Browse Tag

sexual abuse

Losing Yourself & Losing Weight

personal independenceThe reflection I have done recently has helped me understand things that many adults may take for granted. Being a truly independent human being is not an inherent skill.  We come into this world and leave it very dependent upon other humans for all our needs to be met.  Regardless, I believe it an important skill to learn.  Many species give birth to their young  and leave them to fend for themselves – that is not the human experience.  As a parent you hope that you raise your children well enough so that they too will learn this skill as they mature into adults.

As a child I had to be independent to emotionally survive. This necessity created an insatiable need to be emotionally dependent, and cared for.  Unfortunately, this insatiable need left me vulnerable to the sexual abuse I suffered as a teen.   It has taken this new awakening to realize that I must return to those necessary survival and self taught skills of independence in order to truly become the person I was meant to be.

This is a very difficult emotional journey. Questions that may be simple for others are less so for me. Continuously allowing myself to become lost in someone else, in a relationship – created an individual who was not an individual, and caused damage to my soul that I am now repairing.

Losing yourself in another makes it easy to no longer care for, or take care of you. I am certain many people can tie their personal weight loss journey to such a feeling of emotional dependence. Once you begin to find yourself again, be the independent person you were meant to be, both the emotional and physical weight will slowly disappear.

It is very hard for me to be alone, or simply by myself. But these past few months have taught me not only how to cope with the difficult moments, but to embrace many of them as productive opportunities for growth.  Sure, I still have many difficult times, but when the emotions (loneliness, sadness, fear, anxiety) rear their ugly heads, I am able to work through them more easily with each instance.

Eating a meal out by yourself, seeing a show on your own, just sitting still with your thoughts and no outside influences, are all skills for me to learn or more accurately re-learn.  New circumstances present themselves daily, and as they do I am learning to find myself, my strength and joy, individually from others.

Although it has been difficult, I return once again to gratitude. I am so very thankful for the opportunity to grow as an independent individual, an independent woman. This opportunity has allowed me to reflect and really look at simple, basic questions like: who you areWho am I? Why was I created? What is my purpose? What can I give back? What are my passions, talents and skills? How can I use these to be the best person I can be, help others along my journey, and both attract and reflect positive things?

This is kin to a rebirth of sorts. Trying to remember how I found the strength as a child to be independent and answer similar albeit less sophisticated questions as I grew, has not been simple. Certainly the coping mechanisms  I turned to as a child are very different from those I have learned as an adult.  Not only are they different, but they have matured, and become healthier, more efficient and more mindful.

So here I sit, ALONE – writing, reflecting, enjoying the sunrise, the birds singing, the breeze blowing (a very productive use of alone time in my opinion – LOL).  I can be happy and not need to share the joy.  I can be sad, and not need a shoulder to cry on.  I must admit, for myself the most difficult one is anxiety. I am working on being able to say: I can be anxious and not need someone to help calm me down.  Certainly it is easier to have someone there during difficult moments, and even preferable at times. But wanting someone there and needing them there are two very different things.

I am learning. I am growing. I am so thankful for this opportunity – this fresh start, this new beginning – this rediscovery of me.

 

Some Time to Process and Respond

Well I suppose a response/reaction to the New York Times article is appropriate at this juncture. Needless to say I am not happy with the gestalt of the article.  He was given not only the first few paragraphs (during which many readers will lose interest), but he was also given the last word. Publicity for a pedophile! He admits to the abuse of many, and blames the victims. Surprise??

He states I was “highly initiatory”.  I had just turned 16. He is 10 years my senior. I NEVER initiated ANY sexual contact with this man. I was not capable of consent – I was underage, he was an authority figure, my teacher and at that point my guardian. Hell, I said “No”.  The article indicates that no charges were filed. Do you know WHY no charges were filed? Because the rabbinate at the time told us all to keep it quiet – that it would be handled internally we don’t want to cast a disparaging light upon the Jewish community.  Does this sound familiar? Catholic Priests come to mind?

Scream But No One Hears
Scream But No One Hears

He admitted (his own version) of what had occurred to his third wife.  Here is a direct quote from prior testimony given by her in another blog (I believe roughly in 2004). Insert my name into “Name Withheld”.

“Before we got married, Mordechai shared with me that he had indeed had a sexual encounter with a minor. Her name was (Name Withheld) – a teenager who was in his JPSY youth movement He explained to me details of their encounter and how he went about covering it up and discrediting her. He told me that she had seduced him. He said that they did not have intercourse, but that they had at least been undressed, sexually physical and that he had ejaculated. After (Name withheld) reported this, he lied to everyone involved, saying that she was emotionally unstable, jealous and had made it all up. He even received a document signed by a Rabbi attesting to his innocence. (Name withheld) was under-age, a student of his, and were it not for the statute of limitations, he could go to jail over this.”

I wish I could say I was shocked by things that he was quoted as saying in the article, but I’m not:

“She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her.” Huh????

“I did not” he said “represent myself as someone who didn’t sleep with students.” WTF???

He ADMITS to doing these things (blames the victims) and continues to not only get away with past atrocities, but moves from one realm to another piling up additional ones.  He repeats the same pattern time and again, learning with each indiscretion how to better manipulate and cover his tracks. Now obviously this man is intelligent enough to continue to do this, but I find it hard to believe that over the past 30 years there hasn’t been someone out there equally intelligent and influential who could stop him in his tracks.  No one cared as long as there was money to be made.

He sits in “his home office overlooking Monterey Bay” while his victims relive their abuse once again.  The survivors relive this each time this man reinvents himself, and moves on to another community of followers. His past is paraded publicly with each transfiguration – but nothing ever changes.  He continues to abuse, manipulate and hurt – somehow using his spiritual enlightenment as a defense. Now he’s “polyamorous”.

Facebook and Twitter are blowing up in response to this fluffy spineless article. I do want to thank all those out there on Facebook and Twitter who are supporting me! It is a LONG time coming (30 years!), but nonetheless it does help me feel somewhat vindicated and relieved. In today’s world of social media maybe finally people will listen, not only the global community in general (which is greatly appreciated), but maybe influential, powerful people who can put a permanent stop to his reprehensible behavior.

If I had a dollar for every lie he told, every individual he hurt, manipulated or controlled I might be sitting in a home office overlooking Monterey Bay myself.

Not Just a Man with a “Troubled Past”… A SEXUAL PREDATOR

It is truly hard to believe that every few years or so I am contacted by someone to retell my story of sexual abuse at the hands of a Rabbi, yes a Rabbi. This time, just days ago, it came from an author for the New York Times. It’s as if the powers that be feel the need to remind me in some way that this is part of who I am and is neither over, nor a closed chapter in my life.  I have never correlated my eating with this event in my life, but I can honestly say that since this has reared its ugly head again sugar has been really really hard to avoid.  So in addition to being off my feet for quite a while and unable to wear normal shoes for 4-6 weeks (BTW surgery on feet went well), I have to fight my sugar addiction and cravings while sitting around with little better to do than eat.  Check out the lovely new fashion statement –

my fashion statementI just need to stop bringing the stuff into the house and not let anyone else bring me my trigger foods. I know this is going to be a struggle, but I know somehow I will PERSEVERE.

My story originally written I think in 2004 appeared in a blog by Luke Ford who was doing investigative reporting and writing regarding this individual. I wish I could forget everything because it would be so much easier and there are even more details that come back at times that may not be specifically mentioned below, but it is a snapshot of my memories.  No one understands what this man took from me and so many simply don’t believe.  So much of my life and energy wasted actively trying to be heard.  I didn’t wait until years later to reveal what happened, as many do. I spoke out in 1986 right after it happened, and so few would even listen let alone accept it as truth.  I continued to tell my story, continued to cry out for help on so many levels and so little was done.  I was shuffled around and told to keep quiet even by those who knew the truth.  No one wanted to believe that this could happen in the Rabbinate. Are Rabbis not human?

My recollections appear below;  I don’t know how much ANOTHER article about this sociopath is going to do in the scheme of things.  The problem is that SOMETHING needs to be done. He needs to be STOPPED, to be put away, and held accountable for all of those he has hurt over the past 30+ years.  I’d love to be believed, to be in someway “compensated for my pain and suffering,” but I don’t believe there is enough money or regret available in this world to feel a true sense of vindication and closure.  That has to come from me, and for the most part it has. But every few years this all pops up again and is brought to the forefront of my thoughts and emotions – and it all returns just as raw as it was 30 years ago.  Maybe if the story is published in a highly reputable newspaper something will come of it, but honestly I have lost all hope in this realm.

I am happy to tell my story and will answer any further questions anyone may have if only with the hope that the right influential person will be asking it.  A strong article is just that, a strong article.  Since I wrote my story this man has transfigured himself countless times throughout numerous “branches” of Judaism and other spiritual paths – I am at a point in my life where I have accepted the fact that this man is just untouchable.  A charismatic leader who can fool anyone at anytime.  I’m sure he could convince even me that he has “changed”.  I hope the New York Times article is read by individuals who are willing to see a reality that exists and challenge it face on. I asked the NY Times journalist for permission (not that it was needed, but I felt it respectful) to post this on my blog because I did not want to start any ball rolling before it was ready to roll. This man has left an insane timeline of victims from NY to FL to Israel to UT to CA. and who the hell knows where else over the past 30+ years.  I don’t know if anything will be different this time around, but since my hope has already basically been broken I am not expecting anything.  Here is my story as recalled in 2004 that was published in the aforementioned blog:

“The overwhelming exhaustion that has washed over me from existing as a victim for the past eighteen years has ultimately been my silencer. Any remaining strength is channeled into the necessary tasks of parenting and daily survival. I will no longer be a victim.
The better part of my childhood was spent lost and invisible. My earliest recollections are of pleading to an unnamed supreme being.
“Please,” I’d say, “I’ll do anything, anything at all if you’ll let her find me. I know she must be looking for me.”
I’d scream and cry into my pillow at night. I remember waiting at the door. Anger was not an issue. If I was angry with anyone, it was the other “she”, the one who had taken me away. That was how my childhood psyche worked. Adoption was not a warm fuzzy word defined by “we really wanted you”. I read it as; the one person who truly mattered didn’t, couldn’t or was convinced not to.
So, I kept searching for my mother, for someone to love me the way I needed to be loved.
Along came Judaism, JPSY and Mordechai Winiarz (aka Marc Gafni).
At that time, my family was in constant turmoil. My father had brushed with death far too many times. In 1985 he underwent his second open-heart surgery – a quadruple by-pass. I hit puberty and my emotions, hormones and home-life were in shambles.
Mordechai Winiarz paid attention to me. He told me how intelligent and special I was. I spent many Shabbat lunches with him and his wife feeling like I had finally found a family. I began keeping kosher and abiding by the laws of modesty. Mordechai had awarded me JPSYer of the Year. My sadness and isolation at home had me frustrated and doing poorly academically. I asked Mordechai if I could live with he and his wife. At the time I was hoping for a more permanent arrangement, but we agreed on taking things one week at a time. I had just turned sixteen when I moved in with them the first time.
The week went by rather uneventfully with one exception. I awoke one evening from a disturbing dream. It was maybe midnight and I heard someone awake upstairs. I decided to get some milk and try to relax and think. I soon realized it was Mordechai who was awake. He heard me in the kitchen and asked me to talk to him. When I approached the study, Mordechai was in his robe, preparing a shiur (lecture) on something.
“Why are you still awake?” he asked me. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing” I said. “I just needed a drink.”
“I can tell there is something wrong, talk to me.”
“Really, it’s O.K.; I just had a bad dream. I am going back to sleep.”
“You’ll never be able to sleep if you don’t tell me.”
He wouldn’t give up. I felt trapped. Not physically mind you, but emotionally. I enjoyed talking and sharing with him because he listened, but the dream I had was strange, it involved me as a young child and the typical scenario of walking in on your parents’ lovemaking (in the dream he and his wife were my parents). In the past I had general dreams involving them as my parents. I didn’t want to share it. I wanted time to think about it. He wouldn’t take no for an answer. When I finally described my dream to him, he interpreted it as my being sexually attracted to him. I felt he was completely off base. I quickly changed the topic, and was able to return to bed.
After the agreed upon weeks’ stay came to a close, my parents insisted I come back. So, much to my chagrin, I returned home. Things there went from bad to worse when my mother fell at work and was hospitalized with a broken hip. Now my mother was hospitalized and my father was trying to recoup from open-heart surgery. I felt helpless and lost. I couldn’t cope. I had no siblings and no family lived nearby. So off I ran – back to Mordechai, his wife, and the warmth and safety I felt there.
This time however, it was very different. It was Tuesday evening after at school when he made his first trip into what was then my bedroom – the basement. It was very late and I had already been asleep when the door opened. From the door, he said, “You look like you need a hug”. I pretended to remain asleep. He approached the bed and repeated himself. I still did not answer and conveniently I was turned away from him. My mind was racing. I was overwhelmed. I didn’t know what to say. I was shomeret negiah (abiding by the stringent Jewish laws prohibiting premarital touch). Why was he in my bedroom? Why was he asking to touch me at all? I knew it was wrong. He knew it was wrong – didn’t he? Certainly I needed a hug, I always needed a hug, but a hug from him was wrong. Wasn’t it? If it were so wrong, why would he have offered it? I could not keep up with the fears and questions flying around inside my brain.
Before I could process them, react or respond he was sitting on my bed. I sat up to tell him “No, it’s O.K. I don’t need a hug. And why are you even offering?” when he put his arms around me. For a brief moment it felt good – like I was a little kid and my daddy was giving me a hug. Then I realized this was not right I tried to pull away but he held onto me and fell on top of me. He began touching me under my night-clothes. I said “No.” and tried to move his hand away. He kept fondling me. I said “No.” again and he stopped, abruptly stopped. It was the most bizarre thing.
He rose from the bed, told me not to say anything about what happened because no one would understand. He promised me it wouldn’t happen again. And I believed him. I had to.
Thursday was an early release day from school. I was emotionally exhausted and went straight downstairs for a nap. Mordechai was at the house. I thought that was odd – why was he not working? He tried to stop me, to talk again. I told him to leave me alone – I was tired and I needed rest.
I had been asleep no longer than 30 minutes when Mordechai arrived in my room once again. Now he was in robe. He didn’t bother to knock. He stood at the door and said something to wake me. I startled. He arrogantly stated, “You know what you want.”
“What?” I asked. I truly had no clue what he was talking about and why the hell was he in his robe in the middle of the day?
“You know what you want. I will go out of this room and come back in. You just give me a sign.” He stepped out and closed the door.
The shaking started again. What the hell should I do? What did he say? I was half asleep. I sat up in bed. I was fully clothed, under a thick blanket, warm and uncomfortable. I had layered my clothes so that my elbows would be covered. I removed one layer, completely covered myself up to my neck with the comforter and turned to stare at the wall hoping that he’d just not come back. I felt like such a child. I wanted him to love me, but not like this. I wanted to be their child, just start over with a new family who paid attention, cared and understood.
Then he was there in my room, standing over me at my bedside in only his underwear. I had not even heard him come in the door. He laid down next to me and began touching me again, like he had previously. I said, “Mordechai, no, this is wrong.” It was as if he didn’t even hear me. I just shut down and let him do what he was going to do. He continued fondling me, took off all of my clothes and his. He positioned himself on top of me ready for intercourse.
“When did you get your last period?” he asked. What a weird question. I wasn’t sure of the answer. I just made something up. “That’s no good.” He replied. “You know I could get you pregnant.” He seemed disappointed as he lay beside me. Mordechai took my hand and forced me to help him climax. I had never done anything like that before. I had never even seen a man naked. He ejaculated all over me. I felt horrible. When he was finished he stood abruptly.
“Get cleaned up and come upstairs,” he ordered and left the room.
I was now shaking so fiercely I could barely follow the instructions. When I finally ascended from the basement, he was waiting in the living room, in his typical starched white shirt and dark dress pants.
“We are going for a walk,” he said.
We walked around Flatbush for the better part of an hour. First he attempted to make me think that nothing ever happened; that it was all a figment of my imagination. When that didn’t work he tried to convince me that I would never be believed because he was a Rabbi and I was just a kid. Who was more credible? He asked rhetorically. He was Project-500still unsure that I was buying his argument so he moved on to threats. He would destroy my life. I would never learn in yeshiva, never get married, on and on. Now he had my attention. What was he capable of? I couldn’t be certain. But I knew one thing – I was scared. Emotionally destroyed, hating myself, and hating him, just wanted to disappear.
He left me there at the house and headed toward Manhattan. I was alone in every sense of the word. I knew his wife would be home from work soon. I went to the kitchen, found the sharpest knife I could find and sat on the dining room floor screaming, crying and trying desperately to break the skin of my wrist with the blade. I had just made a few superficial cuts when his wife walked in.
My gut instinct was that he had already told her some crazy story about me. She saw me there curled in ball on the floor crying. She didn’t even acknowledge my existence. Maybe she couldn’t. She just walked by and went into their bedroom. I knew I needed to tell someone. I called Susan (a JPSY advisor and friend) three or four times before I reached her.
I went to school the next day in shock. I was due at Susan’s house for Shabbat later that evening. The evening before, I had told her briefly what had occurred. When I returned to his home after school to pack for Shabbat he was there. Again, he insisted I not tell anyone. He made me promise not to.
The train ride to Susan’s house was surreal. I was crying and shaking all the way from Brooklyn to Queens. I had never been so confused. I desperately wanted to tell Susan everything that had happened but I was afraid.   I felt like I was drowning, like I could barely breathe.
There were other girls there that Shabbat and I could not find the privacy necessary to continue discussing what had happened. I fell asleep crying, hoping that things could just go back to the way they had been only days before. When Motzei Shabbat arrived one of the other girls left and only one other JPSY teenager and I remained. I talked Susan’s ear off about nonsense until the other girl nodded off, and then I told her the details of what happened with Mordechai.  I was shaking like a leaf.
It was then that Susan told me that she had already heard from Mordechai. He had called her prior to Shabbat “warning” her about my “delusional” stories, my emotional instability and attempting to compel her into allegiance. Susan diligently listened to the facts, my fears, and unequivocally assured me of her loyalty and confidence in my credibility. She told me that he had made inappropriate advances to her in the past. Susan was there for me through what would be the remaining eighteen months of hell. We were kids trying to figure out how to handle this trauma with no help or support from our parents or the community. I don’t remember much after that conversation.
I do remember telling my parents with Susan by my side what had occurred. I remember how they blamed me since it was I who left the house to begin with. I remember the next year and a half of harassment and mental games. I clearly recollect the “camps” of people who believed what really happened and those who refused to. I remember the telephone calls at all hours of the evening – the hang-ups, the heavy breathing. Then the photos of naked men arriving at our home because Mordechai had taken out a personal add in a gay men’s magazine using our P.O. Box address as the return. I remember the Rabbis telling us to “let things go” and “move on”: Kenneth Hain, Yitzchok Adler, and Sholomo Riskin.   I remember the ridiculous meeting held at Yeshiva University at which I had to bare my soul to men I had neither previously met nor trusted.
People keep telling me that times are different now. People will listen. Things will change. I don’t know. I want to believe that. I want to believe that he will be stopped. That he will no longer hurt anyone. All the talking, emails and articles seem empty to me.
I am placing the truth out into the world once more and putting it formally into print. If this gives other young people the courage to speak out when they are betrayed, hurt or violated by an adult maybe something good will come out of this. Maybe others perpetrators will be stopped. Maybe community leaders will learn to take a stand on crucial issues before victims accumulate in silence, erupting unpredictably later in life with unified inner-strength and piercingly powerful voices. I won’t be silenced again. I’m no longer a victim, I have a voice.”

sexual abuse stats

You can go online and read many positive things about this man, along with all the negative, and I cannot tell you what to believe.  This is an EXCERPT from the Wikipedia page about him:

Sexual controversy[edit]
Gafni has been accused of sexual improprieties in the media and online, dating back to the 1980s.[1][5] In 2006, accusations of a sexual relationships between Gafni and three women who attended the Bayit Chadash spiritual center in Jaffa, which Gafni opened in the late 1990s, were made public.[6] Gafni responded by acknowledging relationships with some of the women.[5] However, Gafni characterized the relationships as consensual, and bolstered his claim by posting polygraph test results on his website.[2][37] Due to the allegations, and Gafni’s sudden[10][38] departure from Israel and the school days after they were made public, the spiritual center later closed.[39]Once in the United States, Gafni sent a remorseful letter to his congregation, causing many of his former supporters to express regret.[38][40] Gafni maintains that the letter was not an admission of fault or guilt but an attempt to cool the controversy.[41]
In 2011, Gafni was the subject of new allegations of sexual misconduct.[19] This caused Integral Life to announce that they were deleting Gafni’s contributions from their site.[19] Also, Tami Simon, chief executive officer of Sounds True, canceled her publication of the Gafni’s new book, “Your Unique Self,” and issued a statement against Gafni.[42] The board of directors at Center for World Spirituality, an organization founded by Gafni and which Gafni is the CEO of, issued a statement of “Unequivocal Support” in Gafni’s own defense,[43] and Warren Farrell also wrote a letter of support. Ken Wilber originally separated from Gafni,[44] but eventually reconciled with him and rejoined him at the Center for World Spirituality.[45] The book, “Your Unique Self,” was ultimately published by Integral Publishers.[46]
The epilogue of The Guru Question, by Mariana Caplan, who is the mother of Gafni’s youngest child, addresses the prevalence of sexual harassment complaints against spiritual teachers, and uses the complaints against Gafni—which she categorizes as “false accusations” driven by a host of ulterior motives—as a case study how such complaints develop.[47]

For the longest time I blamed myself.  Now I have a daughter that age.  I realize now more than ever that I was a victim.  But I can no longer live in that mindset, the mindset of a victim needs help to rebuild ego. Losing the weight helped a bit, coming back into my own, back to creative endeavors has helped as well. Maybe some of you struggling with weight loss are also struggling with a similar secret from your past or present.  I don’t know how much help I can offer, but I can offer an ear and support and the advise to keep telling your story until you are heard.  It may be painful, but karma has a way of doing its job when the time is just right.

Being that I will be off my feet for some time – I hope to get back to blogging more frequently.  I’d love to hear from anyone who reads my blog it helps me keep writing!

Achieving “Closure”

With everything that has been going on surrounding the sexual, psychological and emotional abuse I suffered as a teen. I’ve been thinking a lot about closure recently. Does such a thing exist? Can it be achieved? Or, are we deceiving ourselves searching for something not just illusive, but intangible and imaginary.

What would it take to achieve “closure”? Getting our questions answered? Seeing those who hurt us hurt equally? Justice? I don’t know that there is an answer to this. “Closure” if it exists must certainly be different for different people. If it is attainable, does achieving it mean that the situation no longer effects us, or that we no longer need to speak about it, or we have “moved passed it”? I am not sure what it means at all, and honestly do not know what it means for me.

I’ve read stories from other survivors of a variety of abuses at the hands of an assortment of predators. From what I can tell “closure” is not something to be sought, as it is unachievable and honestly indefinable.

When we seek “closure” this search emanates from a wound caused by opening oneself to intimacy. Intimacy in any capacity leaves us vulnerable. Choosing whom to “let in” should be an analyzed decision, but it’s never that simple. Depending on how old you are, how many times you have been hurt, and/or how trusting of a soul you may be, the importance of such a decision is typically learned the hard way.

don_let_your_past_steal_your_future_I have “moved on” and currently have many fulfilling relationships. The answers provided by those in the labyrinthine of past chaos may not satisfy my need to understand. There will always be explanations provided that make no sense at all.

Just because one “moves on”, a variety of causes can trigger a wound to be reopened. When the wound is continuously reopened it causes a permanent scar that cannot disappear with “closure”. There will always a fragment of you that is no longer yours. You give a piece of yourself to those with whom you share any type of intimacy. There will always be fragment of them that you carry around, in your memories and in your person, in the lessons you’ve learned and in your restored life, for better or worse.

I think “closure” is just a term people use when they really mean is they have “moved on”, just a misnomer. Because who we are is composed of so many things – both positive and negative life experiences, our personality, our belief system, our spirituality, our genetics, our talents… etc. You would not be who you are without the puzzle fitting together the way it has. One must “move on”, grow, learn, change and make a difference. It seems to me searching for the elusive “closure” is a waste of the precious time your soul is given to experience and understand the universe, and your roll within it. Be a catalyst for change, positive growth, creation and peace. From self-realization will come the enigma that is “closure”.

The Time For Change Is Now

spotlightI mentioned that I would not be writing anything regarding my abuse on this blog until the article was published in the New York Times. For three reasons I have changed this decision: 1) It has come to my attention that the article when handed to the editor was so long it would take another week or so before it goes to press. I know that should not make a difference in my world, but somehow it does. I have been trying to prepare myself for life, as I know it to possibly change after this weekend. I have been anxious to say the least. 2) I decided to write this now, because many readers have brought to my attention that not only does this blog help other survivors gain the courage to speak, but also it can, and should be a catalyst for change across all aspects of this sickening problem of sexual abuse. 3) Finally with the premier of the movie SPOTLIGHT I felt the timing important, as the awareness and cry for victims rights is rising across the nation.

First and foremost the legal system:

legal scaleLet us take a look at how sexual abuse is generally defined legally.

The US Code Chapter 109A defines sexual abuse in the following manner[1]:

  • Section 2242  Sexual abuse: “… (1) causes another person to engage in a sexual act by threatening or placing that other person in fear (other than by threatening or placing that other person in fear that any person will be subjected to death, serious bodily injury, or kidnapping); or (2) engages in a sexual act with another person if that other person is – (A) incapable of appraising the nature of the conduct; or (B) physically incapable of declining participation in, or communicating unwillingness to engage in, that sexual act; or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title and imprisoned for any term of years or for life.”
  • Section 2244  Abusive Sexual Contact: “… knowingly engages in or causes sexual contact with or by another person, if so to do would violate – (1) subsection (a) or (b) of section 2241 of this title had the sexual contact been a sexual act, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; (2) section 2242 of this title had the sexual contact been a sexual act, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than three years, or both; (3) subsection (a) of section 2243 of this title had the sexual contact been a sexual act, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than two years, or both; (4) subsection (b) of section 2243 of this title had the sexual contact been a sexual act, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than two years, or both; or (5) subsection (c) of section 2241 of this title had the sexual contact been a sexual act, shall be fined under this title and imprisoned for any term of years or for life. (b) In Other Circumstances. … knowingly engages in sexual contact with another person without that other person’s permission shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than two years, or both. (c) Offenses Involving Young Children. – If the sexual contact that violates this section (other than subsection (a)(5)) is with an individual who has not attained the age of 12 years, the maximum term of imprisonment that may be imposed for the offense shall be twice that otherwise provided in this section.’
Definitions used in this chapter: As used in this chapter – “… (2) the term “sexual act” means – (A) contact between the penis and the vulva or the penis and the anus, and for purposes of this subparagraph contact involving the penis occurs upon penetration, however slight; (B) contact between the mouth and the penis, the mouth and the vulva, or the mouth and the anus; (C) the penetration, however slight, of the anal or genital opening of another by a hand or finger or by any object, with an intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade, or arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person; or (D) the intentional touching, not through the clothing, of the genitalia of another person who has not attained the age of 16 years with an intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade, or arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person; (3) the term “sexual contact” means the intentional touching, either directly or through the clothing, of the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks of any person with an intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade, or arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person;” [See full legal code by following link at footnote #1 below.]

To most of you reading this, the above will all just be legal jargon, but if it weren’t for the current state driven statutes of limitations it would be a lot more than that to me and many many others. I intended to provide here an alphabetical listing by state of statutes, but it would render my readers’ unconscious or numb long before they reached “Colorado”. As of 2013 there are eight states that do not have any statute of limitations for prosecuting felony sexual assault. Delaware has no statute of limitations for ANY sexual offense.

Over the past decade or more as sexual abuse scandals have become so prevalent in our country many states have changed their statues and continue to do so. “Many states have extended he time period of the existing statute of limitations regarding civil claims”, others “have temporarily lifted their statute of limitations in order to give victims an opportunity to raise civil claims against their predators.” And additionally some “states have also found additional reasons to toll the statute of limitations, such as in circumstances when an institution conceals evidence of a child sex crime.”[2] In particular cases involving clergy have been front and center. “Clergy sexual offenders in the Church were more likely to be targeting whomever was around them (and they had unsupervised access to) regardless of age and gender.”[3] Hmmmm, sound familiar?????

Again to be clear when it comes to my personal experience:

  1. I was under the age of consent I had just turned 16, in 1986 I believe the age of consent was 18 and other extenuating legal issues/circumstances apply as well; he was both more than 5 years my senior, and in a position of authority.
  2. There was penetration (not penile, but with fingers). There was contact with the penis and the vulva, but no penetration.
  3. I said “No.” Actually more than once.
  4. I did speak out, but no one who would or could affect change would listen.

So, what is wrong here? Why did Yeshiva University (who heard my story at the time directly from me, and stories from others) permit Mordechai Winiarz (aka Marc Gafni) to continue his employ as the director of the then Jewish Public School Youth Movement? How has he continued to reinvent himself time and again, teaching in positions of authority with full-unsupervised access to victims of all ages? How many more individuals does he need to victimize before someone does something to put a stop to his predatory behavior.

How many other victims of other predators must go invalidated, unheard and without justice?

Second, the clergy:

Clergy Representing ALL faiths... this effects ALL of us, regardless of our beliefs.
Clergy Representing ALL faiths… this effects ALL of us, regardless of our beliefs.

It would only be posturing on my part to provide any answers when dealing with the complexity that is organized religion and its leadership, or other authority figures. I can say only this. Something needs to be done. As a step toward prevention, possibly a better vetting process needs to exist, or some standardized internal system put in place for adults in authority positions interacting with followers?

I’d like to direct you to another blog dedicated to giving survivors a voice. Read Danny’s story – understand that this is so much bigger than one person, one predator, one pedophile, or even one victim. Where there is one, there is many. http://blog.burnandrotinhell.com/2015/11/dannys-story-part-two-this-is-what.html


 

[1] http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/uscode/18/I/109A

[2] Statutes of Limitations for Civil Actions for Offenses Against Children (2013 Update)

[3] The Clergy Sex Abuse Crisis and the Legal Responses by James T. O’Reilly, Margaret S.P. Chalmers ©2014

Don’t silence a cry for help…

Since my initial blog regarding my abuse and my abuser, two other survivors of this man’s terror have contacted me (and I’ve eaten way too much chocolate). There is a sense of not being alone, but sharing this in common is not comforting – it’s just disturbing. I know there are dozens of women Marc Winiarz Gafni has hurt over the decades, and at the time of my abuse I knew of one other he was inappropriate with, and considered his then wife a victim as well, but until the past decade or so the others have only been numbers to me. Now they are people and the shared pain is excruciating. It only fuels my anger more that decades later still no one may be listening.

LISTEN
LISTEN

I understand that times are different now. I understand that people are less afraid to talk about sexual abuse when it comes to the clergy, but there is one thing I will never understand. I am a parent of two daughters (and three sons) a now sixteen-year-old daughter, and a daughter who was once 16 as well. In a million years I can neither both imagine blaming her for being sexually abused, nor envision that people I know would not believe her and/or speak out in defense of her abuser. As painful as recalling the abuse has been, and is – each and every time, equally painful is the reaction to my speaking out each of those times as well. Honestly I don’t know why I bother to tell and retell my story (a story that has not changed for 30+ years). No change occurs; and neither does justice, reparation nor apology. There will always be those few who appreciate, who encourage and who offer support, but they are few and far between.

The Rabbinate is NOT immune to sexual dysfunction or mental disorders. Rabbis (male and female) are human with imperfections; some of these flaws are so severe and run so deep that they are irreparable. These same dysfunctions occur across humanity. It is not “safe to assume” simply because someone is in a position of leadership, (religious or otherwise) that they present no threat to others. I would argue quite the opposite. Individuals in such positions must be held to an even higher standard, and must be placed under a more intense light of scrutiny. These people influence our children and other vulnerable members of our population.

If anyone comes to you (especially a child) to share a painful experience, PLEASE really listen, reserve any judgment and believe what you are hearing. Statistics alone have proven that the majority of those who share stories of abuse are not just lying to get attention (as I was accused of), or being coerced by others to bolster a campaign against a particular individual. Talking about an uncomfortable sexual encounter is not something people do easily, readily or honestly even willingly. More often then not someone who cares knows something is wrong, and it is with his or her support that a survivor speaks.

Anorexia-in-the-mirrorIf you need help, ask. If you are being abused sexually, emotionally, physically; tell someone.  If you are using food in any way as a coping mechanism (over eating, not eating, vomiting); tell someone. I was lucky to have ONE such person I could tell in 1986. Had that person not been there I’d likely not be here now. I don’t think she realizes that I owe her my life. Please be that person for someone if they need you – you may actually be saving a life.

The Cycle of Insanity

It is truly hard to believe that every few years or so I am contacted by someone to retell my story of sexual abuse at the hands of a Rabbi, yes a Rabbi. This time, just days ago, it came from an author for the New York Times. It’s as if the powers that be feel the need to remind me in some way that this is part of who I am and is neither over, nor a closed chapter in my life.  I have never correlated my eating with this event in my life, but I can honestly say that since this has reared its ugly head again sugar has been really really hard to avoid.  So in addition to being off my feet for quite a while and unable to wear normal shoes for 4-6 weeks (BTW surgery on feet went well), I have to fight my sugar addiction and cravings while sitting around with little better to do than eat.  Check out the lovely new fashion statement –

my fashion statementI just need to stop bringing the stuff into the house and not let anyone else bring me my trigger foods. I know this is going to be a struggle, but I know somehow I will PERSEVERE.

My story originally written I think in 2004 appeared in a blog by Luke Ford who was doing investigative reporting and writing regarding this individual. I wish I could forget everything because it would be so much easier and there are even more details that come back at times that may not be specifically mentioned below, but it is a snapshot of my memories.  No one understands what this man took from me and so many simply don’t believe.  So much of my life and energy wasted actively trying to be heard.  I didn’t wait until years later to reveal what happened, as many do. I spoke out in 1986 right after it happened, and so few would even listen let alone accept it as truth.  I continued to tell my story, continued to cry out for help on so many levels and so little was done.  I was shuffled around and told to keep quiet even by those who knew the truth.  No one wanted to believe that this could happen in the Rabbinate. Are Rabbis not human?

My recollections appear below;  I don’t know how much ANOTHER article about this sociopath is going to do in the scheme of things.  The problem is that SOMETHING needs to be done. He needs to be STOPPED, to be put away, and held accountable for all of those he has hurt over the past 30+ years.  I’d love to be believed, to be in someway “compensated for my pain and suffering,” but I don’t believe there is enough money or regret available in this world to feel a true sense of vindication and closure.  That has to come from me, and for the most part it has. But every few years this all pops up again and is brought to the forefront of my thoughts and emotions – and it all returns just as raw as it was 30 years ago.  Maybe if the story is published in a highly reputable newspaper something will come of it, but honestly I have lost all hope in this realm.

I am happy to tell my story and will answer any further questions anyone may have if only with the hope that the right influential person will be asking it.  A strong article is just that, a strong article.  Since I wrote my story this man has transfigured himself countless times throughout numerous “branches” of Judaism and other spiritual paths – I am at a point in my life where I have accepted the fact that this man is just untouchable.  A charismatic leader who can fool anyone at anytime.  I’m sure he could convince even me that he has “changed”.  I hope the New York Times article is read by individuals who are willing to see a reality that exists and challenge it face on. I asked the NY Times journalist for permission (not that it was needed, but I felt it respectful) to post this on my blog because I did not want to start any ball rolling before it was ready to roll. This man has left an insane timeline of victims from NY to FL to Israel to UT to CA. and who the hell knows where else over the past 30+ years.  I don’t know if anything will be different this time around, but since my hope has already basically been broken I am not expecting anything.  Here is my story as recalled in 2004 that was published in the aforementioned blog:

