Guest Post in response to comments on Jewish Calculus of suffering see also Sex offenders II and Rav Silman's Teshuva
Dear Rabbi Eidensohn,
Thank you for your response, I value your engagement on this. Regarding your contention that "there is no legal issue here", I need to respectfully disagree. The fact that the family did not want to press charges at the time is immaterial to the question of mandatory reporting. The 'duty to report' is an independent obligation of certain professions (and in some places, on every citizen), usually at minimum teachers, health professionals, and clergy, to report to Children's' Aid (or Child Welfare, again: the names will vary) any instance where through their professional work they become aware of a child having been abused, and/or where there is a potential continuing risk to any child's welfare (whether sexual or physical abuse---in some places also emotional abuse--or neglect). A generic summary can be seen here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandated_reporter Usually there is no time limit for this obligation from the time of the incident. Failure to report often carries a penalty of jail time, in Israel I seem to recall it's 6 months. I encourage you, with or without reference to the case under discussion, to phone your local Children's Aid and find out what your legal obligations are in your jurisdiction.
It is precisely because of our natural tendency to "assume" that "someone" else must surely have determined that the assailants are no longer a threat that mandatory reporting laws have become so common. Experience has shown that we can never assume that someone else has taken care of it---usually they are assuming the same thing. Believe me, I know the kind of hassles that can be involved in taking the step of reporting something like this because I've done it a number of times. We are all meshuchadim when it comes to deciding whether someone else 'must have' taken care of it, so the secular law---wisely, in my opinion---takes this decision out of our hands (assuming we choose to follow it).
Having worked as a psychologist in educational and clinical settings since 1996, I've had more cases like this than I'd care to remember; more than I would have expected to have. I see from your website that you are someone who is not afraid to speak out on matters of importance to the Jewish community. So please let me share this with you and your readers: The fact is that if the "rape" as you've called it was never brought to legal attention, it is highly unlikely that a satisfactory assessment was ever made as to whether these men pose a continuing risk. In fact, a teenager who "rapes"---your word---a 10 year-old child is a disturbed individual who we can safely assume does pose a continuing risk. If the case never went to a legal process the reasonable working assumption must be that these men are out there and abusing to this very day. That is pikuach nefesh, as your case example neatly illustrates. Some pedophiles---in the frum world as well---have gone on abusing with impunity for decades because people preferred to assume that someone else must have reported it.
That is why I suggest we need to resist the understandable tendency to prematurely "take away" the legal issues and the concern for future danger to others, to turn to "...the profound"---yet in important ways much easier---"...question of how to give meaning to this event."
Please consider the following: Whenever we hear such a story---even "by the way"---we should ask questions to determine whether the assailant was reported to authorities equipped to assess and monitor future risk. The day that Beis Din is able and willing to take on that role will be a great day---that has not yet come in my experience. The victim should be encouraged to name their abusers---they themselves can generally choose to remain anonymous---and this information should be passed on to those with the training and resources to protect future victims, as a matter of pikuach nefesh.
Respectfully and with blessing,
Yaacov Lefcoe, MA (Psych)