Chana's Story

Dear Dr.Patti

After I sent you my story you were able to help me through the girlthrive scholarship fund. I want to thank girlthrive for helping me attend a conference of sex abuse in Jewish families.

Most of the stories on your site are from girls who are still struggling with figuring out if what happened to them was abuse. I wanted to share my story, not so much for your advice but to let other girls know you can get out, you can get help, you can get away and on with your life. Probably the hardest part for me was finally accepting that my mother would never protect me. I was abused emotionally, physically, and sexually by both parents. When I turned 18, I decided never to go back. I'm 21 now, and I have been out of my parents' house for three years.

I was raised in a traditional Jewish household -- not incredibly rich, but not exactly poor. I went to private schools until high school. My father was a doctor, and my mother was a social worker. Not exactly the type of family you'd think would be as screwed up as we were! Certainly, I never gave much credit to what was going on in that house....I truly believed that EVERYONE had no locks on the bathroom doors, got into psychotic screaming matches with their mothers over how fast they loaded the dishwasher, and got hit by dad for making mom mad. I truly believed that ALL 12 year olds had to do all the cooking and cleaning for the entire household (never, of course,getting it right). Why wouldn't any other 12 year old have to buy her own food and clothing? My parents told me that they were the only ones who could ever love me, whom I could ever trust. Therefore I grew up in constant fear--fear of not making them happy (I never could) and fear of what would happen to me if they hated me and "threw me away".

The only reason I can convince myself to stay away from them is because of what HE did to me--my father, the sainted doctor, who saintedly molested his little girl. I had no idea back then that three-year-olds didn't need vaginal exams given by their dads. I had no idea, back then, that 10-year-olds didn't have to be felt-up daily by their fathers "to make sure they wear bras". I had no idea, back then, that 15-year-olds didn't need enemas just because dad said so---and that, even if they did, they could do it themselves. I knew that dad shouldn't walk in on me in the shower--but there was no stopping him. It is the sexual abuse that is so clear to me now. He violated my body, and my mother basically stood by and watched.

So how did I get away from that madness? How I am, a 21-year-old baby, about to finish a Master's Degree in Social Work and really make a life for myself? Well, I didn't get off easy. I was anorexic, I was a cutter, I was suicidal more times than I care to remember. I was blessed with two women in my life who mothered me in the best way they could, and took care of me as best they could. I spent as much time away from that house as possible, and my religious youth-group and school supports helped me make that possible. As much as I saved myself, I could write a book about the people who saved me. I always wanted a magic answer. I always wanted someone to swoop me up and carry me away from my crazy family; to adopt me as their own and love me like I knew I should have been loved. In the end, I had to rescue myself. I was in college early--at 17. I kept going home for vacations, to get my tuition paid. One vacation, my father punched me in the stomach in the middle of the driveway and locked me out of the house. Nothing new. But that was the end. I was 18, and I wasn't going to put up with it anymore. I had no idea HOW I would make it on my own, but ANYTHING was better than being in that house. That night, I had no doubt in my mind that someday they could kill me.

I got on a bus back to college and never went back. After many bad therapists I have finally found a good one who I trust. My parents no longer pay my tuition. They've harassed my therapists. They charge me to use their health insurance (and no, it's not costing THEM anything). They send my grandmother after me to convince me to come home. I'm $60,000 in debt. I live in a dorm room, and am otherwise homeless. Not a day goes by that I don't wish I had a mom, or wonder if I made the right choice. But I know, deep down, that staying in touch with those psychopaths I was born to would have killed me. For once in my life, I chose me.

I'm not going to lie and say that it's easy. Therapy is a challenge, but I know it helps me. Every single day is a struggle. The "simplest" things are such a challenge, especially in my world, where EVERYONE has parents. I feel alone, and misunderstood. But I'm alive, and I'm safe. Safe! And at the end of the day, that's worth it.


Dr. Patti responds:

Dear Chana;

         Thank you for reaching out to GirlThrive and asking for some scholarship money. I set up this scholarship fund for girls who needed to pay for college and get away from their abusors. You are an inspiration to other girls who may need to get away but are afraid they can't make it on their own. I am glad we have helped you attend your conference. I know you will help many children when you are a social worker. And I also know from the bottom of my heart that because you have come out with your feelings, left your family, stayed in therapy you will have a wonderful life. You will not be haunted by this abuse, you have dealt with it at a young age, it will not follow you. Yes you are safe, you are free Chana.

................................xoxo, Dr. Patti.

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