To My Vigilante, Brother

You, my brother, taught me .
You taught me to walk and
To brush my teeth and
To put on my shoes myself.

You, taught me to
Pick locks and
Swing on the monkey bars
and pick fights that mattered.

You showed me
How to protect my face and hit like a boy
How to check books out of the library
and hide when Abba was in a bad mood so
I wouldn’t get slapped.
You always protected me.
From the kids on the block and from my own hurt feelings

You taught me to stand up proud, jut my chin out
And keep asking the tough questions.
You taught me to cook and to make a cartwheel
You taught me to eat hot peppers ans snort water up my nose.

You dared me.
In every game.
You dared me to throw nuts on pesach by 770,
You dared me to make hachlatos,
You dared me to eat my aunts burnt cholent.

And you dared me to tell.
Just tell, you taunted silently.
No one would believe you.
And anyway, it’s a secret. It’s fun. You like it, I know you do.
And if you tell, you won’t get a chocolate. Or the gum, the one you picked last time.
Remember last time I gave you chocolate? Well this time if you don’t shut up I’m not gonna give you.

Ok, that was good. Oh! You were good this time.
Tell someone , I dare you, Hahaa haha,
Just kidding, here I’m so nice I’ll even give you coke.
See Imma and Abba will never know.

You taught me
That I was worthless.
That my body was to be used for your pleasure,
and that there was not a single adult I could ever trust.
You taught me i was dirty.
That I asked for it.
Whatever IT was you never mentioned.

See because the one thing you never taught me was what you were doing.
What sex was.
Because that would make you guilty, wouldn’t it?
You would then have to admit it to yourself.
That you were guilty of the worst crime a brother can do to his little sister.

So instead you taught me other things.
Like how to speak Hebrew. And how to never give up.
And how to be a good salesman.
How to drink just a bit of beer. So that, you know, I learn how.

You went away for a long time.
Long enough for me to grow from a 9 year old to nearly a grown woman.
Long enough for me to learn, from someone else,
What sex was. In a tzniut way of course,
The right way. From a book imma gave me on my bat mitzvah.

You know, brother, what I also learned?
I learned what sexual abuse meant. I learned all the terms, the signs.
I became a counselor, I learned how to deal with campers whose teachers had touched them
I read books, spoke to professionals, encouraged my friends to go forward with their stories.
I argued passionately at every single shabbos table in defense of JCW.
I knew what abuse was.
I just didn’t know that I was a victim too.

But no worries, brother, you were here to teach me.
With your newly acquired new age philosophy of facing your demons.
The tricks and techniques you taught me.
The long, deep conversations we had, late into the night,
About religion, and God, and alter egos.

You taught me to look deep into myself, and admit for the first time
What I allowed you to do to me.
And I knew. Even then. I didn’t know it was wrong, but I knew it was weird that you didn’t want anyone to know.
And I knew it was weird because it was so awkward, and
I knew it was weird because it hurt so bad and you kept doing it .
I knew it was weird because you put your hand over my mouth so roughly,
And…….
And then you would gently help me put on my pink tights, and uniform skirt, hold my hand and give me water.
How could you hurt me and love me at the same time?

How could you protect me from the whole wide world
And be the person to hurt me the most?
How could you tell me I was a bas melech
and then in your action teach me I was less then nothing

How can it be that I still love you?
That I’m sorry for that confused little boy who needed love so bad he did this to me?
How can it be that I mentally defend your actions? How can it be that I denied it to myself for so many years?
How can it be that every time I work up the courage to tell someone, or just confront you,
Big Brother
Do I have that voice in my head tell me
How hard your life is and how hard you’re working and how I will ruin everything and anyway it wasn’t so bad

Why do I sleep with dreams of rape nearly every night?
Why do I only find myself attracted to much much older men? STRANGERS who sneer and make rude comments about my body
Why does a friend patting my arm, softly, cause me to burst into tears?
Why didn’t I cry from 6th grade. Not once, until the above happened this year?

Why do I feel more shame then you do?
Why when I asked you if you ever regretted anything from the past,
Did you smirk and say no.
Why when you asked me what I wanted from you did I chicken out and say nothing?

Why do I let you teach me.
To dance, and to read Russian.
To drink coffee and use the subway.
While I hug you and tell you how much I missed you since you were last home, and I mean it yet,
Why can’t I stop thinking about how I did exactly what you asked and never told.

