I n elementary school, I was a frequent visitor to the principal’s office. When she asked me why I was misbehaving, I’d say things like, “My mom is really horrible to me. I think she wants to kill me.”

“We don’t mix home and school, Chedvah,” the principal would say crisply.

And then she’d call my mother to say that I had a problem with lying.

I wasn’t lying. But after a few of these incidents, I learned an important lesson: Never confide in anyone, because they won’t believe you anyway.

My principal’s reaction to what I told her reinforced another thing I knew intuitively: This was normal. All mothers treated their daughters this way.

The fact that I never saw any of my friends’ mothers yelling at their daughters meant nothing, because my mother didn’t scream at me in front of my friends, either. In public, she was always composed and happy and gracious. But at home, she could switch to her other setting with no warning. One minute she’d be telling me how much she loved me, and the next minute she’d explode over the silliest thing. “You left your knapsack on the floor! You’re a mess! You’re going to be a total failure!”

Or: “You’re leaving the house like that? You look so stupid! Who’s going to want to marry you?”

That was the usual, the sort of thing I heard every day. When my mother was really mad, she would tell me things that were a lot worse: I hate you. You’re going to burn in Gehinnom. I want to pull out your lungs.

Other than the screaming, my mom was a great mother. She gave me everything I needed, did all sorts of fun things with me, and wrote me love notes all the time.

When I was nine, a friend showed me some stuff on the Internet that I knew my parents wouldn’t have wanted me to see. I was horrified. And fascinated. Our home computer had a filter, but my parents also had an old laptop that, I quickly discovered, had no filter at all. My parents never even knew I was using it. After a while, I didn’t even have to use that old laptop, because I learned some tricks for circumventing the filter on the home computer. I could be sitting in the kitchen watching schmutz, right across from my mother, and she was none the wiser. If she came close to where I was sitting, I’d switch back to my homework with one keystroke.

My parents are both professionals, no strangers to technology, but it never occurred to them that this could be happening to their daughter, in their house. They were vigilant about my brothers using the computer, but with me, they never imposed any rules or limits.

I felt guilty about what I was doing, so I’d try to hold myself back, but I could never manage to go more than a day or two without logging on. I didn’t even know there was something objectively wrong with what I was doing — until, at age 13, I happened to stumble across the Guard Your Eyes website, where I discovered that even some big rabbis had a problem with people watching this stuff. Even girls.

I wanted to stop, but I had no idea how, and after my experiences in the principal’s office, I knew better than to approach anyone in school for help. I had enough issues to deal with in school at any rate. From the age of 12, I had to see the school social worker, because of my consistent misbehavior.

Then I started high school. Mustering all the courage I had, I decided to speak to my new principal. Not about what was happening with my mother, but about the Internet problem. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 657)