Editor’s note: This piece was written by Mark Gafni’s third ex-wife.
In my last piece, To The Woman Who Slept With My Husband, I got some pushback for putting responsibility for abusive relationships solely on the shoulders of the abusers. Plenty of well-intentioned folks insisted that we ‘victims’ take some responsibility too….if only for our own empowerment, of course.
Well, I’m already a step ahead of you there. Luckily I know how to play the ‘taking responsibility’ game. It’s my natural milieu. I could write a book on it. In fact, I did, basically, write a book on it.
It was in 2006. The latest remix of Gafni sex scandals had just broken out in Israel. Three female employees had filed reports with the Haifa police. Gafni had fled Israel with his proverbial tail between his legs. The secrets came steaming off of all that hot mess he was in. It was my first time to hear the truly eye-bulging confirmation about the multitude – yes, multitude – of affairs he had routinely lied to me about during our marriage.
I remember my first thought upon hearing just how wildly befouled it all was, “Wow, how did I get into this? What is my responsibility here?”
I mean, that’s what you do when something goes wrong. You take responsibility. You investigate your own shadowy motives. That’s how my parents had raised me, after all. To question myself. To face my fault-lines. To grow. And so I looked at all of us flailing around in the wake of his abuse and wondered, how did we let this travesty happen?
Most providentially, at that time I was getting my Masters in Clinical Psychology. I had a thesis to write. It was obvious what my topic would be. Why we women did it. Because G!d forbid I should be so mean-spirited as to focus on the abuser’s responsibilities. No, no. It was ‘What was so very wrong with me and my sisters that we got entangled with a sociopath?’
This I have investigated well. And I am all too happy to share my findings below.
But before I do I want to point out in no uncertain terms that this framing is precisely part of the problem. I willtake responsibility. I will grow from this. But what about Gafni?
To all you still-doggedly-devoted supporters of his…can you answer why we haven’t heard a peep from Gafni about his responsibilities? Why is it that all we have heard from him is denials, diminishments and claims of victimhood? Why is he so terribly busy diverting attention to the ‘Sexual McCarthyist Witch-hunt’ doing him wrong?
Tell me, you defending giants, Ken Wilber and Jon Mackey and all the rest….why can’t your severely shakti’ed guru take even a morsel of responsibility?
Here’s my offer. (If you even deem the other side’s opinions a worthy enough read.) – I will take public responsibility for my shadow. I will poke and prod at my own ugliest motives. I will lay out in broad day-light what led many of us women into this unfortunate mess. And in return I ask only one thing. That you demand that Gafni do the same. For decencies’ sake. For the sake of the recognition of so many glaring omissions.
Wilber & Mackey – If you have a shred of moral grit in you, demand that Gafni give a public accounting of his shadow side that led to this current round of condemnation.
Are you game?
I’ll go first.
I’ll even start with my most embarrassing admission.
I used Gafni.
On the flip side of my shiny love-struck coin was this – my own selfish, small-hearted, deeply-scheming need to be seen and drive for power.
When I break it down on the dark side, I see that I wed him out of a whole retinue of ulterior motives.
I was in my early twenties. Still chock-full of starry-eyed dreams of what I’d be when I grew up. I was an Ivy League grad who had come from a class & generation of young women educated to believe that we could achieve – and were entirely expected to achieve – everything. I was simmering in my own particular pressure cooker of great expectations & greatly diminished self-esteem…and the results were catastrophic.
Gafni rose out of all that anxious promise and offered me success on a silver platter. “So you want to be a spiritual teacher, do you? – Well, here’s your ready-made stage.” Pret-a-porter spiritual success story.
On my shadow side, marrying a “successful man” was an immense relief – and a great thrill. It was a relationship perk worth overlooking a thousand rumors for.
This is my shadow. My narcissistic demon. I have been staring it down for a good decade.
I admit I wrestle with it still. Which is one of the reasons why I continue to stay anonymous in these posts. For once in my interactions with Gafni, I am acting out of zero desire for self-advancement. I am writing solely in order to warn others and unravel a master manipulator.
So, yes, I admit it aloud – the worst part of me was drawn to Gafni for the easy ego-strokes and a fast-pass to having an impact.
What’s more, it seems I am not alone in this.
As part of my fore-mentioned research paper, I sent out a questionnaire to a group of Gafni’s victims.
Among other questions, I asked them to list 5 things about themselves that drew them to being romantically involved with him.
The #1 reason given was this….A deep desire to have an impact.
