Friday, October 28, 2005

It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator - Judith Herman

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"It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement and remembering."
-- Judy Herman

Dialog: "Does God Really Care About Child Abuse Survivors?"

Below are some comments from the posting "Does God Really Care About Child Abuse Survivors?". I felt the dialog between Rabbi Mark Dratch and a survivor was important and thought it could be helpful to others.
Anonymous said...

Dear Rabbi Dratch,
Thank you for taking the time to post a response. I have such a hard time connecting to my Jewish identity. I'm so tired of everyone telling me to just move on, that what happened to me is a thing of the past. The problem is that my offender is still out there. I read the words you wrote, but I just can't connect anymore. I don't care about Jacob and his faith. I feel pretty self-centered saying this, but it's how I feel.

Where was G-d when I was being molested as a child?

Where was G-d when I felt I was so different then everyone else?

I really want someone to answer those questions for me. I'm so tired of the line that people have free will to molest their children.

At least holocaust survivors were not alone in their pain. There were others with them. Most of my childhood I wish I was dead. I knew I wasn't loved. I was just a sexual toy for my offender.

Rabbi Mark Dratch Responds
Anonymous said...

Rabbi Dratch (tries to) Respond(s)

Thanks for your response to my comments. Wishing that there was an easy answer for you is not glib, it's true...and, unfortunately, impossible.

When we are young, our parents, rabbis and teachers serve as models for us in our understanding of Judaism and our perception of God. When they fail us, as yours did, then we are robbed of many things,,, including that warm, personal, loving relationship with them and with God and Torah.

The Talmud understood this and warned people, especially those in positions of authority, to be careful how they act and treat others. (The Talmud states, Yoma 86a: Abaye explained: As it was taught: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God, i.e., that the Name of Heaven be beloved because of you. if someone studies Scripture and Mishnah, and attends on the disciples of the wise, is honest in business, and speaks pleasantly to persons, what do people then say concerning him? ‘Happy the father who taught him Torah, happy the teacher who taught him Torah; woe unto people who have not studied the Torah; for this man has studied the Torah look how fine his ways are, how righteous his deeds! . Of him does Scripture say: And He said unto me: Thou art My servant, Israel, in, whom I will be glorified. But if someone studies Scripture and Mishnah, attends on the disciples of the wise, but is dishonest in business, and discourteous in his relations with people, what do people say about him? ‘ Woe unto him who studied the Torah, woe unto his father who taught him Torah; woe unto his teacher who taught him Torah!’ This man studied the Torah: Look, how corrupt are his deeds, how ugly his ways; of him Scripture says: In that men said of them,: These are the people of the Lord, and are gone forth out of His land.)

This is the sin of chillul Hashem, desecrating God's Name, for which there is no repentance. Chillul (desecration) comes from the root- ch-l-l which also means a vacuum or a void. Not only did your perpetrator desecrate God, he desecrated your soul as well. And it is very hard to recover from that.

As to why God could let this happen... I don't know. And I beleive that anyone who says that they can tell you is a charlatan. No one deserves to be treated as you were treated.

That being said-- permit me to make two comments.

1. The fact that you are blogging here on a "Jewish Survivors" website says a lot about your desire/need/hope to reconnect Jewishly and to do so in the positive ways you deserve. As hard and hollow as that may seem, and as tainted and corrupt as you may perceive Torah at the moment, I don't think we'd be having this dialogue if you really didn't care. So deep down... really deep.... perhaps you feel there is something worthwhile here. Personally, one of the resons I am so involved in combatting abuse and violence in the Jewish community and have founded JSafe is specifically because I beleive that Judaism has much to offer survivors and that we need to clean up our act as a Jewish community, hold perpetrators responsible, and create a safe and nurturing space for all our children, women and men. And because I beleive that we fail them as well as God and Torah when we allow (through our inaction and our mistaken policies and ideas) Judaism to be misrepresented and corrupted and Jews to be harmed in the process.

And 2. The perpetrator stole your innocence, your sense of safety, your childhood, your spirit and much more. DO NOT LET HIM STEAL YOUR LIFE! I know, again, easier said than done. But if we have only this one life to lead, we can't let others destroy it for us. And if we have obstacles to overcome, and some of us have larger obstacles than others, then let's figure out how to do it. Therapy, support groups, political and communal activism... there are many ways. DON'T LET THE PERPETRATOR STEAL YOUR DREAMS. IT IS N E V E R TOO LATE. And I beieve that God can be a part of that. Take God to task for not being there for you. Yell and scream at Him. Work through your issues with God as you would someone else. Perhaps you'll come to some kind of understanding or truce. Perhaps a lot more. Perhaps a lot less. But you will be better off for the experience.

If you couldn't believe in God again because of your experiences, I would understand and I would respect you. I would also cry. I would also think that you are missing out on a significant part of life and the world that you deserve to know and experience.

Corresponding through blogs is so difficult and artificial. But let's continue our dialogue.

Date Rape Prevention - Videos

Click on these to watch a video provided by ICASA (Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault)

The Gauntlet

Wake Up
(Windows Media Player format)

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Cantors In The News - Are there others?

We are all aware of the fact if a rabbi is accused of professional sexual misconduct that the rabbinical organizations don't have the education or experience needed to investigate the allegations.

If a cantor is accused of professional sexual misconduct does the cantor assembly have the education and or experience in investigating claims? What are their policies when these sorts of allegations are made?
  1. Case of Cantor Stuart Friedman (Halifax, Canada-Philadelphia, Detroit, Boston, Los Angeles, Baltimore)
  2. Case of Rabbi Sidney Goldenberg (Petaluma, CA; Coney Island, NY)
  3. Case of Cantor Joel Gordon
  4. Case of Cantor Mark Horowitz, Temple Beth Am in Amherst (Getzville, NY)
  5. Case of Cantor Howard Nevison (Manhattan, NY)
  6. Case Cantor Robert Shapiro - Randolph, MA
  7. Case of Cantor Stanley Rosenfeld - Warkwick, RI
  8. Case of Cantor Michael Segelstein (Las Vegas, NV)
  9. Case of Cantor Phillip Wittlin

Rapex - NOT Approved by Most Rape Victim Advocates

Anti-rape condom aims to stop sexual assaults
South African inventor creates 'rapex' device fitted with hooks and barbs

KLEINMOND, South Africa - A South African inventor unveiled a new anti-rape female condom on Wednesday that hooks onto an attacker’s penis and aims to cut one of the highest rates of sexual assault in the world.

“Nothing has ever been done to help a woman so that she does not get raped and I thought it was high time,” Sonette Ehlers, 57, said of the "rapex," a device worn like a tampon that has sparked controversy in a country used to daily reports of violent crime.

Police statistics show more than 50,000 rapes are reported every year, while experts say the real figure could be four times that as they say most rapes of acquaintances or children are never reported.

Ehlers said the “rapex” hooks onto the rapist’s skin, allowing the victim time to escape and helping to identify perpetrators.

“He will obviously be too pre-occupied at this stage,” Ehlers told reporters in Kleinmond, a small village about 60 miles east of Cape Town. “I promise you he is going to be too sore. He will go straight to hospital.”

The device, made of latex and held firm by shafts of sharp barbs, can only be removed from the man through surgery which will alert hospital staff, and ultimately, the police, she said.

It also reduces the chances of a woman falling pregnant or contracting AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases from the attacker by acting in the same way as a female condom.

