This is complicated but I think it is important, and so I will answer.
This is a difficult post for me to write, and I ask of you to please listen when you read it, with your heart.
I don't know how many of you they hurt.
But they hurt me.
They hurt me so much.
And they didn't mean to hurt me, and that is what hurts the most. They meant to help me. They meant to fix me, as though I needed fixing. They aimed to turn me into another of their cookie-cutter girls, another one who fit the mold, another girl who offered up her brain and mind and hopes and dreams to the altar of God, their God, not a God who truly exists. They aimed to create in me a kind of domestic bliss so that I would be happy with my lot, so that all would be well, for my highest goal is to involve myself with something Judaic, whether it be supporting my husband in kollel or teaching as a Chumash teacher or in some way aiding in the common good. That is my task and that is my purpose, and any deviation from that is problematic.
But I had grown up thinking. I had always been curious, always asked questions. My father had encouraged this. My parents did not even teach me the alphabet or how to read; they let me explore, they let me think, they let me figure things out for myself. And so I have always been curious; I have always asked.
But now that was forbidden. There could be no questions; there could be no asking. There was only obedience. I had to obey. And for what? To whom did I owe this obedience? To men I had never met or seen, men with white beards and black hats whom I was informed passed judgment upon me and found me lacking. I was told that they were the ones who were separate from the rest of us, who were content with their lot living in little hovels with no necessities, with lightbulbs, that they were the praiseworthy and that I, for having a cell phone, for having material possessions, ought to feel guilty. That is how they loved to operate, to force us all to embark upon this quest of self-doubt and of questioning, to feel guilty.
But I did not feel guilty. I would not feel guilty for them!
I felt angry. I felt anger at what they were telling me, the idiocy inherent in it, the way they wanted me to accept whatever they said, regardless of how little sense it made, regardless of how pointless or stupid it was. They never had sources, mostly because they themselves were not well-informed. Mere seminary graduates or perhaps women who only knew what their husbands had told them. They could prove nothing to me. They could only tell me. And why should I accept what they said? Because they told me to. Upon the strength of their word. Because I was supposed to trust them. I was supposed to give up my mind to their keeping, to come meekly along like a docile lamb, to act sweet and baa when patted. All this was who I was supposed to be and who I was decidedly not. But what to do? How to act?
I had learned, due to my exposure in an extremely Orthodox camp, what would work. I can explain to you what it is and how it works, but you must remember- you must remember, if you are in this position, what it costs.
1. Always fight fire with fire. You must use examples from the Torah. You must know Tanakh. You must know Tanakh like the back of your hand; you must be quick, fast on your feet, you must know how to retort. You see, they cannot fight the Torah. If you disprove them from the Torah, you are golden. They cannot contradict its laws, its words. And this is what I did. I gave an example below when it came to the "talking donkey." There are so many more examples, so many more times where I could disprove points from Tankah. And then they were stumped, puzzled, these teachers, and they could do nothing and I had won. I could use anything. They would teach tznius and I would cite the pasuk in Devarim, "The clothes upon you did not wear out, nor did your feet swell these forty years" (Devarim 8: 4.) "But teacher," I would say sweetly, "it appears that the Jews did not wear sandals in the desert. There was a miracle that their feet did not swell up. So they didn't wear covered sandals or closed-toe shoes." The insinuation, of course, was that she was claiming our ancestors had not kept the laws of tzniut, which, according to her understanding, would be utterly impossible. The teacher would turn white. She did not know what to do. I had won-I had won.
It did not even matter whether I was right or wrong. Someone had to defend us. Someone had to speak up, to speak out against this idiocy that we were being taught, this definition of rules and opinions according to someone else's opinion; always without sources, always! If she could truly prove me wrong, good! But she never could. Because she knew nothing, and I knew Tanakh, and I could always bring a pasuk to disprove her. And so, eventually, they would not call on me anymore...
2. You must know what it costs.
There was a time when I was angry, so angry at my classmates for allowing me to be attacked, for jumping on me and refusing to defend me, for letting me get hurt in front of them. I hated them; I hated them so much, because I thought they were cowards. I knew they agreed with me- the majority of them. But they were scared and they kept silent and I could not understand and damned them because they let me take it all; they let me bear it. But I understand now, I understand; I even wrote it in a Writing Memo to my teacher in 12th grade.