Can you tell me, Big Brother,
Why when your friend, who comes to our house every shabbos,
Cautiously flirts with me, and gives me a compliment, do I feel like a whore?
Because I want him to hold me so bad and I’m taught in school that such thoughts are bad until marriage?
And because I want it in a way that isn’t normal? Because I only want it to prove to myself that I am desirable to other people, because they can’t see the mark of you on me?
Because we both know that if he or any of the other neighbors knew, they would never check me out,
Or say that
“You sure grew up….a lot, um, yeah you look, good, uh, I mean nice, really… cute, good cute, like not , kiddish cute, whatever forget it. I meant that your outfit is good. You look really nice with that, uh way you do your hair. Shit, uh, pass the babaganoush please. And sorry about that, before”
They would say, man that’s sick, disgusting.
That poor girl.
And nobody would find me attractive.

Or marry me. Or love me.
Will I ever tell my husband? Will he disgusted and pull away?
Think I’m broken? Think I’m beautiful?
Will I be able to trust my sons normaly?
You rule me for years and years after what you’ve done.

I’m done, Brother
This post. This is the first time I’ve admitted, outside my own mind
What you did.
You will probably never read this. Or, maybe you will.
I wonder, if you will recognize yourself, or if my story has happened too many times
To too many people.
For you to pick up the details of our childhoood.
Because you shattered mine as well as yours.
I see you now, a serial dater. You can’t keep a girl.
I see me now. I can’t stop thinking of sex, but when someone rubs my shoulder I shudder away.
You damaged me, but didn’t destroy me.
I will get help. Get better. Someday.
When I find the courage,
Maybe when I see this published, when Ive called what happened by its name I will be able to get help.

I will get married. I will tell my husband, and we will figure it out togather.
Maybe he will offer to kill you for me and I will be big enough to say no thank you.
Because maybe just maybe you will be getting help too
And then you’ll have your second chance,
Granting you life, isn’t forgiveness. That is something you’ll have to ask for.
From God, because I don’t believe in him anymore, but if he’s there, he the only thing big enough to forgive you ,

You monster,
Big Brother,
I still love you. And hate myself. And hate you, and love myself.

9 Comments

  1. Sara February 13, 2017 at 4:31 pm

    You are strong.

    Reply
  2. Heidi Shertok February 13, 2017 at 10:50 pm

    You are a beautiful neshamaleh and a bas melech. Don’t let any voices in your head tell you anything different.
    I really hope your brother doesn’t father any daughters, but I guess there’s no real way to prevent that? Oh dear.

    Reply
  3. Naomi February 23, 2017 at 4:04 pm

    I have chills. Im so sorry you went thru this. Please get help. You deserve it. Thanks for sharing

    Reply
  4. Anshel Bomberger March 5, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    You are stronger than you realize. I too was sexually abused by my brother. Your words hit home. My brother drank himself to death. For him it is all over. For me, I find the strength to move on. I have no problem telling anyone I love dogs more than people. They have never treated me the way my own family has treated me.

    Reply
  5. G August 13, 2017 at 8:18 am

    You deserve to experience intimacy and pleasure the way hashem intended.
    Get the help you need. Love yourself and love the man who will be your partner and see what an incredible neshama and woman you are.

    Reply
  6. Judy Dubac August 13, 2017 at 8:22 am

    I was raped by a complete stranger when I was a little girl living in Washington Heights. I never told my parents and never blamed myself but I did tell my husband and he held me and let me cry. I pray for you that your future husband can do the same for you.

    Reply
  7. Anonymous August 13, 2017 at 9:07 am

    Wow, your words touch me so deeply. I too am a victim of sexual abuse and identify with how you feel. You are strong and beautiful even if it takes you time to internalize it.

    Reply
  8. Em August 13, 2017 at 8:06 pm

    Me too. Every single word

    Reply
  9. HH August 14, 2017 at 8:43 pm

    I feel for you and relate too well to the mixed message of loving my abuser, (my father) and feeling sympathy for him and putting my own feelings under the rug, while all he cared about was his own needs yet showered me with mixed messages. Yet I am light stars away from the depths Ive been in and I want you to know there is hope. I am married to an amazing husband, with a precious beautiful daughter. And every day I feel more whole. I wish you strength on this journey back into seeing beauty in yourself and life <3

    Reply

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