November 18, 2019

Ripple Effect: Senseless 

Recently there was a terrible incident in Israel.

A 32-year-old social worker, mother of an 8-month-old baby was brutally stabbed to death by her husband.

I find it incredibly disturbing that nobody saw it coming.
No one knew a thing.

There were no signs to anyone on the outside.
The husband seemed fine.
They seemed in love.
They seemed like a happy family.

The word “senseless” kept coming up again and again in the Israeli media. What a senseless death. What a senseless crime. As if somehow there could ever be any sense in a story of this kind. It makes no sense when someone young is taken away, plucked from life, for no reason at all.

Frankly, I must add that to me, car accidents, illness, and or natural causes that take a young person away from the family that loves them does not make much sense to me either.

To me, it is senseless that this man did not understand the essence of what a relationship should be. It is senseless to take someone’s precious, precious life because of something they did or even worse something imagined that they did.

The hardest thing I find in teaching self-worth is shifting the paradigm.

When people feel worthless somehow that gives them a license to commit senseless actions. I have to add that those actions, that to us seem senseless, make complete sense to the people doing it.

“Ms.,” she says to me. “She kept looking at me like I’m nothing. So, I licked her out of her frame, ya know.”

This girl put the other girl in the hospital with broken ribs, a broken nose, fractured shoulder, and internal bleeding.

She definitely “licked her out of her frame.”

“No, I don’t know,” I say.

“Who cares what that woman thinks?” I add.

“Do you think you are nothing?” I ask.

“No,” she says.

But I know this woman well. I know she feels transparent in her own life.

When you feel unworthy, when you feel small, you will commit senseless actions. My students tell me the most outrageous stories, stories of incredible violence over things that to me seem ridiculous. So much violence is rooted in this need to be respected. The mere thought of disrespect triggers senseless actions.

I tell my students that no one makes you feel small; we do that to ourselves.

Somewhere on Israeli social media, someone asked,

“What did she do to make him snap?”

She didn’t have to do anything.

This had nothing to do with her, and everything to do with him.

My students tell me, “Ms., I can’t let them dis me and just walk away. I’m not gonna and let them take my respect.”

“No one can take your respect away,” I say.

“It’s always yours to keep.”

I think about this beautiful young woman in Israel who was taken away from her baby and her family in such a tragic way. I know that the core of change in domestic violence, and in violence at large, is a conversation about self worth.

Knowing that you are worthy of all the good in the world, knowing that you are enough and wonderful no matter what someone says about you or to you.

Being so confident that nothing, NOTHING will make you feel inadequate or not enough. The crazy thing is that tragically this is true both for the victim and the perpetrator.

If we all only had the confidence to not let others make us feel small, then maybe the perpetrator would not be violent, and the victim would have been able to leave.

The woman‘s family keeps repeating that there were no signs; they had no idea. I’m sure that this is true.

I wish the sweet, beautiful woman said something to someone, but more than that, I wish she said to herself,

“I don’t need this” to whatever shit he did to her.

Do not read this the wrong way.

I do not judge the victim AT ALL and neither should you, ever. EVER. There is no, “She should have.”

There is never “She could have.”

There can only be “What and how can we do better?”  And it is urgent that we do better.

Educating.

Teaching.

Supporting.

Creating spaces where we discuss relationships, love and self-worth. We must teach women and men, because only when we teach everyone do we have a chance to combat this awful epidemic.

“Look, Naomi,” she said to me.

“Look outside.”

This was a woman I met when I was writing my show about domestic violence.  When I met her, she was a fresh victim, her face still swollen from the horrible beating she had gotten.

I remember her telling me that she made him angry.

I remember telling her.  “You didn’t make him angry. He is angry.”

When we met, she was wearing a lot of jewelry. There was a disconnect between all the jewelry and the sadness of her being. She explained to me that each piece of jewelry was for a time he did this or that to her — broke her nose, ripped her clothes, cut her hair and more.

I remember driving home mortified at my lack of words. My heart so heavy I almost physically felt it pulling me down.

“Naomi, look outside,” she said to me, her face clean of makeup and not a single piece of jewelry on her body.

Outside was a new car.

“I sold all the jewelry and I bought a new car,” she told me.

“A brand-new car,” she said, beaming, her smile so beautiful it took my breath away.

He had tried to get all the jewelry back, but the court wouldn’t let him.

“You gave it to her as a gift. You don’t get to take it back.”

I was in the courthouse when the judge said those words.

Sometimes, there is justice!

“That is amazing!” I said, looking at the car.

“No,” she said, “that is me taking control.

That is me starting over.”

“You are not starting over,” I tell her. “You were always there. You are just coming back.”

“Yes,” she said.

We embraced, a deep, long embrace.

“I forgot who I was, but now I remember.”

That was a sentence that totally made sense to me.

Let us all remember to teach our children how worthy they are.

Let us teach them that no one can, should or try to make them feel small or unimportant.

Let’s make sure no one feels ashamed to speak up when in trouble.

Let us all make it our responsibility to remind people how worthy they are, by loving them for exactly who they are, no ifs and/or buts. And maybe, just maybe, somehow, we will never hear of senseless losses of life, ever again.

Watch this video from our teen

#knowyourworthday.


Naomi Ackerman is a Mom, activist, writer, performer, and the founder and executive Director ot The Advot (ripple )Project a registered 501(c)3 that uses theatre and the arts to empower youth at risk to live their best life .