South Africa has more people with HIV/AIDS than any other country, with one in nine of its 45 million population infected.

Ehlers, who showed off a prototype on Wednesday, said women had tried it for comfort and it had been tested on a plastic male model but not yet on a live man. Production was planned to start next year.

But the “rapex” has raised fears amongst anti-rape activists that it could escalate violence against women.

“If a victim is wearing such a device it may enrage the attacker further and possibly result in more harm being caused,” said Sam Waterhouse, advocacy coordinator for Rape Crisis.

Other critics say the condom is medieval and barbaric — an accusation Ehlers says should be directed rather at the act of rape.

“This is not about vengeance ... but the deed, that is what I hate,” she said.

Monday, October 24, 2005

New Survivors Blog - A Survivor of Rabbinical Sexual Misconduct

I just learned of this new blog from The Awareness Center's newsletter. Mazel Tov to Chavah the author who had the courage to tell her story.

FYI: The Awareness Center has several self-help networking groups.

Coming Back Home To Judaism

The Awareness Center has taken on the challenge of creating a place for Jewish survivors of childhood sexual victimization, Jewish Survivors of Sexual Assault (as an adult), and parents of sexually abused children to discuss spirituality issues. Including their childhood, their concept of God, their struggles to be a part of any Jewish community, and other related issues.

To subscribe to this group send a blank email to:

Jewish Survivors of Clergy Abuse

This network/self-help groups is sponsored by The Awareness Center, which is the Jewish Coalition Agaisnt Sexual Abuse/Assault (JCASA). The purpose of this particular network is to give survivors of clergy abuse (Rabbis/Cantors) who are Jewish an opportunity to network with each other and heal.

To subscribe to this self-help network, send a blank email to:

Orthodox Male Survivors of Sexual Victimization

This particular self-help group is open to any Jewish male survivor of sexual violence who is orthodox or in process of becoming more observant. Please note that it is suggested you use a yahoo or hotmail address for this egroup or any of the other self-help networks offered by The Awareness Center, to help with confidentiality. Rabbi Yosef Blau is the moderator of this self-help network.

To subscribe to this self-help network, send a blank email to:

Orthodox Women - Survivors of Sexual Violence

This Self-help group is open to any Jewish female survivor of sexual violence who is orthodox or in process of becoming more observant. Please note that it is suggested you use a yahoo or hotmail address for this egroup or any of the other self-help networks offered by The Awareness Center, to help with confidentiality. Be prepared to let us know who you are before your membership is approved. To subscribe to this self-help network, send a blank email to:

Rabbis who are survivors of Sexual Violence

There are two networks for Rabbis who are survivors of Sexual Violence (childhood sexual abuse, sexual assault, and or sexual harassment). One is for male rabbis, the other for female rabbisl

To join either one of the networks you will need to tell the group moderator your real name, and information regarding your smicha (ordination).

It is suggested that you use a seperate email address for this network to maintain a level of privacy and confidentiality.

Male Rabbis
Female Rabbis

ReThinking Judaism

This self-help network is sponsored by The Awareness Center, which is the international Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault (JCASA). It is open to Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse who were born Jewish, yet left Judaism for another religion. The purpose of this group is to try to create a safe environment to discuss issues you may have regarding Judaism, your reasons for leaving, and what you are looking for to come back. The group is open too Survivors who were born Jewish who have either left Judaism and came back, or those who left and are reconsidering coming back.

Like all of the self-help networks offered by The Awareness Center, we ask that you use an email address that does NOT contain your real name. You can always get one at yahoo or hotmail. We will also screen those who are interested in joinning so please be prepared to answer some questions prior to having your subscription approved. Avi is the moderator of this self-help network. Scott Hillman and Avi are the moderator of this self-help network.

To subscribe send a blank email to:

Jews By Choice - Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse

This particular network is provided to give Adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse who have converted or are in the process of converting to Judaism a place to discuss issues relating to their childhood, Judaism, and their concepts of God. It is suggested you use a email address that does not contain your name. You can get a free email address at Yahoo or at Hotmail. Mesa Leventhal Baker and Avi are the moderator of this self-help network.

To subscribe send a blank email to:

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Important Issues to Discuss

Do you believe that individuals who are Rabbis, Cantors or Religious Teachers could be seen as representatives of God?

Do you think it is OK for Rabbis, Cantors, Religious Teachers (our religious leaders) who are married to have sexual relations with individuals other then their spouses?

Do you think when they do, we should just look at them as being human? Or should we hold them to a higher standard?

What do you think should happen to our religious leaders, when they stray from their spouses?

Should they loose their jobs?

Should their memberships to professional organizations (Rabbinical, Cantor Associations, or Teaching Associations) be revoked?

If the membership is revoked, should it be made public?

Should their ordinations be revoked if they are found guilty?

Should there be public warnings regarding their behavior?

Would you consider this behavior as being sexual professional misconduct?

Monday, October 17, 2005

Does God Really Care About Child Abuse Survivors?

Many people are unaware of the holiday of Sukkot. This Jewish holiday starts on the fifth day after Yom Kippur and lasts for seven days. This year Sukkot begins at sunset tonight (October 17, 2005).

Like any other holiday, Sukkot can be a time of year that survivors of childhood abuse (emotional, physical and sexual abuse) may have a difficult time.

If you know someone who is a survivor of childhood abuse, it might be a good idea to check up on them a few times over the holidays. Make sure survivors have invitations to meals. If they say no, it is important to let them know they can always change their mind and come at the last minute.

The holidays often mean that families get together, routines are changed, 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. They are even more likely to do so when under the pressure of increased anxiety. Many survivors of childhood abuse report that they were abuse became more intense around and over holidays.

This is a reminder that you are not alone, that the feelings you might be experiencing are perfectly natural and normal. If you are having a difficult time, it's important for you to find a trusted friend to talk to.

Sukkot is the time of year that we try to
remember the protection God gave to the Jewish people during the forty years they spent travelling in the desert. This is also a time of year that survivors of childhood abuse may have angry feelings at God for not protecting them. Please feel free to use this space to share your thoughts and feelings.

Also see:
Surviving The High Holidays: Jewish Survivors of Incest and Childhood Sexual Abuse

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Case of Cantor Howard Nevison (Manhattan, NY)

The following message comes from: The Awareness Center's Daily Newsletter

When the case of Cantor Howard Nevison first broke, it made international headline news. This was back in 2002. The problem is that this is an on going case that appears the Jewish news media has been ignoring. The case is still in the court system.

The Awareness Center believes it is a case that needs to have media attention. If you agree, please contact Gary Rosenblatt at The New York Jewish Week and ask them to continue to follow the story.

You can also ask your local paper to follow up on the story too.

Here's an article from April 29, 2005

August trial set for ex-cantor accused of molesting nephew
A pretrial hearing was set for July 1. The man is charged with abusing the boy during visits with relatives in Lower Merion.
By Keith Herbert
Philadelphia Inquirer - April 29, 2005

Former New York City cantor Howard Nevison will go to trial on child-molestation charges Aug. 19 in Montgomery County.

Nevison, 64, was in Montgomery County Court yesterday with his attorney when Judge Paul W. Tressler set the trial date. Tressler also scheduled a pretrial hearing for July 1.

A gag order had been imposed on the lawyers in the case. Nevison's attorney, Ralph A. Jacobs, and First Assistant District Attorney Risa V. Ferman declined to comment.

