Malignant Memories

One of the most important Marvella celebrations of all was at Ezzie's in January — a combination birthday, apartment-warming and coming-out party. Ezzie had such a strong desire to change her life, she shed her Catholic heritage, her identity, her past. After two years of study she converted to Judaism. And after working through the abuse and the loss of her family, she officially changed her name. The Terry Lee Logan she despised became the Ezraella Bassera she honored.

Ezraella is Hebrew. It means "helped by God."

"Without the building of my Jewish foundation I would not have survived," she said.

This party marked the first time ever that Ezzie felt comfortable enough to invite, not only the Marvellas , but an array of people from all the different aspects of her life. People from work, people from Temple Beth Sholom, old friends, new friends. Potluck dishes covered every inch of table and counter space. The chairs, couch and floor were full of young and old.

"Let's see if I can get this all out without crying," Ezzie said to her guests, offering a toast of sparkling cider. "I honestly could not have even started this endeavor without all of you. Thank you for all your support."

An Ezzie party wouldn't be right without some kind of surprise. This time, it was inviting two belly dancer friends. By the end of the evening, she had many of her guests up belly dancing — shimmying and swiveling about, but mostly pointing and laughing at each other.

The last of her friends didn't leave until around 2 a.m. The Marvellas , who had packed their pajamas and toothbrushes, stayed on through the night.

Jo Gottstein, a friend from the temple who's watched Ezzie go through all her changes, was among those attending the party.

"I still call her Terry all the time," Gottstein said. "It's really hard for me to think of her as someone else — although she is.

"She never stood up for herself before. If something went wrong, she would blame herself and not say, 'Wait a minute, this isn't fair.' Now she's a lot more self-assured."

Vivian's therapist Kathleen Holmes said she hasn't met an abuse survivor yet who hasn't blamed herself.

That's why she and other therapists urge women to go look at a 4-year-old or whatever age and realize how small and powerless that person really is. Or, dig up old photographs of themselves as little girls.

"As children," Holmes said, "they were true victims; they couldn't say no. They couldn't do anything.

"People heal when they are able to take charge and do something," she said. "In order to get past this . . . they need to do something different, like confront the perpetrator and say, it wasn't OK that you did this."