Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thanksgiving: Survivors of child sexual abuse of yesterday, today and tomorrow

By Vicki Polin
Examiner - November 9, 2011

For many families in the United States who celebrate Thanksgiving, it is time of year filled with wonderful memories of families getting together.
Thanksgiving (like any other holiday) often mean that families get together, routines are changed, and there is also the added stress of cleaning and preparing meals. These issues alone can be extremely stress-producing. Unfortunately the reality is that there are parents who are already inclined to use their children as an outlet for emotions and urges, and they are more likely to do so when under the pressure of increased anxiety. Needless to say, many adult survivors of childhood abuse report that their abuse became more intense around and during holidays. For that reason we are asking everyone to say a prayer for the children and their family members, so they get the help they need.
I'm personally asking that each person who reads this article promise to make a phone call, if you suspect a child is either being abused and or neglected, please give that child the gift of a lifetime by calling your local child abuse hot-line regarding your suspicions. Doing so may help prevent any further harm, and it can often lead to a whole family receiving the help and healing that are needed to end the cycle of abuse.
Thanksgiving is a time of year when adult survivors of childhood abuse (emotional, physical and sexual abuse) may be faced with the challenge of deciding if they should go home for the holidays, spend it with friends, or be alone. It is also a time of year for many to have a flood of painful memories reemerge. Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may increase. It is not uncommon for survivors to find it safer to retreat than to participate in holiday functions.
Each individual survivor needs to figure out what works best for them to stay emotionally healthy. It is critical for survivors to be kind to themselves with whatever decisions they make regarding where they choose to spend Thanksgiving: be it with family, friends, or alone. We all need to respect their decisions, especially if a survivors decide not to celebrate.
To reiterate, it is important to be aware that it is not uncommon for symptoms of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) to emerge even after times of relative remission and/or intensify in those already struggling. Survivors may experience an increase in disturbing thoughts, nightmares and flashbacks. Thoughts of self-harm, even suicide may be an issue. The important thing to remember is these feelings are about the past, that the abuse is over, and that it is of utmost importance for you to be kind to and gentle with yourself.
This is written as a reminder to all survivors: YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
If you know someone who is a survivor of childhood abuse (emotional, physical and sexual abuse), it might be a good idea to check up on them a few times over the holidays. Make sure survivors have invitation to thanksgiving dinner, and that if they say no, let them know they can always change their mind and come at the last minute.
Over the years we've spoken to many adult survivors who find it very painful to even consider going to anyone's home for the holiday. Maybe this is true for you, too. It is OK. Someday you may feel different, but if the pain is too intense, it is important that you do things that feel healing to you, it is important that you set boundaries to do what feels safe for you.
Remember that whatever works for you is OK: you are not alone in this struggle, not wrong, not bad for having second and third and forth thoughts about how to celebrate and even whether to celebrate the holiday. Look into yourself and see what you need, than do what you can to do it and be kind to yourself for needing to make these adjustments.
To those of you who are survivors . . . thank you so much for Surviving!


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Letters to the Editor - Gafni

Letters to the Editor - Gafni
Zeek Magazine - September 21, 2011

Prior to Gafni’s abusive behavior at Bayit Chadash, back in the 1980s, Mordechai Winiartz (AKA: Marc Gafni), sexually assaulted two teenage girls. At the time that Judy, one of the teenage girls came and ask for help. The response from modern orthodox community associated with Yeshiva University in which Gafni was involved, did what they thought was best, and chased him out of town.

Back in 2004 the story of the teenage girls went public. The response by many was to shoot the messenger of the dangers of Gafni. Rabbis Saul Berman, Joseph Telushkin and the rest of their gang went on a vicious attack against anyone associated with The Awareness Center. Berman gang member Rabbi Arthur Green, wrote the notorious letter to the editor of the Jewish Week (Abhorrent Column). Green called those of us who were attempting to protect others from being harmed a “rodef”. A person who meets the definition is subject to death.

“He has been relentlessly persecuted for those deeds by a small band of fanatically committed rodfim, in whom proper disapproval of those misdeeds combines with jealously, anger at his swerving from Orthodoxy, and a range of other emotions.)”

The denial of Berman, Telushkin, Green is no different then those at Bayit Chadash or those connected to the world of Diane Hamilton. The reality is that Gafni has been chased out of many different communities over the years -- and the odds are this sexual predator will not be stopped. His modus operandi is to seek out and sexually manipulate beautiful, brilliant woman. After he is caught he lays low for a few years, during which time he recreates himself and professes his innocence and tells his new community that he is wrongly being accused, even though in the past he confessed to clergy sexual abuse against two teenage girls and many adult women.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Otherside of Growing Up in Skokie in the 1960s 1970s

By Vicki Polin
Skokie Sexual Abuse Examiner - August 1, 2011

Please note that the names of those in this story have been changed to protect their identities.
Last year I returned to the Chicago area after being away for over a decade.  It’s been a wonderful experience reconnecting with so many childhood friends through Facebook and attending so many reunions and gatherings that would make anyone smile.  Sharing so many memories of good times and seeing where the lives of my childhood friends have lead them is truly a pleasure.  What we didn’t know was how many of our classmates were being abused in and out of their homes during our childhoods.
I’ll never forget my friend James telling me about how he and Billy were beaten up by two other boys, whose parents were holocaust survivors.  The reason why James was beaten up was because his friend was of German descent and NOT Jewish.  This wasn’t just a one time thing it happened repeatedly throughout his childhood.  
At a reunion picnic I met up with Joanne.  When I first saw her I knew she looked familiar, but I couldn’t place her.  For some strange reason I asked her if she was still friends with Mary and Darlene.  She looked at me in both rage and tears and looked as if she wanted to hit me.  She then went on and described how both Mary, Darlene and Kristina would corner her and beat her up for no reason.  Her beatings happened almost daily.  Even with interventions from school personal the beatings continued.  Her family had no option but to move to another community.  
The saddest part was the fact in all these cases, those who offended my classmates were people I knew and considered to be my friends.  I had no idea this type of bullying was going on.  
At gathering of folks that included those of us who grew up on Chicago’s northshore, a former homecoming queen from another school shared how she was being emotionally abused in her home.  
No matter what she did or said her father would tell her how ugly she was.  No matter what she did or said the emotional abuse never ended.
As young children, my best friend from kindergarten and I used to share our abuse histories, without even knowing what was happening to us was criminal.  I’ll
I’ll never forget the day that Sharon showed me the burn marks on her body given to her by her mother who was an alcoholic.  You see Sharon was often used as an ashtray when her mother was angry at her.  When we were in sixth grade Sharon and several other people I knew started using drugs. I’ll never forget when Sharon showed me how she would shoot up heroin at the age of 11.  Sharon also dropped out of high school when she was sixteen.
I will also never forget when Barbara and I first reunited after thirty years.  Barbara grew up down the street from me.  I was so excited to see her, yet she seemed very different then the last time I saw her.  Barbara shared with me that growing up she was being sexually abused by her oldest brother.  Ever since she shared the details I kept having flashbacks of how she never wanted to go down to the basement of her home where her teenage brother’s bedroom was.  It wasn’t until we were at a party that I saw how much she drank.  It was obvious to me that she was never able to get the necessary help needed to overcome her child abuse history.  
In high school there were a few classmates who attempted and committed suicide.  Looking back and remembering their symptomology, so many of them exhibited the symptoms of children being abused.
Those of us who grew up in Skokie in the 60s and 70s were not exempt from the statistics regarding bullying, physical abuse and the fact that one out of every three to five women and one out of every five to seven men were sexually abused by the time they reached their eighteenth birthday.