Nevison is charged with molesting his nephew between 1993 and 1998, when the boy was 3 to 7 years old. The alleged abuse occurred during holidays and family gatherings when Nevison visited relatives in Lower Merion.

The alleged crime came to light in October 1998, when the victim's mother told police that her son had been sexually assaulted by his two uncles and a cousin.

Prosecutors said that members of the family claimed previous abuse: Nevison's two brothers, one of whom is the alleged victim's father, told them that Nevison molested them 40 years ago.

In an earlier ruling, Tressler allowed prosecutors to introduce testimony from the brothers as evidence showing a "common scheme, plan or design" to the molestation allegations.

But Nevison's lawyers appealed to the Pennsylvania Superior Court. A three-judge panel overruled Tressler and barred the brothers' testimony. The panel found the brothers' allegations too old and not specific enough to identify a "signature" crime.

The two family members who were also identified by the victim's mother have already pleaded guilty to sexual assault.

Lawrence Nevison, the boy's uncle, is serving a 5- to 15-year sentence. The victim's cousin, Stewart Nevison, served 11 months in prison and was paroled, according to court records.

In 2003, Nevison was put on leave from Temple Emanu-El, on East 65th Street in Manhattan. Nevison led prayers and sang at the congregation for 23 years.

Contact staff writer Keith Herbert at 610-313-8007

Friday, October 14, 2005

Letter to the Editor: Great Courage - By Vicki Polin

Baltimore Jewish Times - October 12, 2005

I thank Shani Dinovitz for writing last week's cover story "Looking Up." I thank all of the individuals interviewed. It takes great courage to make such personal aspects of one's life public.

It's vitally important that our community know more about chemical dependency. According to a study done at the Menninger Clinic (1996), 69 percent of the patients admitted to chemical dependency programs have histories of physical and/or sexual abuse. We have to remember that childhood sexual abuse occurs frequently in chemically dependent families. ACOA's (Adult Children of Alcoholics) are several times more likely to become addicted or involved with an addict. Many survivors of childhood abuse develop addictions or compulsive behaviors to anesthetize feelings they have been unable to cope with. Another important issue is that about one-half of all sexual assaults are committed by those who have been drinking alcohol.

Vicki Polin
Executive Director, The Awareness Center Inc.
Baltimore, MD

"Prison Service: More and more inmates turning to religion".

The following note comes from Vicki Polin, Executive Director of The Awareness Center.

The other day I sent out the article "Prison Service: More and more inmates turning to religion".

The article "Prison Service: More and more inmates turning to Religion", speaks about how many of those prisoners have 'found' religion in jail--that is, they were NOT religious when they committed the crimes. What the article doesn't mention is how many of those offenders ENTERED the jail already religious and thus came from religious communities where they offended.

What is also very concerning, is what happens to those, now-religious, people when they are released from prison and resume contact with the rest of our society. According to a 1997 study, the recidivism rate for child sex offenders over a 25-year period is 52 percent. This is in both the religious and non-religious world. If these newly religious individuals enter into the observant community, what safety mechanisms are there to protect innocent individuals from becoming the next victim?

Shabbos Thoughts

Out of the mouths of babes come great truths.

Do not die with any unmet dreams.

Spend more time living, then getting ready to live.

Neither an egg or an ego is any good until you break it.

Be responsible for your own happiness.

Better a friendly refusal than an unwilling promise.

The mind is slow in unlearning what it has been long in learning.

Do not part with your illusions.

Anything that lasts only a short time is not worth making a lifetime of sacrifices for.

Experience your feelings.

What happens to a wagon when one wheel falls off?

The mind is like a TV set: when it goes blank, is is a good idea to turn off the sound.

Nothing is so infectious as example.

Find the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Find your purpose.

A little uncertainty is good.

Make the most of yourself.

If you think you are free, then you are.

No one can tell you how to live your life.

Understand what bothers you.

Avoid people who deliberately hurt you.

Small deeds are better than big intentions.

Taking initiative makes one a creator.

The only person you can really correct or change is yourself.

Give to charity

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

In honor of the memory of Daniel Levin

In honor of the memory of Daniel Levin please download this video and watch it.

Tomorow (Yom Kippur, 5766) will mark the 12th anniversary of the death of Daniel Levin an alleged victim of Rabbi Ephraim Boruch Bryks.

Photo of Rabbi Ephraim Bryks

Herzlia-Adas Yeshurun Synagogue in Winnipeg, Canada has a plaque on a all honoring Rabbi Ephraim Bryks . Please contact Rabbi Tzvi Muller and Lois Wolch, synagogue president, ask them to remove the plaque and ask them to replace it with a plaque honoring the memory of Daniel Levin.

Rabbi Tzvi Muller
(204) 489-6262

Lois Wolch - Synagogue President
(204) 489-6262

WARNING: Where is Rabbi Mordechai Yomtov?

The following information comes from The Awareness Center, Inc.

Rabbi Mordechai Yomtov, is in violation of sex offender registration requirements in California for past 2 years. If you know his whereabout contact:
California Department of Justice
(916) 227-4974

Follow the link for more information regarding the Case of Rabbi Mordechai Yomtov

Phone number (916) 227-4974
E-mail address -
Mailing address:
California Department of Justice
Sex Offender Tracking Program
P. O. Box 903387
Sacramento, CA 94203-3870


Last Name: YOMTOV
Middle Name:

1) Description
Last Known Address:
Zip Code
Date of Birth: 03-10-1965
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 170
Eye Color: BROWN
Hair Color: BLACK
Ethnicity: WHITE

2) Offenses
Offense Code

3) Scars/Marks/Tattoos

4) Known Aliases

Survivors of Suicide

I was reading over some of the comments posted to: "Call To Action: In Honor of the Memory of Daniel Levin".

I thought it was important for us to discuss the problem of survivors of childhood sexual abuse and rape attempting and committing suicide. Below is the discussion that already started:

Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to the Levin family. If they read this I want them to know that they are not alone. I also had a child who died in a similar way. My daughter had a difficult time after she disclosed that a teacher at her school molested her. She was one of three students molested.

Many of her classmates made fun of her after they learned of her abuse. It was to much for her to handle. I just wish that twenty years ago we had the resources available that are around today. My daughter would have been 33 today.

October 09, 2005 8:53 AM

Anonymous said...

I had a very dear friend named Candy, who committed suicide back in May, 1988.

Candy was in therapy with someone who I didn't like or trust. A few years after Candy's death I learned that the therapist lost his license to practice due to allegations of professional sexual misconduct. My dear friend Candy was the mother of three beautiful daughters, who grew up without a mother. Something has to be done to stop this sort of madness of professional sexual misconduct. We have lost too many beautiful people due to our communities turning their backs on those who need us the most.

Thank you so much for having this blog.

October 09, 2005 9:05 AM

Anonymous said...

My best friend was severely abused as a child. When she was 29 she lost her life to suicide. I always felt that her family murdered her. When you stop and think about it they did. If they would have been normal she would be here today with us.

I also know the pain that the Levin family must be going through. I know when the anniversary of my friends death comes up how painful it is for me. She's been gone for 14 years.

Some thing needs to be done with people like Rabbi Bryks. I know he will have to face HaShem in the world to come, but he needs to face what he's done in this world too.

October 11, 2005 7:43 AM

Anonymous said...

