The Jewish Way of Child Abuse  by  John Nygate

“Child abuse”—those dreadful words. Most people who hear them think of lonely paedophiles and run down council estates. They certainly don’t think of the oh-so-respectable Jewish community. But behind the lace curtains of the middle-class Jewish homes of north London are many stories of ruined lives resulting from child abuse.

I was born in London in 1950 and I am one of the victims. “If you don’t stop that I’ll slosh you into next week,” my mother Doreen Nygate (née Halper) would shout. My father Norman Herbert Nygate delivered devastating lectures. Alone I would cry myself to sleep as a child.  My childhood passed without one warm word from either parent, or anyone else. I remember one awful lecture my father gave to me at the age of nine. I could actually feel my heart being broken at the time. I knew, even at that young age, that after that lecture I would never reach my true potential.

The Jewish way of child abuse is emotional abuse.  The common pattern is of an angry authoritarian father and a cold fearful unresponsive mother. Please don’t think that emotional abuse, not being sexual abuse, is minor abuse.  The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children says that the results of emotional abuse may be just as severe as that of sexual abuse. They certainly were in my case. I was left with two non dangerous personality disorders, long-standing depression, an inability to trust anyone or form relationships, great difficulties in the world of work. I even lost my large intestine to boot, probably as a result of the incredible stress I was under.

Many readers will be unfamiliar with the concept of emotional abuse.  The best book on the subject is The Psychologically Battered Child  by James Garbarino.  The following forms of psychological maltreatment have been recognised (repeated pattern or extreme incidents required) :
Spurning : belittling, degrading, shaming or ridiculing the child
Terrorizing : placing the child in chaotic or dangerous situations, threatening violence against the child or his loved ones or objects;  threats to isolate, spurn, exploit, or to become emotionally unavailable
Confining and isolating the child
Exploiting/corrupting : encouraging antisocial behaviour, forcing the child to parent the parents or to live the parent’s unfulfilled dreams, overly dominating behaviour
Ignoring the child : being detached, interacting when only absolutely necessary, failing to express affection for the child.

My parents exhibited all the behaviours above.  It is a miracle I am still alive. At no time in my life have I been offered quality psychological help through the NHS or other state agencies.  I think it is shameful and scandalous that my psychiatric injuries were never identified and treated by the NHS.  The NHS failed to diagnose the two personality disorders.  It was only when I had a private consultation with consultant psychiatrist Dr Ceccherini-Nelli that anxious and obsessive/compulsive personality disorders were diagnosed.  Dr Ceccherini-Nelli admits in his report “I am convinced most organisations do everything possible to avoid recruiting people with personality disorders...”  Consider what this means. We live in a society with widespread child abuse.  Many of these abused children will go on to develop personality disorders as a result of that abuse. And then these children become adults and cannot get jobs because of employers’ thoughtless and overly demanding recruitment procedures.

As an adolescent I had all the classic symptoms of a survivor of child abuse : extremely low self-confidence and self-esteem and an inability to trust others. A person so injured cannot compete in our ruthless and inhumane society. Although I “took” borderline first class honours at Oxford University in Politics, Philosophy and Economics,  for many years in my twenties and thirties I was unemployed and homeless.  I used to keep warm in winter by travelling on the London underground.   At the time I did not understand what was happening or why it was happening.  No one ever helped me. Eventually I found my way to the academic material on child development and child abuse and could understand what had happened. Again I had to find the books myself; no one ever suggested anything.

In Jewish families, the victim of child abuse is usually male.   A girl is usually treated like a princess—a Jewish princess. In the few cases I know where a girl has suffered emotional abuse, there have been two or more girls in the family.  The eldest girl took the role of princess and a younger girl was abused—there is no room in a Jewish family for two princesses.

My parents were certainly not the only nefarious influences in my childhood. I was subject to abuse at school as well. At St Mary's C of E Junior School, Hendon, (then at Church Terrace) I was terrorized by headmaster E W Grant. He took delight in caning young boys at assembly, in sight of the whole school. A boy would be summoned by Grant at assembly, told to bend over and touch his toes, and then Grant would administer several hard strokes of the cane to the boy’s backside. I believe some of the pupils never recovered from this experience.  Remember, we are talking about children between the ages of seven and eleven. My secondary school, Orange Hill Grammar School for Boys, Edgware, was no better.  There the boys were also caned on the backside. For years there I lived in terror of being caned by Mr Reffold, a teacher of French. The anxiety I endured was terrible. I think Mr Reffold's lessons were on Monday or Tuesday afternoons. The minute one lesson was over all I could think of was my fear of how I was going to get through the next week's lesson without being beaten. This fear dominated my life for the first couple of years at the school. It was just about all I could think of. I spent most of my first ten years at school, say between the ages of five and fifteen, constantly frightened.

I can safely say there were no warm and humane influences in my childhood whatsoever.  All I experienced was physical and emotional violence and cruelty.

There were few lengths my father wouldn’t stoop to in order to hurt me. Once during a family conflict he went to the police and told them a cock-and-bull story that I had assaulted him. At the time my father was living in one of his flats; he was a private landlord.  First he told the police that a man wearing a balaclava helmet to hide his face had rung the door bell and assaulted him when he opened the door. My father told the police he thought this man was me but was not sure. Then my father realised this story was incredible—any father would recognise his son even if the son was wearing a balaclava helmet. So he changed the story to a group of thugs in balaclava helmets ringing the door bell and assaulting him when he opened it; he told the police he thought I had organised this. Fortunately the police then were smart enough to realise they were being told a pack of lies. But unfortunately they did not pursue criminal charges against my father. In recent years my mother has said explicitly to me that she despises me. Here are some of the other things my mother has said to me in the last few years. She has called me a beast, a brute, a demon, a sod, a monster and a horrid man. She has said she hated me even when I was a baby. She has said she really hates me now. She has said she enjoyed abusing me. Obviously this woman did incalculable damage to me as a child.

I write this for my own healing and for Bernie, Deborah, Gabriel, Leela, Paul and all the other victims of child abuse in the so-called ‘Jewish community.’  As a postscript, I really do dislike the term ‘Jewish community.’ There is no Jewish community any more than there is a Christian community or an atheist community. In our capitalist societies everyone competes ruthlessly against everyone else to procure a slice of the cake.  The Jews are no different.

John Nygate  139 Station Road, Hendon, London NW4 4NJ      Tel : 020 8202 6048

Everything in this leaflet is true.  No names have been changed.  Any donations gratefully accepted.