Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Wishing I got the exception

When Builder and I were together, people always told me how "lucky" I was.  That men like Builder were a rare breed.
Dear G-d, I wish that were true.  Unfortunately...
Since I left Builder, I've been spending a lot of time at the Family Justice Center.  My kids have counseling there; I briefly attended a support group until scheduling conflicts made it impossible; and they have all sorts of services for victims of DV.  Of course, since this is a city agency (it's part of the Kings County DA's office), a cross-section of Brooklyn will invariably find its way there.  Including my people.
On three separate occasions, I have seen frum or formerly frum women at the Family Justice Center who are dealing with their own abusive situations.  (And these are just the ones who came forward--how many others DON'T come forward?)  There are social workers who deal solely with the frum.  There was even a pamphlet about DV specifically directed to the frum. 
What are we doing?
I thought that we were better than this.  I honestly hoped that Builder was some kind of evil exception.  I honestly hoped that all the smiling ladies in Boro Park were happy.  However, I still think back to when Builder abused me.  I remember walking through Boro Park on a Shabbos afternoon shortly after it happened and seeing all the women outside with their kids, enjoying the spring air.  I looked at them and thought, "Did your husband do this to you, too?  Did he ever force you?"  Sad to say, I no longer feel safe among my own people.  I look at frum men, and I see predators.  And it breaks my heart.  I had honestly thought that the Torah these men were supposed to learn made them better than that.  But it seems like such a sham.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Time for the truth to come out

After my little brush with Jewish omerta, I was pretty annoyed with the community as a whole.  I'd heard about things like this happening, but I never thought it would happen to me.  One of my staunchest allies, the Professor, told me that it would be a good idea to talk to Rebbetzin Brooklyn.  Tell her everything. 


So, I did.  While the Things were in school last week, I popped over to talk to her.  And a waste of time was had by all.
I started by showing her the order of protection.  The one Builder keeps violating.  Then I told her how I got it. 
The truth is, Builder has a vile temper.  He began to show signs of violence a couple of months before I left.  While he didn't put his hands on me, he was punching walls in frustration.  He even punched an EMT's minivan when the EMT turned on a porta-siren to get Builder to move his double-parked car.  But that was not the only deciding force.  Five days before Pesach, Builder and I got into a huge fight.  Actually, he yelled and tore my kitchen apart while I cowered.  Four hours later, he came home from a late-night renovation job.  And he raped me.
For the past six months, I've tried not to think about it.  Didn't want to talk about it, except to a select few of my allies.  I didn't think I would be believed.  And, unfortunately, I was right.  Rebbetzin Brooklyn was very dismissive.  She told me that anyone could get a restraining order (not true), and that "I was living in HIS house, and I had HIS kids.  Of course he was feeling hurt."  She also told me that while he may have been threatening, he hadn't actually done anything to hurt me (what do you call rape?), and that it was a terrible thing to put someone in jail (because there are so many means at my disposal to enforce this order of protection OTHER than incarceration).  She felt sorry for him because he only got alternate weekends with his kids, and why couldn't we work out joint custody?  (Did I fail to mention that I have a RESTRAINING ORDER against him?)  I kept reiterating that I was terrified of them man, and that all I want was to be left alone.  I also listed all the retaliatory acts he had committed against me:
Trying to have me arrested.
Trying to have one of my best friends arrested.
Having another one of my best friends (who was helping me with the Things) barred from the house AND barred from contact with the girls.
Calling Children's Services and reporting me for child abuse.
Cancelling my phone service.
Even with all that, she still felt sorry for him.  Whatever happened to not taking sides? 
But now, the truth is out.  I may have lost a relationship, and I certainly can't trust my rabbi anymore, but at least now I know where I stand with the community.  And now, I have nothing left to lose.

Friday, October 4, 2013

"I need my paycheck"

We are now on Day 4 of the Great Government Shutdown.  To prevent the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, the Republican-controlled Congress has voted to shut down the government. 
As part of the shutdown, 800,000 "non-essential" workers were placed on unpaid furlough.  (For clarification, "non-essential" in government parlance means those whose services are not needed on an emergency basis.  In other words, fire, police, military, and elected representatives are essential.  Civil court judges, about half of FEMA, non-combat military, clerical workers, Immigration and Customs Enforcement clerks, and others of that ilk are "non-essential."  So are the people who process Social Security and WIC applications.)  However, our elected officials, including Congress, are still working and still drawing paychecks.  This has raised ire on all sides of the political spectrum.  One representative, Renee Ellmers of North Carolina, had this to say:

Well, darlin', ain't you just the most special little snowflake?

