Dr. Miriam Grossman is a woman with a
mission. A life-saving one. A non-politically correct one that has won her
ardent fans wanting to see her be the next Surgeon General—and vociferous
detractors clamoring that she is out of touch with reality, that her license
should be revoked.
What is this controversial mission?
With a refreshing combination of caring,
common sense and scientific data, Miriam has made it her life’s work to
delineate the destruction wrought by the “sexual revolution” and to educate and
empower youth with biological and psychological truths. She decries the mental
health and medical profession that seems to have lost its compass of common
sense and morality, often basing policy on political and social agendas rather
than scientific fact.
As a psychiatrist, dedicated chassid,
mother and grandmother, Miriam is passionate about keeping kids safe and
healthy, about maximizing their chance to build healthy, whole self- images and
successful, flourishing lives and relationships. Like many of us, she’s
dismayed at the destructive messages a pleasure-crazed society and
profit-driven media inundate our vulnerable and formative kids with, messages
that parade a jaded hook-up culture as the glamorous norm.
But like little Miriam of the Torah, who
spoke up against mighty Pharaoh, our modern-day Miriam isn’t satisfied to sigh
and circle the wagons in closer to protect her own. Miriam has become a
crusader, out to change the world.
The seeds for this unusual, controversial
career direction were there from early on. “I always loved obstetrics and
gynecology, and have been fascinated by female biology,” Miriam says, the
enthusiasm radiating in her voice. But her soul needs came first.
In 1980, Miriam was a medical student
doing her pediatric internship in the neonatal ICU at Beth Israel Hospital.
During the long, quiet nights, she struck up a friendship with an observant
Jewish nurse. Miriam found herself drawn to the woman’s quiet dignity and
depth. Miriam was aware of an intense spiritual thirst; once the internship was
completed, she planned to spend a year in India, immersing herself in a
mystical spirituality never felt in her Zionist but minimally religious home.
Her new friend gently introduced her to the world of Jewish spirituality and
brought her to Crown Heights, where she met dynamic, interesting people.
She came to a farbrengen (chassidic gathering) led by the Rebbe. “I didn’t really
understand what I was seeing. I’d never seen anything like it,” Miriam recalls.
“But I sensed the awe and intense holiness of the Rebbe. I realized that before
I went off to India, I should check out what was in my own backyard.” Two weeks
of studying chassidic philosophy in Bais Chana of Minnesota with Rabbi Manis
Friedman turned into two months, followed by more Torah study in New York.
Excited and inspired by “feeling that I
was at home, that this is it,” Miriam wanted to shelve her medical career and
totally immerse herself in Torah study. She wrote to inform the Rebbe of this
sea change. Much to her surprise, the Rebbe adamantly opposed this idea and
gave her strong blessings to continue her medical career.
After a two-year break that included
intensive Torah study and marriage, Miriam resumed her medical studies. She
would have had to work ninety hours a week for five years to be an OB/GYN. As a
new mother of an infant son, she made a pragmatic decision to pursue psychiatry
instead. But her love for the field of reproductive health remained. “We learn
that in this world, G‑d hides Himself, but earnestly hopes we won’t give up the
search, that we’ll find Him. I like to say that the field of reproductive
physiology is a place where G‑d is the least hidden. When I study the monthly
cycle, fertilization, conception, it always speaks to me,” she says with awe.
Miriam Grossman with students at a Texas college campus
In 1983, Miriam wrote her first book,
which combined her passion for female biology and her understanding of
developmental psychology. Foreshadowing her current work advocating for healthy
intimacy, The Wonder of Becoming You was
written for young adolescent girls as they reach puberty, explaining the
wondrous changes their bodies are going through in a sensitive, modest
approach. The Rebbe went through the manuscript and gave total approval, even
for areas that editors were hesitant to include. “The Rebbe understood that
girls needed this information, and needed to get it in the right way.”
As Miriam started working at the student
mental health clinic at UCLA, she began to see a trend: young women suffering
extreme distress. They might be successful academically, in student leadership,
and in many other areas, but they were broken. Some had suffered rape,
abortion, STDs. Others “just” carried emotional damage: a tattered self-image
and confusion from shattered illusions, too many break-ups, feeling used and
disposed of. They were struggling, depressed, sometimes suicidal, and bearing
physical scars no one had warned them of. They were left with viruses,
potential fertility issues, and a higher risk of cervical cancer.
Miriam describes this
heart-wrenching phenomenon: “Many young women came in with similar stories.
They were weepy, depressed, with no idea why they weren’t doing well. I’d have
to explore what was going on in their lives. Only after being questioned about
their relationships would they start to realize that’s where the problem was.
They’d say, ‘Well, yeah, I had a hook-up, but something must be wrong with me.
It’s supposed to be casual and no ties, but I have all these feelings.’”
“I had to explain that it’s normal to
develop deep feelings after a few times of being intimate, that hormones are
released that create that bond. ‘Why didn’t I know this before?’ they’d cry.”
Miriam Grossman Speaks at the U.N.
Miriam started to connect the dots. It
wasn’t just individual pathology, she realized. Miriam decries what she calls a
tsunami of misinformation, pointing out that these young women have learned all
about birth control, but not about emotional attachment. She’s seen this
scenario played out countless times. “When I speak in high schools, on
campuses, the students thank me so deeply for this information. It’s biology.
Biology is politically incorrect,” she says.
