Joyce- sex abuse survivor rebuilding a life

My name is Joyce. For many years as a child I was abused by my grandfather. I was silenced, I was shamed, and I suffered in silence. After years I came forward. My grandfather accepted a very lenient plea from the prosecutors office and was sentenced with aggravated criminal sexual contact.

I am trying to rebuild my life, again. The extreme stress of finances on top of the emotional and mental health load is too much for me to do alone.

I am starting at square one. So I ask if you can help me rebuild my life so that I can continue to focus on being a stronger, healthier person.

My impact statement from court is below for an understanding of the experience:

I need to scream. I need to run around this court room, flipping my head around, swearing and screaming in a manner undignified and disrespectful to the court, the people, the judge. I need to shake and fall on to the ground, the way that I do in the privacy of my own home or in the closes hidden corner that I can find when I am out in public. Not because I want to, not because I am insane; although at times i cannot tell the difference anymore, not because I am unrefined, or don’t care. I need this because, how. How do I speak in a dignified manner about the most horrendous and gross experience.

How do I say incest without seeing the cringe on the faces of the people around me. How to I talk of a sexual experience between a child and a man more that twice her age in a respectful manner. How do I explain how this ‘experience’ impacted my life when this wasn’t just an experience. It wasn’t a passing moment. Or something that just happened and I can move on from over time. I could more quickly tell you the ways that this did not impact me. My hair color. My eye color. My height. I don’t know how to do this. But it will try. 

I used to think that there were moments in my life, specific moments when parts of me died. But I've learned over time that if they died I would have mourned them, moved on and built anew. But they didn't die. They are dying, actively every day, every moment. I feel them dying. And I try at times to catch them before they let go but I can't because the past cannot be changed. But it also cannot be the past because I live it everyday. It is the present. It is the past, it is the future. 

This horrific childhood has effected my entire existence. Other children were learning to navigate through life. Learning instincts and what it means to trust their gut. Developing themselves, their beliefs, Being educated, learning the basics of how to function in society through friendship, education, responsibilities. Falling and getting back up. Learning from their mistakes. until they would eventually grow up, leave school and their teenage years behind them to start using and building on these skills that they don't even know they take for granted because it's 'normal'. And it is.

But I was learning a different set of rules. I missed out on the reason people raise their children the way they do, I lost out on the reason children go to school and have friends and projects and childhood pains and laughter... I lost out on the things that parents would never deprive their children of because it would be evil, negligent. This is not for lack of it all happening around me, but because my mind and psyche was preoccupied learning a twisted and corrupted set of rules created by a man who would tell me that he loved and apologized to me as he had his way with my body.

While others learned to respect themselves, I learned that if a man wants me, I must let him have and do what he wants with me regardless of what I wanted.
When I was 17 in Seminary in Israel, my grandfather came to visit. After a therapy session where i was told that confronting him may help, I did. I realize now that the therapist simply didn’t believe me, but I did it. I met with my grandfather at Rimon Cafe on King George street. I asked him why he did it. I told him that he hurt me. His response was, that he didn’t do anything TO me, that I wanted it. He told me that I know I wanted it. The way I hugged me, He felt it. He then told me that he don’t hurt me but that I hurt him. He told me that When I came forward at 16 he had to spend thousands of dollars on lawyers because He was told that I was pressing charges.

I never pressed charges back then, because the moment I shared my shame, I was told, no i was politely threatened to keep my mouth shut by the Rabbi who would later shake my grandfathers hand and give blessings at my wedding ceremony. But to the point, I did not hurt him.

All the times that he took me to his house on Brighton ave, to check the pipes or pick something up or whatever other excuse he found. Once there he would sit me on the middle cushion on that couch in the living room with him on my left. His hand on my thigh much too high. I can still hear his voice, ‘Give grandpa a kiss,’ before making out with me. I was NOT willing. I remember that sandpaper feeling of his tongue in my mouth. His hands opening the buttons of my shirt to reach my breasts, His fingers in my vagina. Him placing my hand on his penis wrapping it around it.

There was that nigh remember, I was babysitting at my cousin Jessica’s house. My grandfather drove me home. On the corner of Whalepond Ave and Deal road at the red light he asked me to drive, he said that he drank too much. I got out to switch seats with him. and he did the same. But outside in the road he pressed me against the car with his body and began to feel me up and once again there was his tongue in my mouth. His Penis hard and he was bent slightly at the knees in order that his hard penis be pressed against my vagina. His heavy breathing and whispering in my ear that I am the most beautiful girl that he has ever seen. Girl, not woman. He was aware that I was just a girl. It was the night I learned that I wasn’t even safe in public. After this he got back into the drivers seat, and dropped me at home. I never went inside that night. I fell onto the asphalt driveway and could not move. I went in after the sun rose in the morning. Showered for 2 hours, got yelled at for missing the bus and then went to school, broken.

School was my safest unsafe place. But he took away all of that safety away when he started picking me up from school constantly. Almost everyday he was there 10 minutes early. The speaker in my classroom would go off, ‘Joyce your grandfather is here to pick you up.’ Except that wasn’t true, my grandfather wasn’t there to pick me up. A monster was there to take more of me. I relished in the days that he wouldn’t show up and dreaded the days he did. But even the days that he didn’t, he did. 

I live it every day. I could continue further, I can describe every detail of every experience that I can remember. It was often, it was constant and it was years of my life and even now, all though he isn’t physically near me anymore I feel it everyday. 

