Ex-wife of cult leader disappointed by social services

"I am really struggling to move on with my life"

June 17, 2010 00:17
4 minute read.

Self-styled spiritual 'guru' Goel Ratzon. . (photo credit: Channel 10 [file])

A former wife of Tel Aviv cult leader Goel Ratzon, who has been charged with rape and enslaving women, said Wednesday that the state and the social welfare services, which were meant to help her start a new life after the cult was busted in January, had failed to offer her the adequate support she needs to move forward.

“The state has not taken proper responsibility to help me,” the woman, who would only give her name as Galit, told The Jerusalem Post in an exclusive interview Wednesday.

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“I am really struggling to move on with my life.”

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According to the 25-yearold, she was the first woman to escape the cult’s south Tel Aviv compound nearly two years ago and alert the authorities as to what was happening there. She said she became part of the group as a young child when her mother started to follow Ratzon and believe in his teachings.

Galit became his wife when she was only 16.

“I was brave enough to go to the police, I broke this story and now I feel like everyone has forgotten about me,” she said bitterly.

“Perhaps it is because I was the strong one and they [the authorities] think that I don‚t need help, especially because I don’t have children. They think it is easy for me to move on with my life.”

However, Galit, who described the trauma of her childhood spent living in the dubious cult and her dramatic escape, said that was not the case.

“I’m really struggling,” she said. “I have three tattoos [Ratzon’s ‘brand’ used to identify his wives] and the minute people here see my tattoos they refuse to give me work or make assumptions about me.

“With these tattoos on my body I just cannot move forward with my life,” continued Galit, who said that only recently she received psychological assistance from the state after she had tempted to burn the images off of her skin. “I really want to remove these tattoos but no one seems to be able to help me.”

Also bothering Galit, who moved to Ashdod to get away from her former lifestyle, is that Ratzon’s oldest daughter was placed into a battered women’s shelter in the same city.

“I think she is still brainwashed and it really bothers me that the state decided to bring her to the one place where I now reside. There are many battered women’s shelters around the country, why did they have to bring her here?” said Galit, who claims that Ratzon fathered three children with his daughter.

“She was his right-hand woman and she still believes in him.

“People tell me that Ashdod is a big place and that I am not likely to bump into her,” she said. “But I am too scared to go out into the streets, she is still brainwashed and it is very, very upsetting.”

Galit added: “I now live here with my boyfriend, I want to build a new life here, have children but I can’t do that if she is here, too.”

Welfare and Social Services Ministry Deputy Director- General Menachem Wagshal responded that even though Galit managed to leave the cult before it was raided by the authorities last January, she is still entitled to receive a course of treatment from the state.

“I feel sure that her feelings on this issue are all part of the healing process and the fact that she does not want to be in the same city as [Ratzon’s daughter] is understandable,” he said.

“However, Ashdod is a big city, not a small town and it could be that she does not even want to be in the same country as this other woman.

I know it is difficult for her but we are working on it.

Wagshal added: “For all these women there will be ups and downs; it will likely take them a very long time to get over what has happened to them but we have been doing what we can for them.”

He said that since the cult was revealed about a year ago, not a day has gone by where he is not personally involved in dealing with an issue related to the cult or one of its former members.

In general, continued Wagshal, all of Ratzon’s 17 wives and 39 children were receiving both emotional assistance and practical assistance to help them move on with their lives. He said some of the women were still living in battered women’s shelters while others had returned home to their biological families (Ratzon made the women cut off contact with their birth families when they joined the cult).

Many of the women, said Wagshal, had also accrued debts or taken out loans while they were married to Ratzon and that state had been helping them to manage that financial responsibility.

Regarding the tattoos, Wagshal said that many of the women felt the same as Galit.

“We understand their difficulties, the tattoos are in very visible places, like on their necks. However, getting rid of them is a big responsibility and requires expensive plastic surgery,” he said.

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