IT HAPPENED IN SCHOOL- SHOCKINGLY BY A BAIS YAAKOV MACHANECHES!
Dear Teacher, principal, educator:
Not too many years ago, I was a student in your school. I was the “normal” girl in school. I did well in school, had many friends, attended and sometimes headed your programs and productions. I had an extremely positive experience in your school, and only carry warm memories with me of my years there.
You always encouraged us to have close relationships with our teachers, yet most were older, and therefore hard to relate to on a personal level. There was one particular young, married teacher which caught the students’ attention. She was a great teacher- young, active, and most importantly she cared for each and every student. Everyone knew that if you wanted something taken care of, you went to this teacher. She was there for everything you needed- talking to the principal for you, helping you through a personal struggle, and even sending you to therapy. She was the go-to person for everything. Since she always did take care of most requests, she quickly built up her reputation as one of “those” that you can really “trust.”
And trust I did. From the very moment she started a conversation with me on a school Shabbaton, we built a strong, trusting relationship. She was my advisor, educator, and mentor. She guided me through every decision I made for the next three years. What to do in the summers, which seminary to go to, and what job to take the years after. She dedicated so many hours of her time to me, that I followed her almost blindly. She was an adult, a mechaneches, a respected unbiased opinion as an educator in my life, why should I NOT listen to her?
Needless to say, I became extremely close to her.
Then came the year after seminary. G-d’s Ways took me to an out-of-town country for a year. She was not very pleased about that decision, but it’s what had to be done. The summer before I left, she dropped the bomb shell: she had cancer and was dying. The doctors had only given her a few more months to live. She told me this because we were so close, and she wanted me to be aware of what was going on, especially since I was going to be so far away. She did have one personal request, that since she did not want her students to find out, or anyone’s pity…she wanted to keep these facts private, I should not to tell anyone.
To say that I was heart-broken is an understatement. The person I cared so much about was terminally ill, and I would not even be able to spend the last few weeks/months of her life near her. Furthermore, I had to carry the burden of the worry, pain, and fear all by myself because I, of course, wanted to respect her privacy.
Throughout the summer I tried everything I could to change my next year plans, but G-d had other plans for me, and at the end of the summer I was on my flight to another continent.
As soon as the year began, my life began turning upside down. Her sickness took over her life, and mine. Since I had requested that she keep me updated on her health status, she did. Her situation worsened by the minute. She was having daily chemo sessions and blood transfusions. As the year went along it went on from being hard but bearable to literally unbearable. Since her situation was so chronic, and I was so far, I was worried sick for her life every single second of my day. My job, relationships with friends, siblings and parents were all of secondary importance to what was going on with my dear mentor thousands of miles away. She updated me through text at least once a minute. If it wasn’t about her heart, it was about her breathing. If it wasn’t about her blood, it was about her diminishing eye sight. If it wasn’t a heart attack, it was coma for a few hours. If I did not receive any sign of life from her, be it via text, email, or calls I assumed the worse. When she went in for long operations, or when she knew she would be “going down” for a few hours, she would make her sister or father text me from her phone. I received all this information day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute. And I had to keep it all to myself. I wanted to cry all day, but couldn’t because I was sworn to secrecy. So I let it all out at night into my pillow, because who can sleep for longer than a few minutes anyways if a person that means so much to you, whom your life is revolving around, might die while you sleep?
I walked around like a zombie, feeling like I was carrying a million bricks on my shoulders, while attempting to balance the rest of my responsibilities at the same time.
Throughout all this time, she was always very encouraging. She begged me to allow her to help me through these struggles. If she had given me this challenge, at least she should help me through it. She encouraged me to talk about my hurt, to write about the intense pain that was eating me up alive. She promised me the world. She promised me that she was going to fight this, for me. That she was going to survive, for me. That she was going to beat this cancer, for me. Because she loved me, like a mother loves a child. That every time I spoke to her, or fought with her, I was giving her more strength to fight this cancer. When her numbers where low, I was asked to speak to her because, miraculously, her numbers would go up. When the fight got too hard, she asked me to remind her why it was all worth her fight, and remind her I did. My life became about saving hers. I would do anything, ANYTHING, to save her life. If it meant texting her throughout the night, talking to her while she was in a coma (and I hoped she heard), reminding her that she has someone to live for, to fight for, or sending her gifts, whatever was needed, I was there to give it.
