The Hanjub Syndrome



Saundra Winklebaum became a psychiatrist to heal herself. Early on she believed the quality of her misery was vastly greater than of those around her, and by the time she entered her teens she had decided to do something about it. She read everything she could about psychology, and soon aspired to the highest level of accomplishment in the field. Her desire was clear in her study habits and her willingness to do more than was required in all of her classes. She was rewarded with a scholarship to medical school and a prestigious residency in psychiatry. It was an unspoken assumption on her part that along with her degrees, licenses and board certifications would come the peace of mind she had so long desired. It was dismaying to discover that was not the case.

Her demons, it seemed, were of a vague, shadowy nature, and not easily identified as they crouched in the background of her psyche. So well hidden were they that she could not illuminate them with the light of her acquired knowledge, and she remained miserable. Her parents, naturally, were scrutinized for the origins of her malaise. Her father was present in the home without being there, and her mother was passive to the point of hopelessness. The two fought a great deal, and occasionally her father would drink to excess. Her mother ignored this, dismissing the episodes as him just being “too much a man.” They seldom went anywhere, and Saundra was an only child so there were long periods when no one spoke in her house and time seemed to pass so uneventfully that there was little to be remembered. When she heard others speak of their eventful childhoods she often thought there must be more to hers, but it was a though the memories were lost.

It was at this point she decided she needed help with her demons and she saw a hypnotherapist. Under her spell Saundra began to fill in the blank spaces in her childhood with memories of being sexually abused. It was an amazing revelation full of pain but greatly satisfying in that it provided an explanation for her persistent misery. Her parents denied her accusations, but her many therapies since had solidified her assisted recollections. This new understanding became the focus of her personal life and her career, and she dedicated herself to saving young girls with similar experiences. She became an expert in the field of recovered memories, wrote and blogged about the phenomenon, and even became an expert witness in many high profile cases of sexual abuse.

She knew just from the history presented by Beverly that her daughter had been sexually abused, without having yet talked to the girl. The girl’s report of having seen the penis of a nude man in her bed was an arm full of red flags of sexual abuse, no mater how benign the context in which it was presented. The doctor explained to the mother that children do not introduce sexually explicit content into their play unless they have been exposed to sexually explicit situations. The girl had clearly seen a real penis on a real man, and had contrived Hanjub as a clever way to communicate the fact to her mother. She praised her mother for bringing her in, and not discounting her daughter’s report, as that would only make it harder for the girl to tell of the abuse she has certainly suffered from the real owner of the penis. It was, she emphasized, a delicate matter, and they should not push CarolLee for details until she was ready. The doctor suggested twice weekly sessions designed to build trust until the girl felt comfortable enough to reveal the identity of the perpetrator and the extent of the abuse.

Although Beverly and David initially feared CarolLee had seen a real penis, they didn’t believe it was anything more than part of her fantasy. Dr. Winklebaum’s conviction that CarolLee had actually been abused was a shock to them both. More so, they were fraught with guilt at having missed some clue that their daughter was being abused. They each rifled through the girl’s activities of the past year trying to recall any of a suspicious nature. There was the week she stayed with her grandparents. Beverly’s father had been having memory problems, and his wife complained he had been acting strangely. Could he have done something to CarolLee?

Her teacher, Mr. Feltman had dismissed the whole thing as a passing phase. Was he simply trying to put Beverly off the track? And why was a janitor allowed to teach the kids to play chess in Mr. Feltman’s classroom after school? Could they be colluding in some way to lure children into situations where they could be abused, and providing alibis for each other? CarolLee certainly never had any interest in chess before, and all of a sudden she began playing well.

There was her piano teacher whose house she went to for an hour each week. They lived close and CarolLee usually road her bike there, and Beverly was led to believe the man’s wife was always at home. She had made no attempt to verify this, however. Was he the one? Or her soccer coach?

CarolLee used to go to Sunday school, but complained so much about being bored the whole time, and how unbelievable the Bible stories were, that they let her attendance lapse. Did something occur there?

There were babysitters, although these were always girls, but perhaps their boyfriends visited. There were a few occasions when CarolLee had come home to an empty house after school, and someone could have dropped by. She spent a lot of time at the library, but it was always crowded with other kids after school. There were other, less likely suspects, but the more they looked, the more possibilities there seemed to be.

Dr. Winklebaum’s first few sessions with her young patient were spent playing chess, or watching the girl draw as the psychiatrist acted as a guide on the path toward revelation. While initially hesitant, the girl seemed to respond to the promise of confidentiality and soon spoke freely about her life at home and at school. However, when the doctor expressed a keen interest in Hanjub, CarolLee seemed reluctant, and related little more than what her mother had told her about the man.

Eventually, and with much encouragement, CarolLee related she really wasn’t as smart as her teachers had said, and she got good grades only because Hanjub did most of her homework for her. It was Hanjub who taught her to play chess, suggesting her father would look more favorably upon her if she learned. It was he who read to her every night before bed, and he who kept her company when she was lonely. It was he who protected her from her big brother when he got angry at her, which happened frequently. It was Hanjub who told her what was going on in the family, and from this the doctor gleaned that there were many family secrets yet to be revealed. And it was Hanjub’s penis she saw while he slept naked in her bed. The psychiatrist was sure more than passive genital exposure had occurred, but that would come with time.

It became clear to Dr. Winklebaum that the invented nobleman, a person of some importance in a child’s mind, was both a protector and a perpetrator, a tutor of the game of chess and the stark realities of adult sex, and the one who could both guard and expose the family’s secrets. Saundra could find nothing similar in the literature, so decided she would call it the Hanjub Syndrome. She would establish a relationship with Hanjub so that the girl would see her as an ally and trust her with the truth. Several years of therapy would uncover all of the abuse, and the identity of the person abusing her, piece together the psychic mechanisms, and save this girl.

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