I had a great aunt who committed suicide after she learned her husband was molesting her niece.

It was to much for her to handle.

I later learned that my great aunt was also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I can't even begin to imagine the horror she felt in learning that she married someone like her own offender.

October 11, 2005 10:38 AM

Monday, October 10, 2005

Oprah Captures Accused Child Molesters! Tomorrow's Show

Tomorrow on the Oprah Show - October 11, 2005

It started with Oprah's $100,000 awared. Now, two accused child molesters are caught. The tip, the break, the capture...all the details. Plus, how you can claim the next $100,000 reward.

One of the individuals being focused on is on The Awareness Center's web page.
The Case of Richard "Steve" Goldberg

One of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives for sexual exploitation of Children (Production of Child Pornography); Unlawful flight to avoid prosecution - Lewd acts upon a child (six counts), Possession of Child Pornography (two counts).

RICHARD STEVE GOLDBERGGoldberg is white, about 6 feet tall and 160 pounds, with a brown hair and brown eyes, a thick mustache and a receding hairline, according to the FBI. Anyone with more information as to Goldberg's whereabouts should call the FBI, but Garcia warned that he should not be approached.

Click here to hear: An Important message from OPRAH

A very special thank you to a few very special people - By Chava Liora

Over the last two years I have spoken to several people about my abuse. There have been a few people I want to publicly thank. They are Rabbi Yosef Blau, Rabbi Mark Dratch, Vicki Polin and the person who runs the Jewish Whistleblower blog.

These four people have been instrumental in my healing. Because of them I have been able to go back to school and finish my degree. I am hoping to be sitting for my bar exam soon. I am going to focus my career on helping survivors. Without the help of Rabbi Blau, Rabbi Dratch, Vicki and JWB, I would most likely have ended my life.

To me, the four individuals are lifesavers.

Thank you for being there for me!

Chava Liora

If you would like to have something posted, send the message to: JewishSurvivors

Do you think all Jewish day schools and yeshiva's should be doing the same thing?

From: The Awareness Center's Daily Newsletter

Schools scramble to screen workers who could endanger children
Naples Daily News - October 10, 2005

A new law to keep pedophiles and violent criminals away from children is giving Florida school districts a serious headache.

But the Jessica Lunsford Act also has kept at least a half-dozen workers with past homicide, kidnapping and child abuse convictions from working on the campuses of Lee and Collier County schools.

Passed last spring, the law requires school districts to fingerprint and screen contractors and vendors before allowing them to work near students. Between news of convicted kidnappers unearthed by the screening, and the logistical and financial nightmare created by the hastily passed law, the pressure has been intense for school administrators.

In Southwest Florida, officials say the law needs serious retooling. Chief among their complaints: a poorly thought-out system that until recently required contractors to pay $61 and be fingerprinted in every county they work in, and a vague standard for what crimes should bar contractors from working near students.

School districts are already required to fingerprint their own employees.

The sweeping new regulations required thousands to be screened in the last few months, including soda machine vendors, sports referees, construction workers and class-ring salespeople. Broward County's superintendent predicted some of the construction projects there might grind to a halt because of the law.

"I feel better knowing that these people aren't in schools," said Greg Adkins, Lee Schools' director of employee relations. "It's a good thing, it's just been a massive undertaking."

Just two months into the school year in Southwest Florida, the law already has kept more than 100 people from working on campus unattended while students are around.

Lee County had screened 270 applicants as of Sept. 22. Of those, 59 were flagged for past offenses, or about one in five. As of this week, Lee had screened about 320 vendors and contractors and flagged 68. But officials declined to give updated information, saying the district stopped keeping records of what crimes were causing workers to be excluded.

Among the 59 flagged in Lee, the charges included:
— one homicide
— five sexual assaults
— five assaults
— one kidnapping
— three weapons violations
— seven larcenies
— two child abandonments
— 11 burglaries
— one theft
— 18 drug violations
— four other felonies

Collier County has fingerprinted approximately 960 vendors and contractors so far, according to Peter DeBaun, Collier's director of professional practices and insurance. Of those, about 40 have been disqualified, or 4.1 percent.

Among the offenses they were disqualified for: drugs, sex crimes, assaults and batteries, crimes against children, burglary, theft, larceny and homicide. Collier school officials would not elaborate further on the nature of the crimes.

Allun Hamblett, Collier's executive director for human resources, said he noticed after comparing notes with Pinellas County that Collier is screening many more workers than most school districts.
"I think some school districts are really concentrating just on contractors. Anyone who has contracts with this school district and are going on our property, we're fingerprinting them," Hamblett said. "We are making sure that we meet the letter of the law, and that was important to us."

A few of those flagged in both Lee and Collier were allowed to work after appeals. Adkins said those who were flagged in Lee but later allowed on campus generally had drug offenses which the district considered not major enough to warrant exclusion.

In September, sponsors of the law announced that the Florida Legislature will meet in a special session to fix problematic parts of the bill.

One problem got a temporary fix last week, after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement made all fingerprints taken after Sept. 1 available to all counties so contractors don't have to be fingerprinted over and over.

But the most confusing part of the law — with a more contentious path to resolution — is the provision that requires schools to bar individuals with records of "moral turpitude." The term can include drunken driving, embezzlement and a variety of misdemeanors, although the law was aimed at sex offenders and other violent criminals who prey on children.

Adkins said Lee County has interpreted the law strictly as to what crimes should exclude vendors from working in schools, but wide variation exists statewide.

"There needs to be more of a statewide standard in terms of who can provide service and who cannot," he said. "Other (districts) are a little bit more liberal in that interpretation."

Laws such as the Jessica Lunsford Act need to be finely sharpened tools, not blunt force instruments, said Duane Dobbert, associate professor of justice studies at Florida Gulf Coast University. Dobbert, an outspoken expert on sexual predators, has held many workshops for educators locally.

"Clinically, we know once a pedophile, always a pedophile. But that doesn't mean that someone who moons out the window of a car ... is a danger," Dobbert said. "These are some of the situations where people are caught in the fallout of new legislation, and in our aggressiveness to protect people, we are also injuring some people."

Laws like the Jessica Lunsford Act — so named for the Homosassa girl who was murdered by a construction worker at her school — are not always well thought-out, Dobbert said. The law should instead look at criminals' likelihood of committing the crime again, he said.

"When we have Jessica Lunsford situation, it creates some social hysteria. We have a tendency not to rationally evaluate the circumstances," Dobbert said.

Still, all agree there are some people who should not be allowed to work in or near a school — ever.
After a few sexual predators outed by the fingerprinting crossed his desk, Hamblett said, "That's the one that really wakes you up. It makes you realize that the Jessica Lunsford Act is doing a service to the students and family in the community."

In fact, the law may not scrutinize some people enough. It requires school volunteers — who often tutor students one-on-one — to simply be checked against a national database of sex offenders.
Collier goes a step further, and has for several years fingerprinted regular volunteers.

"I was always concerned that we had people that had contact with our children without doing a thorough background check," Hamblett said.

All of Collier's principals and bus drivers have also been specially trained to watch for predators.
Ultimately, Dobbert said, legislation like this can be extremely effective in deterring sexual predators from ever coming onto school campuses in the first place.

"The sexual predator ... this man can only succeed in continuing his predatory behaviors if he is anonymous," he said. "By saying you can't get on the campus, you can't volunteer, you can't get a job unless you provide ID which is going to be checked against a national registry, this will keep people from even coming to the campus."

