Welcome to my blog! My name is Libby Vilner for those who are new to LIFEWITHLIBBY.
If you follow me on social media, you may know that I recently landed the cover of LaIsha Magazine for one of their September issues:
and onto another interview for Channel 10 TV News feature which you can view here.
The whole thing blew up bigger than I ever expected, and it’s unfair to my followers whom do not speak/read Hebrew for me not to share what this is all about. Please know, that this is my story which I share in hopes of helping others, and inspiring others.
I was born and raised in Israel, to a very famous father and amazing mother as well as an older brother. My father is Hanan Goldblatt, most known for his role in ‘Bli Sodot’ which is a show that every single school in Israel used to use for teaching how to read, and write. It had corresponding workbooks, and the lesson plans revolved around it. He was the main character and every single person in Israel grew up watching my father, learning from him. Besides that, he also preformed in his own comedy shows, filling up the arenas at capacity. He directed plays, as well as played in them. He was in commercials, wrote songs – and sang them! People admired him and looked up to him..myself included. Being his daughter, he was my idol, my icon, my everything! I was such a daddy’s girl, I’d go with him to every single show, every practice. I was proud to call him my dad, showed him off to every single person.
Being a child of a famous parent is not as glamorous as it may sound. Every obstacle you face, you face times a million; a million people watching and judging, a million flashing lights, rumors, and written assumptions. It is tough enough when your family does not deal with much problems, and unfortunately, mine had too many to face.
At age 5
My father left the house, and a tough period in our lives began. There is dad day’s, and mom day’s. The divorce process took years, and it was very tough. My heart goes to every kid, teenage, adult, and family that has to go through divorce.
At age 10
My mother has returned to her first love back from high school, and his job was now in America, so that is where my older brother, mother and I relocated to. This transition was very hard for me as first of all, I was daddy’s girl, it went from seeing him every other day, to seeing him only twice or once per year. Not to mention the rest of my family, I grew up with my cousins being my friends, not many outside friends. Every single Friday everyone is together having dinner, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc. Leaving that behind was the toughest part of it all and I miss it until this day.
At age 14
I was sat down by my step-father, and mother along with my older brother, and we were told we could not visit Israel this time (which was coming up the next month, I was supposed to be there all summer long). The reason being was due to something that happened with our dad, and it was better for us and safer for us to not go to Israel as paparazzi would harass us.
My mother did not get into the details of what had happened (as instructed to her by her psychologist/therapist).
A few days later, she sat my brother and I down again and explained a bit more, although I heard nothing. It was as if her words were coming in from one end and leaving out the other, I began to disconnect, withdraw, and deny my own reality.
A few more days passed
My curiosity and anger got the best of me, and I decided to turn to the internet for answers. Do remember, this was back in early 2000’s, Facebook was not even alive yet. I decided to google his name and find out answers for myself as I did not want to burden my mother and pain her even more than she has. It is amazing how much information you can find online, let alone on someone who holds such fame.
My father, my icon, is being accused of rape. My world shattered in seconds, what I always knew is completely changed. I could not bear to believe these facts, these disturbing and harsh headlines, but I kept digging, kept reading, and kept breaking inside. Once I stopped, I was no longer Libat Goldblatt (former name) I now am the daughter of a rapist. My immediate reaction was detaching from everything, including my relationship with my father. I blocked him out completely. I felt chronic anger, disappointment, disbelief, heartache, and sadness. This went on for four years, he had received nothing but complete silence from me, I needed my space. He would call often, but I never answered, just let it ring, go to voicemail, listen to the voicemail alone in my room and cry.
Even though we were across the country from him, reporters somehow found my brother and I’s phone numbers, called us for any information we had about my father. At first I was so confused when they asked about my dad’s whereabouts as I was thinking they were talking about my other dad (step-father), but after more questions and confusion I realized they were talking about my father.
That is when we decided to legally change our names. My brother only changed his last name to my mothers former name (grandfathers last name), but I decided to change my first, and last names. First name due to people not being able to pronounce ‘Libat’ the right way and Libby was always a nickname, so it became my legal name. And last name from Goldblatt – to Vilner, the same as my brother – we took on my grandfathers last name/ moms maiden name.
This new name, and loss of contact with my father over those 4 years gave me an opportunity to gain my own identity, and be me, Libby Vilner, rather than’ that man’s daughter’. This was a sad realization as I used to be the most proud of that aspect of my life…my father.
Emptiness lead to a toxic relationship
Still at 14, with a new name, new identity but at the same time loss of identity, and what felt like a loss of a father, I found myself in my first romantic relationship (I was 14, he was 17, but lied and said he was 16). Not having a previous relationship to learn from, I missed many red flags along the first 3 years filled with a man who had chronic jealousy, was controlling, commanding, guilt causing, completely took apart my self-confidence, and truly made me feel unworthy of any other love but his.
Once I attempted to leave this relationship on the third year, I experienced more than just the emotional and mental abuse, but the physical abuse began. No need to get into all of the details, but the last one almost got me murdered. His words; “If I can’t have you, no one else will. I am going to kill you, my mom, and then myself.” As he said this, he held a large kitchen knife, and stabbed the walls of the house. I truly thought I was going to die that night.