- The issue of responsibility is close to me for many reasons, but most importantly, because of my old school. I was the fighter there. I was the one who stood up against my teachers, against the other teachers spouting nonsense, the ones who attempted to make me feel ashamed and guilty for weaknesses and sins I did not and would not possess. My classmates didn't help me. Most of them turned on me. This may all sound overly melodramatic, but please bear with me. The fact is, if we were to claim this issue of responsibility is universal, I would have to blame my classmates for not supporting me. It's like blaming Chief Bromden for being 'cagey" in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, blame the men for turning on McMurphy. But you can't do that. I did it. I definitely was angry at them for a long time. It doesn't help anything. And what you have to understand is that we are not all built the same and we're not the same people. Not everyone has the ability to fight. We all pick and choose our battles.
It's a hard thing to be committed. I didn't think I'd end up here. I had every intention of remaining at my other school. I stuck it out, I fought, I wanted to win and change the system. Except that's not how things work. You can't always change the system. I don't know whether you realize this, but I am an idealist. I am an idealist with a strange twist of realism. And what I realized at my other school was that I couldn't break the whole system as I was right then, and I had to go away. I had to escape, as it were. So I came here. Now, you may say, "Hey, well at least you tried. At least you tried to fight." That's McMurphy's line when he tries to lift the old water-machine. It shocks the men around him into silence. But here's the thing- I wouldn't blame anyone for leaving my former school, even if they didn't try. I wouldn't blame them because I know what they are up against, what the price is, and therefore I cannot think they are shirking their responsibility by saving themselves.
Most of you have no idea what it cost me, what it cost to fight and speak up and to continue like that, to do this every day, all the time. Some of it was enjoyable, sure. At the beginning, it was attention-getting and fun and somewhat amusing. But then it stopped being enjoyable; it became a necessity, something I had to do. Because people would look to me to do it; they would come to me after class and thank me and I knew I had to do it for them because they didn't have the courage or the ability or the parents who would back them. And I did it, but each day it became harder and each day I died a little more.
None of you really know; the only people who know are me and my parents. They had to go through hell for me when they switched me. When I look at them today, do I just see my parents? No...I see the people who took sh-- for me, who went through hell for me, who had to deal with the insinuations and the comments about their parenting, the bastards who dared to judge them without knowing what had happened or what I had been through. The people who gossiped behind their backs, the people who turned their faces when they saw them, the people who said I would never get married because of this. The very influential and important Rabbi from New York who called my father to ask what had become of me and why he was doing this. So much. So much more than you know. I can never say how much.
Forgive me, forgive me, please forgive me for what I did to you. I can't write this without crying; I am so, so sorry for what I put you through. I never meant to; I know you believe me and I know you forgive me and I know you know what happened but I will never, never be able to stop feeling guilty about what I've cost you and what it still costs you. It hurts me; it hurts that people treated you like that and the way they still do treat you- the letters you received, the comments, the looks. It hurts. And I don't know what to do; I want to defend you, I want to help but I caused it and it is my fault and I am so sorry.
So what the hell happened at my school, you ask? So much...how can I ever describe how much? I don't have the words; I cannot give them to you though I would speak for the rest of my life...it was hell, it was hell, it was hell, but how to depict that hell?
Do you know how important it is to respect the people who are supposed to be religious, to see them as good and upright leaders, to feel like they are people you can emulate? Do you know how important that is? But I couldn't respect them, none of them, except perhaps the one woman who allowed me to think and who loved me for it, my Chumash teacher in eleventh grade. But the rest of them? The rest of them who tried to change it, who tried to f-ing destroy me in order to create this cookie-cutter perfect Stepford Wife, can I ever forgive them? Can I ever see them outside of the manipulative thing they did, the way they played with the minds of the students who trusted them, the way they lied, the hypocrites they were? They saw themselves as upholders of the Torah but they stomped on it with every breath they took; they trod on it and beat it into the ground with every lie they told, with the way they misled us and hurt us and tried to make us feel guilty.
They would lecture us, always, all the time, so that everything that was natural or normal became a sin- everything that is good became false, everything became what it should not have been. I did not talk to boys in that school; I was "good," I never broke the rules, but there were others who did. And these girls were damned and hurt and penalized for it; apparently it is "bittul Torah" to steal the time from a boy; these girls wouldn't receive certain honors because they would dare to talk to a boy outside of school. They encouraged snitching and tattletaling; people would call to say they had seen a girl eating pizza with a guy and she would be talked to and informed of her horrible crime...they would confiscate girls' cell phones and go through them to see if they had boys' names in them. So of course everyone would lie; everyone would simply make the boys' names feminine; there was a code, a new way of behaving in order to get away with this. But this is the least of it...
