walked into school in a state of sheer terror, crying hysterically. This happened when I was about 12 or 13 years old, but I remember it as if it were yesterday, dad.
The ways you used to scream at me and terrorize me in middle school and high school are also unforgivable. I remember screaming at you from the top of the stairs and you yelled back at me from the bottom of the stairs, and this was a horrendous memory. How do you think it felt for a frightened teenage girl to spend all day being bullied and terrorized by her peers at school, only to come home to her own father brutalizing her even more severely than her most barbaric peers? How do you think it made me feel to know that my own father was bent on destroying me in body, mind, and soul? How do you expect your daughter to cope with the knowledge that her own father hates her more than anyone else in the entire world?
I am certain that you never loved me because when you love someone, you don’t go out of your way to terrorize and brutalize them in a calculated, planned, and intentional fashion. You don’t try to break a person you love down in mind, body, soul, and spirit. You don’t gain perverse pleasure out of destroying them and making them suffer. I think you are a cruel human being because of the deliberately abusive way you have treated me throughout my life. You are not sick, dad. You are cruel because basically I think you know what you are doing to me and you enjoy hurting me.
You think that you can justify this cruelty toward me because you pay my bills. Well, you know what, the hundreds of thousands of dollars you have spent on private schools and Brown University and all my post-grad expenses can never make up for the way you brutalized me in the emotional realm. I know that you are not capable of loving me because of what your mother did to you, but I wish you had been a father to me and not a brutal tyrant who terrorized me. I wish you had not been the most dangerous, toxic, and cruel person to me in the whole world.
I also find that the way you have brutalized me in the post-grad world has been in some ways even worse and more severe than the ways you brutalized me in high school. I won’t forget the fact that I graduated college without a job and came home, and you terrorized me so severely that I was forced to run away from home to try to take my first job in Boston.
I can never forget the fact that in 2003, you terrorized me at the family Passover seder, and you made me so frightened of you that I didn’t spend another Jewish holiday with you for 8 years. I can also never forget the way that you terrorized me on the cruise in 2008 to celebrate grandma’s 90th birthday. I know that hurting and brutalizing me makes you happier inside than loving me ever could do for you because you attack me so deliberately and so often.
You also stopped paying for both my counselors because they challenged the vicious way you were treating me and because you felt threatened by the way that they began to help me liberate myself from you. Then you stopped paying for my psychiatric medications, which made me feel even further abandoned.
And then when I threatened to run away from home to go to Boston a few months ago after grandma threatened to throw me out of the house, well then you pretended to help me in such a fucking deceptive manner. You promised me that you would buy me an apartment in Florida - and you also treated me with dignity and love and like a daughter rather than as the family punching bag for the first time in my life for around three months. The fact that you were capable of ceasing your abuse and brutality against me for three months and treating me with love, dignity, and respect only proves to me even further that you knew exactly what you were doing when you terrorized me. It makes me realize that you terrorized me because given the fact that I couldn’t work in an office and therefore was not financially self-sufficient, I was so financially dependent on you that I would never find the strength to walk away from you. If you had not known what you were doing to me, if your abusive actions and policies toward me had been unintentional and unconscious, then you would not have been capable of turning your brutality toward me on and off at will in
an attempt to manipulate and control me.
Basically you regarded me as the family punching bag, and you thought the price for financially supporting your unemployed daughter was that you could terrorize her at will for your own pleasure and enjoyment. I also now know that your promise to buy me an apartment was just a ruse and a deception method to lure me to remain with you in Florida. I know that you never had any intent to buy me an apartment because as soon as you thought you had lured me back under your control, all of a sudden you broke your promise to buy me an apartment. You also lied to me in the most blatant fashion possible, claiming you couldn’t afford to buy me an apartment even though somehow you had $600,000 lying around to buy Jason a dental practice and another $175,000 available to buy him an apartment that he would pay you back for.
When you announced you were retiring in a year even though you knew that I would not be self-sufficient in a year, I basically knew that you were abandoning me. You don’t care what happens to me basically. You decided to retire because you knew that Jason was set career wise and you only want him to succeed and not me.
Once I had actually fled from you, then all of a sudden you had mom talking about buying me an apartment
again. I know you have no intention to ever buy me an apartment, and your promises to me are totally worthless. I want no revenge against you for having terrorized me, but I want you out of my life so you can’t hurt me anymore. I am finished with you because you don’t love me, and I don’t love you either. It is impossible to love someone who hates you and gets pleasure out of terrorizing and hurting you.
Thanks to your lifetime campaign of emotional brutality against me, I will never get married and have children. Your brutality has thoroughly destroyed my interest in getting married and raising children, and you frankly don’t deserve grandchildren. You have punished me enough, and I won’t have kids because then I know I would be permanently trapped under your roof with no chance of ever escaping from your brutality. After what you have done to me, I don’t even want to think of how you would brutalize your grandchildren.
I hurt more than words could ever say for what you have done to me. And the saddest part about it, dad, is that you are not even sorry for what you have done to me. You are pathological, and you feel not the slightest amount of remorse for having deliberately terrorized your daughter for her entire life, for 35 long and horrendous years. You feel no regret for what you have done -and in fact I think you are actually proud of what you have done to me. It is profoundly sad to me that some men who committed first degree murder and are serving life sentences with no possibility of parole are more sorry for what they did to their victims than you are for what you did to your own daughter. If even these murderers are capable of some limited degree of remorse for their crimes, why aren’t you?
Dad, I have a hard time understanding why you have been so deliberately cruel to me for so long. I know that you have no feeling in your heart for me at all, no compassion for me whatsoever, or you wouldn’t have done these things to me. I am crying as I write these words to you, Dad. I know that you have enjoyed watching me suffer in the job world because it only confirmed to you that the outside world hated me as much as you did, and therefore it gave you even more reason to justify to yourself your decision to terrorize, brutalize, and reject me.
You can be sure that you are not going to get your victim back because I am not returning to you no matter what happens to me. You have done more than enough deliberate and calculated damage to me. I know you don’t miss me; you are just sad about the loss of your victim, and you are trying to get your female property back so you can punch her some more. I want you out of my life because you are not capable of loving me and because your brutality toward me is so severe and intentional that I could never feel safe in your presence.

