By Rachel Orian 

Last week we heard on the Israeli News that a four-year-old girl was raped while wandering around on her own in her neighborhood. 

 In our minds we would like to think that if we will be careful enough and will not let the kids wander around by themselves outside of home – they will not be harmed. In many cases it is true: It is simply a matter of neglect. The parents are allowing their little kids to stay outside alone, and this is what can happen. 

"A-Hah. Among these people there are some that have experienced sexual assault"

We are reading about rape cases as outside viewers. We are shocked for a while and then turn back to our daily routine. While we turn to our matters in different places around the world, a family member sexually attacks someone else in their family. In one out of five families it happens. It means that if we will invite a few friends over for coffee, it will make sense to assume that: “a-aha.among these people there are ones that have experienced a sexual assault.”  They drink coffee, talk politics and have a very nice time, but it is only their appearance, their facade. They are crippled and their handicap is invisible. They feel hurt, wounded and bleeding inside, but no one sees. No one notices. Almost.  

Many victims of sexual attack can identify people who have undergone the same traumatic experience as they have.  The rest - continue to live their lives as usual, not noticing a thing.

The Case of the “Smart Guy”  

Lets talk about a sexual abuse by a family member. For example: a family with a dad, mom and kids of different ages. The dad: an intelligent engineer, doctor or other prestigious occupation… The mom: educated, busy with herself. There’s money in the family. They listen to classical music, read lots of literature, and talk about historical events. At night, they kiss their kids goodnight, and at one point during the night the smart and educated father sneaks into his kids’ bed.  

And the Case of a Woman who See Nothing  

The wife doesn’t see. She sleeps. She works all day…is busy cooking and shopping, and now at night, it is time to sleep. She doesn’t see when her husband sneaks into her son’s room. She doesn’t see the first time, doesn’t see the second time and continues not to see for years. She continues to be the “mom”. She cooks and bakes. Only she avoids seeing what’s really going on. During the weekend, the parents even invite their son to play in their bed, but the mom doesn’t see that all sorts of “games” are played under the covers. When the son gets older he goes to the police and complains about his father. The police open a file to investigate the case. The father denies everything. He holds a high-ranking position in the security forces. The mom continues to support her husband: she doesn’t see, she doesn’t hear a thing. Her son is begging her to acknowledge what she knows. “It will give some peace to my soul”, he says. “The truth will save my mind”, he says. “At least I will feel that you did not neglect me forever”. But the mom denies the accusations and continues to live with the father like nothing happened. It is not a story. It happened. We read about it all over the papers.  

If Only Her Husband Was Alive… She Would Show Him…

In another family, a little girl, a mom and dad. A regular family. The mom works shifts. Every time the mom is not at home, the father sexually abuses his little girl. For years the mom doesn’t see and doesn’t know. When the father dies, the girl finally tells her secret, feeling a lot of pressure and shame. She blames herself. She doesn’t have normal life anymore. She gets married and gets divorced. The mom believes her daughter, but insists that at the time that it happened, she really didn’t see, didn’t hear and didn’t feel a thing, and only if her husband was alive… She would show him. But now he is dead and she cannot do a thing even if she wants to. 

Some Hobbies the Father Has

A good family; they meet every holiday with their extended family. The father has many kinds of hobbies. He is very creative. He finds creative ways to go into his daughter’s bed and attack her since she was little girl, until age of seventeen. The mom doesn’t see and doesn’t know. She is not noticing that her daughter is suffering. The daughter gets older. She gets married and is very successful. She is now a mother of two: she had marital relations with her husband only so she will have kids. Now she has them. She doesn’t need a husband. She chose a life without men.  

The Dilemma: Should a Family Hand the Attacker Over to the Police?  

In the cases mentioned here there is a violent father, because men do most sexual attacks: A father, brother or uncle. The attacks do not take place only in poor families. It can happen in a regular family like yours or mine. These attacks put the members of the family in a dilemma: Should they hand the person over to the police? And if it is not true, they think, we totally destroyed his life. If it turns out to be not true, the family could be destroyed. And if it happens only once or twice, isn’t it better to send the man to a private rehabilitation center and to save him and the family? 

The “Missing Mom”  

All these dilemmas exist when there are people in the family, especially the mom, that recognize that in their homes someone is sexually harass a family member. But in most cases, the mom is a “missing mom”: she is physically in the home, but doesn’t see and doesn’t hear things that she chooses to ignore. She chooses this method of ignorance and blindness because otherwise she will have to confront the attacker, whoever he might be: her husband, her son, or other relative. She prefers to be depended and humiliated by the men in her home just so that she will not destroy “the family”. She chooses to be a mom to a child or few children that were sexually abused, that their soul is so hurt, and they continue to be hurt just because she is so passive, and not protecting them, as she should. Or maybe she has special benefits from this behavior of “not seeing”? 

No More Secrets. The Truth Is Floating… 

These kids do not trust a soul. Even the closest people to them hurt them, don’t protect them and betray them. Why would they believe a stranger who offers his help? Why should they trust anyone? They have no reason to do so. Frequently people who were sexually abused hide the actual events even from themselves. Many times they don’t remember what happened to them, even if the abuse was in their adult lives. At times, only after victims of sexual abuse have their own families, and they are in their 40s-50s, they are allowing themselves to remember bits and pieces until they discover the whole picture about their past. Their secret is no more. The truth is discovered. If they are lucky, they are being taken care of properly and can learn to relax a bit. If they are not treated, their mix of old and new memories are giving them hell.  

In The Victim’s Eyes, the Victim is Dirty and Impure… 

Each time there is talk about sexual harassment in the radio, or the victim reads an article about it in the newspaper, everything comes back to him in flashbacks from the past. The victim is experiencing the abuse over and over again. He or she may be able to keep a job, to be academically successful; but the flashbacks repeat. No matter how good of treatment the victim receives, the flashback will always be there. In the victim’s eyes, he or she is to blame. They agreed and cooperated with the attacker. But at times, a victim is successful in building a life for him or herself. 

And what about a victim who is not successful in living a normal life? Because the victims blame themselves, they don’t appreciate themselves. In their eyes, they are contaminated, impure. They don’t deserve a moment of happiness. So they destroy their lives. They fight against the whole world, destroying relationships and some times become addicted to drugs and alcohol. If they build a family, they might abuse their kids as they were abused, because this is what they know about how to treat children. 

The International Day of The Fight Against Violence In The Family 

On November 25 was The International Day of The Fight Against Violence In The Family.  I preferred to deal in this article only with one aspect of violence in the family, the sexual abuse. This is the most horrific way of violence in the family and people don’t talk about it and do not imagine the possibility that it exists within families they know, who carries this terrible secret and flashbacks with them.  

So if you recognized someone as a victim of sexual abuse, please believe his or her story. In some cases the family member or whomever the story is told to, does not believe the victim because that would mean that they are as guilty as the offender because they knew and were silent. 

Listen to victims and treat them with all the seriousness and respect. Rarely,  their story has neither truth nor foundation. In some cases the “victim” lies because of other disorders that he or she has, which in this case the person needs just as much help. You need to know that they have a huge problem that needs to be treated. They need the support of friends and family. The lies show that this person needs help NOW. All the other signs they gave in the past were not enough for people to help them, so they fabricated a story. They need urgent help. Please be there for the victims. Most of them are telling the truth. Don’t be the “Missing Mom” (or dad, or friend).