I did not think the way they wanted me to think and so I was at fault- I was told that I had "internal struggles with hashkafa" because I did not conform to the Agudah philosophy. And then the teacher dared to ask me whether I had "problems at home," whether my parents were perhaps convincing me to act this way. She informed me very sweetly that she had once been a member of the Mizrachi party but she had changed, somehow thinking that I would trust her, unburden myself to her, oh, damned liars, how they would think I would trust them! And trust them with what? I had not sinned; I simply had a mind, but that was the sin, that was the crime; I could think and I was not supposed to be able to think...
I ran circles round their heads; they could never outhink me or outrun me- I always had a pasuk, a verse to defend myself, a new idea or a story from Tanakh so they couldn't counter me- I won, but it was not a pleasurable winning, after a time. I could not, could not hear their words of mussar; these words that told me I was low and dirty and that I could not compare to even the pinky of the great gadol hador; I could not hear them and so I would escape; I would ditch the speeches because I could not stand to listen. All that I saw or heard was disgusting.
And then there were the lies, the absolute lies and manipulations to protect the teachers. The teacher was always right; the student was wrong. There is a technique described in The Fountainhead of how to break a man's spirit- "enshrine mediocrity." Assume that you are good at something, that it is not debatable that you are good at it; you are excellent at math. Every teacher before now understands you are good at math; every teacher afterwards understands you are good at math; your f-ing SATS show that you are good at math, but this teacher decides you do not know math. He is afraid of you, you see, threatened by your knowledge and so he makes your life a living hell; he puts the ones who know nothing on a pedestal and spends every class beating you down, unpredictable, and you wonder how you can show him, how you can just prove to him that you are good at math. But he does not operate in a logical manner; he is irrational and reason has no place. There is no way to prove anything and there are no marks; how can you prove that he is hurting you? How can you prove the things he says, the way he looks at you, the way his attitude cuts into your soul? You have no marks; you have no scars but you find yourself wishing that you did; you wish that he would have cut you, you wish that he would hurt you, punch you, just once, just so you can prove it.
But you cannot prove it. You are powerless; you are a mere student, you can do nothing. And the entire administration will protect this teacher; the entire administration will rise up against you and doctor information and lie in order to protect him, the entire Jewish administration will do this and think nothing of it; they do not think it is a sin or wrong; they think it is only the truth. They think it is their right. You can prove nothing, you can do nothing, but you are right and that is what remains to you; you are innocent and they cannot take that away from you. You have done nothing wrong. But you need to be constantly reminded because every day, every single day, they try to make you feel guilty, they try to hurt you, they try to scare you into feeling like you are the one who is wrong and sometimes they succeed, sometimes you walk around thinking that you are insane and the rest of the world is right. Sometimes you hate yourself so much...you're falling and there is no one to catch you, no one to protect you. It is your fault, they say, and you doubt yourself and wonder whether it is but no, no, it isn't, it isn't, so whose fault is it, what can I do?
"As a child, every human being passes through a state of powerlessness, and truth is one of the strongest weapons of those who have no power." (Escape from Freedom, 275)
You have the truth on your side but only that and no one believes you because you are a child, a minor, and you can't prove it. So you are hurt on all sides, hurt from the religious angles and other angles and you are sick, so sick and disgusted by the way they treat you, the way they think of themselves as righteous people when all they do is hurt and ruin you. They are killing people's souls but they don't see it- they are breaking people but they don't care.
You think you're going to die; you're so unhappy and you come home and you are there and all you can do is cry and shout and scream because you are right but no one believes you; they prefer instead to lie and misdirect and mislead, to claim that you are wrong, to claim that you are the one at fault, you are the one to blame.
So what kept me religious? Oh, what kept me religious!
There were my parents, who saw and were disgusted, appalled, who tried to work within the system, as I had, who did everything through the proper channels and finally pulled me out and put me into North Shore. And that, let me tell you, is not as easy as it seems. I make it sound like a walk in the park but it wasn't one. Can you imagine what it was like for a girl who wore the uniform of plaid skirts and button-down shirts, who went to a single-sex Orthodox Jewish school, who never spoke or interacted with boys to suddenly switch to a coed non-Jewish private school with no dress code? You cannot imagine- you have no idea. I went there for my interview and I was trembling because this was my last chance, my last hope, and I told myself that I had better like this school because this is where I was going because I couldn't stay in the other one another minute.