My body, is not a safe place. My mind maybe even less. How did this effect me. Throughout my younger years all though i was technically capable of a lot, I wasn’t capable of anything. I couldn’t focus enough to follow through on anything. I was always distracted. It always found its way in. I was constantly nervous about when the next time would be, and I knew that it would be soon. 

I did terribly in school. I would get speeches about my lack of caring and my lack of effort and my lack of attention. I couldn’t sit through a full class. It was too much time to think and to feel. I didn’t graduate high school. At the end of highschool I was given an ‘award’ for most absences. A cute joke in the eyes of my principle, maybe. For me, it was a reminder of it all.

Physical relationships became more complicated as i grew. When I was really young, it was just my grandfather, but as I got older boys my own age naturally became interested in me and normally this wouldn’t be an issue, except I couldn’t be honest about what I wanted or felt. The moment a boy would say they like me and try to kiss me or touch me, I would freeze. I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t say no. I would just freeze. Stuck. The countless times someone has asked if something was ok and I either didn’t respond and let it be or said yes because I didn’t know how to say no. I didn’t know that I could. Sometimes, I still don’t. And it extended everywhere.
I couldn’t say no to anyone. I couldn’t. Because no wasn’t an option, not for me. And it seems so simple. Just say no or don’t do it. But I wasn’t allowed to say no. No means that I’ll be ignored or manipulated into it. Better to just say ok, i guess. 

Flashbacks, night terrors, mental breakdowns. There was so much when I was younger and growing up. I imagine the adults in my life could go on for days about it. But I was a child and it was just my life. I would cry myself to sleep, wake up, zombie through the day. Never finish anything. Lost every job I managed to get because I couldn’t follow through on anything. How could I, MY MIND.

And I didn’t wait.. i mean I waited but not this long. I said something when I was 16. To a teacher in Highschool. The information was passed and my mother called and yelled at me to get home. At home there was a lot of screaming in my direction for what felt like forever. I shared my shame and it was all crumbling the way I knew it would. So much screaming, followed by my mothers question, ‘Is it true? Joyce is it true?” It took only a nod of my head, my mother knew I wasn’t lying this time. Because I did. i lied a lot. I couldn’t tell the truth and so I would lie. Anything for someone to see that something was wrong, but never enough for anyone to know what it actually was. But I wasn’t lying. The zombie memory of the police and social worker. 

It was finally time for me to choose if I wanted to say anything. I waited to speak to I think a social worker from Dyphs and the police, but before I did, I got a phone call from a community Rabbi. He informed me that that I could say whatever I wanted to, but that if i did tell, I would lose all of my friends and probably be kicked out of school because parents would want their children around me. My father would never find work because no one would want to do business with him, my brothers and sisters would never get married, because no one would marry into our family, my family would lose their place in the community and no one would want to be around them. And on top of that, he let me know that my grandfather donates money and if I did this, all of the people that he helped would lose everything.

I could be honest and tell the truth, but if I did, it would be worse? I now carried that responsibility on my shoulders. The responsibility of everyone and I was 16. I believed it. I said nothing. I went home and I began to bury. Bury Bury. And I did a fantastic job, no one on the outside knew. If you didn’t get to close you wouldn’t even know that something was wrong. But I knew. I felt it everyday. But bury deeper is what I did every time. 

I grew up, a mess. My mother can tell you all about just how unstable I really was through my child and teenage years but that wasn’t even the worse of it. 

At 22 I got married. To my now ex-husband. I taught i a post highschool accredited school for girls, I was a hiking guide and I worked an American hours job from home in our small apartment in Israel. 3 jobs, 3 children and I did it flawlessly. People would call me super woman and I would be screaming SAVE ME inside. Because nothing was okay. From the day I got married there were issues in the marriage. Having any form of a sexual relationship was mostly me frozen on the inside. My husband would tell me that he loved me and it made me distrust him even more. And Little by little I couldn’t bury anymore. The dam started to crack and the pressure began to build. After my third daughter was born, I was not doing well. I started therapy intensely, I knew what it was at this point but facing it was a new world.

Finally it happened. I had a psychotic break. I notice now that this may not have been the first time but it was definitely the worse. I stood to the side and watched what looked like myself, what felt like myself destroy it all. I had a psychotic break and I almost didn’t come back. In September of 2020 I attempted suicide. I had been on medication for sleeping because my night terrors were getting so bad that I couldn’t sleep at night and I needed to sleep so that i had strength to handle life and the flashbacks during the day. But that day it was too much. I took the entire bottle. I don’t remember much after that, but I do know that my friend Lizzi found me, and what was to me a moment but a full day later for everyone else, I opened my eyes to the bright white lights of Eitanim Psychiatric hospital. I spent a week there, afraid to leave. Once I did My husband and kids flew to America, I flew the day later. We were separated by now and my kids stayed with me now ex-husband while I went to treatment. 

While in treatment my ex-husband was granted custody of our children. I tried to kill myself. I don’t hold it against him, because he wasn’t wrong. I was not okay enough to take my kids. But I lost my children. Not because I was a bad person but because I was broken. My grandfather now took not only my childhood, my body, my mind, my soul, almost my physical life he now took my children. 

My night terrors still feel like they will never stop. My flashbacks still feel like I’m there. Smells, voices, words, items, cars reminders all around me. I can’t move on. 

I suffer everyday. I do not think this is enough.


Thank you for listening.
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Joyce Sitt 
Eatontown, NJ