Ms. Rebecca Witonsky

my family of origin

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 an Ivy League 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.

rebecca new post

July 2, 2011

Today is day 6 of my freedom. Yesterday I went food shopping with C, 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. C 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 C 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, 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.


Day 11 of Freedom
Rebecca Witonsky
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Today is day 11 of freedom. So far today has been characterized by minor sources of frustration. The main problem has been that our Internet access has been temporarily disrupted. For C this is a major problem as it makes it more difficult to do her paid work as an appointment setter. For me this is more like an inconvenience as I would like to find information on possible research areas at FIU and to post my entries on my emotional child abuse survivor blog. I also purchased an on-line subscription to the Wall Street Journal and would like to read it.
But still I can find ways to be productive even without the Internet. For instance, I will read the rest of the magazine Poder which Ibis gave me when she and Julia picked me up at the train station last Thursday. Later on I might also read my Russian language book and even possibly learn or review some Russian history vocabulary words. I can also write about my experiences as I am doing right now.
Last night I had a bit of trouble sleeping, and so I went downstairs three times to eat more food. I realized that actually the problem was I was hungry and didn’t know it. Since moving to the transition house I have been eating far less food than in the past and yet I never felt hungry. I think that now that I am beginning to feel better and safer inside - my appetite is beginning to return. Last night I had headaches from hunger - and so I ate a pack of crackers and three pieces of cheese. Once I had the cheese, I felt full and fell asleep almost immediately.
This morning I was very constipated and tired, and so I simply stayed in bed for a longer while than usual. I feel much better now that I was finally able to go to the bathroom. I am longing to walk outside for exercise so I can be outside and move my body. But with the rain coming down in sheets this morning, it is impossible to go outside right now. I am happy here because I can eat when I’m hungry, sleep or rest when I’m tired, and work when I am able to do so and at my own pace. I don’t have grandma yelling at me when I am resting in the middle of the day and calling me a parasite or sicky, and so I feel much better.
Also I now know how grandma feels when I froze her out of her own apartment. One of the main conflicts between me and grandma when I lived with her was about the air conditioner. I always liked it cold, and she always liked it hot. And so every time I would turn down the thermostat, grandma would put on her winter pajamas, and this was going on in the middle of the summer. Now I am so happy at the transition house, and yet I am also always freezing. So I spend all day and even all night wearing my black jacket - and many days and nights in my long pajamas simply so I don’t freeze. I think of grandma as I experience all this.
C said every resident is supposed to wash her sheets and make her bed every week. To me this is a natural requirement of daily living, and so today, since the Internet is down and I can’t do much work anyway, I will wash my sheets and make my bed. I have now been staying here in the transition house for a whole week as I arrived last Thursday night, and so it is time for me to wash my sheets and make my bed.

Day 10 of Freedom

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 C 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.
C 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 C for her daily support and Julia, Ibis, and Gisel for their warm introduction to this house and their constant help.

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.
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.

