I write these lines on my way to Tampa, Florida, to spend a few hours with my dear friend Mike (Big Mike) Gondelman.
I’m deeply worried about Mike. He is not in a good place, to put it mildly, as noted in the searing Jerusalem Post article about him, Dealing With His Demons. Mike is suffering terribly from PTSD and a wide range of trauma-related challenges from the abuse he suffered at the age of eight.
Mike did many noble and courageous things in his lifetime, and may Hashem/God grant him a full recovery so he can enjoy the love of his family and continue his great work. Nevertheless, from my vantage point, his most gutsy move to date was going public with his story and tenaciously pursuing every avenue for the treatment that can save his life, including doing what he needs to do to secure its funding (See his crowdfunding page Help Save Big Mike’s Life if you would like to support this cause.)
I share this story with you because folks like Mike going public with their stories is not an everyday occurrence and there are several important Teachable Moments from his achingly sad story:
It Never Goes Away
Many or most abuse survivors deal with the aftereffects of their childhood trauma for the rest of their lives. That doesn’t mean that they cannot overcome them and live productive and happy lives. But it does mean that the horrible pain is something abuse survivors need to manage and learn to live with.
Don’t Let Looks Fool You
Mike is a 6 foot 9 inch gentle giant, hardly someone who looks like he can’t handle whatever comes his way. He is a fun-loving guy, with an easy laugh, someone you would love to hang out with after a long day. That didn’t give him a pass on the pain he is suffering.
We Must Support Survivors in Every Possible Way
Please watch my 14-minute ELI Talk No More Standing Idly By for more on this. It is important that you really “get” this and you cannot imagine how much your acceptance and support of abuse survivors means to them. Especially when their life-and-death struggles with their demons lead them to behaviors that are outside the norms of our community.
Report Abusers to the Authorities. Period. Full stop.
Just imagine all the grief and hell that could have been avoided if someone would have reported Mike’s abuser to the authorities.
Please, Please Educate Yourselves and Your Children About Child Safety
Please watch our free, 9-minute child safety video and get the tools to have effective, research-based child safety talks with your kids. And please forward the link to your friends and family members who have kids at home.
In closing, after the notorious and serial abuser Nechemya Weberman was sentenced to a 113-year prison term, many people asked me if such a long prison sentence is appropriate.
My response — then and now — was, “The only ones with the lifetime sentences are his many victims.”