Sunday, June 8, 2008

Rav Moshe Sternbuch, shlita - Guidelines for calling the Police

There is a widespread impression that the police and the chareidi world have an inherently antagonistic relationship. There is also a widespread perception that the chareidi world is more concerned with covering up crimes such as child or wife abuse and that pedophiles are given free run. In other words there is a perception that the chareidi community is more worried by adverse publicity then it is about the welfare of the individual.

This Shabbos I had an intensive discussion with Rav Moshe Sternbuch, shlita about these issues.

1) Child Molesters

He stated without hesitation and said that I can quote him - that if one knows that children are being molested that one should call the police. He noted that there is an important distinction to keep in mind. One calls the police when it is clear that someone is still in danger. Thus one does not automatically call the police concerning an event that took place once and is not going to be repeated. In such a case one should first consult with a rav. When I mentioned that many rabbis apparently felt differently – he dismissed such a view as being wrong. He noted also that it is important for the community rabbis to have a good working relationship with the police. That means that the police need to be sensitive to the needs and nature of the chareidi community and the community needs to be understanding of the police. He said that there is such a relationship with many police forces.

The rule is summarized simply – if one knows that someone is being physically abused or will be abused than it is required to call the police after consulting a rabbi who agrees he is a future danger as is common in such cases.

2) Vigilante actions

I mentioned the issue of vigilante actions in the chareidi community and whether they are to be praised or condemned. He noted that there are unfortunately disturbed and misguided individuals in the chareidi community – as there are in other communities. The general rule is not to make a public protest when the problem is rare and insignificant. He said that it only encourages these individuals when their activities are publicized. However if they progress beyond this stage then it is important to take action. He mentioned the Bedatz dealt last year with vigilantes who burned down a clothing store in Geula. I mentioned the recent incident in Beitar. He said he condemned such behavior. If it is clearly not a rare act of a disturbed person then it needs to be dealt with.

[This is also related to the recent outbreak of burglaries in Har Nof where Rav Sternbuch lives. The unanimous ruling of the rabbonim of Har Nof is that one can call the police on Shabbos if one witnesses a break-in as there is also life danger involved. As is explained in Shmiras Shabbos K’hilchosa (41:25-29) – this is because the possible danger associated with these break-ins. See also Aruch HaShulchan (C.M. 388:7). Tzitz Eliezer (19:52) also permitted calling the police in the case of teacher molesting his students. He based his psak on the Aruch HaShulchan.]

13 comments:

  1. I'm not sure I understand. Does he say one should call the police when the situation is that others will come to be hurt, or does he say to ask a Rav to determine if others will come to be hurt.

    Did you suggest to him that there is a strong chazakah that someone will re-offend?

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  2. "When I mentioned that many rabbis apparently felt differently – he dismissed such a view as being wrong."

    They were wrong by saying that one should not call the police

    Or they were wrong by saying that one always calls the police?

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  3. Even if the abuse won't recur with this child, what about the very real possibility that, allowed to remain free, the abuser will target another child at some point in the future?

    The Wolf

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  4. BrooklynWolf said...

    Even if the abuse won't recur with this child, what about the very real possibility that, allowed to remain free, the abuser will target another child at some point in the future?

    The Wolf
    ==================================
    Rav Sternbuch would tell you to call the police in this situation. He stated that the cure rate of molester is not significant or likely and so therefore you presume that they will do it again. In other words someone who has committed such an act is presumed to be a danger and the police SHOULD be called

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  5. I'm not sure I understand. Does he say one should call the police when the situation is that others will come to be hurt, or does he say to ask a Rav to determine if others will come to be hurt.

    Did you suggest to him that there is a strong chazakah that someone will re-offend?
    ====
    see my second posting on this subject.
    He is well aware that there is a strong chazakah and thus would TYPICALLY tell the person to call the police.

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  6. When I mentioned that many rabbis apparently felt differently – he dismissed such a view as being wrong."

    They were wrong by saying that one should not call the police

    Or they were wrong by saying that one always calls the police?
    =========================
    they were wrong for saying that one should not call the police

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  7. how does the issur of mesirah apply to the Jewish state?

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  8. When you have a question regarding meat cooked in a dairy pot, consult your rabbi. When you have a question regarding taharas hamishpacha, consult your rabbi. When you have a question regarding shabbos observance, consult your rabbi. When you have a question regarding a business dispute that needs arbitration, consult your rabbi. If you or someone you know is the victim of sexual molestation, CALL THE POLICE!!!

