My Father, Former Navy Chaplain, Molested Me for 12 Years
By Jonathan Edwards
March 10, 2016
The daughter of a former Navy chaplain and retired rabbi testified Thursday that her father molested her in the 1960s and ’70s and tried to cleanse her by rubbing hydrogen peroxide on her genitals.
Eric Aaron Silver, 73, of Cheshire, Conn., sat through the first day of his trial Thursday as his now 52-year-old daughter told the court he started fondling her at their house in the 5400 block of Barnhollow Road when she was 4.
The abuse continued over the next 12 years, she said, even as their family moved among four states and Canada.
“I was humiliated,” she said. “I thought I was the only girl whose father ever did this.”
The Virginian-Pilot normally does not name alleged victims of sex crimes, but Rachel Silver agreed to be identified.
At her stepfather’s urging, Rachel Silver reported the abuse to Norfolk police in September 2014. Her father was charged four months later, given a $20,000 bond and is out of jail, court records show.
His trial continues today, and his lawyer, James Broccoletti, said his client plans to testify.
On Thursday, Rachel Silver said she hesitated to tell anyone because she thought people would blame her and she’d have to pay for a lawyer to prosecute her father.
She said her father would come into her room at night and reach inside her underwear. She estimated he did this 10 to 20 times in the two years the Silvers lived in Norfolk.
She said she learned to fear the light that would flood in when he opened the door, and she would pretend to be asleep.
In separate incidents, she said her father also would rub her genitals with hydrogen peroxide, saying she was unclean. She said that happened three to five times.
“It burned,” she said.
The molestation continued, she said, in Ohio where Silver attended rabbinical school, in Connecticut, and in Hampton Roads again when he was stationed here.
Silver and his wife divorced in the mid-1970s while the family was living in Virginia Beach, and Rachel Silver chose to live with her father.
Why would a 12-year-old girl choose to live with her dad if he’d been molesting her for two-thirds of her life? Broccoletti posited during his opening statements.
Because he hadn’t been, he said.
“These events did not happen,” Broccoletti said. “There was no sexual abuse.”
Rachel Silver said she chose to live with her father because he hadn’t molested her in one or two years and their relationship had never been better. But the abuse resumed, she said.
Rachel Silver said she’s suffered from severe depression and anxiety for more than 40 years and has had trouble maintaining romantic relationships. She said she had several flashbacks about the abuse in her 20s when she was with boyfriends.
She said she confided about the abuse to a half dozen therapists over the last 30 years. After Broccoletti questioned her, she said none of them reported it to police or spurred her to do so.
In Winnipeg, Rachel Silver told her high school guidance counselor in 1980 what was going on. Jacqueline Seipp, who flew from Canada to testify Thursday, said she told her boss, the principal at Garden City Collegiate High School, but they never alerted police.
Instead, Seipp let the 16-year-old girl stay at her place for about six weeks until Silver graduated from high school early.
Rachel Silver testified she hasn’t talked to her father since.
Two of Silver’s colleagues, fellow rabbis, said they visited the household many times when the abuse allegedly happened. Ari Cartun and Bruce Kahn testified they never noticed anything was amiss and that the Silvers seemed like a normal, happy family.
“She acted just like any normal kid,” said Cartun, who’s now a rabbi in Palo Alto, Calif.
Lisa Taylor said she saw something different. The two girls were friends when the Silvers lived in Cincinnati, and they played a lot in Rachel Silver’s room. When Eric Silver checked in on them, which he did often, Rachel would get agitated and answered her father in curt responses, Taylor said. When he left, she would break down and sob.