And so I switched- in the second trimester. Do you understand? I had missed an entire trimester of school and I switched- into this entirely unfamiliar atmosphere- and it was going to be either sink or swim and I swam. I swam because of my parents and because of my strength of will but it was not easy and I don't know where the strength came from.
So what kept me religious, you ask? After I had seen all this hypocrisy, these horrible people and their horrible system, after they had tried to break me, tried to crush me, had lied in order to keep me under control? I had no role models; they had all shattered before my eyes. Every one of them was a liar; every one of them was a hypocrite. They were all bastards as far as I was concerned and could all burn in hell...so what kept me religious?
Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik kept me religious.
You don't believe me? I'm not surprised. I had to find an answer somewhere and I knew it wasn't in the religiosity I had seen; I did not believe in that God, that God who terrorized me and was out to get me, who believed me to be guilt-ridden and a sinner. I knew it had to be in the religiosity my parents practiced, and whether it was my father or my friend who first suggested it, I don't know, but in the middle of everything I was going through, I discovered the Rav.
You can't imagine what it felt like to read these words:
- The emotion of fear, the sense of lowliness, the melancholy so typical of homo religious, self-negation, constant self-appraisal, the consciousness of sin, self-lacerating torments, etc, etc constituted the primary features of the movement’s spiritual profile in its early years….The halakhic men of Brisk and Volozhin sensed that this whole mood posed a profound contradiction to the Halakha and would undermine its very foundations. Halakhic man fears nothing. For he swims in the sea of the Talmud, that life-giving sea to all the living. If a person has sinned, then the Halakhah of repentance will come to his aid. One must not waste time on spiritual self-appraisal, on probing introspections, and on the picking away at the “sense” of sin. Such a psychic analysis brings man neither to fear nor to love of God nor, most fundamental of all, to the knowledge and cognition of the Torah. (Halakhic Man, 74-75)
My God- it was like he knew me. He validated everything I felt; he said I was okay, I was good, as I had always thought. I wasn't a sinner...I wasn't bad. This mussar, all this mussar they had given me; the bile they had poured down my throat and made me swallow- it was wrong, it was wrong! This sense of lowliness is not helpful, no, Rabbi Soloveitchik believed in self-creation, in teshuvah, had one sinned, as a way of recreating oneself rather than hurting oneself and beating oneself up. But he didn't think I had sinned at all, not the way he wrote; he knew me and he approved of me and he thought I was good- and what he wrote made sense. I finally had a figure to look up to and who I could respect, someone who I could understand, someone sensible, someone logical. This was a man who was so positive, whose words were so kind and affirmative, who always saw the angle where we could build, whether it be "recreating the destroyed worlds" or understanding what it felt like to be lonely in the midst of a crowd and how the act of recognition immediately uplifts a person- this was a man I could respect, could love, a man who thought as I did, a man who understood the power of the individual and individuality, a man who understood people and whose very words indicated that. I could feel his good will in what he wrote and it touched me and warmed me and helped me.
I read him while I was at school; I swear it was the only thing that kept me sane. I would come home and could hardly stop myself from being so angry, so upset by what my teachers were doing, how they would beat down the students to stop them from questioning, and I would throw myself into the books; I read Lonely Man of Faith, Halakhic Man and I had to do a project on "gedolim" in eleventh grade. Of course, Rabbi Soloveitchik wasn't on that list but this was a teacher with whom I had a somewhat decent relationship (although we certainly didn't agree on everything) so he let me do the report on the Rav. I read The World of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik and was so fascinated I finished the report over Sukkos even though it wasn't due until Pesach- I handed it in way at the beginning of the year.
I knew the Rav and he knew me and he comforted me because he showed me a completely different way of being, just as strong a way and just as profoundly religious, but so much more positive, so helpful, so uplifting, a way to be creative and assertive and strong as an individual, not to beat oneself into the dust. I loved him; I still love him; I really love this man I never met because he helped me so much, and he helped me do what was most important- separate what I saw from the religion itself.
Do you know how difficult that is? I have a friend; she was once told, "You can't judge Judaism by the Jews." But what else can you judge it by? The Torah itself explains "kedoshim t'hiyu," you must be holy. We are to be a light onto the nations; we are supposed to demonstrate religiosity- the Rav writes that the only way any one sect of Judaism will rise above the other is when the leaders of that sect are moral, pious and truly knowledgeable- in the widest sense of the word. That is how we judge- we must have role models and people we respect. And I had none...I had my father and mother, my parents, but where were the others, where was this religiosity of theirs? Everyone I had seen at my high school practiced a disgusting, perverted version of Judaism, a religion based entirely on fear, subservience and obedience, a religion that forbade me the ability to think or question, a religion rooted entirely in the opinions of those I knew nothing, who lied and who hurt me and so many others in the name of their God...