Jewish abuse survivors

Healing Ritual for Abused Jewish Women
By Faith Rogow
Victimized women often feel rejected by, or uncomfortable within the Jewish community. We offer a healing ritual by F.R. Solelo in which the Jewish woman is assured that she is not alone and through which the community can demonstrate its compassion and concern. During a public ritual, Solelo suggests adding the phrase "victims of family violence" to the list of those mentioned in their public prayer for comfort or healing. Additionally, they might add "For the sin wherein we have sinned before You by battering women and children" to their recitation of the "Al Chet" on Yom Kippur. By including the issue of domestic violence in public worship, the community acknowledges its responsibility to combat that violence. 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.The private ritual offered by Solelo aims at affirming the battered woman's attempt to change her situation, and assuring her that she has the inner strength to create a new life for herself. Solelo acknowledges the importance for battered women to establish security in their new lives while coping with an array of complicated issues. She therefore suggests that healing rituals for battered women be both simple and familiar.
Healing Rituals for Battered WomenWhen a battered woman first seeks counseling or enters a shelter, she could join a counselor in saying the blessing for delivery from danger:Blessed are You, Holy One, Source of Life, who bestows great goodness on me. Amen.
Or she could affirm the beginning of her new life by reciting Shehechiyanu:
Blessed are You, Holy One, Source of life, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this day. Amen.
Entering counseling is the first step toward freedom - but entering counseling while in an abusive relationship means you are still in captivity.
The second step would be to add a special prayer to a personal ritual the woman already performs, such as lighting Shabbat candles. Possible texts for such prayers appear below:
Holy One, bring me comfort,
For I have seen terror;
Cradle me and I will feel safe,
Heal me and I will become strong,
Nurture me and I will grow.
You have taught me that to do righteousness and justice
Is more acceptable to You than sacrifice.
You have taught me that, with You beside me,
Fear is not eternal.
Help me to live by Your teachings.
Blessed are You, Holy One, Source of Life,
Who guides, who protects us, who sustains us.
(based on Psalms 6 and 21)
In distress I called on the Source of Life,
You answered me and brought me relief.
God is on my side, I have no fear;
What can man do to me?
With God on my side as my helper,
I will overcome my foes.
I shall not die, but live
And proclaim the works of the Holy One!
(from Psalm 118)
As with the Mourner's Kaddish this added prayer is meant to ease the woman out of her distress, and like the Kaddish should be read as part of a year-long cycle – weekly for six months and then monthly for six months. The final recitation of the cycle should be marked as a quiet victory celebration. The following, a reinterpretation of a text traditionally understood to applaud subservient rather than independent women, might be added to, or replace the text the woman had been reading:
I am a woman of valor,
My arms are new with strength.
My hands will plant vineyards;
With dignity will I tend them,
With laughter and with wisdom will I make them grow;
And I will seek goodness all the days of my life.
(based on Proverbs 31)
It would be appropriate for the woman to read this aloud to a small circle of friends, perhaps at a Shabbat dinner they have made for her. The group could respond with the phrase "Chazak chazak v'nitchazek – From strength to strength are we strengthened." Here, as in the phrase's traditional context (the completion of public reading of a book of the Torah) the words remind us that new insight brings new power.
The woman should also be encouraged to make a contribution in time, goods, or money to her local crisis center or shelter for battered women as an expression of her new strength and as an acknowledgement that she participates in the ongoing cycle of healing, as a healer as well as one healed.
Rabbi Sandy Sasso has created a ritual with a Unitarian Universalist minister which is also aimed at aiding the victimized woman to feel welcomed by her religious community and to find acceptance and affirmation:
GATHERING(Music may be selected to open the ceremony, to set a mood for the gathering.)
NAMING OF WHO WE AREBlessed are you in your coming. We bless you in your going forth.
(Members of the community alternate reading, concluding with the woman for whom the ritual is being enacted. She adds her own personal statement.)
I am Abraham's concubine, Hagar, cast out in the desert.
I am Lot's wife, who stands eternally accused of disobedience.
I am Jacob's daughter, Dinah, whom history blamed for her own rape.
I am Jepthah's daughter, still a child, who was sacrificed for a father's rash vow.
I am the young girl who was beaten and raped at the hands of laughing soldiers.
I am _______________...
(Alternative poetry may be chosen)
A Reader :The first rain –
a plethora of freshness
with no sign of Cain.
And agony will no longer
whisper to my soul:
I am the king.
No longer will it say:
I am the ruler.
Each and every drop
is a link
between me and things,
a link
between me and the world.
And when night conjures up the abyss,
the abyss conjures up
fields and gardens.
I have known hands raised against me
hands that beat me down
hands that cause flesh to tremble.
Community:But hands can be raised in blessing
Hands can lift up
Hands can cradle and embrace.
(After every reading of Miriam's well (below), a member of the community pours water from a pitcher into a bowl over the woman's hands three times. Some may choose to do a completed immersion in a body of flowing water [Mikveh]).
Woman:From Miriam's well I draw cool waters of sustenance.
Community:Miriam's well watered the earth
So it grew trees
Lush with fruit, herbs, fragrant with perfume and grass
Soft like pillows.
Its waters tasted sweet, of milk and honey.
Woman:From Miriam's well I draw sweet waters of healing.
Community:Water is God's gift
To cleanse, to purify, to sustain, to renew, to bless.
Woman:From Miriam's well I draw sacred waters of renewal,
Now life.
(A wand of sage, sweet grass or cedar, or any combination of spices and herbs may be used for ritual purification.)
Community:All that has been shamed, disgraced, abused
Your face, your arms, your breasts, your womb is sanctified again.
Woman:This is my body, my face, my arms, my breasts, my womb
Created in God's image
Not to be defiled –
A sacred trust and holy.
BLESSING (Alternative poetry may be selected.)
A Friend:The sky is soft as a grandmother's quilt, fleecy as sheep – sheep as you imagine them to be, not as they are.
The leaves and grass are soft, too.
They seem to heal you with their green fingers, their heady perfumes rising.
The wind will open its arms,
the field will catch you in its lap,
they will rock you, rock you like a baby as you dreamed it in your deepest longing,
not as it happens when you wish for it but as it's told in an old, old story,
a story you were born knowing and later forgot.
(Marcia Falk)
Community:Our hands are joined (raised) to hold you, to lift you up,
to bring you blessing, now and always.
May God bless you and keep you.
May God show you kindness and be gracious to you.
May God grant you a life of blessing, of healing, of peace.
A community meal may be shared at the end of the ritual.
Used with the permission of the author. First published in When Love is Not Enough: Spousal Abuse in Rabbinic and Contemporary Judaism, by Rabbi Julie Ringold Spitzer (The Women of Reform Judaism, 1991.)
July 2, 2011
Day 6 of my freedom

This 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.