The thing is, we all NEED our paychecks.  We all have bills to pay and kids to feed.  Just because you are in Congress doesn't make your need more pressing than ours.
It's too bad, too.  See, again, this is the 21st century.  Memes like this get passed all over the Internet and have very, very long shelf lives.  And, as some of your would-be colleagues learned in the last election cycle, this can lead to that congressional paycheck not happening.
Enjoy your position while you can.  And see you (or not) in 2014.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Too close to comfort for some

Well, Builder is up to his old tricks.  The first week the Things went to school (court ordered enrollment, more on that later), he showed up at their school bus stop.  Every Single Morning.  The first day, he got out of the car and accosted me and them.  Since I never leave home without my order of protection and my phone, I called the cops.  Dropped call at the worst time.  However, I did manage to make contact with the authorities and file a police report.  Nothing was done because Builder had already left.  This  makes me question the value of a restraining order since it is only as good as its enforcement.
The next week, the Things and I are walking home when we see Builder parked In Front Of Our House.  Thing 2 (both Things know that Totty is supposed to stay away from Mommy) started yelling, "Totty, go away!"  I snapped a picture and called 911.  For some reason, I kept getting routed to Directory Assistance.  So, I take my phone and walk down to the precinct.  I file another police report.  I am told that Builder will be arrested.
So, I wait.  And wait.  And tell the same story over and over again to about four different officers.  Every time, I am assured that Builder will be arrested.  Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah come and go.  Finally, I get an update--Builder is to surrender on Monday.
So Monday comes.  And with it, some very interesting phone calls.  The first is from Builder's brother-in-law.  This does not surprise me.  After all, I crossed The Family.  And I may have been family, but not Family with a capital F.  And, to The Family, anything short of complete acquiescence is construed as an act of war.  "Could I pretty please drop the charges?  Overlook it this once?"  How do I put this nicely?  No.
The next call was from Rabbi Brooklyn.  This one did surprise me, as Rabbi Brooklyn's stance is that those who break the law should be brought to the attention of the local authorities.  Rabbi Brooklyn wants me to pretty please drop the charges.
Whatever happened to dina malchutah dina?  What happened to all the righteous indignation directed at a community that turns a blind eye to abuse?  I guess when it's some Chassid in Williamsburg it's one thing, but when it's a shul board member and a regular at the Daf Yomi shiur?  After all, "he's such a nice guy."  Right.  Because judges hand out restraining orders on a whim.  Because abusive men wear signs.  Because it's only a problem "over there."  Whether "there" is to the left or the right, the Chassidische velt or the secular world, no one wants to believe that their friends, their relatives, their congregation, are capable of serious wrongdoing.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Another New Square tragedy

Ahh, New Square.  A place where tolerance reigns supreme.  Sadly, there has been another casualty of this attitude.  A young woman going through a horrific custody battle, who just recently lost her children to her ex-husband, committed suicide.
Sure, one could argue that she may have had a history of depression.  But depression is sometimes a response to circumstance.  In this case, she lost only lost her children, but everyone she knew.  Even her own father testified against her at the custody hearing.  After she lost custody, her children were then turned against her. Her crime?  Leaving the frum world and going OTD. 
Being in the midst of a rather hellish divorce myself, I can sympathize.  I'm not running out on Judaism, but stories like this give me serious pause. 
I thought that Torah made us better people.  Whatever happened to empathy or at least simple compassion?  Whatever happened to supporting your children no matter what?  Whatever happened to understanding the bond between a mother and the children she carried under her heart, and nurtured at great sacrifice?  Hell, whatever happened to honoring your mother and father?  That last one was written in stone by the Hand of G-d, so I'd say it's pretty important.
Deb Tambor, know that your life was not lost in vain.   Rest with G-d.  And know that there are those who loved and supported you.