The dark underbelly of this otherwise noble desire is all too often a deeply seated need to be seen and exercise power.
Just look below at the #6th ranked answer to the same question. The women admit to a desire for power.
Also baldly portrayed in the questionnaire as a ‘thing about Gafni that drew me in’ was his promise to help the woman manifest her dreams.
It’s a pretty clear fessing-up on the part of the women. We were lured into the trap of the power paradox. In order to attain power we became deeply disempowered by the very man who offered it to us ala carte.
My guess is that many of those drawn to Gafni are drawn in by this very same shadow pull.
In fact, I wonder how many of Gafni’s current supporters stay stuck in his orbit out of some as-of-yet- unprocessed shadow such as this.
In that spirit I turn again to Gafni’s remaining supporters – the fierce few of you who still persist. What are the shadow forces at play in your continued support? How are you using Gafni too?
It’s time we all just fess up to our shadows.
Gafni, Wilber, Mackey, your turn. 🙂
Data & Conclusions Drawn from the Study
The following selections are culled from a collective case study of a cluster of women who were involved in sexually exploitative relationships with Gafni. The goal is to glean a broader understanding of the phenomena of why women would chose to enter into harmful romantic relationships with charismatic spiritual leaders.
The results are a compilation of answers ranked according to how many women chose each answer.
Please list 5 things about YOU that drew you to being involved romantically with Gafni:
- My own desire to have an impact
- Compassionate giving/desire to heal him
- Needy/vulnerable spiritually
- Trusting/inability to discern
- My spirituality/spiritual connection to him
- Desire for or interest in power/ego-needs
- Looking for male guidance, father figure, teacher
- My trauma and sexual abuse history
- Tendency to be swept up in romance/fantasy
Please list 5 things about Gafni that drew you to being involved romantically with him:
- His interest in me/courting & romancing of me
- His looks
- His work/mission/vision of Judaism
- His being a spiritual teacher/guide/Rabbi
- His promise to help me manifest my dreams/affirm me
Please list 5 positive and 5 negative aspects of your relationship with Gafni?
- Fun/excitement/the highs!/ecstatic
- Ability to have impact/professional advancement/dreams supported
- Learned from him/mentor/valued his opinions
- Moments of apparent intimacy/loving relationship
- Massive amounts of emotional pain/hurt
- His put downs/name calling/yelling
- His lying and cheating
- It was secretive/I had to lie
- I felt I wasn’t good enough
- I lost sense of self & self-respect
- I stopped my own creative work
- I got manipulated
- Felt bipolar/ecstatic-dissociative
- Others: lack of intimacy/respect/honoring, demonizing of ME!, anxious, terrified, have had intrusive thoughts (from his abuse), negatively affected my relationships with others, I gave too much, seduction deception
Do you feel victimized or hurt by Gafni? If so, please list 5 ways in which you feel victimized/hurt.
- Lied to me consistently
- He manipulated me/used me
- Bullied/put down/degraded
- Boundaries violated/sexually exploited
- My sense of trust of spiritual leaders has been destroyed
- Blurred my sense of right and wrong
- Others: encouraged me to accept things that I normally wouldn’t; lied to me so that I would defend him to others (to their detriment); He may have ruined my chance to find love with a decent person; I lost my ability to say no, to choose; he demanded openness and honesty from me but didn’t return it; made me powerlessness and out of control; used/confused me in time of spiritual vulnerability
Do you see similarities between yourself and the other women who were involved in this case? If so, please list 5 of those similarities between yourself and the other women involved.
- Passionate; pulled towards excitement & risk
- Others: Have past history of trauma and sexual abuse; not rigid; not good at holding boundaries; beautiful/feminine /graceful; looking for spiritual guidance; emotionally alive/feeling-oriented; intuitive/witchy women
What kind of responsibility, if any, do you feel you need to take for your part in the relationship? If possible, list 5 ways in which you feel responsible?
- I didn’t speak out to him – didn’t call him on it when I knew he lied or manipulated me or pressured me sexually; I didn’t say no
- I didn’t speak out against him to myself – I chose a ‘relationship’ with him over self-respect/over my values; ignored the warning voices inside of me; didn’t stand up for what I believed; I dissociated in many moments when things got uncomfortable for me
- I did not believe warnings & rumors or work to investigate them
- I actively chose to be with him/asked for it/wanted to be wanted
- I was determined to be with him for egoistic reasons, not for love; I ‘used’ him for his power
- I was dependent/not taking responsibility for myself
- Others: I didn’t speak out against him to others; I kept his secrets, I let my boundaries erode over time; I was emotionally unstable; I wanted to be overpowered.
