Guest Post by Adeena Blumenfield
April 16, 2017, at 6:22 PM
Today is the first year anniversary of my freedom.
Exactly one year ago, on April 16, 2016, with the help of Fraidy Reiss of Unchained At Last, the police were called to my home during a violent incident. My now ex-husband was arrested immediately. This incident opened up a journey of freedom for my sons and me.
This wasn’t a loving marriage gone sour, or a typical domestic quarrel. It was an arranged, forced marriage, in a sadistic and calculated, controlling cult where a man like my ex thrives. You see in this patriarchal cult, it is a man like my ex’s ideal environment. In this community following the rules is the only thing that is sacred. Humane treatment of women and children or morals are never a priority at all.
I was raised in the Charedi community of Kiryat Sefer, Israel. The oldest of nine children, I spent my childhood days and nights changing my siblings’ diapers, bathing them, cooking, and cleaning our meager home. Constantly trying to fit in, I prayed to God to help me believe in him. Inside of myself, I was fighting the endless questions of his existence, resulting in deep guilt.
I was in shame while wondering why would God give women a brain, if their sole purpose on earth was only to serve men? Was the creation of women in vain? Is our life’s purpose just about avoiding hell? Or is hell right here on this creator-less earth by a religion created by humans? I lived in a silent abyss of mental confusion.
Without my consent, I was engaged at 19 and ultimately forced into a loveless, abusive, and extremely violent marriage. Having no say in most of my daily activities and definitely not having the freedom of life choices, I gave birth to three children within 4 years.
The sexual assaults started during our engagement. What he wanted, he took. The rapes began after we were officially married. The physical abuse began with my first pregnancy. With the birth of my first child, the child abuse began.
My ex-husband informed me daily that, “According to Jewish law, I own you! I can do what I want to you. Your body no longer belongs to you. It belongs to me, and I can do what I wish, how I wish, when I wish.” So, he did.
Nine years of torture and torment ensued. Nine years I lived in constant anguish and horror, sorrow and terror. Nine years where every time I thought it couldn’t get worse, it did.
One year ago, my ex was locked up in the county jail, in the sex offenders unit, where he belongs. His bail was set at $100,000 in full, which my own parents paid. My family and the religious community funded his team of top New York city attorneys.
Yet, when I asked them for help, I was told, “You’re not the one sitting in jail. You will not need an attorney at all.”
I was heavily pressured by my family, the Rabbis, and even the community leaders, including city Councilmen, to go back to the police and tell them that my testimony was a lie. When I refused, I was verbally abused.
“Why are you being so difficult?” They demanded of me.
Then another tactic of coercion was attempted when the Rabbi told me he COMMANDED me to lie, considering it a “Mitzva” (a good deed done from religious duty).
I asked them how would I be protected against my ex. The Rabbis and community leaders informed me that my ex will return home immediately in the hopes to “cover this mess up“. They instructed me that the next time he assaulted me, I should give THEM a call. I should never again involve the police.
My family supported this reasoning. They explained to me that if there was a divorce in my family, it would scar them, preventing my younger siblings to ever have an equitable match. Their status in the community mattered more than mine and my children’s safety.
I stayed strong, I did not give in. I held by the truth. I fought for my children’s, and my freedom. The community shunned me. My family disowned me. Yet by my side stood Chani Getter of Footsteps. The support of this organization gave me the strength I needed to keep fighting. I was not alone.
The Superior Court found my ex guilty of serious crimes, including but not limited to, child abuse and neglect, child endangerment, aggravated assault, criminal restraint, and long term spousal rape.
Last month, with the help of Patrice Lenowitz of The Nurtured Parent Support Group for Survivors of Domestic Abuse, and Richard Pompelio of the New Jersey Crime Victims Law Center, the criminal case was finally over. My ex plead guilty on multiple criminal counts. I received full custody of my children. He was denied any access to them. We hope he never will.
In the past year, my sons and I have evolved from being beaten up under the control of a clinically diagnosed Sociopath, to living in a domestic violence shelter, to finally re-starting our lives fresh, in a wonderful neighborhood. My sons are in fantastic public schools. I am in college, studying Molecular Biology.
This transition has not been easy by any means. Yet, we have started a journey that I can finally trust, a new life for all of us. I walk this journey in freedom, with great friends by my side, creating great new memories to look back on and look forward into new and amazing experiences.
There is a life of hope after domestic violence. As Anais Nin so eloquently said, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” I took the risk to blossom, and now, I am blooming and creating new blossoms.
Thank you to Adeena for being a brave Survivor Voice.
If you or someone you know is a victim of Domestic Violence, please reach out. If you feel that your computer use is being tracked, be cautious and try to use the phone or another computer instead. See resources below for global Domestic Violence support.