Thursday, March 1, 2012

Being a survivor — Ignoring the "stop victimizing yourself" calls

I have been receiving tremendous feedback about sharing my story. The support has been overwhelming; I wouldn't be here without it. However, some have suggested that I am "victimizing myself", using my story for gain and falsely accusing others; such gross mischaracterizations are as twisted as they are ridiculous.

While I certainly have lived through mistreatment and abuse, I have survived and I am thriving. That is how I view myself — not as a victim. And, I view my experience as an opportunity to bring attention to important issues and to help end the silent struggle that many vulnerable people face. This is what I sincerely hope to gain by sharing my honest experiences. My story is one of perseverance despite mistreatment and abuse, a story about not being a victim, a story of hope.

Unfortunately, sexual abuse is very widespread; chances are either you or people you know have been abused. To silence survivors, to accuse them of victimizing themselves only serves to victimize them further and to legitimize abuse of them and others. The trauma is only exacerbated and perpetuated when their stories are not allowed to be told for fear of shaming people or communities. The fact that this abuse happens is one thing, the fact that individuals and communities ignore the problem is more shameful still, and that survivors being shamed for speaking out is utterly reprehensible. While what I endured growing up in an Orthodox community is shameful, my intention is not to bring shame upon the community — far from it.

Indeed, support has been flooding in especially from Orthodox individuals and certain community leaders. I hope the the dialogue continues. Communities can grow stronger by acknowledging and protecting the vulnerable from the shameful acts that happen within them and be proud not to tolerate embarrassment and harm of its members. I believe that the voices of hatred, oppression and insult will always be defeated by voices of love, courage and honesty.

It is from love for others that I have found the courage to speak honestly about what I experienced. I have survived embarrassing and insulting bullying for being gay, harmful and oppressive "therapy" with JONAH, and sexual abuse by one of its "life coaches". These are not easy things for me to discuss, but I must tell my story to reprove those responsible and hold them accountable so that others may be spared. I will continue to tell my story to send a message that abuse, bullying and violence cannot be tolerated and that the vulnerable and weak find courage and have a voice; the shameful truth will come out. But, there is no shame in telling it  only in oppressing it.

The truth is that 212 "rabbis", mental health "professionals" and influential people who signed the so-called Torah declaration, have only further distanced themselves from common decency, basic morality and the truth. They would irresponsibly mandate all gay people to attempt "therapies", which are proven to cause significant harm1 and have been condemned by the American Psychological2,3 Psychiatric4 and Medical5 Associations, and misrepresent even Orthodox Judaism6. These 212 people represent neither what Judaism teaches nor where Judaism stands on the issue. I have never claimed to represent a certain sect, group or movement, but I am proud to stand up against abusive practices that harm people with no voice in Orthodox communities. That is a lot more than can be said for the people who promote a document that only spreads the embarrassing, harmful and dangerous message that gay people must or even can be cured or changed. Dismissing me as a "professional victim", disregarding what happened to me at the hands of JONAH, ignoring the abuse and harm that all gay people face, will not alter the truth. It will not help the community, it certainly will not help those harmed and it will only encourage me further to drive out voices of hatred, oppression and harm with a voice of love, honesty and hope.

There is no pride in being a victim, but surviving abuse requires knowing that there is no shame in it either. I stand proud with fellow survivors and those who have not found their voices, so that they know that they are not alone and that there is hope.

1 Overview and Scientific Literature Review, see also the below
2 American Psychological Association Report repudiating reparative/conversion "therapy"
3 American Psychological Association Resolution
4 American Psychiatric Association Position Statement opposing reparative/conversion "therapy"
5 American Medical Association Policy opposing reparative/conversion "therapy"
6 Orthodox Statement of Principles


  1. yasher koach. For reals.

  2. I needed to be reminded of this, thank you! This could be applied to bullying or abuse situations. I agree, there is no pride in being a victim.. But there is no shame in it either. Rise above!


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