Friday, May 14, 2010

Call the police if other ways to stop abuse?

One of the critical issues regarding child abuse is whether to call the police.

There are a number of questions but perhaps the most relevant is - "If I can stop the abuse without calling the police, am I permitted to call the police?" [This is assuming that the abuser is viewed as a rodef - rather than concern with punishing the abuser. In such a framework the only legitimate motivation for action is preventing future harm. This is also not a problem where the government mandates reporting.]

 In an analogous case, many years ago as I was on my way to shul on Shabbos, I noticed that a power line had falled and was lying on a car - and was sparking. I had two choices, to  stand guard over that wire until after Shabbos or calling the power company. Another case is where there is a medical emergency on Shabbos which is life threatening. The doctor lives a block away. Do I have to walk over to his house or can I call him on Shabbos? This in fact is a dispute amongst the poskim whether the prohibitions of Shabbos are pushed aside or nullified in these cases.

Rav Moshe Halberstam (Yeschurun vol 15) writes:... To summarize the matter, in our case where it is not possible for the children to be on guard day and night to stop their father’s sins [of incest], there is only one solution and that is to report him to the police. Even though I cited before Gittin (7a) where Genieva harassed Mar Ukva who was not permitted to report him to the government. But here it is different where the father is sinning physically there is no other solution. … