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survivors

A LOT to be Thankful For!

Got my stitches out today and all is healing well. I have about 7lbs to lose after my 2 weeks of sitting around. I can drive again and in a few weeks should be back in sneakers. Look out 7lbs, I’m coming! I hope to be able to bear more weight on them soon, as I have an audition the first week of December. Looking forward to this weekend as Thanksgiving is my all time favorite holiday because there is no religious connection to it at all; Just food, friends and family.toes today

More than ever I am so thankful for my home, my health, my family and friends. I am truly blessed in so many ways. I’ve been through the deaths of many family members and close friends in the recent past, many of whom were way to young to die. It certainly has brought a deeper meaning to appreciating what you have. Telling those you love that you love them while you have them. More importantly showing them how much you love them with acts of kindness, forgiveness, compassion, affection and encouragement. Value what is most important – the relationships that support who you are on a daily basis. Make certain those you love know unequivocally that you love them. No one is promised tomorrow.

Don’t argue over petty things at gatherings; enjoy one another’s company. If that means banning topics such as religion and politics, do so. Maybe sing together – there is something about joining voices that brings people closer and raises everyone up.

I am thankful for my new connections with other survivors, past and new friends and the potential currently spinning in the universe to see justice for many. Even when you are depressed and fighting negative feelings you can find things to be thankful for. If you can’t ask someone for help and believe me they will show you that you have more blessings in your life than you realize.12191883_10153670807663398_8719728543179573189_n

Tomorrow night we are going to see one of the largest light shows in our area Prairie Lights – something we have always enjoyed doing together. We are doing our Thanksgiving on Friday for numerous reasons. Our menu will be a cross of traditional and eclectic. I will post the recipes people really enjoy on the blog and on the recipe page to share. Some of these will be more health conscious than others, LOL, but like everything food related – MODERATION is the key. After our meal we will start the tree decorating with our friends and family there. As we come from different backgrounds we have an interesting secular, Chanaristmas tree. Being raised in a Jewish home I was always jealous of the Christmas tree and I can’t tell you how much joy it brings me having one of my own now and waking up in the mornings, having coffee by the twinkling tree lights – looking at all the memory filled ornaments. Pictures of all will follow.

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

Reopening the wound…

Reopening the wound, beginning this process again of recollections and reflections from this part of my past has my anxiety very high.  The nuances of this are beyond a non-survivor’s comprehension.  The child in you returns, the fear, the uncertainty, and even the vulnerability to some degree.  Even with a support system, those who love you, believe you, and will protect you – it is easy to feel lost again.  You question your decision-making capabilities, and from a place of fear over analyze each step you make.

This undermining of self, having been so violated and betrayed, is further compounded knowing the extent to which he continues to smear the names of his victims. Straight from the “Predator Handbook 101,” he takes glee in spinning his pre-emptive slander. With more than three decades of practice under his belt, he knows exactly how to play the game:

curled in a ballCall her “crazy.” As she’s shaking on the ground, blackmail her and scream, “Who in the world is going to believe you?? a kid?? or ME, the Rabbi!?!”

In order to cover up the truth that could now expose you, run to your supporters in a manic state. Claim you are under attack and that your “enemies” are out to get you.

Bring in the now furious wife or “partner” to join you in attacking the girl or woman you have just destroyed. She will be too enraged to actually care about anyone else but herself. Sincerely spin lies just credible enough to be believed directly into the eyes of the woman you claim to love and your supporters.

If you are on the phone coordinating your strategic attack, be sure to weave in as many grandiose stories of your persecution as possible, sigh piteously, compare yourself to a religious figure, adamantly insist that you are being falsely accused and gain as much sympathy and loyalty as you can.

The list goes on, and the pattern is so obvious to those of us who have been the target of this sociopath’s behavior. Those who know the truth of the underlying pattern, are well aware that evil always cloaks itself in its opposite.

It is incredible to me to see the references made to “Outrageous Love” on the web in association with this man. He has left a trail of outrageous trauma, lies, and destruction in his wake, and has never been held accountable. Too many of his “philosophies” are invented as justification and cover for his sexual deviance and addiction.

For clarification not justification, I am unmistakably and emphatically delineating who I am – as separate and apart from what he did, and who he is:

  • Yes I was a troubled, lonely, needy teenager (the perfect vulnerable and easily discredited victim)– but in no way did I want this man to be sexual with me in anyway. I wanted a father not a predator. He took advantage of my age, vulnerability and turmoil then used it to discredit me.
  • I am not gay or bi-sexual because I was abused. Yes, I know the statistics, but I also know that sexuality is neither a “preference” nor a “proclivity” it is an intrinsic part of who you are genetically.
  • I am a healthy, whole, brave and sacred human being. I have been given the opportunity to refine how I live a life of strength and purpose through the practice of managing experiences that come with being bipolar. I am not bipolar because I was abused. Like having blue eyes, it’s just a part of the landscape of being me.
  • Although I was once a religious Jew, I am not “secular” “humanistic” or “agnostic” because I was abused. I came to my set of beliefs through thought, speculation, questioning, meditation and reason.

The abuse that I suffered, and the indescribable aftermath of continued abuse does not define who I am.  I was sexually, spiritually, emotionally and psychologically abused but I will never let it define who I am. It simply was an awful experience in my past that hurt me very deeply. I cannot say with any honesty that it did not change me, because it did. I wish I could find the words to describe how those events changed me. I cannot find them because I am not sure the adequate words exist.  It is like an eternal scar on your soul.
scar

Not to trivialize surviving sexual, emotional, or psychological abuse in anyway, as I have myself survived; but as a fan of J.K. Rowling – I liken my scar to Harry’s. Although mine is hidden, and not visible as is his – it is still a mark, a mark that I survived.

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