Latest update: March 19th, 2013
According to reports circulating in the media and on the Internet, the recent tragic passing of yet another young person in our community may have stemmed at least in part from the trauma of childhood abuse.
It is not our intent here to substantiate these reports, nor is it to dismiss them. Rather, we wish to use the opportunity presented by this horrible calamity and the dialogue it has created to once again loudly and forcefully reiterate the message we have been projecting for many years to victims of abuse:
Please reach out for help and do not suffer alone.
For even in the event that the facts as reported in this particular tragedy are not accurate, they are most certainly consistent with the pattern we have unfortunately seen over and over again where victims of childhood abuse go through unspeakable agony as they attempt to single-handedly deal with the toxic aftereffects of the trauma they suffered in their formative years.
Both of us have encountered numerous instances where untreated childhood abuse follows victims into adulthood shredding their marriages and rendering them often incapable of entering into a loving and intimate relationship with their spouse until a trained mental health professional helps them sort things out.
We both have been intimately involved with more than a few childhood abuse victims who became addicted to heroin and/or cocaine in an unsuccessful attempt to wash away the searing pain of their trauma. We have paid more than a few shiva calls to families of abuse victims who years and even decades later took their own lives.
There are a number of reasons why abuse victims do not avail themselves of intervention and assistance. Some are understandably reluctant or frightened to share the details of their abuse with others. Others who did have the courage to confide in adults in their lives are encouraged or intimidated into remaining silent – especially if the perpetrator is a respected individual or a close family member.
This sends a horrible message to the victim – that he or she has done something that cannot see the light of day. The result is a that a never-ending video loop now plays in the mind of the victim as societal pressure abuses them again and again by forcing them to remain silent and unsupported.
There are many areas and incidents in life that simultaneously involve more than one “system” of remediation. For example, when one is arrested for driving under the influence, there are criminal penalties and financial reparations for any damages caused. Neither of these tracks, however, deal with the fact that the perpetrator has a drinking problem. Courts realize they cannot treat alcoholism, as revoking licenses, impounding cars, and even imposing jail terms will not prevent recidivism – especially if treatment is warranted but not followed.
Various efforts have been undertaken in recent years – all of which are necessary – in the arenas of prevention, education, training, and the need for reporting. And we both have proudly participated in many of them. But despite the fact that these initiatives and the awareness they generate are often soothing to past abuse victims, none of these help them regain their footing. Only therapy by a licensed and trained professional can accomplish that.
We are therefore reaching out to anyone who was ever abused or molested in their childhood years and begging you to please do yourselves the ultimate favor and get help.
Therapy may not solve all issues in your life, but it will do much to make your future brighter and filled with greater promise. In fact, many survivors thrive and build beautiful lives for themselves and their families following successful treatment.
It may be true that some people are resilient and survive with little apparent damage (apparent is the operative word). However, this is not the norm, and with the dangers involved, we would not recommend that you even risk small chances. So, for your sake and for the sake of your spouse and children, please, please get help.
This may mean several things:
● Contacting a mental health professional experienced in counseling trauma victims. (Note from Rabbi Horowitz: I strongly feel that well-intentioned individuals like me who do not have professional training in abuse treatment are not equipped to deal with these issues and should limit our involvement to supporting the efforts of the professionals and steering those who seek our guidance in these matters directly to them.)
About the Author: Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is a regular columnist for The Jewish Press. Dr. Benzion Twerski, a renowned and much sought-after mental health professional who holds a Ph.D. in psychology from University of Pittsburgh, has for more than a decade been one of the leading voices in our community on the issue of child abuse. He lives and practices in Brooklyn and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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