HOEF resident reflections

Dear Heaven on Earth Foundation
We were asked to write a letter about our feelings regarding the house that we are so very blessed to reside in.
The one thing that stands out here is hope. When we arrived, we were emotionally half-dead. Today, just a few short months later, we all have hope. Hope that we will no longer suffer at the hands of a man.
The house, and the many people keeping it afloat, allows us time to heal and move forward. The hope of a brighter future slowly starts to appear. Although things aren’t happening as quickly as I would like them to, I must remember that it took me 12 years to get here, and self-sufficiency does not happen overnight. One thing at a time. One day at a time. We are safe. And going to sleep at night knowing that we are not going to be hurt is a new, wonderful feeling.
The Resident Director, Beverly, is amazing. She is the glue that holds all this together. She watches as emotionally unstable women and their kids come through the door and is instrumental in helping us become healthier women and mothers, productive members of a family. I look up to her so much. If I can become half the woman she is, then I am doing pretty good. She has helped rebuild my girls’ self-esteem and worth. And taught me the fundamentals of being a good mother.
Dear Heaven on Earth Foundation:
I have been living at this house for less than two weeks, and yet it is the most wonderful experience of my life so far. I am a single, childless 35 year old survivor of extreme emotional child abuse at the hands of my father, mother, and maternal grandmother. I have been welcomed into this home with open arms by the resident director, Beverly, by Julia, Gissel, and Ibis, and by all the women and children living in this wonderful safe house.
The thing that stands out for me is the spirit of mutual support and cooperation that pervades this house. I have no car, and so my neighbor Cheryl takes me food shopping all the time, and today she will take me to the T mobile store to see what is wrong with my cell phone. I came here with no laundry detergent or shout, and so Cheryl let me use hers to do my laundry until I was able to buy my own. Also Marcela has joyfully shared with me her delicious tuna pasta, and I in turn bought some aluminum foil and shared it with the whole household here.
I am happy to be here every single day. I wake up every morning knowing that I am in a safe place, that my parents and grandmother can no longer call me names, put me down, or make me feel bad. I am feeling healthier and stronger every day in this house, and I am incredibly grateful and happy to be here.
Naturally no discussion about this house would be complete without a detailed mention of the wonderful work that the resident director, Beverly, and her daughter Kristin perform here every day. I have watched Beverly as she has taken care of Rachel’s four daughters, guiding them with love and discipline and support. She has been the guiding force behind the well-designed child care program in this house, and her 35 years of experience with children and her obvious love and compassion for kids come through every day.
One of the most healing aspects of this house for me is the opportunity to give the young girls in this house the love that my parents never gave me. I have the chance to let Serenity, 6, read to me each day - and also to be a mentor and friend to Tink, 5. I love watching these kids grow up in safety and freedom with their mother Rachel.


