Shiran (not her real name) had always been the model daughter. Getting good grades at school and helping her mother around the house, she was popular and pretty, always smiling. Home was a happy place for her and her older brother who she adored. Dad had a good income; her mother worked part-time and was always there for her children. Life for the 14-year-old Shiran was comfortable and charmed.
When her brother, a paratrooper in the IDF, was killed in active service, everything changed for Shiran. Her parents clung only to each other in their sorrow and she felt estranged, “it was as if I didn’t exist anymore. As if I, too, had died - and yet they didn’t grieve for me.”
Shiran felt worthless, insignificant. The cozy chats she used to enjoy with her mother were replaced by arguments and insults as her schoolwork suffered. Eventually, she started to miss lessons, distancing herself from her school friends and spending more and more time in the company of an older man whom she had met in an internet chat room. He seemed to understand her. The vulnerable and innocent Shiran was very captivated by his attention, ignorant of the fact that he was actually grooming her for prostitution. She was so taken in by him that she allowed her mind to be controlled and her body to be abused by him. She knew no other way to deal with the heavy burden of grief she carried over from her brother’s death.
Shiran’s parents were also desperate to help their daughter. The rift between them was so wide, with each blaming the other and yet neither focusing on the roots of the issue because they were ill equipped to do so.
School counselors enlisted the help of WIZO’s Department of Family Welfare's Otzmah Tzeira (Young Empowerment) program, which includes intensive mentoring, counseling and support, which is not always available within the family, enabling vulnerable young women to pick up the pieces of their lives. Shiran had suffered abuses at the hands of ‘the man’ that she dared not speak of. So low was her self-esteem that she felt worthless, a failure. She had lost all aspirations. Hers was a broken life - a life that WIZO repaired through a life-enhancing, life-saving project of sympathetic counseling and gentle therapy. Steadily, as her self-worth grew, so too did her relationship with her parents.
Shiran attends Otzmah Tzeira workshops at a local WIZO branch once a week. There, she is in the company of other young girls, all of whom are learning to take back control of their lives from outside negative, influences with the help of a network of dedicated WIZO volunteers backed by professionals. Sessions involve dynamic empowerment, group discussions, seminars, psychodrama, field trips and activities in the community. Shiran is learning how to cope with her grief and she has been empowered with the tools to say no to abusive relationships. She is making healthy life choices. Her schoolwork is improving.
Shiran’s parents are also grateful to WIZO. “It was enough that we lost a son, and I feared that we had lost our daughter, too,” her mother said. “But thanks to WIZO, I have her back where she belongs.”
WIZO could never bring back their son, a brave soldier killed in the service of the country, but through the Otzmah Tzeira program, WIZO did save their daughter.
(Names changed to preserve anonymity)
(Photo for illustration purposes only)