Now 37, Reiss tells NPR's Rachel Martin that she knew her husband for only three months before they were married, a marriage arranged by her mother's cousin. During those months, they were never allowed any physical contact or time alone together.To be honest, I think it's for the best if she's no longer in contact with them. If they have such a lenient view of abusive husbands, it can do her much more harm than good to stick around with people whose world view is that poor. She's done the right thing to leave.
"It never occurred to me that I was doing anything other than what I had always dreamed of doing," Reiss says.
The first signs of abusive behavior surfaced the first week of her marriage. Her husband woke up late, and Reiss says he became infuriated, cursing and screaming. The incident ended with him punching a hole in the wall in a fit of rage before leaving, she says.
"I stood there shaking and looking at this hole in the wall, thinking, 'Oh, my God,' " she says.
They were married for 12 years, and during that time, Reiss says, her husband would lunge at her and describe in graphic detail how he was going to kill her.
Reiss went to her family, her husband's family and rabbis for help, but was told that her husband was a good guy and just "had a little bit of a temper."
After a particularly violent episode, Reiss says, she went to the police to get a temporary restraining order, a first for a woman in her community. That was a mistake, she says.
"I realized too late that one of the gravest sins in the [Ultra-]Orthodox Jewish community is ratting out your fellow Jew to secular authorities," she says. The rabbis sent an attorney from the community to Reiss' house to drive with her to family court and tell the judge she wanted to drop the restraining order.
Reiss was the first person in her family to go to college. After getting her degree and a job, she was able to support herself and her two daughters. Finally, she was able to leave her husband. Her family shunned her and declared her dead. It's been seven years since she's had contact with them.
"When I took the steps and I finally got divorced and then left the religion completely," she says, "I'd already lost my entire family."
Reiss went on to found Unchained at Last, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping women leave arranged and forced marriages. She says many of the women who come to her for help also come from Ultra-Orthodox communities, but also from various Muslim communities.That's flattering to know she's helping Muslim women too. Everywhere you have backwards views reigning, it's good to help, and not just in the Jewish community. Everybody who sees the light needs help.