day 12 of freedom

Day 16 of Freedom
Today is Tuesday, July 12, 2011. Today is also day 16 of freedom for me. Unfortunately we have been without Internet access now for nearly a week, and I am frankly getting sick and tired of not only having no Internet access but also no indication of when the Internet access will be restored. Since I have no easy way to get to Boca, and I am thinking that no one will be able to get me to Boca until next week, I am decided that today I will go to the MetroPCS store and buy myself a phone with Internet access. This way I will finally be able to get Internet access that can’t be cut off arbitrarily again.
Once I have Internet access again, then I can call up Walmart and have my prescription transferred. I can also call up a mental health center and see about setting an appointment with them. And I can also look for work with FIU. I am even thinking that maybe since I have no idea when I can return to Boca to get my stuff, perhaps I should also start reconstructing my resume so I can begin a job search of some kind. I can also follow the news so that I know what is really happening in Syria and Iran and Israel and Africa.
The most exciting development yesterday for me was that I finally found kosher chicken. For nearly two weeks I have been forced to live on tuna fish, eggs, and macaroni and cheese. I found kosher chicken in the supermarket last night when Cheryl took me there, and I was so happy. I also bought my own cooking pan, and of course I will need plastic knives and paper plates as well. I was so excited about finally finding kosher chicken that I was not fully prepared in terms of buying the things needed to eat the kosher chicken, which explains why I forgot about the paper plates and plastic knives.
I have never had to purchase my own food in my entire life from my own funds, so this is a new, scary, unsettling experience for me. I notice that I look at the prices of what I buy now that it is my own money I am spending. I was much more angry at the rotten strawberries that cost me $4 than I would have been before. I truly hate throwing out food too. I have spent around $140 on food so far in the past two weeks, which means I am staying on budget as far as food expenditures go. I had planned to spend up to $400 a month on food, and so I am keeping to budget as well. I buy more food in bulk in order to save money where possible, and I look for specials as well.
I have enjoyed spending time with the children as it allows me to bond with them and to heal from my dad’s horrendous abuse against me. Serenity, 6, was telling me yesterday that her dad used to hit her and also push her on the stairs. That is so horrendous. She asked me why I was so sad, and I told her it was because my daddy was so mean to me. She asked me if this is why I was here, and I said yes. I told her my daddy was very mean to me, and my mommy and grandma were also very mean to me as well. She said she never met her grandma. She asked me if I had ever gotten married, and I said my dad was so mean to me that I have no interest in getting married.
On Saturday night Serenity polished my nails with a little help from Tink, and also yesterday Tink, Serenity, and I did a puzzle together. I am happy to have these kids in my life. I am busier working today than I have been in the past.
I am also decided that I do not want to write letters to my grandmother and mother today because I will find it too painful and debilitating and upsetting. Writing to my dad was unexpectedly painful and drove me to tears, and I am still coming to terms with that loss in my life. I don’t think I am yet prepared to write to my grandmother and mother at this point in time.
The last two days I was waking up way too late at 1 p.m., and so I decided to break this unhealthy habit by setting an alarm for 9:30 a.m. I actually woke up today at 10 a.m. after my best friend Elana called me. I missed her call, but I am awake, and this is what counts. I also wanted to be awake for when Julia arrived here as I was told that she was going to come here at some point this morning. So far I haven’t seen her as she has not gotten here yet, but I am glad to be awake at a normal hour again anyway.
Today I will attempt to study Russian for the first time since my arrival in the house of freedom almost two weeks ago. I will see how that goes.
Yesterday we had to write letters explaining to the outside world why we are grateful to be here, and I said the thing that stood out for me was the spirit of cooperation and mutual support which pervades this house. We adults try to help each other, we share food with one another, we support each other, we talk to one another, we share our problems and concerns, and so it is very nice to be here.
I am feeling a strange and odd sense of homesickness, and I am tempted to call my family of origin. But I am decided not to do this for now because I still need lots of time to heal from what they did to me. And also I don’t want to lash out at them, and nor do I want them to know I have been feeling depressed the past few days since I began to face the depths of my father’s emotional abuse against me. In some ways I know that I could not begin to face the full extent of my father’s emotional abuse against me as long as I remained under his physical control. It was only after I liberated myself from his physical control that I could begin to acknowledge even to myself the full extent of the damage that his deliberate and intentional cruelty inflicted upon me.
I am gaining weight from the lack of exercise these last few days, and that makes me feel unhealthy. I also sometimes throw up in the middle of the night as I did two nights ago because of how emotionally upset that I am feeling. Last night I got hungry in the middle of the night and ended up eating three slices of cheese, and I would definitely say the return of my appetite is a positive sign. I want to walk outdoors in the early evening for exercise - to move my body and also get some fresh air and light and sun. I could really use this.
Each morning I re-affirm my dignity by first of all making my bed and then second of all having breakfast and then third of all taking a bath and fourth of all brushing my teeth and washing my face. All these steps are ways for me to heal from the abuse and at the same time to keep the healthy habits that I learned in my grandma’s house. I am feeling tears in my eyes coming from the sadness of the sudden and overwhelming and drastic total separation from my family of origin.
I was receiving information indicating that one of the wireless networks was connected, but unfortunately we still have no Internet access. I tried once again to get Internet access, but to no avail. The other frustrating aspect of not having my stuff with me is that I have only enough clothes to last me 4-5 days, which means I have to do laundry almost constantly. I did laundry on Wednesday and again on Sunday. I have with me three shirts which are laundry-washable, one shirt that needs hand-washing, two bras, about 4-5 pairs of underwear, two pairs of shorts, one jacket, one set of pajamas, and three or four pairs of socks. This is enough clothes for a few days - but not for weeks at a time.

Day 12 of Freedom: Friday July 8, 2011

Friday July 8, 2011
Day 12 of Freedom
By Rebecca Witonsky

Today is day 12 of freedom. I had trouble sleeping last night because I was hungry in the middle of the night, and so I came down and ate some cheese. I am so happy that my appetite is returning, and this makes me feel so good.  Last night I went food shopping with C and knowing that I was getting hungry for more substantial food and that I felt well enough to begin cooking, I bought myself my first set of eggs in freedom. I also bought aluminum foil for the household, and I bought laundry detergent and stain remover for the first time also in freedom. I decided to buy a Publix brand of laundry detergent to save money - it cost me around $3.50, as opposed to nearly $16 for Tide. I chose to buy shout because I need that particular brand of stain remover with my laundry.

I bought instant macaroni and cheese so I could have something to eat when I am too tired to cook. It was expensive at $4.19 for six packs, but I ate one late last night, so it came in handy. I also bought some processed cheese and didn’t find it filling at all, so I won’t be buying that cheese again. I will buy more substantial cheese next time I go shopping. Since I have no idea when the car will be fixed so I can go to Boca to pick up my stuff, I decided to buy myself some liquid soap. I chose to save money on the liquid soap too and didn’t bother with the fancy Dove brand.

Since the Internet was down last night, I also bought myself a newspaper and read the Miami Herald for the first time in a very long time. I enjoyed immersing myself in the news. I was reading about the famine in East Africa which has left some 10 million people hungry, including 3.5 million people in war-torn Somalia. I first saw this news about the famine in East Africa while looking at a very comprehensive Internet news site on Africa called a few nights ago - and I was glad to see this catastrophic situation had reached the mainstream U.S. press

The Miami Herald had some great articles on Venezuela and Cuba which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. The article on the black market in Cuba was particularly interesting and reminded me of conditions in the former Soviet Union under glasnost in the late 1980’s. The Miami Herald is closely watching the situation in Venezuela. Personally I hate Chavez greatly both for his oppressive policies inside Venezuela and for the fact that he is waging war on the Venezuelan Jews and on Israel. I rarely feel so much anger at someone that I hope they die of cancer, but I think Chavez has brought so much suffering to Venezuela and the Jews alike that I hope he dies soon.