Those who get drawn in
Martha Stout’s book “The Sociopath Next Door” lays it out crystal clearly. She writes about why certain types of people get drawn into relationships with sociopaths. The parallels between her writings and the answers received in the questionnaire were striking. I have added archetypal titles to 8 of the different types most likely to fall prey. All too often, we see a mix of many of these characteristics into one particularly susceptible compost type.
The Smart & Fabulous
First, Stout writes that the sociopath is often drawn out of vengeance to abuse people who are smarter, more accomplished, classier, more attractive, or morally admirable than they are. The sociopath reaps particular satisfaction from debasing others by whom s/he feels subconsciously threatened. In our case study, one of the more common remarks people have made about the group of women who were involved with Gafni is, “But they’re all such incredible women. How could such women have gotten pulled in to this?” One of the reasons might be that it was precisely the more talented or admirable types of women that Gafni sought out to suppress, in order to compensate for his own feelings of inferiority.
The Risk Taker
Another one of Stout’s beliefs is that certain people are drawn towards sociopaths out of their own mild affinity for danger. She notes that it can be exciting to be invited into the sociopath’s risky or larger than life schemes. One’s own life might feel drab in comparison to the often extravagant lifestyle of a sociopath. I think it is safe to say that most of the women involved in this case were drawn to the risk and excitement that Gafni offered. It is noteworthy that the number one answer to the question “What were the positive aspects of your relationship with Gafni?” was that being with him was “fun”, “high”, “exciting”.
Additionally, Stout notes that sociopaths often have a keen talent for recognizing decent and trusting individuals; particularly if they can then use them as game pieces for their own designs. Back to the questionnaire, when the women described themselves and the other women involved, the characteristics of being good, trusting and somehow helpful game pieces were mentioned several times. Relatedly, Stout points out that sociopaths have an uncanny sense of who is susceptible to sexual overture and seduction. It is as if they sense this “weakness” in another and exploit it. Likewise in the questionnaire, this issue of the women having histories of sexual abuse was also mentioned.
The Duped by Titles
Finally, we come to the issue of “the devil in Rabbi’s clothes”. Stout discusses at length how sociopaths regularly use professional roles and titles as tools for their manipulation. She discusses how people often relate to those holding titles of Doctor, Priest, therapist or Rabbi with a clear and positive attitude of trust, for we assign to those individuals the integrity of the role itself. The questionnaire also pointed out that several of the women were drawn to Gafni because of his role as Rabbi and spiritual guide.
Stout adds that the sociopath “usually begins with an appeal to them as good people who would like to improve the condition of humanity, and then insists that they can achieve this by following his own aggressive plan”. This factor too was mentioned in the questionnaire. The number one characteristic in the women that pulled them towards Gafni was their desire to have an impact for the good in the world.
In a related vein we turn to Peter Rutter’s book “Sex in the Forbidden Zone”, on the topic of how men in power positions such as clergy, doctors, therapist and teachers, betray women’s trust by engaging in inappropriate and damaging sexual relationships. Rutter notes four wounds typically found in women who are drawn in to such inappropriate relationships. The first wound is sexual or psychological invasion in childhood, as was also seen above. The danger for such women is loss of physical or psychological boundaries. The second wound is profound childhood aloneness, which later lead to a desire for any attention whatsoever, even if – and especially if – inappropriate. In the questionnaire, there was some of mention of this type of wounding as well.
The Compassionate Healer
Rutter’s third category was the issue of exploited compassion. Here is the woman’s desire to take care of the wound in the man. In the questionnaire, this is the number two listed characteristic in the women that drew them to Gafni; a desire to give to and heal him.
Rutter’s fourth category was devalued outer potential. Here the man in power holds out to the woman the promise of helping them develop their own intellectual, artistic or vocational talents, while asking the women to pay the price sexually. This too was a central factor for most of the women involved with Gafni.
It is clear that this case study was indeed representative of a larger social phenomena of women becoming involved in inappropriate and abusive sexual relationships with men in power. I have tried to focus specifically on what drew the women into such relationships. My hope is that sharing these findings will foster understanding, growth and a greater insurance against other women becoming entrenched in such harmful and exploitative relationships in the future.
Resources & Works Cited:
Rutter, P. (1989). Sex in the Forbidden Zone. New York: Fawcett Crest.
Stout, M.(2005). The Sociopath Next Door. New York: Broadway Books.