“The overwhelming exhaustion that has washed over me from existing as a victim for the past eighteen years has ultimately been my silencer. Any remaining strength is channeled into the necessary tasks of parenting and daily survival. I will no longer be a victim.
The better part of my childhood was spent lost and invisible. My earliest recollections are of pleading to an unnamed supreme being.
“Please,” I’d say, “I’ll do anything, anything at all if you’ll let her find me. I know she must be looking for me.”
I’d scream and cry into my pillow at night. I remember waiting at the door. Anger was not an issue. If I was angry with anyone, it was the other “she”, the one who had taken me away. That was how my childhood psyche worked. Adoption was not a warm fuzzy word defined by “we really wanted you”. I read it as; the one person who truly mattered didn’t, couldn’t or was convinced not to.
So, I kept searching for my mother, for someone to love me the way I needed to be loved.
Along came Judaism, JPSY and Mordechai Winiarz (aka Marc Gafni).
At that time, my family was in constant turmoil. My father had brushed with death far too many times. In 1985 he underwent his second open-heart surgery – a quadruple by-pass. I hit puberty and my emotions, hormones and home-life were in shambles.
Mordechai Winiarz paid attention to me. He told me how intelligent and special I was. I spent many Shabbat lunches with him and his wife feeling like I had finally found a family. I began keeping kosher and abiding by the laws of modesty. Mordechai had awarded me JPSYer of the Year. My sadness and isolation at home had me frustrated and doing poorly academically. I asked Mordechai if I could live with he and his wife. At the time I was hoping for a more permanent arrangement, but we agreed on taking things one week at a time. I had just turned sixteen when I moved in with them the first time.
The week went by rather uneventfully with one exception. I awoke one evening from a disturbing dream. It was maybe midnight and I heard someone awake upstairs. I decided to get some milk and try to relax and think. I soon realized it was Mordechai who was awake. He heard me in the kitchen and asked me to talk to him. When I approached the study, Mordechai was in his robe, preparing a shiur (lecture) on something.
“Why are you still awake?” he asked me. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing” I said. “I just needed a drink.”
“I can tell there is something wrong, talk to me.”
“Really, it’s O.K.; I just had a bad dream. I am going back to sleep.”
“You’ll never be able to sleep if you don’t tell me.”
He wouldn’t give up. I felt trapped. Not physically mind you, but emotionally. I enjoyed talking and sharing with him because he listened, but the dream I had was strange, it involved me as a young child and the typical scenario of walking in on your parents’ lovemaking (in the dream he and his wife were my parents). In the past I had general dreams involving them as my parents. I didn’t want to share it. I wanted time to think about it. He wouldn’t take no for an answer. When I finally described my dream to him, he interpreted it as my being sexually attracted to him. I felt he was completely off base. I quickly changed the topic, and was able to return to bed.
After the agreed upon weeks’ stay came to a close, my parents insisted I come back. So, much to my chagrin, I returned home. Things there went from bad to worse when my mother fell at work and was hospitalized with a broken hip. Now my mother was hospitalized and my father was trying to recoup from open-heart surgery. I felt helpless and lost. I couldn’t cope. I had no siblings and no family lived nearby. So off I ran – back to Mordechai, his wife, and the warmth and safety I felt there.
This time however, it was very different. It was Tuesday evening after at school when he made his first trip into what was then my bedroom – the basement. It was very late and I had already been asleep when the door opened. From the door, he said, “You look like you need a hug”. I pretended to remain asleep. He approached the bed and repeated himself. I still did not answer and conveniently I was turned away from him. My mind was racing. I was overwhelmed. I didn’t know what to say. I was shomeret negiah (abiding by the stringent Jewish laws prohibiting premarital touch). Why was he in my bedroom? Why was he asking to touch me at all? I knew it was wrong. He knew it was wrong – didn’t he? Certainly I needed a hug, I always needed a hug, but a hug from him was wrong. Wasn’t it? If it were so wrong, why would he have offered it? I could not keep up with the fears and questions flying around inside my brain.
Before I could process them, react or respond he was sitting on my bed. I sat up to tell him “No, it’s O.K. I don’t need a hug. And why are you even offering?” when he put his arms around me. For a brief moment it felt good – like I was a little kid and my daddy was giving me a hug. Then I realized this was not right I tried to pull away but he held onto me and fell on top of me. He began touching me under my night-clothes. I said “No.” and tried to move his hand away. He kept fondling me. I said “No.” again and he stopped, abruptly stopped. It was the most bizarre thing.
He rose from the bed, told me not to say anything about what happened because no one would understand. He promised me it wouldn’t happen again. And I believed him. I had to.
Thursday was an early release day from school. I was emotionally exhausted and went straight downstairs for a nap. Mordechai was at the house. I thought that was odd – why was he not working? He tried to stop me, to talk again. I told him to leave me alone – I was tired and I needed rest.
I had been asleep no longer than 30 minutes when Mordechai arrived in my room once again. Now he was in robe. He didn’t bother to knock. He stood at the door and said something to wake me. I startled. He arrogantly stated, “You know what you want.”
“What?” I asked. I truly had no clue what he was talking about and why the hell was he in his robe in the middle of the day?
“You know what you want. I will go out of this room and come back in. You just give me a sign.” He stepped out and closed the door.
The shaking started again. What the hell should I do? What did he say? I was half asleep. I sat up in bed. I was fully clothed, under a thick blanket, warm and uncomfortable. I had layered my clothes so that my elbows would be covered. I removed one layer, completely covered myself up to my neck with the comforter and turned to stare at the wall hoping that he’d just not come back. I felt like such a child. I wanted him to love me, but not like this. I wanted to be their child, just start over with a new family who paid attention, cared and understood.
Then he was there in my room, standing over me at my bedside in only his underwear. I had not even heard him come in the door. He laid down next to me and began touching me again, like he had previously. I said, “Mordechai, no, this is wrong.” It was as if he didn’t even hear me. I just shut down and let him do what he was going to do. He continued fondling me, took off all of my clothes and his. He positioned himself on top of me ready for intercourse.
“When did you get your last period?” he asked. What a weird question. I wasn’t sure of the answer. I just made something up. “That’s no good.” He replied. “You know I could get you pregnant.” He seemed disappointed as he lay beside me. Mordechai took my hand and forced me to help him climax. I had never done anything like that before. I had never even seen a man naked. He ejaculated all over me. I felt horrible. When he was finished he stood abruptly.
“Get cleaned up and come upstairs,” he ordered and left the room.
I was now shaking so fiercely I could barely follow the instructions. When I finally ascended from the basement, he was waiting in the living room, in his typical starched white shirt and dark dress pants.
“We are going for a walk,” he said.
We walked around Flatbush for the better part of an hour. First he attempted to make me think that nothing ever happened; that it was all a figment of my imagination. When that didn’t work he tried to convince me that I would never be believed because he was a Rabbi and I was just a kid. Who was more credible? He asked rhetorically. He was Project-500still unsure that I was buying his argument so he moved on to threats. He would destroy my life. I would never learn in yeshiva, never get married, on and on. Now he had my attention. What was he capable of? I couldn’t be certain. But I knew one thing – I was scared. Emotionally destroyed, hating myself, and hating him, just wanted to disappear.
He left me there at the house and headed toward Manhattan. I was alone in every sense of the word. I knew his wife would be home from work soon. I went to the kitchen, found the sharpest knife I could find and sat on the dining room floor screaming, crying and trying desperately to break the skin of my wrist with the blade. I had just made a few superficial cuts when his wife walked in.
My gut instinct was that he had already told her some crazy story about me. She saw me there curled in ball on the floor crying. She didn’t even acknowledge my existence. Maybe she couldn’t. She just walked by and went into their bedroom. I knew I needed to tell someone. I called Susan (a JPSY advisor and friend) three or four times before I reached her.
I went to school the next day in shock. I was due at Susan’s house for Shabbat later that evening. The evening before, I had told her briefly what had occurred. When I returned to his home after school to pack for Shabbat he was there. Again, he insisted I not tell anyone. He made me promise not to.
The train ride to Susan’s house was surreal. I was crying and shaking all the way from Brooklyn to Queens. I had never been so confused. I desperately wanted to tell Susan everything that had happened but I was afraid.   I felt like I was drowning, like I could barely breathe.
There were other girls there that Shabbat and I could not find the privacy necessary to continue discussing what had happened. I fell asleep crying, hoping that things could just go back to the way they had been only days before. When Motzei Shabbat arrived one of the other girls left and only one other JPSY teenager and I remained. I talked Susan’s ear off about nonsense until the other girl nodded off, and then I told her the details of what happened with Mordechai.  I was shaking like a leaf.
It was then that Susan told me that she had already heard from Mordechai. He had called her prior to Shabbat “warning” her about my “delusional” stories, my emotional instability and attempting to compel her into allegiance. Susan diligently listened to the facts, my fears, and unequivocally assured me of her loyalty and confidence in my credibility. She told me that he had made inappropriate advances to her in the past. Susan was there for me through what would be the remaining eighteen months of hell. We were kids trying to figure out how to handle this trauma with no help or support from our parents or the community. I don’t remember much after that conversation.
I do remember telling my parents with Susan by my side what had occurred. I remember how they blamed me since it was I who left the house to begin with. I remember the next year and a half of harassment and mental games. I clearly recollect the “camps” of people who believed what really happened and those who refused to. I remember the telephone calls at all hours of the evening – the hang-ups, the heavy breathing. Then the photos of naked men arriving at our home because Mordechai had taken out a personal add in a gay men’s magazine using our P.O. Box address as the return. I remember the Rabbis telling us to “let things go” and “move on”: Kenneth Hain, Yitzchok Adler, and Sholomo Riskin.   I remember the ridiculous meeting held at Yeshiva University at which I had to bare my soul to men I had neither previously met nor trusted.
People keep telling me that times are different now. People will listen. Things will change. I don’t know. I want to believe that. I want to believe that he will be stopped. That he will no longer hurt anyone. All the talking, emails and articles seem empty to me.
I am placing the truth out into the world once more and putting it formally into print. If this gives other young people the courage to speak out when they are betrayed, hurt or violated by an adult maybe something good will come out of this. Maybe others perpetrators will be stopped. Maybe community leaders will learn to take a stand on crucial issues before victims accumulate in silence, erupting unpredictably later in life with unified inner-strength and piercingly powerful voices. I won’t be silenced again. I’m no longer a victim, I have a voice.”