Friday, October 07, 2005

Thoughts for Today

What's right isn't always popular, and what's popular isn't always right.

Money gotten the wrong way never does any good.

A person does not b ecome self-confident overnight.

It is better to work for nothing than to be idle.

Freedom brings peace.

Some reasons are hard to understand.

Life begins every morning when you wake up.

Growth demands a temporary surrender of security.

History repeats itself because people have the same motives.

Every difficulty in life presents us with an opportunity to use our inner resources.

Ignoring facts does not change facts.

Even people you do not know have an effect on your life.

No person is indispensable.

Your mind can either free or imprison you.

Admire people who succeed at living life on their own terms.

Success rarely comes without a struggle.

You may have to forgo wealth and power if you want to attain happiness and freedom.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Call To Action: In Honor of the Memory of Daniel Levin

Call to Action:
Asking Herzlia-Adas Yeshurun Synagogue to have the plaque removed honoring Rabbi Ephraim Bryks

Contact Information:
Rabbi Tzvi Muller at Herzlia
Adas Yeshurun Synagogue

620 Brock St., Winnipeg, MB, Canada, R3N 0Z4
Phone: (204) 489-6262 Fax: (204) 489-5899
email: and

This coming Yom Kippur will mark the 12th anniversary of the suicide of Daniel Levin an alleged victim of Rabbi Ephraim Boruch Bryks. It is a difficult time in particular for his family and friends as Daniel's alleged abuser has never been brought to real justice (if such a thing is even possible at this point) and continues to thrive and work with women and children, not in some small Jewish community but in the New York Orthodox Jewish community.

The Winnipeg Jewish community and Bryks' former Orthodox Union affiliated synagogue, Herzlia Adas Yeshurun (the site of Daniel's abuse), continue to refuse any acknowledgment or responsibility. No apology, no compassion. A plaque honoring Rabbi Ephraim Boruch Bryks remains on the synagogue's "Tree of Life." All Daniel has is a tombstone in a cemetery.

The Awareness Center Has A Call to Action asking everyone to contact Herzlia Adas Yeshurun and ask them to remove the plaque, and perhaps replace it with a plaque honoring the memory of Daniel Levin (see contact information above).

Rabbi Ephraim Boruch Bryks principal Yeshiva Berachel David Torah High School Queens, currently serves time as a member of the Vaad Harabonim of Queens (Rabbinical committee that makes important decisions within the community). As of today, there has been no public statement made concerning his decade long membership on the Vaad Harabonim of Queens. On May 27, 2003, he resigned his membership in the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), after being involved for a quarter of a century.

Anyone with relevant information regarding the open case in Canada is encouraged to contact the Winnipeg Police at their main phone number: (204) 986-6037.

Anyone with relevant information in the United States is encouraged to contact their local police department and their local District Attorney's office, NYPD Switchboard: (646) 610-5000 Queens District Attorney's office: (718) 286-6000.

Rabbi Ephraim Bryks is originally from Denver, Colorado. In this case, accusations about his inappropriate behavior with children started surfacing in the 1980's. These accusations also included making sexual advancements to women in his congregation. When his alleged victims disclosed their experiences to a rabbinic leader in their community, they were basically told to keep silent. The rabbi advised them not to go to the police or child family services. He told them to deal with the allegations internally with the synagogue board. The children were not offered psychotherapy to help them cope with their alleged victimization. Unfortunately a teenager who didn't have the coping skills to deal with his memories ended up committing suicide.

Over the years Rabbi Ephraim Bryks has left a trail of alleged victims from such far-away places as Winnipeg, Canada. He is currently located in New York City. There are no documented cases or public information regarding any victims in New York, yet he has been let go by schools (one characterized as firing), but the schools will not discuss the matter.

For years alleged victims have been going to rabbinic leaders in their communities looking for guidance. For years rabbinic leaders have found it more important to protect an alleged sexual predator over protecting our children.

49 year-old Rabbi Ephraim Boruch Bryks will continue to run Yeshiva Berachel David in Queens until the end of the 2003 school year. No public statement has been made concerning his decade- long membership on the Vaad Harabonim of Queens. Rabbi Bryks was a member of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) for over a quarter of a century before his May 27, 2003 resignation. Ads in The Jewish Press indicate that Rabbi Bryks is currently working as a mortgage broker for a company he runs out of his home called REB International LLC.).

The Awareness Center is providing the documentary "Unorthodox Conduct" in the memory of Daniel Levin. Our hopes is that it will be used as a way to educate the public on the devistating ramifications a case can have on an individual, family and in Jewish communities around the world. It's important to know what happens when a case of "alleged" childhood sexual abuse in the Jewish community is not dealt with properly from the beginning (bringing the case to law enforcement who is trained and educated in dealing with these cases).

Our hopes is that after you view this documentary that you will go to your rabbis and other community leaders and demand that there be changes made when a child makes allegations they were sexually abused/assaulted. We cannot afford for there to be anymore cover-ups when there are allegations that a child has been molested. We cannot afford to let one more child die. Our hopes is that not one more child will feel so desperate that they will take their own lives, as Daniel Levin did.

Please note: The Investigative documentary: "Unorthodox Conduct"contains graphic information regarding the case against Rabbi Ephriam Bryks. It was produced in 1994 by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

For more information regarding the Bryks case, go to:


Vicki Polin, MA, ATR, LCPC - Executive Director
The Awareness Center, Inc.
(Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault)
P.O. Box 65273, Baltimore, MD 21209

Incest and Gods justice/forgiveness

kera_baby.jpg (16498 bytes)
Ask A Rabbi -
(1998) By Rabbi Daniel Kohn

Q: My father is a religious man. He attends synagogue every Fri. night and Saturday. Lights candles, reads torah, but is also a man who is a pedophile. He sexually abused me nightly for eight years. I've had to work through my anger and pain on my dollar, and without any assistance from him. He denies his actions and will not speak of it. Every Rosh Hashana he calls and begs me to go to synagogue with him. I will not. My question is.. If there is a god, will he/she/? forgive him?? And how do I forgive god for bringing me into this horrifying experience of childhood. Am I supposed to believe that everything has its reason?

A: You are certainly entitled to never forgive this man who caused you such pain. As for whether God will forgive your father, I just don't know. Our tradition holds that somewhere, somehow, there is and will be divine, exact justice for all sins and crimes in this world. But how this judgment will be exacted is beyond me--or any other human being. All I can tell you is that I believe that the spiritual fate after death of any victim of a crime cannot be the same as the perpetrator of that crime. I desperately want to believe that the evil suffer for their crimes, whether in this world or somehow after this life. While I may not see this justice exacted, I certainly want to believe that God will ultimately seek recompense for all sins and crimes committed by humanity. While our tradition holds that God is merciful, justice is a far greater priority--this is how the Jewish tradition understands God.

Should I sit shiva for abusive parents (who are still alive)?

Child sexual abusers are skilled in persuasion
Ask A Rabbi -
(2000) By Rabbi Jane Rachel Litman

Q: After over 20 years of silence I told my mother of the sexual abuse my father forced upon me as a teenager. They are not Jewish (I converted to Judaism 3 years ago). They have now completely rejected me and don't believe me and never want to see me again. I have considered shiva, is this wrong for me to consider my parents dead after all the pain I have endured these past years? After speaking up I feel as if a weight has been lifted, but have also considered changing my name too. What should I do?