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  9. Rav Sternbuch states very clearly that if one knows that an individual is molesting one or more children, he should call the police. This is not optional; failure to do so would be a violation of “Lo Saamod Al Dam Reiacha”. The only exception, in Rav Sternbuch’s view, is where there is 100% certainty that the person will never again molest any child.

    It is clear that the molester would bear the burden of proving (not just promising) that he will never molest again, because it would not be fair or reasonable to put that burden on the victim(s). There are very few cases, if any, where the molester will be able to meet this burden, unless, perhaps, where he has had a debilitating stroke, or something similar.

    This appears to be Rav Sternbuch's view. Others hold that the police need to be called even in the extremely rare case where it is 100% certain that the molester will never again abuse any child. Perhaps this is to help provide healing to the victim(s), and to serve as a deterrent to other potential molesters.

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  10. Regarding Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch's Guidelines for Calling the Police


    It saddens me a great deal to read this posting. With all the information and education that is available to our rabbonim it appears that they are still refusing to learn from their past mistakes. I'll admit that I have never heard of Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch until I received an e-mail with the link to this blog.

    My hope by providing the following information will help to prevent one more child from being harmed and that those who are already victims of sex crimes, the will be able to receive the proper help.

    It's obvious that Rabbi Sternbuch is lacking basic knowledge about sex offenders and the needs of those who have been sexually violated as children. The most important message that needs to get out is that each of us should consider ourselves mandated reporters. This basically means if you SUSPECT a child is in danger you have to call your local hotline, rape crisis center or police. You don't go to a rabbi to get permission or have them make the call. The key word here is "SUSPECT." We need to leave all the investigating and fact finding/gathering to law enforcement and not our rabbonim.

    Most children don't come out and say "I'm being raped at home, school, camp and or in shul." If we suspect a child is being harmed or at risk of harm it's vitally important that we don't ask the child leading questions. It's best to have a highly trained mental health professional and or child protection worker who works with law enforcement to talk to the child to get information.

    How many times do I have to remind everyone that our rabbis DO NOT have specialized training in collecting forensic evidence nor do they have the education, training or skills to do a victim sensitive interview. Going to a rav "with concerns" just doesn't work. It's much better for the individual who suspects a child is at risk of harm to call their local child abuse hotlines directly.

    The concern Rabbi Sternbuch has regarding child protection workers, rape victim advocates and the police not being "sensitive to the needs and nature of the charedi community" is not true in most cases. Most professionals want to do what they can to help and understand the cultural differences. I'm sure that Rabbi Sternbuch knows this and I'm afraid to say I think that he is trying to sell a bag of goods, with his fear tactics of saying the police will not work with or understand the cultural differences.

    If you live in Israel and suspect a child is being abused call:
    Israel Association for Child Protection (ELI)
    English: http://www.eliusa.org/home.htm
    Hebrew: http://www.eli.org.il/Content/index.asp

    In the US call:
    ChildHelp USA
    1-800-4-A-CHILD
    http://www.childhelp.org/get_help/local-phone-numbers

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    Replies
    1. Hi Vicki, what happens if the person that suspects the abuse calls the police (or abuse hotline) and they do a very thorough investigation, and decide that the person is not guilty of any wrong doing, meanwhile the scandals information will be reported in many papers, and the information will spread quickly, in essence destroying this man's reputation, in the process? By the time that he is found "not guilty," he and his family will have suffered enough degradation and embarrassment, that they will have been completely destroyed. Maybe, in order to prevent this type of issue, one who suspects should first seek advice from a COMPETENT halachic authority who can decide whether the evidence warrants such a debasing of the suspecting individual, and if it doesnt, then obviously the person should still be monitored, to make sure he really is innocent.
      Just a thought, let me know what you think.

      Delete
  11. It is shameful that you published the comments of Vicki Polin.

    Vicki Polin never heard of Rabbi Sternbuch, but says she knows better than he does. She is no expert and has a history of hallucinations, but she can decide better than Rabbis. All hail the one who really knows good from evil... Vicki "baby eater" Polin!

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  12. I don't see any "stirah" between Vicki Polin's comment and that of Rav Sterbach... if a child is being molested, it gets reported!

    ReplyDelete

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