Guest Post by Yosef Bronshtein*
* Since this was first posted under the pseudonym, Yosef Bronshtein, in January 2013, the author has chosen to reveal his real name, Asher Lovy. Asher has posted several other articles with his real name on Frum Follies and now has his own blog, (Yerachmiel Lopin, August 20, 2015).
I write publicly about abuse using my real name. Thousands of people have seen parts of my story, whether online or in print under my real name. *This piece I’m writing anonymously because this is something I cannot come forward about publicly. I’m scared. I never think about this. And when I do I generally fall apart. The abuse people have seen me write about publicly has always been physical, or emotional. But I was sexually abused as well, by my mother, no less. I can’t ever tell anyone about it, they would never understand.
I’m the dirty one. It was all, my fault because I’m a pervert. I’m the one who reached into my own pants and touched myself, she never did that to me, I did it to myself. All she did was kiss me. On my neck, my arms, my ears and ear lobes, my back. Isn’t that normal? Doesn’t every mother do that? I mean how different can any of that be from a kiss on the cheek or forehead? Some mothers kiss their kids on the mouth until a certain age, and they never do what I did. I didn’t like being kissed at all and I used to try to get away from it, but isn’t that normal? Don’t kids usually avoid kissing their parents? But then why do all my now-adult friends still willingly kiss and let themselves be kissed by their parents? I don’t understand. I’m a sick freak anyway, what would I know of normal.
I mean what kind of sick freak would be so turned on by his mother kissing him that he felt he had no choice but to run off and masturbate as fast as he could, release all that stuff that was building inside him because it just couldn’t stay there. What sort of sick 4-year-old. Or 5-year-old. Or 8-year-old. Or eleven year old. What sort of sick twelve-year-old would do that just because his mother kissed him just so at the shabbos table. And right on the couch in the living room, no less. What sort of sick fourteen year old, or fifteen year old. Never mind, that when she saw me masturbating at the age of five she watched and then teased me about it. And kept watching and teasing. And never told me that what I was doing was inappropriate, just kept watching and teasing. All my fault though, because it was my hand down my own pants.
It took years for me to realize that there was a problem with my childhood. I was already aware of the physical and emotional abuse and have written about it extensively and publicly, but I never made the connection between the kisses I didn’t like, the overpowering urges to masturbate, and the things my mother did. My mother constantly teased me about sex and spoke to me about sex she had and sex I’d have.
How could any of this be sexual abuse. Me? Sexually abused? No, I was just a child who liked masturbating too much. Wasn’t I? One night I was talking to some friends in a support chat and it all came together, the effects it’s been having on my life now and the fact that I was indeed sexually abused. When I made the connection it immediately became hard to accept and it tore me apart.
The next day I couldn’t function at all because of everything that was going through my head. I was sexually abused. I was physically, emotionally, and sexually abused. I. Was. Sexually. Abused.
Then something else occurred to me. How could I ever tell this story? Who would ever believe me? When I went public with the physical abuse my closest friend’s mother told me I was exaggerating and making my story up because she knew my mother and my mother could never do anything like that. At the time I kept quiet because I was a guest in their home, but I had enough people supporting me that, although her comments hurt, I could get past them. But that, for me, is the single biggest thing keeping me from going public with my sexual abuse story. People will never believe me. They will call me sick, and perverted, a liar, a nebach. I will be that guy who did those disgusting things and then tried lying about his mother to make himself look better.
Why shouldn’t they say those things, I said those things about myself when I first found out. Truth be told, when I’m all alone and there’s no one there to contradict me, I still tell myself those things. My therapist did some exercises with me where we went through aspects of the sexual abuse and replaced my mother with an unrelated third-party.
My therapist asked me to tell her, given my age and the context of the relationship, to tell her if the acts that this anonymous third-party did to me, taking the place of my mother in these memories, were inappropriate. She backed me into a corner until I finally blurted out “yes, it looks like a foreplay scene from a movie.” I need to keep telling myself that, because it’s the only way I know that I’m not the sick one—that she is for taking advantage of me.
It has taken me this long to come this far and write something publicly about my sexual abuse and even now I can only write it anonymously. Those who know me know that writing is how I heal, and that writing under my real name is very important to me. I understand that the credibility of anything I publish under a pseudonym is iffy at best, but I hope people don’t discard it too quickly. What prompted me to write this was a discussion I had last night with someone about the Weberman trial. He told me that he had spoken to George Farkas in the Talkline studio when Farkas was interviewed by Zev Brenner. Farkas told him some “facts” about the case that made him doubt that Weberman was guilty. As we were arguing about it, he kept dismissing the credibility of her testimony and eighteen hours of cross-examination; he didn’t think that was enough to merit a verdict of guilty on all counts. As far as he was concerned, coming forward was no big deal, even after considering that Weberman was so well-respected, and that the Vaad Hatznius would do everything in its power to intimidate her into silence. Coming forward didn’t seem like that big a deal to him.
It’s a very big deal for a survivor to come forward about anything, especially publicly. What we need immediately after coming forward is validation. What we fear most, and what keeps us silent, is that people will not believe us and call us liars. Because we go through enough self-doubt in our own minds we don’t have the strength to handle it from others, especially not from an entire community. Every time someone calls a survivor a liar, it forces us to relive everything we experienced, to remember it and deconstruct it looking for any possibility that we are lying. We analyze it over and over to the point where we aren’t even sure ourselves if it happened or if we are exaggerating and making things up. As victims we trained ourselves to disregard our own emotions and to minimize our experiences so that they couldn’t overwhelm us, but as survivors that feeling never leaves. We’ve minimized our experiences to the point where our minds trick us into thinking they never existed. We blame ourselves, we doubt ourselves, and we beat ourselves up, both literally and figuratively, over whether or not it was our fault.
Coming forward and subjecting ourselves to public doubt and indifference is hell. Why can’t I come forward? Because you would never believe me. You would call me a liar. You would tell me that my mother is far too nice a person to be capable of such atrocity. You would tell me that I’m just looking for revenge against a community from which I feel disenfranchised. You would tell me that I’m trying to justify my aveiros by crying abuse.
I wish I could come forward with this like I’ve come forward with everything else, but none of you would understand. None of you would listen. None of you would care.