The true story of Dassi Erlich - a woman who grew up in a closed ultra-Orthodox sect and endured a harsh home life that made her the perfect target for a predatory teacher. It is an honest, harrowing but ultimately inspiring story of survival and the fight for justice.
'I am a sexual abuse survivor, but I am also more than a survivor. I will continue fighting for justice for all victims.'
Dassi Erlich grew up in St Kilda East, the fourth of seven children born to parents who had joined one of the strictest ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in the world.
As a girl, her life's journey was preordained - she would marry young, live a devout life, and raise her children within the strict confines of the Adass community's countless religious rules. This strict interpretation of the Torah would see Dassi and her siblings isolated from secular and immodest Australian society. She lived within the eight-block radius that made up the Adass world in Melbourne, where synagogues, schools, shops and doctors all catered for those living an ultra-Orthodox life.
The centre of young Dassi's world was her home and her school. But the real danger for Dassi lay not in the secular world, but in her troubled home and at the very school that should have been her sanctuary.
Dassi was only fifteen years old when the then-principal of Adass Israel Girls School, Malka Leifer, started to pay attention to her. Leifer had her favourites, bringing girls she favoured into the warm sun of her universe. As a girl who had lived without love for so long, Dassi flourished under this attention. She felt valued and important. Until Leifer betrayed her in ways that the cloistered, unworldly Dassi did not understand, but instinctively knew were very, very wrong.
It would take her years to find the courage to tell the police what Malka Leifer did to her. And then Dassi would discover the principal had abused others, including two of her sisters. When the community supported Leifer and helped her avoid justice by putting her on a plane to Israel, Dassi embarked on a remarkable fifteen-year campaign to bring Leifer back.
In April 2023, justice was delivered when a jury found Leifer guilty of serious sexual abuse and then sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment for her crimes.
This powerful memoir tells Dassi's story in her own unique voice. It gives extraordinary insight into a secretive sect little known to the outside world, and outlines the harsh upbringing she experienced which made her such a target for the predatory Leifer. Inspiring, harrowing and unforgettable, Dassi Erlich's story is of a courageous survivor learning to move beyond the horror she grew up with, and finding her own way.