The only reason I was saved, is due to his younger brother walking in, and I had a chance to run. I escaped.
I never told this to anyone. I did not want to get him into trouble… but.. how can that be? he tried to kill me, and I still love and care for him? I could not understand my own emotions, and I did not know why I still loved him. I was hopeless, and a victim of domestic violence.
I thought if I ignore him, that it would all somehow go away, and he’d leave me alone, but he did not. He continued to harass me to the point where he waited for me outside of my job with his car, and as I drove off to go home, he slammed into the back of my step-fathers car. At this point, the police had to be involved. I had no choice and I felt so angry at him for putting me in this position of having to report this because somehow there was still a part of me that did not want to get him into trouble, that still cared and loved him.
Fortunately, the cops did get involved, and from then on, it was beyond my control. The courts were now involved, I had to file a restraining order under my parents because I was still a minor. I was court ordered to go to therapy, and I almost did not pass Junior year of high school. He violated the restraining order, and went to jail for 6 months. I found myself without the person whom I loved and did not understand why in jail, and the person who was my icon and my idol, my father, also in jail.
During the 4 years it took for me to finally leave this person, I was not in contact with my father. Around the same time the courts were happening with this person, my father was found guilty. (He spent 4 years in-house arrest as they were investigating the cases- more than 1 girl came forth and claimed rape, they needed to invest all cases and it took 4 years).
I wish I would have talked sooner, asked for help earlier, but I was afraid as many men and women in DV relationships are. I hope that this story helps others talk, and seek for help, as it may save their lives as it did mine.
The moment I heard he was found guilty
It went from detachment to reality. I visited Israel, and my grandmother asked to speak with me. She said “Our family does not disconnect and abandon one another, you need to visit your father, there are kids whose fathers have committed murder and they still visit them, if you do not go visit him, you will regret it.” So I went. The first time in 4 years I saw/ talked to my father. I will never forget the moment I saw him in that orange jumpsuit. It was horrific, traumatic, and heart wrecking. I felt so sad, and I felt embarrassed for him, and embarrassed for myself. I really did not want to feel empathy for him as I was so mad, but I felt empathy, so so much empathy.I told him I was not there to listen to his side of the story, I was simply there as his daughter, and not just for him, but mostly for myself.
After the visit in jail
He would keep calling per usual, sometimes I would answer, and sometime I would not. I had so many questions in my head. Why do people do what they do? What makes them do these things? How do they get this way? Why did I fall into the relationship I did? Why do I still care for a man who tried to kill me, and abused me emotionally, physically, and mentally? Why did I make those decisions? Why did I choose to stop talking to my father for four years?
Expression though modeling
From the age of 17, I was signed to an agency here in Boston called ModelClubInc. I always had a passion for being in front of the camera , and when my life was a mess, it seemed to be the only time I had to be in control, and to take on these persona’s of what the client’s wanted. It was a way to escape my own reality at times. It is a big passion of mine until today and I ended up walking in a few runway shows for companies like KEDS, MACY’S, LILA NIKOLE, and Boston Fashion Week.
Once I graduated high school, I went to find my answers in the books
I kept everything to myself, my brother and I never spoke about these things, and I never turned to my mother as I knew she was going through an even harder time than I was. I then went to MassBay Community College for two years and got my associates in Psychology and Criminal Justice
. From there I transferred to UMASS Boston where I graduated with my Bachelors in Psychology, and minored in Criminal Justice
. Today, I am in my last year of graduate school at Boston College, studying clinical psychology in the school of Social Work. I am interning at a high school where I will be starting a ‘healthy relationships‘ group, to teach teens about domestic violence, provide them resources, knowledge, and generate the talk and awareness.
The reason I decided to get interviewed now -10 years later.
I am in my last year of graduate school, and I finally feel content with my history, rather than ashamed, confused, and guilty. Today I have come to understand that we do not choose who we are born to, and that who are born to does not make us who we are. We are our own beings. Through the years I learned how to forgive, which does not mean to forget. I learned how to let go of what I cannot change, bur rather help myself change my way of thinking about it. Forgiving my father for his actions and forgiving myself for my decisions allowed me to move forward in life. It gave me a lightness I cannot explain.
By sharing my story I hope to inspire others to forgive themselves and to forgive others. I hope to inspire ones in dangerous situations to seek for help before it gets to a point of no return. I hope to provide a sense of a brighter light on bad situations and inspire others to make the decision to be happy even though it may take a while. It takes work to bring darkness to light, but it is do-able. Trust me.
I want to thank you all for taking the time to read my story, I want to encourage others to share theirs.
Today I am Libby Vilner, in a healthy relationship, which will be almost 6 years long this February, I have an amazing relationship with my mother, and although my family still lives far, I see them once a year. My relations with my father are decent, they will never be as they were, but I am content with how they are now.
The next video is only 35 seconds of a 15 minute interview that was on Channel 10 News in Israel which you can view here
Interview by: שרון רופא אופיר
Makeup: Esterique Aidan
Hair: Maor Kidushim
Photography: Eitan Tal https://www.facebook.com/studio.eitantal/?pnref=lhc
Styling: Keren Naftaly
For: Magazine LaIsha