A: You are a very brave person. You have been deeply wounded and the wound will need a lot of care and tending in order to heal as much as is possible. The very most important thing is for you to get the support you need. I hope that you have found a supportive and caring rabbi to help you with your spiritual healing after the devastating experience you have survived. I truly think that a personal relationship with a sympathetic and compassionate local rabbi will be more helpful to you than any words I might offer across the Internet.

That said, I think both of your ideas have merit. It is important for you to free yourself as much as possible from the pain inflicted on you. I think taking on a new name is a good idea -- it is in line with Jewish tradition, and it will be a symbol for your emerging sense of independence and self-care. I think you might want to review a Hebrew name book and choose a name either of a strong Jewish woman (such as Deborah or Miriam) or a value which is important to you (such as Tikvah, "hope").

I am a bit more hesitant about the idea of sitting Shiva for these people. I think you really need to think that one over a bit more. It's awfully permanent and will deprive you of a possible ritual when they really die.

How about making a Havdalah from them? I also suggest you might want to go to the mikvah to cleanse yourself. You should know that you are not alone. You might want to read the final two essays of Four Centuries of Jewish Women's' Spirituality edited by Ellen Umansky and Dianne Ashton, which deal with this issue.

Take care and remember that Adonai loves you.

Recovering from sexual abuse

Ask A Rabbi -
(1997) By Rabbi Ted Feldman

Q: I am 13 years old and attend a Jewish Day school. A few years ago I was sexually abused by a man at a local community center. I have suffered much pain because of this and i have never forgotten one aspect of the time it happened to me. I sometimes feel that I am the one to blame. I don't know what to do about this. Can you give me some good advice so that my hurt goes away?

A: It is so sad to hear that this has happened to you and that you are struggling so much with the pain in the aftermath of the event.

Sometimes we as human beings, have the strange notion that we are all powerful and can control everything that happens to us and in the world around us. For you to have been responsible for what happened means that you were totally in charge of the place, time, and that you could, in some way, control what the other person thought about you and ultimately did to you. Even an adult has no such power, let alone a nine,ten, or eleven year old child whose knowledge, strength, experience is so limited.

The power that you do have is to not "reward" that event with such control over your life. Your success in living, learning, relating to people and all of the things you spite of what happened, is the power that you have.

I hope you are asking for help with these feelings...counselor, rabbi, parents, friends, and that you can rid yourself of the hurt.

Perhaps you could create for yourself a little ceremony of ridding yourself of the hurt...writing all of the hurt on a piece of paper and, in the presence of family and friends...throw it in a river...or burn it or something to announce that you are ridding yourself of those feelings.

Pedophilia and the Orthodox community

Ask A Rabbi -
(1998) By Rabbi Dr. Joseph S. Ozarowski

Q: Why has the frum community never done anything about pedophilia?

A: Tough question. Possibly shame over its very existence, denial that it is a problem or not knowing what to do. We did address it once at an R.C.A convention that I attended.

I would tell you that if you know of such a case, you should report it to the appropriate authorities. A child's life is at risk here. Personally, I think the issue of erva and sakana overrride any and all other considerations.

How does one honor a father who allowed sexual abuse?

Ask A Rabbi -
By Rabbi Jo David

Q: How does one "honor" a father who knew that his brother-in-law sexually abused you for many years and did nothing to stop it?

A: I grieve with you for the pain such a situation created for you.

The commandment that charges us to honor our parents pre-supposes that our parents acted properly toward us - that they protected, clothed, fed and educated us. A parent who abdicates the duties implicit in parenthood - and most certainly protecting a child from abuse is primary - is not, by definition, a parent. You have no religious or moral obligation to honor your father or your mother, if she too, was involved in neglecting to protect you from her brother-in-law.

Today, there are many support groups for men and women who suffered from sexual abuse. Recovering from abuse is possible, and very important so that your future is not molded by your past. If you have not connected with one of these groups, please let me know the area of the country in which you live and I'll give you some leads to follow up.

Doesn't Halacha care about abused children?

From: Ask A Rabbi -
(2001) By Rabbi Shraga Simmons

Q: I was told that if a person over 12 is abused by an adult they can not be publicized as an abuser in the Jewish community unless there is another witness. Why is that? what if the abuser is abusing other children? Doesn't the halacha care about those other people being abused?

A: If there is no corroboratory evidence against a person, the person is innocent until proven guilty. If a Bet Din (rabbinical court) will find the person guilty, they will surely notify others, if they deem it necessary. There are exceptions - If it is to stop an evil person from committing unjustified evil to others, when it is difficult or impossible to present it to a Bet Din, before damage is liable to be done. Then if it meets seven conditions, it would be permitted.

In brief, the seven conditions, listed in "Chafetz Chaim" 1:10, are:

1. That the negative aspects you know, should be firsthand information, i.e - what you saw or heard; not from hearsay.

2. You should not conclude in haste that what you saw or heard, is negative. Investigate whether there are extenuating circumstances.

3. You have to first reprove the accused, directly, in a genial manner, before acting upon it.

4. There should be absolutely no exaggeration of the accusations.

5. That you should have the sole intention of helping others; no ill feelings or revenge whatsoever.

6. Seriously try to find a different way (other than speaking evil on this person to anyone), whereby the problem would be resolved otherwise.

7. That not one iota of damage should be done to the person, more than he would have had, had the case been taken to a Bet Din, with the evidence that exists.

Please see "Chafetz Chaim" there, for the elaborate sub-conditions to these seven, before acting.

In your case, the best would be to present the purported evidence to any of the very efficient rabbinical courts. They have the ability to investigate further, and judge the accumulated evidence, whether it warrants further action.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Happy Rosh HaShana - Can You Believe It's 5766?

I wanted to create a place for survivors to share their experiences of Rosh HaShana Past and Present. If you know of other resources that feel healing please share them.
Rosh Hashanah Image

For those of you not going to shul, but still want to hear the Shofar
Shofar Blowing (slow when you click on links, but will open)
Shofar Sounds
Info and Sounds

Other Musical Sites on Rosh HaShana:
National Sound Archives - Rosh HaShana (slow when you click on links, but will open)

For the Child Within
Rosh HaShana Coloring Books
High Holiday Coloring Book

High Holidays

Message from The Awareness Center:

For many the high holidays are a time of year filled with wonderful memories of families getting together. Unfortunately, for survivors of childhood abuse (emotional, physical and sexual abuse), this can be a time for painful memories to reemerge. When this happens a survivor may find it safer to retreat, then to participate in holiday functions. It is important for each individual survivors to find what works best for them to stay emotionally healthy. It is vitally important each person to be kind to themselves with what ever decisions you make regarding holiday services. We all need to respect their decisions, especially if they decide not to participate.

If you know someone who is a survivor of childhood abuse, it might be a good idea to check up on them a few times over the holidays. Make sure survivors have invitations to meals. If they say no, it is important to let them know they can always change their mind and come at the last minute.

The holidays often mean that families get together, routines are changed, 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. They are even more likely to do so when under the pressure of increased anxiety. Many survivors of childhood abuse report that they were abuse became more intense around and over holidays.

This is written as a reminder to all survivors:

It is not uncommon for symptoms of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) to emerge after times of relative remission and/or intensify in those already struggling. You 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.