Boys are impacted too. The earlier they
become sexually active and the more partners they have, the more likely they'll
get an infection, which can be passed on to someone else many years later,
including their wives. And although abortion is commonly seen as a women’s
issue, research shows high percentages of men are traumatized by their
girlfriends’ or wives' abortions, and the trauma can persist for years.
Distressed by the students’
anguish and suffering, she was frustrated by the prevailing approach of the
physicians and educators. “I felt my profession was failing young people by not
giving them the information they needed to make healthy choices.”
In 2006, shewrote a book describing this fallout: Unprotected. “I saw these girls coming into my office day after day
with all those problems. They were only a few years older than my kids. My kids
would hopefully be protected by their faith and belief system that nurtured
privacy and intimacy in the context of meaningful, committed marriage, but
these girls were so unprotected and were paying an astonishingly high price for
it,” she says with anger and empathy.
As a scientist, she rolled up her sleeves
and did the research, trying to uncover the steps that led to this crisis. She
learned that much of the widely accepted philosophy behind aggressive sex
education was based on faulty, biased research, conducted by people with a
perverse agenda they wished to justify, an agenda that biology just didn’t
support. “The fundamental premises of sex
education—the radical theories of Kinsey, Pomeroy, Money and others—are easily
debunked with 21st-century science.” Her 2009 book, You’re Teaching My Child What? exposes these dangerous fallacies.
Talk about a voice in the
wilderness. But Miriam, like Moses’ older sister, doesn’t despair at the
enormity of the dragon she wishes to slay. “We have a secret weapon, like
David’s slingshot,” she asserts. “The secret weapon is 21st-century science: biological
truths about the body’s design and how the mind is wired to respond to intimate
So this intrepid warrior
fights with today’s slingshots. She sees patients. And writes books. And blogs.
And travels. And speaks. And testifies. The United Nations Commission on the
Status of Women, the House of Lords, the
California State Legislature,New
Zealand and Australiaare among the
places she’s given over her factual data and heartfelt experience.
It’s an uphill battle, as
she has found that “the whole field of sexual education and therapy is colored
by a social, political agenda. I’m accused of having a conservative, religious
agenda, but I am just presenting the facts. As Margaret Thatcher, the former
prime minister of Great Britain stated, ‘The facts of life are conservative. If
you grow up in a stable home with a mother and father, with the benefit of
strong religious faith, your chances of coming out whole and healthy are much
Miriam Grossman with students at St. Lucia, a Carribean Island
Miriam concurs with
Thatcher, finding that that faith works. For her personally: “I do pray for my
patients. I know that healing comes from Above, and that I can only facilitate
it.” And professionally: “It’s not even up for debate. Belief in G‑d, being
part of a community and communal prayer are extremely helpful to one’s health.
These practices increase mental health, protect against suicide, and give
patients coping tools.
“People who are hopeless
are at very high risk. When you have the tools to find meaning in suffering, to
understand that there is light and darkness, that there is a larger picture and
that things are going to get better, you can cope much better. I always
encourage patients who express interest to connect with their faith
Miriam’s approach is not yet the norm. “I am very comfortable discussing faith
issues with patients. But a very large percentage of mental health
professionals are atheist or agnostic and would never bring up this important
part of life. I call them theo-phobic. In my book Unprotected, a chapter addresses this dilemma. I call it ‘Memo to
the APA (American Psychological Association): Believing in G‑d is good for
Miriam doesn’t mind being
vilified: “I find it harder to be ignored than disliked. ” She has an ally in
the viral powers of the web. She recently penned an essay about the dangerous
messages of a particularly toxic Hollywood film, guiding parents to use this as
an educational moment. Once posted on Facebook, the essay garnered 1.5 million
hits from around the world.
Controversy and all, her
work has gained accolades. “You've
become a household name here at Hopkins psychiatry as the best contemporary
example of a good doctor who notices what is happening around her and to her
patients and strives to do something about it,” says Paul McHugh, MD,
Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry, Johns Hopkins University School of
Medicine. “This bold and brilliant physician has done the nation and its
children a great service,” declares Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of
Jurisprudence, Director of the James
Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, Princeton University.
But at the end of the day,
it’s a battle for us all to join. To trust our guts. To speak up. To protect
our kids through education and dialogue, listening, and sharing our values and
“If you don’t reach your child first,
it’s really a risk. You don’t have to be a physician
to understand the dangers of this ideology. All you need is common sense,”
Miriam implores and empowers parents.
Here are her suggestions
for talking to your children about sex:
- Get informed. One resource is Miriam’s website, see below.
- Know what your
kids are being taught in their sex-ed class. Go
to school, ask to see what's going to be taught and by whom. Will videos be
shown, are there class trips to Planned Parenthood? A school in Minnesota took
kids to a sex shop, so oversight is needed.
- Keep the lines
of communication with your child open. Miriam says, “Being
nervous is okay! Just acknowledge it, saying something like, ‘I know it's
awkward to speak about this, I have to admit I'm nervous, but it's just too
important not to discuss. Sex can be about life and death. It's my job as your
parent to protect you, and I'm going to try and do that even if it's
uncomfortable.’ Laughter helps!”
We can make a difference in
our families and sphere of influence, this gutsy voice of Jewish motherhood
insists. “Yes, the battle is uphill. Yes, at times it seems enormous, like
David fighting the giant Goliath.
“But think for a
moment . . . who won that battle?”
For more information, visit MiriamGrossmanMD.com