My name is Leah.
Growing up, my favorite time of the week was Shabbos. I watched as my mother’s candles lit up the room, and the flames lovingly swayed back and forth and back and forth. Sitting around the table, the faces of my siblings reflected the candles, shining brightly with the radiance and warmth of another beautiful Shabbos together.
But one day, the candles stopped shining. The flames didn’t sway as lovingly as they used to. At just 10 years old, the safety and warmth of Shabbos would never feel the same.
My teenage years consisted of much pain, confusion, and shame. I was quiet and unconfident, and my friends included just a small group of girls. I was terrified that someone would find out what I had experienced. In an attempt to fit in, I hid my secret as deep down as I possibly could.
After seminary, I started shidduchim together with the other girls my age. I met a wonderful young man who was kind, charming, and had beautiful middos. The simchas began, and my excitement overtook the heavy burden and shame of my secret.
But then, the panic attacks set in. Marriage was not the healing bandaid I expected it to be. In fact, it had the complete opposite effect. I fell into a deep, dark spiral. Everything I had been hiding for the 10 years prior now confronted me and broke my already aching heart.
My husband stood beside me and tried to be a supporting anchor, but however much I tried, I couldn’t find it in me to trust him. My marriage was on the brink of collapse, and I had nowhere to turn.
Then, I found Ray of Hope. For the first time in over a decade, I had a shoulder to cry on. With a new sense of belonging, I was finally able to unload the heavy burden that was weighing me down. Ray of Hope gave me resources and referrals to help me heal from the trauma of my abuse. They held my hand with unconditional support and acceptance.
For the first time since I was 10 years old, I was finally starting to live again. The Shabbos candles began shining a little bit more. The warmth of the flames brought me back to the innocent child of my youth.
From there began a long and difficult journey to recovery. Thankfully, Ray of Hope was there for me at each step of the way. They sent me care packages, invited me to social events and support groups with fellow survivors, and let me know that I wasn’t alone.
With time, I learned to trust my husband again. My marriage grew and flourished, with the help of proper guidance counselors, ample patience, and a lot of hard work.
I am now a mother to 3 beautiful girls, whose faces shine brightly as they watch me light my Shabbos candles each Friday night. With tears in my eyes, I notice as the flames sway lovingly in every direction, and I thank Hashem for giving me a second chance. I will forever be grateful to the wonderful organization that didn’t just save my marriage, but gave me a reason to live again.
Ray of Hope takes a painful reality and gives survivors the ability to grow together with it. As a survivor of sexual abuse, I ask for your support in this incredibly important work. Ray of Hope needs the funds to continue and expand their life-saving services. It is up to us to give survivors the belonging and connection they so desperately need. I know from my own experience – It is too painful to carry the burden alone.
Please hear my plea for the survivors who are silent. They did the past alone. Let’s do the future together with them.
Empower survivors today! Visit raisethon.com/rayofhope/ and donate generously. Every dollar counts.
*names have been changed to maintain confidentiality