Blog Post


Child Abuse

Child Abuse

They only hit until you cry
After that you don’t ask why
You just don’t argue anymore
You just don’t argue anymore
-Suzanne Vega
This week’s parsha has a very fateful meeting between Jacob and his brother, Esau. They have not seen each other for 20 years. Not since Jacob quickly fled after deceptively receiving blessings from his father by dressing up as his brother. A lot has transpired in that time. Jacob has since been married to sisters, Leah and Rachel and has many children. He has also become quite wealthy.
But getting to this stage in his life was not easy for Jacob and his biggest challenge was dealing with his father-in-law, Laban, a most unscrupulous individual. Laban’s behavior raises the question as to whether an abusive parent is still due honour as it relates to the well-known mitzvah found in the 10 Commandments that one should honour their father and mother. Laban’s treatment of his daughters sheds light on this issue and in fact could be history’s first recorded example of child abuse.
When Laban switched Leah for Rachel, thus deceiving Jacob of marrying his true beloved, one could only imagine the discussions that went on between Laban and his daughters before this terrible act of treachery. Here we have Rachel, clearly in love and ready to marry her man after he has labored and toiled a full seven years for her. But then along comes her father to impose upon his daughters this awful scheme of replacing Leah for Rachel on the wedding night. Both girls must have felt such a sense of shock, dismay and confusion all at once. Rachel, for not being with her beloved after such a long wait and Leah for being put in this extremely uncomfortable position of having relations with a man who doesn’t love nor wish to marry her, but instead her sister.
It begs the question as to why the sisters went along with it. Why didn’t Rachel and Leah protest and disobey? How could they have been partners in such a horrible deceit?
I surmise that a number of factors were at play that led to them feeling that they had no choice:
· Cultural norms as Laban himself say, “Such is not done in our community, to marry off the younger before the older.”
· Their youth and the lack of confidence that comes with young age.
· The fear they had for their father as the large, looming authority figure he must have been in their lives.
Given all these, they most likely could not summon the courage to defy his demands and even if they did, their pleas would have most likely fallen on deaf ears. And herein lies the very definition and dynamics of child abuse.
The indisputable purpose of any parent is to nurture, care for, give and provide for the good and welfare of their child. It is pretty much a one-way street where Mom and/or Dad put a tremendous amount of effort, time and energy into creating a healthy, happy child who will grow to be an independent adult who becomes a contributing member of society.
When a parent contravenes this, turning it on its head, and instead utilizes their children for their own personal gain, then we have a classical example of child abuse. To use one’s children for personal satisfaction, whether it is financial – as in the case of Laban who uses his daughters to get 14 years of free labour out of Jacob with no regard for the painful repercussions to his own daughters’ psyche, feelings, emotions and resulting scars – or whether it something far worse, sexual, is nothing short of evil.
Children intuitively and understandably feel and believe that their parents are only looking out for their interests and that Mom or Dad would do nothing to harm them. But when a parent does not abide by this seemingly natural law but acts in a completely selfish manner, then there is no greater pain and hurt that is forever etched into the minds and hearts of those children who become the victims of this abuse.
The same can be said when any authority figure such as a clergy member, teacher, coach, powerful government official or company boss betrays the trust innate to their position and uses their standing to satisfy personal cravings and desires, and then makes it worse by covering up such deeds.
A number of years ago in the UK there was shock and horror at the exposé of the immensely popular 60’s and 70’s British icon, Jimmy Savile when it was discovered that he was a serial child molester whose acts were ignored for years as he abused 14, 15 and 16 year-old girls in the halls of the BBC or at the girl’s school for whom he raised money. All the pleas and complaints about him were met with a wink and a nod and excused as, “Oh that’s just how Uncle Jimmy is.”
One woman recounted her experience as a young girl. When she expressed shock to her perpetrator’s face at the time and cussed him out when he molested her, she was met with “being dragged out of (Savile’s) caravan by two staff members, dragged by my two arms” and was told what a filthy mouth she has and how could she make those terrible accusations? “Jimmy does nothing but good for the school and she needs to retract what she said and apologize.” She was then taken to the “isolation unit” and left for a few days until she refrained from again saying such filthy things and retract her accusations. And when she came out she didn’t say anything anymore because “I just hated it in the isolation unit; it was a padded cell and you were just left (there).”
It makes one wonder which is worse, the child abuser or his enablers who protect him? 
As for Rachel and Leah, after 20 years, as time marches on and they are able to grow, mature and see their predicament for what it truly was and view it through the lenses of mature women, their understanding of their father had radically changed. There was no more fear, no more uncertainly and certainly no more respect. They saw their father for what he was – a lowlife who selfishly manipulated their lives for his personal gain.
It was no surprise then that when Jacob informs them of his desire to flee his father-in-law, they wholeheartedly agree and proclaim, “Are we not considered by him like complete strangers?” And off they went, never to see their father again. 
As it became evidently clear so long ago, a parent who raises his or her children with only the child’s good and welfare in mind will have a lasting relationship with them for eternity. But those who raise their children for their selfish desires and narcissistic needs will eventually lose them forever – never to see them again as they flee their oppressors for good. 
I’ve no regrets
I will not ask for your forgiveness
Lower your defense
Run away with me and it’ll all make sense
-Lord Huron

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