Over the years we have spoken to many adult survivors who find it very painful to even consider going to services at a synagogue. This is OK. Someday you may feel different, but if the pain is too intense, it is important that you do things that can be healing, that you set boundaries to do what feels safe for you.

One survivor shared that she felt uncomfortable not doing anything for the high holidays, so she'd rent the movies that had a Jewish theme to them. Another survivor would invite other Jewish Survivors over to her home and they would create a ritual that seemed healing for their services.

It’s important to remember that whatever works for you is ok --know that you are not alone, not wrong, not bad for having second and third and forth thoughts about how to celebrate and if to celebrate the holidays. Look into yourself and see what you need, then do what you can to do it, and be kind to yourself for needing to make these adjustments.

Have a gentle, safe holiday,
Todah Rabah for Surviving!

The Awareness Center, Inc.
(Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault)
P.O. Box 65273, Baltimore, MD 21209

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It's musaf time. Do you know where your children are? By S.M.

© 2005 By S. M. - reprinted by permission

Whether you're old enough to remember, or have just heard it referenced to, I think most of us have heard about the commercial that used to play on television: "It's 11 o'clock. Do you know where your children are?" This upcoming holiday season, a question I'd like you to keep in mind is… It's musaf time. Do you know where you're children are?

It's no secret that abuse increases during the holiday season. Parents are often stressed out, and they may act out this stress on their children. Parents that are already abusive in some way just become worse during a time that is meant to be a time of repentance and reflection. While this is a concern and something to be aware of, that's not what this article is about.

I'm talking about the sexual abuse, and sometimes, rape, that happens at the hands of relatives or family friends during holiday meals, when there are more guests over than normal, when things are busier and we're more distracted with being good hosts, instead of watching our children. We spend so much time telling our children to not talk to strangers. But the sad fact is that 93% of child sexual assault victims knew their attacker. Even more upsetting, 34.2% were family members, and 58.7% acquaintances. Only 7% percent of the perpetrators were strangers to the victim. [Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement. Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, 2000]

We encourage our children to accept touch they don't want, making things even more dangerous. We tell a child to be a "good girl" or "good boy" and let Aunt or Uncle So-and-so give them a hug, a kiss, a pinch. "Let grandpa hold you in his lap." We send a message that teaches our children, "Not only do you have to let them touch you when you don't want to be touched, you're a bad boy or girl if you say no." Not all touch is bad. But teaching children that they can't say no to touch because someone is a relative or friend is wrong and danergous.

You may not want to hear this – but just because your in your own home, your parent's home, your dearest aunt's home, your child may not be safe.

The home is not the only place molestation is more likely to happen during the holiday season. How often do we let our children run around and play during holiday services? We tell them not to bother us, let us pray, and go play with the other children. But while you're praying, another member of the synagogue may be looking for a lonely, dejected child to pray on. How many candy-givers in the synagogue have later been exposed as pedophiles? Yes, it does happen. And not as rarely as you'd like to think.

In one community, after living there a year, one of the members was suddenly missing from services. This was a 50-year old man who made every effort to attend the daily minyan services. He looked kind, and always had a smile. He fit the image of a perfect grandfather-type. So why was he suddenly missing from services? This "kind", "religious" man broken his parole and was forced to serve time in jail. His crime? Sexual assault of a minor.

So, how can you help protect your child?

  • Keep an eye on your children, especially children that are under 12, or children that are naturally timid or quiet. Not to say this sort of thing doesn't happen to out-going children, but most pedophiles profile their victims. A quiet, reserved child makes for an easier target.
  • Don't force your children, either through guilt or words, to accept kisses, hugs, or any other kind of touching from relatives. It doesn't matter if the relative is a grandmother, uncle, or older cousin, male or female, in their 30s or 90s. Children must be taught that they can *always* say no to touch.
  • Talk to your children about good touch and bad touch. There are several books on these topics. Make clear to your child that good touch and bad touch doesn't apply only to strangers, and that if anyone touches them in a way that makes them feel worried, nervous, or scared, that they should tell you right away. And reassure them that no matter what the other person tells them, they will not be in any trouble.
  • When in synagogue, do not allow your children to wander the grounds without supervision. Even if they are being watched by a hired babysitter or a relative, come to check on the children periodically. If the person watching the children knows that you will drop in on and off unexpectedly, they are less likely to try to do anything.
  • If you notice a drastic change in your child's personality or behavior, at any time of year, but especially after holiday gatherings, find time to sit with your child and talk. You can see a complete list of warning signs to look for here: If you think your child is being abused by a relative, you may need to ask the child directly, but in a calm manner, if someone touched them. It's important that you ask the child in a way that doesn't show any worry or extreme emotion, because the child may misinterpret your upset and believe they are going to be in trouble if they tell you.
  • Don't be ashamed or afraid of seeking professional help for you or your child, whether they tell you someone has hurt them, or you suspect someone might have hurt them. No harm will come from a consultation with a psychologist, but great harm can come from ignoring a real danger.

Just a bit more time given to watching your child can make a world a difference. I wish someone was watching me. Because not only did a relative repeatedly steal my innocence from me on the High Holidays. He stole the happiness and holiness from every holiday since my childhood, leaving behind memories of pain and terror that are triggered by the shofar's call.

Message to Reb Tsvi

Reb Tsvi who ever you are -- STOP posting to this blog.

It's obvious you are only posting to this blog to harass survivors of sexual violence. You should be ashamed of yourself. You owe everyone who reads this blog an apology.

Everyone, if this guy posts again, please ignore him. I will delete all of his posts under this name or any other names he uses.

This is blog is for Jewish Survivors of Sexual Violence. It's a place for SURVIVORS to discuss issues and to heal.

Inside A Fractured Mind

60 Minutes correspondent Morley Safer reports.
Oct. 2, 2005

Robert Oxnam discovered he had multiple personality disorder in 1990. (CBS)

(CBS) All of us have different faces we show the world. One personality for family and close friends. Another, perhaps, at work. Another for strangers. Maybe even a hidden face that we show to no one.

Imagine if all of them were walled off from each other in your mind. And you, the dominant personality, had no clue the others existed.

That's the essence of a condition called ‘multiple personality disorder,’ a strange and highly controversial mental illness.

The central character of this story is a man of great achievement who's written a book about his own experience with multiple personalities, a memoir aptly called
A Fractured Mind, about the secret lives that he led and the secret knowledge he has now decided to reveal.

“It's a very hard thing to talk about because as soon as you broach it, if you don't tell the whole story, you sound like a raving lunatic,” says Robert Oxnam.

Oxnam is a distinguished international scholar. He is a specialist on China, steeped in both its ancient and contemporary history, its culture and its language.

But Oxnam is also ‘Bobby,’ a devil-may-care Rollerblader in New York’s Central Park. Bobby is one of three personalities who are no longer walled off but still co-exist with Robert.

“I’m dominant in that I’m the front guy. It’s my job,” Oxnam explains.

When asked if he speaks for all the personalities, he says “I speak for all of them, and when I don’t there’s hell to pay.”

Perhaps it is significant that, as a kid, the author of
A Fractured Mind was obsessed with Humpty Dumpty, the nursery rhyme character who is shattered.

Oxnam grew up under great pressure to succeed. His father was a university president, his grandfather a Methodist bishop and president of the World Council of Churches.

And he did not disappoint. While still in his thirties, he was named president of the Asia Society, a renowned cultural and research institution. Policy makers and journalists – like Walter Cronkite – sought out his views.