The problem of course is that if Chavez dies before the 2012 Presidential elections, then it could create a very dangerous power vacuum that could end up being filled by very unscrupulous people. At the same time, if Chavez recovers physically from cancer and is able to run for another term as President in 2012, then it seems likely that he will win hands down. I have no reason to believe the election process is free and fair in Venezuela and no reason to think that Chavez and his thugs cannot use coercion in order to stuff the ballot box and remain in power. Moreover, Chavez is unfortunately genuinely popular with the mass of poor Venezuelans who believe he cares deeply about them. Poor Venezuelans identify with Chavez emotionally to
such an extent that they seem willing to overlook the fact that really he has done nothing to improve their economic condition. For instance, he has done nothing about providing housing to poor Venezuelans.

Unfortunately there was no news about Syria where I am following the freedom uprising closely, and without Internet access I cannot know what is happening in Syria. Today is Friday, the day when Syrian Muslims go to the mosque and this is also the day of the largest weekly protests against the regime. It is already around 7 p.m. in Syria, so it is likely that huge protests have already taken place in Syria. But with no Internet access, I have no way of knowing what is going on.

I saw there was an interesting article about a program to introduce black students in Miami to the many fascinating careers which are available in NASA. I think it is very important to expose poor black children to the career opportunities in the sciences, including but not limited to working for NASA. Kids from these kinds of deprived backgrounds, with often sadly uneducated teenage parents, will not be exposed at home to the many career options which are available in American society. For this reason schools have a huge responsibility to let these kids know that they can make something of themselves despite the fact that they come from such harsh and disadvantaged backgrounds.

I slept well last night and woke up at my normal time today: 10:20 a.m. It seems my body has gotten into a rhythm of sleeping at 12:30 to 1 a.m. and waking up at 10:20 a.m. So I am getting around 9-10 hours of sleep per night and waking up feeling refreshed and happy. This morning I woke up and decided to stretch my body for the first time in freedom. I stretched for about 20 minutes and felt much better. Then I went downstairs and made myself eggs for the first time in freedom. I had a wonderful breakfast of eggs and blueberries and water. I felt so good.

I had my first substantial conversation with M's 12 year old daughter I. I feel very sad for M because she is so mentally ill that she is unable to function, and in her case the roles are reversed. I is the mother and M  is the child, and in fact in the middle of our conversation I left suddenly to try to calm her mother down. I told me that she was scheduled to fly to Chile next Thursday. But then I found out from Bev that actually I can’t fly to Chile at this point because she is prohibited from having contact with the woman who is supposed to take her to Chile. This woman Ce is the awful person who invited M’s ex-husband, a known sexual predator, to a birthday party for I. So I and M are in limbo at this point. I  hope that M can keep herself together enough to find a way to get herself and I to Chile - and that Maria can avoid being Baker-acted, or forcibly confined in a mental institution in the U.S. And at the same time I know I have no control over this situation and so I am keeping my emotional distance from it.

Later update: I felt sad for I, 12, whose mother M was taken away by the police for involuntary mental treatment. I ate lunch with her and also read along with her the book about the ice skating friends in New York City. She said it was not the first time her mom was taken away like this, but I’m sure that doesn’t make it any easier for her.

Unfortunately the Internet is still down in the house, and so I cannot do my research to find out what opportunities might be available for me to work with professors at FIU. I am separating myself from the chaos in this household because I am so happy to be free of my emotionally abusive family of origin that I don’t have the energy to get involved in this nonsense. I have much better things to do with my time anyway.
The bottom line is that I am happy to be here - and I feel safe and comfortable and grateful for the support of Bev, C, Gisel, and Julia - and glad to have met Ibis too. I feel welcome and wanted here - which for me is an unusual and good feeling.

Since Shabbos is coming in four hours, and this will be my second Shabbos in freedom, I want to review my accomplishments this week. First of all, I spoke with my Russian history professor and found out that I can begin applying now for research jobs involving Russian language that pay $25 an hour. Thus I don’t have to wait another 1-2 years until I am ready to translate documents from Russian into English to apply for jobs where I can use my Russian language skills. I got confirmation from my other professor in Russian studies who has helped me learn the language that I should apply for these jobs.
Second, I did some research on the FIU web site and got an idea of the type of institutes where I could apply for virtual research jobs at FIU. As a fluent speaker of Spanish in Miami, I should have plenty of opportunities in this regard. I told Julia I am not ready yet to apply for research jobs at FIU but am working on it.

Third, I have gone food shopping with C on several occasions. I did my laundry in freedom for the first time on Wednesday and also washed my hair on Wednesday too. I washed my sheets and made my bed on Thursday.

I have also been writing a daily diary of my journey to freedom as well which is quite well received with other survivors on face book and also with the wonderful folks at Heaven on Earth Foundation. I have done academic research and written three articles about developments in Syria’s freedom uprising on Wednesday. On face book, I also spoke on I think it was Wednesday with a friend who was telling me about how I could make a career as a writer focusing on Asperger’s. I spoke with my Spanish teacher and told her how well I was doing and she was very happy for me. I am also trying to help my friend Roya with her political asylum application. I have been trying to encourage my friend Freddie, who was recently dumped by his verbally and emotionally abusive boyfriend for the second time in two years, to get his life together.
I have been trying to offer encouragement to the people in this household. I read about Bev’s work in the book she gave me and wrote something about her work on my blog. I have been a friend to C and tried to help her learn to separate herself from some of the issues and conflicts in this household. I have also read with I, 12, today and read with CC, T, and I earlier in the week.

