I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I consider myself one of the lucky ones, as my abuser did not live in my home, so the abuse happened only twice. And I was a wise four-year-old. I knew to tell my brothers and my mother.

The weekly journey of my soul took me to a wall of fire. It reached as high up as I could see, roaring red and orange. I touched it with a finger. When I realized that it was cold, I just looked at myself with a cocky smile and walked through.

On the other side I could see my soul; she was very radiant. She had long flowing hair, which, like her skin, was transparent. Her eyes were just as transparent, but they had a spark that made them intense. A look of stubbornness, but sadness, as if they were saying "I have walked this journey before, many times in your dreams and self–conscience; now we shall walk it together."

She was looking at several sets of stairs. All different colors, shapes; some were very short, maybe one or two steps, and then some were so high she could not even see the top. They went in all kinds of directions. For a moment my soul was very confused, even dazed, like she had never seen such a mess before. She had a look of confusion; it had been so clear, the journey she was going to take me on. Now she was not sure which way to go… should she go on a tough, emotional journey or just a quiet leisurely ride? As she looked around, all the stairs started to fade away, but one set, the blue stairs, were quietly saying to her, this is the way. Her expression told me that this was not going to be a leisurely ride and to be strong and hold on.

When she started to climb the stairs, it started to get very cold. She had climbed several feet, when she started to actually shake. She looked at me for encouragement, but I felt my senses going numb. She wanted me to keep pushing her, but I wanted to stop and warm up, maybe even catch my breath. But she needed my help; she needed me to push her through the door at the top of the stairs. All I wanted to do was go back down to safety. I was afraid and I didn't want to help her. I wanted her to stop and to go back down the stairs. But she kept encouraging me; she wanted me to push, she needed me to push her through. She could pass through herself, very easily, but she kept telling me I had to push her through the door. With a deep and determined breathe, I pushed as hard as I could and the door opened with a creak.

I walked through the door to a barren, dusty room. The dust flew everywhere when I walked around. There I was, not my soul this time, but me, in this dirty, dusty room. There was one window, with cobwebs all over it. At first I saw one kerosene lamp. And as I looked up, I realized everything was upside down. All the furniture was on the ceiling. I found myself spinning round and round. Then I was cleaning the room; the lamp and tables started to sparkle and shine. I was very proud of myself. I looked around very happily, thinking this was not so bad; my soul made it sound like I would be traumatized by the chore at hand. And I finished it with a breeze.

I was brushing myself off when I noticed a fireplace that had not been there before. It was bricked off; I couldn't understand why anyone would close a fireplace. It looked like a standard fireplace. There was nothing special about it; it was red and about two feet by two feet. It was really upsetting me, because the room was just perfect. Everything was clean and shiny and now this old, red, bricked-up fireplace was right in the middle of the room. I kept feeling around for a way maybe to open it, or even knock down the bricks. I realized that there must be something blocked, locked inside the fireplace that I didn't want to see or hear or read. I sat there, wondering what could be so bad, so hushed up, that I wasn't able to break through.

Then I could see a memory, a memory of me running home and telling my brothers that my girlfriend's brother had hurt my private area. They stormed off down the street to beat him up. This is where my memory stopped. Then all of a sudden I could hear my mother weeping and crying. She was cuddling me and holding me tight. She kept telling me to run away from any man who wanted to touch me there. She kept saying "just run away, don't let any man touch you, they will just hurt you. Your father, your brothers or I, will not always be around to protect you, so just run when you think a man is going to hurt you. It is better just to stay away from men, they will just hurt you." She kept telling me this over and over again. I started backing away into the upside-down room, wanting her to stop. I kept shouting at her, I am okay now. I'm an adult and I can take care of myself. Then she started to sound like an echo, then a distant echo.

I then was able to start and remove the bricks. And as I did, I thanked my mother for her protection and that I loved her. With each brick I removed, I would thank her and tell her I was okay now and I didn't need her protection. Over and over again, until I had removed all of the bricks, and with the last one, I could feel the fire roaring.

The stairs above the fireplace and below the room warmed up and there stood my soul, at the door, just waiting for me. She asked me what I had learned on my journey today. I told her that just because a man smiles at me, it doesn't mean he wants to hurt me. That I could have a normal relationship with a man and that intimacy doesn't always have to come into the picture. That I could love a man and have him love me, but not have a physical relationship. But most importantly of all, I could have a loving, caring, healthy physical relationship with a man and trust that he would not hurt me.

Together we walked down the blue stairs, to the bottom.

Author's Note: I recommend that anyone that reads this, if you are a victim or you know a victim and are afraid to talk about it just print this essay and give it to someone you trust. If this even scares you, put it on the kitchen table, office, in a briefcase, under the door or your Rabbi's office, anyone you trust. There is help for you.

And I what you to remember three things:
1) You are guilty of nothing.
2) You have done nothing wrong.
3) You have done nothing to be ashamed of.


Editor's Note:Below are some of the many organizations working to prevent abuse and help survivors of abuse to heal. This list was orginally compiled by Miriam Karp for a related article on abuse:

Jsafe: The Jewish Institute Supporting An Abuse Free Environment is an organization led by Rabbi Mark Dratch, which provides a certification program for communal institutions, publications and educational initiatives. Jsafe.org

Ohel Children's Home and Family Services of Brooklyn, NY, has therapy and treatment programs for both victims and perpetrators, sensitive to Jewish needs. (800)603-OHEL

The Awareness Center is a coalition of Jewish mental health practitioners dedicated to building awareness in the Jewish community. They also offer an extensive online collection of articles on issues affecting survivors of sexual abuse. Awarenesscenter.org

The SOVRI Helpline is an anonymous and confidential helpline staffed by trained volunteers who provide help, information, support, and referrals to survivors of sexual abuse. We don't have caller ID. Our volunteers are trained to understand the dynamics of sexual abuse. They also have training in listening and counseling skills, emergency department protocol, legal protocol, post-traumatic stress disorder, domestic abuse, childhood sexual abuse and incest, and recommending appropriate resources. Our volunteers are supervised by licensed social workers with extensive experience in dealing with these issues. SOVRI Helpline is under the auspices of Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan.

The helpline is open Monday-Thursday 9:30am-5:30pm and Friday 9:30am-1:30pm. The phone number is (212)844-1495.

Shalom Task Force Hotline provides information on rabbinic, legal and counseling services for victims of abuse in the Jewish community. (888)883-2323.

Faith Trust Institute is a clearinghouse for information on domestic violence and clergy abuse in the Jewish community. Faithtrustinstitute.org.

Association of Jewish Family and Children Services (AJFCA). (800)634-7346. ajfca@ajfca.org

National Center for Victims of Crime (800)FYI-CALL.

National Child Abuse Hotline (800)4-A-CHILD.

National Hotline for Victims of Sexual Assault (800)656-HOPE.

National Organization for Victim Assistance (800)TRY-NOVA.

Find Jewish resources by state at jewishwomen.org/directory/state_res.htm

Sources for internet and general safety include kidsafe.com

Much additional information is readily available online, through family service agencies, and in the library.