Sunday, January 11, 2009

Abuse - rape of young girl

Just received this question :

Take this situation: A man regularly abuses a young girl He is not her brother, not her father, etc., so it is not Gilui arayot.

In this case, does she at all have a case against him according to torah law? Or can she just ask for a money settlement because she lost her virginity (if this is the case)? If he goes on abusing her for several years, will this make a difference (as compared to if he does it just one time)?

Has she a case to bring him to civil authorities? I would be very grateful for an answer to this question
The simple answer - 1) if you know for certain that these are the facts and he is still abusing her or others - is to call the police since this is viewed as a case of pikuach nefesh. The fact that this does not involve a specific sexual prohibition which is punishable by court or by kares - it still is prohibited because of many other Torah prohibition. 2) If it is only a suspicion - then contact someone who is experienced in these matters - whether a rabbi, psychologist or social worker - and ask how to proceed. Do not consult people who are not experienced in issues of abuse.

However if this is in regard to past activity and he no longer abuses and there is absolutely no possibility he will abuse in the future - the situation is different. In that case you need to consult with rabbinical authorities as well as a lawyer and experienced mental health expert.

Rav Eliashiv: Question: If someone is sexually abusing a boy or a girl in circumstances which we can’t stop him from continuing his evil deeds – is it permissible to notify the government authorities? Answer:...However, it is permitted to notify the government authorities only in the case which it is certain that the accused has been sexually abusing children. Informing the authorities in such a case is clearly something for the well being of the society (tikun olam). However in a case where there is no proof that this activity is happening but it is merely a conjecture or suspicion, if we permit the calling of the authorities - not only would it not be an improvement (tikun olam) - but it would destroy society. That is because it is possible that allegations are being made solely because of some bitterness the student has against his teacher or because of some unfounded fantasy. As a result of these false allegations the accused will be placed in a situation for which death is better than life – even though he is innocent. Therefore I do not see any justification for calling the authorities in such circumstances.

1) pikuach nefesh - Rav Eliyashiv [heard from Rav Maier Horowtiz - the Bostoner Rebbe's son] and Rav Sternbuch [heard directly] have clearly stated sexual abuse destroys the person and is thus pikuach nefesh. Simply put the person who is doing this is no different than someone trying to murder her. You must use the minimum effective action that will protect her. If it is clear that this is happening - call the police. The perpetrator is a rodef.

2) physically harming another person is prohibited

3) psychological harm is prohibited by "lo sono" Vayikra 25:17

4) embarrassing and degrading another person is prohibited

5) there is also a Torah requirement to stop a person from sinning.

6) this is also Torah violation of "loving your fellow as yourself"

7) there is a need to rebuke a sinner

8) the disgusting behavior of this individual degrades the spritual status of all Jews - through the mechanism of arvus.

9) there is a Torah prohibition of standing idly by while someone is being harmed


  1. I am aware of Rav Eliashiv's shuva. It is my understanding that New York Police, when trying to gather information about a certain molester, used the psak.

    The sticky points are as follows, " is permitted to notify the government authorities only in the case which it is certain that the accused has been sexually abusing children.", and "...because it is possible that allegations are being made solely because of some bitterness the student has against his teacher or because of some unfounded fantasy" Thus, what constitutes 'certainty'? If G-d forbid, ones own child reports an incident, how is the parent certain the child's allegations are not false, for in the child's heart of hearts he may bear true and justifiable bitterness toward's the accused?

    I have spent some time pondering this. At what point can we indeed go to the secular authorities? Again what is 'certainty'?

  2. To explicitly address the point I saw as the one that spawned the question...

    Regardless of the laws of arayos, rape is a violent crime, a kind of assault and battery. The harm to the rape victim is great. (This is what underlies items 1-4, 6, and 9 in RDE's list.)

    The leniency of the laws of sexuality in this circumstance should not be confused with thinking the violation is minor on all levels.


  3. In my experience it is fairly common for the victim to refuse to go to the police. Many times because she is embarrassed - not only for herself but that it often involves friends or family members who will be shocked or angry when they hear the accusations. It also because of fear that she won't be believed anyway.

    It sounds like in this case the perpetrator has stopped the attacks. He probably is also married.
    Is she interested in pressing charges? The more important issue is treatment.

    Is there free or subsidized treatment for people who have been abused?

  4. Pardon a perpetrator?

    If a young woman is an abuse victim. And she has the minhag of saying every evening that she forgives anyone who did her harm, and that she wishes that "no one to be punished on her behalf".

    Has she, religiously speaking, any possibility left to bring him to justice?

    Should she stop saying this Tefila when abuse happens?

    Can she say this Tefila and still seek justice?

    Is it psychologically more healthy to denounce him (with all possible consequences: not being believed, having to go through police hearings, perhaps having to confront the perpetrator in court, seeing that he is not punished in the end) or not to say anything and to bear it alone?

    Is it more healthy to forgive or not to forgive as long as he has not been punished? (Are there any reliable findings on this question?)

  5. Some observations:

    On all of the occasions I've met victims and their families, forgiveness is not on the radar screen. When they come to me, they want to prosecute civilly and/or criminally, and I believe that's the way it should be. As the victims' lawyer, certainly mechila hasn't really crossed my mind.

    My own observation has always been that forgiveness, in general, does not appear to be a Jewish trait; we certainly differ from the Christians, for whom forgiveness is a centerpiece of their theology. While many tsaddikim were quick to forgive, I'm hard-pressed right now to think of any Torah episode where someone clearly said, I'm mochel - maybe someone can enlighten me.

    To the contrary, the halacha seems to be that it is permissible to reject a plea of forgiveness. Its even kind of hard to ask for mechila the right way - if the
    victim says, No, the mechila-asker has to return three times with three choshuv Jews and keep asking. Not so easy to do, and the Torah seems to understand that its against our nature to forgive. We all are familiar with the Rambam's formula for actual teshuva.

    I often think about the mitzvah of shiluach hakan - the lesson is,
    G-d doesn't like it when people take advantage, and that's what occurs when an adult sexually abuses a child.

  6. Well I suppose that people go and see a lawyer when they want to go to court. So you see the selection of victims who do go to court.

    however, there are many victims who never go to court, for various reasons, and there are even some that are ready to forgive before they are cured and before the perpetrator asked them to forgive.

    my question was: is this psychologically healthy?

    Are there comparative research results on this subject?


please use either your real name or a pseudonym.