sexual abuse stats

You can go online and read many positive things about this man, along with all the negative, and I cannot tell you what to believe.  This is an EXCERPT from the Wikipedia page about him:

Sexual controversy[edit]
Gafni has been accused of sexual improprieties in the media and online, dating back to the 1980s.[1][5] In 2006, accusations of a sexual relationships between Gafni and three women who attended the Bayit Chadash spiritual center in Jaffa, which Gafni opened in the late 1990s, were made public.[6] Gafni responded by acknowledging relationships with some of the women.[5] However, Gafni characterized the relationships as consensual, and bolstered his claim by posting polygraph test results on his website.[2][37] Due to the allegations, and Gafni’s sudden[10][38] departure from Israel and the school days after they were made public, the spiritual center later closed.[39]Once in the United States, Gafni sent a remorseful letter to his congregation, causing many of his former supporters to express regret.[38][40] Gafni maintains that the letter was not an admission of fault or guilt but an attempt to cool the controversy.[41]
In 2011, Gafni was the subject of new allegations of sexual misconduct.[19] This caused Integral Life to announce that they were deleting Gafni’s contributions from their site.[19] Also, Tami Simon, chief executive officer of Sounds True, canceled her publication of the Gafni’s new book, “Your Unique Self,” and issued a statement against Gafni.[42] The board of directors at Center for World Spirituality, an organization founded by Gafni and which Gafni is the CEO of, issued a statement of “Unequivocal Support” in Gafni’s own defense,[43] and Warren Farrell also wrote a letter of support. Ken Wilber originally separated from Gafni,[44] but eventually reconciled with him and rejoined him at the Center for World Spirituality.[45] The book, “Your Unique Self,” was ultimately published by Integral Publishers.[46]
The epilogue of The Guru Question, by Mariana Caplan, who is the mother of Gafni’s youngest child, addresses the prevalence of sexual harassment complaints against spiritual teachers, and uses the complaints against Gafni—which she categorizes as “false accusations” driven by a host of ulterior motives—as a case study how such complaints develop.[47]

For the longest time I blamed myself.  Now I have a daughter that age.  I realize now more than ever that I was a victim.  But I can no longer live in that mindset, the mindset of a victim needs help to rebuild ego. Losing the weight helped a bit, coming back into my own, back to creative endeavors has helped as well. Maybe some of you struggling with weight loss are also struggling with a similar secret from your past or present.  I don’t know how much help I can offer, but I can offer an ear and support and the advise to keep telling your story until you are heard.  It may be painful, but karma has a way of doing its job when the time is just right.

Being that I will be off my feet for some time – I hope to get back to blogging more frequently.  I’d love to hear from anyone who reads my blog it helps me keep writing!

 

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