I am having an abduction fallout day. I am 46 years old; my abduction was 36 years ago – over a quarter of a century in the past – yet it is having a real life impact on me today. Not an emotional-baggage kind of impact but a concrete one.
The illegal name change is throwing a spanner all these decades later.
My social security card was issued at birth to Melissa Sokolsky, because that, I suppose, is who I really am.
When I was 10 years old I became someone else. My mother stole a blank baptism certificate from a church and used that to get a driver’s license under a name she made up (you could do that back in the 70’s). Then she abducted me and turned me into someone else. Missy Sokolsky disappeared and Melissa Hart stepped out of thin air on the other side of the country. My abductor, I mean mother, changed her first name as well: Lee Thompson Sokolsky became Sharon Hart.
At age 16 I got my first driver’s license, as Melissa Hart. I don’t remember having any difficulties. When I applied for my first passport in my early 20’s the name on my Social Security card and the name on my driver’s license did not match. I was simply asked to supply a signed, notarized letter from someone who knew my story and would vouch that Melissa Hart and Melissa Sokolsky were the same person. The passport was issued to Melissa Hart (this was pre-9/11. Things were different then).
When I got married my name changed again. I had a little moment when filling out the marriage license, trying to figure out who was becoming Melissa Haviv since Melissa Hart was a made up name and Missy Sokolsky had been dead since I was 10. I did the pragmatic thing and went with Hart.
I hyphenated my married name for a number of years because I had built a life and roster of accomplishments as Melissa Hart and didn’t want to erase all that. I was Melissa Hart-Haviv for a long time (actually, Liss Hart-Haviv, choosing to use for my first name a nickname bestowed by someone I met on my big coming-of-age-year-spent-backpacking-solo-around-the-world-adventure).
Then I started Take Root. It reframed everything about how I viewed and understood my abduction and, as a result, the name Hart started to make my skin crawl. I needed to get it off me, the way you flick a spider off your skin. And, eventually, I wanted to get a step closer to who I was born. So I took that first name back, dropped the Hart from my married name, and became Melissa Haviv.
I have always used my birth-issued SSN along with whatever last name I was using at the time, and never had any issues arise about the names being different. My Social Security card is the only link I have to identify me as Melissa Sokolsky. All my known Sokolsky relatives, including my father and beloved grandmother, are dead. I have only this one, fragile link to prove that Melissa Sokolsky ever existed. I don’t want any link to Melissa Hart, but am obliged to keep listing it as my maiden name if I want old school friends to be able to find me on Facebook and in alumni books and such.
Today, I received a shock. I applied for services that required me to provide my SSN. The card that was issued as a result was issued to Melissa Hart. I had not provided that name on any of the paper work. Apparently, Hart became associated with my SSN somewhere along the line. It may have happened just through use. This new card must be accompanied by a photo ID. I have no photo ID as Melissa Hart, I do not want any photo ID as Melissa Hart, I do not want my SSN to be attached to Melissa Hart and I now have to undertake the hassle and hoops of explaining to multiple powers that be that this is a FICTITIOUS IDENTITY made up by my abductor mother. Wish me luck with that one.
Missy Sokolsky was killed off overnight while Melissa Hart will not die.
Family abduction, the gift that just keeps giving.
Melissa “Liss” Haviv is a Fulbright Scholar and the Executive Director of Take Root.