She also helped me. I was, of course, crumbling under the pressure and she had a very unique way of supporting me. She would pretend that she was with me, whether via text, email, or phone calls, and what started out as emotional and spiritual guidance, went to imaginary hugs, holding hands… etc.
Towards the later months, she promised to visit me. Her doctors were allowing this to be her “dying wish” and she was going to do it. But she needed my help. I had to talk to her through the nights, encourage her and at times, use the same “imaginary” techniques she used to help me.
But from her hug and hand-holding, it went a lot farther. Before I knew it, I was being sent the most descriptive, repulsive, physical acts that she either needed from me or wanted to do to me.
I was too emotionally exhausted to put an end to this. After all, she’s a respected teacher in our mosdos. She is going through a really hard time and chose me to share this with! Also, it was only texts. She probably did not mean them, and I was willing to write or read anything that was going to get her to come visit me so I can see her alive and well.
Let me just take a moment to point out that throughout all of this, my siblings and parents were concerned and did ask me many times what was going on. She, however, rationalized their behavior by saying that they are treating me like a baby, were not trusting me to deal with life on my own, and they were not respecting my request for privacy. All in all, they were the mean guys, and she was going to save me from them. Of course, I believed her.
Also, I would like to reinstate that she was (and unfortunately to many still is) an extremely respected educator in her city’s school system. She was (and is) thought to be frum but “down to earth”, a normal and compassionate woman who was recommended to many young girls as a mentor and friend.
She finally came to visit. My excitement was unsurpassed. I was counting down the hours, hoping that she’d make it through a plane ride alive, while at the same time praying that things would get a little more normal once I got to see her face to face.
I went to pick her up in the airport, and when we got home, all she wanted to know is if “she came across the ocean just so that she can sit on her bed, and I can sit on mine.” I will spare you the horrifying details of what went on after that. Night after night, for her entire stay there. I was so emotionally warped, in her utter control, and unable to do anything about it. I suffered for hours, praying for the moment she’d leave me alone, or someone would call me to interrupt. She made me feel like the dirtiest most worthless piece of garbage. There were moments were I just begged G-d to make this stop, one way or another, I wasn’t going to be specific. I was petrified that anyone would find out. I was even more scared that she would realize that I hated her, and that it would make her die. But most of all, I was scared at what had happened to me. I lost myself. I hated myself. I lost everything. My family, my friends, my sense of self and my belief in anything that I had known up until that moment.
Not long after she left, I saw my father, and realizing that things in my life had hit the lowest point, he encouraged me to go for therapy.
Had it not been for my incredibly supportive parents, siblings, friends and therapist, I do not know where I would be today. I would probably still be in the unhealthiest of relationships, with not a chance at having a healthy marriage.
Need I add, her entire story of being sick was made up. I’m no idiot, she’s just a heck of a con-artist. This woman suffers from a mental disease where she fakes illness to play on the emotions of others and get what she wants from them (for me, it is now obvious what she wanted all along). This woman, a notable figure in the community, who taught me and many others, mentored me and many others, was and is a very sick person.
I’m not telling you this story to scare you, to threaten you or to traumatize you. I am not going through these painful events in my life to get your sympathy, empathy or understanding nods. I am here, to tell you a story that, although is unique in many ways, is so common in many others. You have heard it from so many speakers, articles, etc… the rate of sexual abuse within girls – whether by men or women- is getting higher in an alarmingly fast pace.
I used to be that girl who heard these stories, felt bad for the victim, and moved on with my life. I did so because the reality is too scary to deal with. Too harsh to think about. Too traumatizing to contemplate. Yet, not more than a few years later, how I wish someone WOULD have educated me about this. That someone would have made me think about it, would have made me aware of the signs. I wish that someone would have taken the time to teach me what to look out for, what to protect myself from, and what to be aware of. I was just a young innocent girl, who was taken advantage of by an adult educator. I should, and could have been more prepared.
The ” trauma” we are protecting the majority of girls from by not informing them about these harsh realities is not worth the repercussions.
These are all our girls, and like me, they are our friends, our sisters, our daughters. How are we going to protect them? How will you make sure that the next girl will be more prepared than I was? How will you make sure that not a single girl has to ever go through what I did? How?!?
I beg you, I plead with you, educate our girls. Educate the parents. Educate the teachers. We may not be able to stop the sick people, but we can definitely equip our girls with better skills to deal with it when it comes.
Let’s raise the awareness. Together.