For 30 years, I was held captive forced to share a thorny branch to receive life I withered and shriveled but forced myself to open my face in a pretend smile to the sunlight I had to squeeze my way through the thin slats of the prison walls to find free air on the other side this came with the brute force of support from blossoms of strength, from branches already free This film about those who are not safe to speak yet or for those who died trying. For 20 years I was slient I didn’t tell anyone about being forced into an arranged marriage when I was 18. I never told a soul about the sleepless nights The hours I spent weeping in my room terrified of the next step of my life I refused to participate in the wedding preparations and allowed my mother to buy the pots, the dishes, and the bed linen all by herself the only appointment I attended was the one at the gown rental place to make sure I looked decent on the big day I didn’t tell anyone what happened when I came home from my wedding with a man I didn’t know I was too ashamed that I was ordered by the Rabbi’s wife to do unholy things with a person whose body parts were jarringly different than my own The morning after, my head was shaved on 000 (triple zero) setting as was customary for pious married women at home I wore a turban and on the streets, I wore a wig For the entire Sheva Brachos a customary week of wedding feasts, I was shaken and distant like a survivor of rape. That continued for 14 years. The first time I tried to tell, was when I was six weeks married. My husband locked me out on the porch overnight and I ran back to my mother’s house the next day. I told her I was never going back to that man Her response was “Darling, “I married you off. Now go back to your husband” I tried again a year later. I packed a diaper-bag for my infant daughter and a change of clothes for myself and I walked 6 blocks to my mother’s house. again, she sent me back home to my husband. I never tried to leave again. Instead, I busied myself with mothering all the babies I was birthing. I had no education no high-school diploma no access to secular media and no expectation to be a breadwinner In 2009, 3 of my children were diagnosed with autism I sought relief from the local school districts and secured supportive services in secret. When my husband found out, he arranged for the Rabbis to call the school district and notify them that “the children have been cured” and will no longer be needing services. Determined to find a way to help children, I secretly enrolled in college. I was 32, and began working on my GED, a high-school equivalency diploma In my second semester, my husband found out and rallied to excommunicate me. On March 27, 2010, police came to my house and ordered me not to speak to anyone or take anything with me and leave the home immediately. My youngest was a nursing baby at the time. Homeless in the streets of Brooklyn I met up with others in my predicament. I learned about the suicide epidemic and understood it very well. Children of divorce are further punished for the sins of their parents. They are ostracized and last on the lists for viable marriage prospects The family name is permanently tainted ruining the marriage prospects for even distant relatives nobody allows their children to play with those children either lest they be seen in public with such dirty contacts Orphans, on the other hand, are celebrated and receive preferential treatment in the community. A parent who is alienated from their children is forever burdened with the notion that they owe their children the better life, by making their children become orphans. Every month we lose another human being who has tried to change their life in a way they saw fit. The media is anxious to justify the suicides on the basis of mental illness. For those who are still living the nightmare, mental illness has nothing to do with this, and Fundementalism and being trapped in a cult has everything to do with it. The community’s wealth and power should not be underestimated. Veiled behind the pious costumes is a pulse of vicious criminal tactics of oppression, discrimination, and abuse. For every non-profit that advertises support for an education towards a career, dozens of Rabbis undersign warning posters in opposition High-profile orphaned children receive all of the community’s attention, regardless of the sins of their fathers. For example, Menachem Stark who was murdered in 2014. He left behind a family of children and the entire community rallied to support them A New York Post article covered mafia ties, which sparked outrage of antisemitism in the community, regardless of his millionaire slumlord reputation. A massive funeral was held for him just hours after his burnt corpse was found in a dumpster. His widow of 11 children appeals to the public begging for support for her family a letter on her GoFundMe page is signed by leading rabbis in the community people give freely. It is estimated that there are half-a-million ultra-orthodox chassidic people living right in the heart of New York City People generally turn a blind eye just like we do with the Amish communities. Thanks to the First Amendment the Government cannot intervene on matters deemed religious. including federal crimes performed in the name of religion. Domestic violence support and kosher shelters are non-existent. Anyone wishing to escape is warned about the horrors of the outside world. In October 2015, a video surfaced on YouTube narrated by a woman who left with her husband and four children. Shifra Lowen’s video went viral within the first hour. The video was then captured and shared on WhatsApp, which is an app that chassidim have discovered to work on their rabbinically-approved kosher cellphones. hundreds and thousands have since seen that video and many have contacted Shifra thanking her for saving their lives and guiding them to safety. How can you help? Petition the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to install and maintain free open access Internet to be accessible to all residents of Brooklyn New York The next generation deserves to have a free and public education like all citizens in the United States Sometimes, radical change begins with wifi on a smartphone. Bill Gates is the richest person in the world and with a generous heart. His foundation mobilizes billions of dollars worth of donations to help alleviate poverty and all kinds of epidemics in poor and third-world countries. This time, charity can begin at home. Will you help?