He was also a tour guide in China to the rich and influential, like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.

The public Robert Oxnam was on top of the world. But on the inside, he says there was a combination of deep depression and anger, and occasional rage. “And a sense, therefore, that there was glittering success out here and ongoing decay, and it got worse,” he added.

In the 1980s, he was dogged by alcoholism and bulimia and his first marriage fell apart. He saw a psychiatrist but his problems, including blackouts, continued.

Oxman would wake up with burns and scratches on his body but he had no idea what had caused them. “I not only had no idea, I had no memory of the context in which it occurred,” he says.

And he had another life going on. He would find himself hanging around Grand Central Station in New York City, lost in the crowds in a kind of trance. And he would hear voices.

“The voices were sometimes in my head and sometimes spoken. And it was startling to hear. ‘You're bad. You're terrible. You're the worst person who ever lived,’" Oxman recalls.

And then in 1990, during a routine session with his psychiatrist, Dr. Jeffery Smith, Oxnam suddenly became someone else.

“There was a complete change. His eyes kind of fluttered, like that. And there was a change in his voice and his demeanor and his movements. And he was really a different person,” Dr. Smith remembers.

“There was no knowledge except the knowledge that I was fading out. It was almost like going through, having anesthesia, that you were blacking out, leaving the stage,” Oxman says.

During the session, Dr. Smith says Oxman’s hands were claw-like and he was angry and hissing. Afterwards, he told his patient that he had been dealing with an angry little boy named ‘Tommy.’

"Tommy? Who's Tommy?” Oxman asked.

Dr. Smith realized that he might be dealing with ‘multiple personality.’

Oxman’s first reaction was "This is hogwash. I've seen ‘Sybil’. I'm not like Sybil," referencing the 1976 TV movie based on a book about a real-life case of a woman with 16 personalities.

The movie put multiple personality disorder in the public eye and led to a huge increase in such diagnoses.

In Oxnam's case, 11 distinct personalities emerged. Among them were ‘Tommy,’ the angry adolescent, the ‘Witch,’ a frightening presence and ‘Bobby,’ the troubled young Rollerblader.

Publicly, Oxnam went about his business at the Asia Society, meeting and greeting the Dalai Lama and other dignitaries, and giving no hint of his private turmoil.

Soon, he realized the voices he heard belonged to his various personalities.

In 1991, as he was hosting a dinner for the first President Bush, the chatter inside Oxnam's head was relentless. He wanted all of his personalities to be quiet. "Just be quiet, let me do this. We'll have the event, everything will be fine and then you can speak up,” he remembers thinking.

The talking continued right through the President's speech. Most of it was from Oxnam’s alter ego Bobby, the Rollerblader and troublemaker.

Oxman remembers Bobby was talking to him, saying "This is boring" and “Aw, that’s cool. Look at the Secret Service people up in the balcony.”

Vishakha Desai married Oxnam soon after ‘Bobby’ and the other personalities revealed themselves. She is also an Asia scholar and the current president of the Asia Society.

Desai remembers when Oxman first revealed the disorder. He said ‘I need to tell you that I'm seeing a psychiatrist. And I have this disorder,’" she recalls.

“It wasn't until when I asked to meet the witch that it really brought it home,” Desai says.

“The face completely changed. And there was a tremendous amount of hissing and anger, including towards me,” Desai remembers. She says the witch personality told her “You think you're gonna solve Robert's problem? I'm gonna teach you a thing or two because you think he's a good guy. I'm gonna show you that he's a bad man."

Childhood trauma is often at the root of multiple personality disorder, and Oxnam appears to be no exception. During therapy a new character emerged. ‘Baby’ told a tale of childhood abuse.

Oxman says it was sexual abuse and always accompanied by the words "you're bad, and that's why it's a punishment." Oxman says he was threatened with having his body or a hand put in boiling water. “I was locked up in an old ice box,” he says.

The abuser, who he will not name, was someone close to the family.

We asked him to read a passage from the book.

‘Baby’ is describing the abuse. “Please, please,” I'm crying. He shouts at me: ‘You're bad.’ Then I'm hit. My bottom hurts, my leg hurts. ‘You're such a bad little boy, a bad little boy.’ I'm hit again and again and again. ‘Please stop. Don't hit me,’” Oxnam read.

Robert Oxnam is well aware that his story is a surreal one and that not everybody will believe it. The American Psychiatric Association does consider multiple personalities a true mental disorder, one now called Dissociative Identity.

But on the issue of recovered childhood memories – such as Baby's tale of
abuse – the APA notes "some individuals with this disorder are highly hypnotizable and especially vulnerable to suggestive influences."

Recovered memory is still a controversial diagnosis and some think that the memories of other personalities are implanted by psychiatrists.

“I'm not a therapist. I can only tell my own story. I do know that there was no implanting whatsoever. Each time that a personality emerged it was never a suggestion, it was never ‘Wouldn't it be good if this happened,’" Oxman said.

Nevertheless, both multiple personality and recovered memory are concepts that continue to divide the psychiatric community. But that has not shaken the belief of Oxnam or his doctor, who swears he never planted anything in Oxnam’s mind.

“I would never suggest details. And I think no sensible clinician would do it,” Dr. Smith said.

Today, many of Oxnam's personalities have merged, leaving just four. There’s Robert, Bobby and Tommy. And the witch has become a woman named Wanda.

“Now, for the most part I, Robert, know what the other parts of me are doing. And for the most part, they know what I'm doing. And it's almost like having, searching for a committee that actually functions,” Oxnam says with a chuckle.

He is in constant negotiations with his personalities, living under a kind of truce dominated by Robert – most of the time.

Oxnam says he is not cured and that setbacks are generally set off by some emotional problem or unexpected advance. “The death of my mother last year gave rise to a suicide attempt. I mean, the whole system kind of shattered,” he recalls.

Bobby was the suicidal personality inside Oxnam. “Bobby is almost like a spark
plug inside of us, and it keeps firing. But when that spark plug gets clogged, the whole engine goes down. That's Bobby,” he explains.

But it is also Bobby, who is the happy-go-lucky, sunny, carefree part of sober-sided Robert, who got him into trouble.

He had a brief affair with a young woman he met in the park, an affair that threatened Robert’s marriage. “The hard thing was that it was Bobby's love affair, but I had turned away and let it happen,” Oxnam says.

We asked Oxnam whether he was concerned that people might say he was avoiding responsibility for the affair by blaming ‘Bobby.’

“Absolutely. I'm not going to sit here and say, ‘No, it wasn't me. I didn't have the affair.’ Of course it was me, part of the package me that exists,” he says.

Vishakha forgave him – or them – but freely admits living with multiple personalities is no picnic.

Asked if there was a time when she considered putting an end to the relationship, she replies, “Sometimes for brief moments. But never at the point where I've felt like ‘Forget it.’ It’s difficult some times. Life is difficult. So what? You just do it.”

For most women, one husband is often more than enough, but Vishakha must deal with an entire committee.

But Robert may have an advantage having Bobby around: he’ll never really grow old.

Vishakha agrees. “Exactly. And I feel like it rubs off on me.”

“I tell you, it has a downside because when you have an 18-year-old go running out on Rollerblades for five hours skating on the weekend, a 62-year-old has the aches and pains at the end of the evening,” Oxnam added. “I’m not kidding.”