So I turned to texts. I have always relied on texts and texts were my guide; I enrolled in TI and took Modern Jewish Philosophy. The class opened my eyes to so many ideas I was unaware of and that so many are still unaware of- Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch writes, for instance
- "Hence the Jew will not frown upon any art, any science, any culture provided only that it is found to be true and edifying, and really to promote the welfare of mankind. He has to taste everything by the unimpeachable touchstone of his divine law; whatever does not stand this test for him does not exist. But the more firmly he takes his stand on the rock of his Judaism, the more fully he is penetrated with the consciousness of his own Judaism, the more ready will he be to accept and gratefully appropriate whatever is true and good in other sources according to Jewish standards; in whatever mind it originated, from whose-ever mouth it issued, he will always be ready, as the Sages say "l'kabel ha'amet m'mi she'amarah" to receive the truth from him who spoke it. Nowhere will he ever sacrifice a single thread of his Judaism or trim his Judaism to the needs of the time. Wherever the age offers him anything consistent with his Judaism he will willingly adopt it. He will in every period regard it as his duty to pay due appreciation to the age and its conditions from the standpoint of his Judaism, and to make use of the new means provided by any period he may be able to make the old Jewish spirit expand in new beauty and may perform his duty to it with ever-renewed vigour and loyalty." (From "Judaism up to Date," page 223)
and that was me. That was me; I have always been fascinated by so much that is secular but it only aids and enhances my Judaism and I was taught that what was secular was bad; I had to fight these teachers who had never even read or viewed the magazines or shows they said were bad; there was no logic- no respect for reason, for the intellect, none whatsoever! Only opinion, only respect for idiocy, for stupidity...there was so much I learned.
But I was still disgusted. I was so disgusted by Judaism and by Jews that I couldn't associate with any of it. I went to North Shore and threw myself into my secular studies and I took my courses at TI, but anything overtly Jewish- to study Chumash, Navi- any of that- on my own; I wouldn't, I couldn't do it. I did not open a Chumash for two years- I couldn't. I opened it to learn with my tutor or prepare for her, perhaps to write, but simply for the sake and joy of learning- I kept my distance, I kept away from everything Jewish; it was too close and the association was too negative- I couldn't touch it. I couldn't come near to it; it sickened me so much. Everything Jewish for me was tinged with ugliness.
They healed me.
Yes, at North Shore, at my non-Jewish coed non-sectarian independant private highschool, they healed me.
I was more a Jew at North Shore than anywhere ever before- because I chose to be a Jew. No one would ever know what I did or didn't do, no one would know if I ate that chocolate chip cookie- and I wanted to! because everyone else was. No one would know but me, and I didn't have to tell anyone; no one would tell on me. I could do anything I wanted, anything at all, whatever the hell I pleased, and nobody would care or know except me and God. And so every day was my choice. Every action was mine, every decision was mine; it was now that I would find out whether I still wanted to be religious.
And I did.
I was the Orthodox Jew at North Shore; I had a status equal to that of a Rabbi. Whenever there were questions, I was the one they would come to to resolve the debate. And so I was in many very tricky situations, times when I had to answer truthfully but still give over that Judaism is a meaningful, vibrant religion- as I believe it is, true Judaism, not what I was taught, not what was given over to me. And I did this. In my every action, my every attitude, I strove to show how I was similar and yet different from them and I won their respect and that is what mattered. I even made friends there- I was so, so happy.
I could make a divide between what I had been taught and what was true. I decided that it was not Judaism that was flawed; it was those particular people, those horrible, abusive, lying hypocritical people. Their Judaism, the ugliness they practiced for a religion was flawed- not the religion itself. It was they who had been cruel and hurt me because they were misguided; they who were at fault, but not Judaism, because I believed in Judaism and still do and I believed in the Judaism that Rabbi Soloveitchik described, that "romance with the Creator," that ability to be a creator, to be uplifted and holy.
But even when I intellectually understood this, I could not emotionally respond- all things Jewish still disgusted me and I could not come near to them.
So they healed me at North Shore. They healed me every day, those teachers, teachers who shone with love and warmth and who gave of themselves, who respected and praised me and who were kind. These were people who respected my ability to think and was pleased when I disagreed with them or proved them wrong, who loved to learn. They loved me- that is the truest way of putting it. They gave me all of themselves; they gave me what I needed to trust them and to trust myself and to finally be.