Despite having no Internet access in the past two days, I have tried to be as productive as possible. I have been doing extensive writing on having Asperger’s and on the case of Dr. Maikel Nabil Sanad yesterday and I did a lot of writing about both my personal accomplishments and also the political issues on my mind today.
So when I light the candles for Shabbos in a few hours, I can look back with pride on a very productive and positive week filled with accomplishments. And I can look forward next week to hopefully regaining my Internet access and also traveling to Boca to pick up my stuff sometime later next week. And next week, once I have Internet access and also my computer, then I can begin a more serious job hunt. I also need to figure out about health insurance and to get some mail sent to me in Miami so I can establish Miami-Dade County residency.

Once I am a Miami-Dade County resident, then I need to obtain a library card. I also need to establish my qualification for the personal transportation service for people with disabilities. This way I can arrange to travel anywhere in Miami Dade County - to meetings at FIU or Jewish events or any kind of events that interest me. I also need to do the official paperwork to gain a driver’s license in Miami and to register to vote in Miami. I just remembered my other accomplishment of the week: I wrote about my family of origin in preparation to address the board of Heaven on Earth Foundation about my family of origin.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

My first counseling session in freedom

I am so happy that today I attended my first counseling session in freedom.  It was an amazingly wonderful experience on so many levels.  First of all, I am a different and more liberated person in only the two months since I finally left my abusers.  I feel much freer to speak up on issues that matter to me whether in my personal life or in my past history or  in life at the transition house or in the global, particularly Arab, political freedom struggle.  I feel like the management and the staff at this house have given me a sense of validating my experience that I never had before in my whole life.  To know people actually believe me when I tell them the emotional abuse was real and serious is an amazing change from a society where my pain was dismissed at best and mocked or belittled at worst.

And as I recounted to Mr. Rafael Anrrich, a counselor at CHI in Cutler Bay, Florida, about how many awful experiences I previously had in the counseling profession, Mr. Anrrich, MSW, expressed his personal sense of horror at the cruel behavior of his colleagues toward me.  I told him of my terror when my first counselor said the abuse wasn’t real because it was ‘only’ emotional and not physical or sexual.  This counselor said that in any case there was no victim and no aggressor but rather my father and I were locked in a mutual combat between two equal parties known as ‘family conflict.’   Mr. Anrrich was horrified at the behavior of this counselor and I was so glad to hear him validating my experience in counseling.

I told him how my second counselor was a well-intentioned Israeli Jewish woman who helped me in some ways but was limited in other ways because she was a cognitive behaviorist who did not understand me.  This counselor helped me understand two crucial points.  One was that my mother was part of the problem and not part of the solution and that my mother was colluding with my father against me and was not his co-victim alongside me.  The other point was that I had unintentionally learned and imitated my father’s emotionally abusive behavior because I was copying what I saw.  I used to act out in office jobs by crying and screaming and sometimes speaking in verbally abusive ways to my bosses and colleagues, and I really didn’t understand that this behavior was inappropriate.   I had to learn to take responsibility for my own actions and not to treat others abusively, including my family of origin. 

The problem was this counselor meant well but unintentionally misled me to believe that I could work in an office.  She didn’t understand and I didn’t yet accept that my Asperger’s constitutes such a severe social skills deficit that it renders me completely unable to function in an office setting where the key skill is the ability to read social cues.  And so she led me to take yet another office job after finishing my masters degree in taxation in 2007 which ended after just 10 disastrous weeks.  And the other problem is that given her training as a cognitive behavioral therapist, she lacked the capacity to help me process the traumatic childhood memories that were the underlying cause of my inappropriate acting out in a work setting.  However, the two years I spent with this counselor in 2006 and 2007 in graduate school were more positive than negative.

My third counselor was a greedy bitch who abandoned me when my father stopped paying her $200 per hour weekly counseling fee because she challenged his abusive treatment of me.  She and her psychiatrist colleague worked together against me and hurt me very deeply.  And to top it off, she called me on the phone one time and subjected me to perhaps the most terrifying episode of verbal abuse in my entire life.  She took her knowledge about me and her PhD and her 30 years of experience as a clinical psychologist and used it against me in an incredibly lethal way, hurling the four most toxic and damaging accusations she could think of against me in one overwhelming barrage of verbal cruelty.  She reduced me to hysterical tears and when I hung up the phone to shield myself from additional abuse, she called me back to continue terrorizing me.  To top it off, she then demanded an apology from me on several occasions for her atrocious behavior.  I recognized that she was an abuser because her behavior was a classic repetition of what my severely emotionally abusive father did to me my whole life: terrorizing me in a deliberate, calculated fashion and then demanding an apology from me. I never spoke to her again after this horrendous and nightmarish episode, and I was extremely frightened to return to counseling for several months after this experience.  Her behavior managed to make my dad look like an angel.   Even now, thinking back to this episode toward the end of 2010, I cringe whenever I remember what she did to me.  I saw her for two years from late 2008 to late 2010. 

My fourth counselor was a nice and empathetic Christian woman, and I paid whatever I could afford for the sessions, which was great.  I saw her from roughly March, 2011, to June, 2011.  The problem was that after seeing me in counseling for 3 months in weekly sessions, all of a sudden she announced that she was going to the Northeast for six months because she was a snowbird.  Thus, as soon as she established a trust between us, she broke that trust and left me feeling abandoned all over again.  To her credit, she did arrange for another counselor whom I also liked to see me while she was gone.  But leaving me in the lurch like this left me feeling frightened and vulnerable all over again.     

