I found out my father is looking at shmutz. What can I do?

Question:

Dear GYE,

I am in a horrible predicament. I discovered that my father (a talmid chacham, a big bal chesed) is looking at ervah on our filtered internet. We are a frum 'regular' family. Please please I need advice of what steps to take. I have no idea what to do and I can't have anyone know about this.

With much hakaras hatov in advance.

by Dov, GYE, Twerski, Rabbi Dr. Avraham (See all authors)

Answer:

We sent your question to Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski (author of over 60 books on psychology), and also discussed it with some of the experts on our team. We feel that you will need to choose between two options, depending on the type of relationship you have with your father. You must believe that if he ends up getting help because of this, he will thank you in his heart for the rest of his life.

Option 1: It's Ok for you to confront him in a gentle and respectful way. (See more below about what you might be able to say to him). If you want, you can tell him to call Yaakov on the GYE hotline to discuss more about how he can get help (646-600-8100 Ext.3).

Option 2: If you feel that this would ruin your relationship with your father, or if you don't have the kind of relationship that would enable you to confront him about this at all, you should at least give us the 'go-ahead' to send him an e-mail telling him that someone who is concerned about him and respects him wants him to know that this is a common problem today and that help is available. Even if it is likely that he will assume it is you who asked us to send this e-mail, this option still leaves him with his kavod and also leaves him with a small doubt that maybe it wasn't you, so he will be able to retain a normal relationship with you.

Now that we have shared with you our conclusion, here are quotes from the responses we got from the experts on our team:


Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski responded as follows:

Dear Reb Yakov:

I spoke with my posek who said that there is no kibud av problem, as long as she does it gently and respectfully.

"Tatti (or Abba):

It hurts me to talk to you about this (she'll probably cry when she does this), but I know you've been viewing things on the internet that are not lefi k'vodcha. I love you and I respect you, and I want to be able to continue doing so.

At this point you cannot stop without help. If you do not receive help, it will progress and will be a terrible busha for you and the whole family.

Effective treatment is available without fear of exposure. Please don't tell me that you will stop on your own. It can't be done."

She can then put him in contact with Guardyoureyes, me, or anyone you suggest.


Dov, who is clean himself from this addiction for the past 16 years in 12-Step groups (and is very wise) responded as follows:

Wow, what a difficult situation she is in. I want to open with the knowledge that she cannot save him and cannot control whether he will help himself at all, in the end.

It seems to me that she must be very careful if she confronts her father with this. He is a great man, but his lusts and fears are animalistic. And a cornered animal can be dangerous. She must see by now that she obviously does not really know her father as well as she thought she did, which is what hurts so much here, I am sure. But it is also important for her to realize that most men masturbate sometimes, many frum men use porn at times and struggle with it.

And so, I want her to know that lots of good people sin. Her father is not perfect. G-d loves us and works with us even if we are not perfect, and yes her father needs work... so does she, so do I.

If her relationship with him is such that she can tell him what she saw without threatening him, then fine. She should just let him know that she knows. She should NOT allow him to extract any promises from her about who she will or will not tell, and she must not pay any attention to any promises he makes, for it is not him talking - but his pathetic addiction. Promises are just a trick to deny and save face. Still, she is powerless over him, and he (if he is an addict) is powerless over himself. He will need to be self-motivated by pain if he is ever to come to sobriety. But she can just tell him the facts that she saw it and that she is very sad about it but loves him anyway and knows he is still a great man, a talmid chochom, ba'al chessed and an excellent father overall. Her admiration for those things has not been destroyed.

He may very well try to deny the entire thing to her, making up some story. But she can only do her part. She cannot save him and cannot control him. It is very sad that she will have to live with this pain now, but if she does the right thing with it, G-d will help her heal eventually..

If it should come to it, a great shrink in Brooklyn is Dr David Kohn, and in Monsey there is Dr Steven Friedman.

Regarding her telling her mother, I believe he is still her Father and it is not her place to tell Mother. But Rabbi Kaganoff (an authority on addiction and family counseling, talmid of R Twerski) disagrees and told me that she should tell her mother (who may already know about it anyhow) because she has the right to know and addicts should be outed. I agree 100% with him if the porn is known to be dangerous, like for escorts, meeting women, spending money on it, etc, for these things are a danger to the family and must get exposed to the Mother. (And beware, for there are many rabonnim who have their heads in the sand about these issues just as the Catholic church did, and they would say to definitely hide it from Mother and ignore it all - but the mother will eventually find out anyway, nebach). However, if it is not dangerous behaviors, I believe it is not her place to tell the mother.

With lots of love for her and her father, since I relate to their pain,

Dov

PS. If she does end up telling him and he actually wants to talk w someone totally safe, I'd be happy to be his friend in sobriety and you can give him my number - if he asks for it.

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You may also want to see this letter of a grown daughter to her father, years after such discovery has been made.