And I loved them. I still do- how can I ever repay them? How can I ever thank them for what they did, the love they showed me, how I learned from them? For I didn't only learn the material they taught but how to teach; I understood what was wrong and what was flawed; I finally grasped what had happened at my former school- I understood. So much good will and positivity was showered on me that I glowed with it and everyone who saw me understood that I was happy, so happy to be there.
And then it came to choosing a college and I swore to my father I would never, never go to Yeshiva University. I remember that conversation; we were in front of the computer downstairs and I was angry because I had learned never to trust a Jewish school, not my elementary school or my high school and I was certainly not going to go there for college. He had tears in his eyes; his voice broke because he saw what they had done to me, how they had hurt me, the ugliness that was in my voice when I spoke about the school, how I immediately dismissed it and assumed it would be the same as all the others.
They left it up to me.
My interview at YU was ugly- it was an interrogation, not an interview. They were suspicious of me, this girl who had attended a non-Jewish school and did not appear appropriately contrite for having done so. They were not kind. And I left the school and swore that I wouldn't, wouldn't go there because they were the same as all the others and I would hate them, too.
But I went there.
Why did I go there?
Because I really do love Judaism; I do, I love its color and vibrancy and its texts, the ability there is to learn and grow and to question. In true Judaism all that applies- it is only in a false, twisted version that people get so hurt, are exposed to these horrible people- and I craved that true Judaism, this interaction with people I could respect and who would be similar to me. I was scared, you have no idea how scared, to go there, and I wept my heart out when I chose it over UChicago but I went and you see how it has been and how I am happy.
But I understand you- all of you- who have been hurt by this religion and by the people who are its supposed leaders. I understand you who have been treated miserably, who have been attacked or punched down or lied to, who have been manipulated and treated shabbily, who have been betrayed by the people you were supposed to respect. I understand the emotional abuse you endured, the verbal abuse, the sick way in which they tried to use you; I understand the disgust you feel. I understand all of this and that is why I do not, cannot judge you, because I was you- I was exactly like you- so disgusted, so appalled, so hurt and angry by what happened to me.
And I understand your decision, those of you who leave after this, who go "off the derech," even those of you who claim that your reasons were intellectual. The majority of the time, you had a negative experience with the religion that led you to look for the intellectual basis- I am not judging you; I simply know it to be true. You think I didn't look? I looked...I understand you and I am so sorry for what happened to you; I apologize to you from the bottom of my heart for the way you were treated and the way you were hurt. I could kill these people who hurt you, just as you could. But it is not the killing that will teach them- you know that as well as I do. They are misguided; they believe they are right- the most dangerous people are the ones who believe they are right. So we must show them they are wrong, all of us, by living the example we want them to emulate, by being all they were not. You will do it your way, irreligiously and happy, I hope happy, I so want you to be happy- and I will do it mine. But we want the same thing, me and you. I was you. I am you at times- you think this is gone? This hatred? This disgust? No, it is not gone; it surfaces at times- there are times where I cannot think; I am so sick with fury and anger at the way they destroy people. I have met them, these people who were so hurt by them, and I see how they have been hurt. I have also met the others, the ones who went through the system and were brainwashed and come out of there holding the whip out to their captors, begging them to whip them. I see this and I am sickened and I know it is wrong and we must fix it- we must change it- and we will because this is too horrible to allow to happen again.
For all of you who were hurt or perhaps those of you who are being hurt where you are now- I am sorry and I will help you if I can. If you need someone to talk to or just someone to tell you you aren't crazy, you aren't alone, you can always write to me- I believe you, I understand you, I know what you are going through- I know what it is like, how they play with your mind and how you feel like you are at fault when you have done nothing. I believe you, do you hear me? I believe you.
We will change this, all of us. We will change it by being what they were not, by being giving and by not being scared, by allowing the questions and being willing to listen. Just this, even this, small as it may seem, is so much...
I accept you as you are; I don't give a damn whether or not you're religious. I accept you as a person who was hurt and who did what he thought best to get himself out of a situation where you were being hurt. There are too many of us; there are too many people I have met who have had this happen to them and we need, we need to stop it.
I am so sorry. I apologize for them all, on behalf of the people who do not know they need to apologize because they have no concept of what they have done.
I love you.
And I hope you're okay.
Because I am lucky enough to be okay, or somewhat okay-
and that is what I want for you.