So I had one relatively good experience in counseling, two terrifying experiences, and one experience that left me feeling abandoned and confused.  Mr. Rafael Anrrich was horrified and appalled by the behavior of his colleagues in the counseling / helping professions who had left me more frightened and vulnerable than before.  He was grateful that I had given the counseling profession yet another chance by finding the courage to come see him in light of my many negative experiences with people in this field.  I told him that I had done so because in spite of the problems I experienced with counselors, I had found that five and a half years of counseling had given me enough self-confidence to find the courage to leave my abusers for good two months ago. 

He validated my experience on so many levels.  First of all, instead of writing that I had depression and anxiety due to ‘family conflict’ like my first counselor, he wrote on the paper that I had PTSD because I suffered emotional abuse from both my parents.  So he actually believed me and took what I had to say seriously.  And he took the idea of emotional abuse seriously – not belittling it or minimizing it or denying it or acting like it was my fault or I provoked it or it wasn’t important.

And I know that he really understands me.  Because I have told the story of how my first Russian history professor was glorifying Stalin by practically celebrating the murder of his millions of victims and treating those deaths like an irrelevant statistics to so many different people.  I publicly challenged my professor, and he retaliated against me by giving me a B in his course when I knew the subject as well as him even though I didn’t speak Russian yet at that point.

Almost everyone I spoke to blamed me for what happened to me.  No one understood how this powerless and traumatized this experience made me feel.  Even my mentor in Russian studies said it was my fault for publicly confronting my professor, and my mother blamed me most of all.  My third counselor practically mocked me when I told her about this experience, taking the side of this abusive professor and authority figure against me and making me feel very frightened and agitated.    But Mr. Anrrich got it immediately, and he said,”Oh.  This professor was glorifying Stalin.”  I said,exactly. I felt this huge weight off my shoulders that someone finally understood that this professor was wrong to glorify Stalin.  I have carried this wound in my soul for 17 years since it happened to me in my freshman year of college, and now I can finally begin to heal from a nightmare which has severely derailed me for many years.

I told him about how I had run away from my parents and maternal grandmother, and he said,”Oh.  You’re done with them, aren’t you?” I said yes.  I was amazed and glad that he figured this out immediately without me even having to explain it to him.  I told him I have consistently followed a no-contact policy with my whole family of origin since I left my abusers in late June over two months ago, and it has been the best thing I have ever done for myself.

I told him how I refer to my dad’s mother because she was such a profoundly and completely evil person that I consider her behavior to be beyond the pale of redemption and forgiveness.  He said that basically I was cutting her out of my family because I felt she did not deserve the honor of membership in even my abusive family of origin.  I said that was right because unlike my dad, who is basically an abusive and cruel person but who does have some good qualities, his mother was so completely evil that she had no good qualities. 

We talked about the importance of the relationship between a child and its opposite sex parent.  He drew a parallel between the way that my dad’s mother terrorized my dad and the way he terrorized me.  My dad was severely traumatized as the abused son in the mother-son relationship, and he in turn severely traumatized me as the abused daughter in the father-daughter relationship.  He said that we learn a lot about our roles, identities, and worth as a human being from our relationship with our opposite-sex parent, and I know that my dad’s lessons have been overwhelmingly devastating to me.  I had never thought of this idea before.

He said that the reason I remained with my abusers for so long was that I found some core of goodness within them despite their incredibly cruel treatment of me. I responded that this wasn’t true before I never felt there was a real core of goodness in my relationship with either of my parents, especially my father.  But I said that I remained with my parents for so many years after college because as awful as the abusive home environment was, I found the office world far more brutal and terrifying than even my dad’s abuse.  I was blind-sided by the horrendous experiences of emotional torture and cruelty that I suffered in the office setting because I did not know that I lack the only skill that matters in an office environment: the ability to read social cues.  I also found the abuse at home to be much more comprehensible than the abuse and cruelty in the office setting because given my inability to read social cues, I had no way to understand why I was being assaulted or how to properly respond to it.  He said that even though my parents house was more like the lesser of two evils than any kind of positive good, still the fact that it was the lesser of two evils to me was significant enough to keep me there for many years.    

And he said that many women conflate abuse with love to the point that they actually think a man who does not hit them or abuse them does not love them.  He said this phenomenon is particularly common in Latin America, where women expect men to hit them to a large degree. I said that I read about this phenomenon in rural parts of Africa.  I told him the story of a brave African man in Burundi who had been severely physically abused by his father and forced to watch his father brutally beat his mother every single day of his life.  This man responded to his traumatic and severely abusive childhood by becoming a male advocate for women’s rights and equality and working with men to change their attitudes toward and treatment of women.  And he found that when he dated girls and refused to hit or verbally abuse them, the girls rejected him because they thought he was not acting like a ‘real man’ and did not love them.  The girls tried to force him into their distorted concept of the male gender box and could not understand why he did not hit them as they expected him to do. 

I noted that in contrast, my mother and maternal grandmother do think a man has the right to verbally abuse a woman.  But they do not go so far as to conflate abuse with love because they do not believe that a man expresses love to his partner by verbally abusing her.  They also do not believe that a man who refuses to verbally abuse or hit his wife does not love her.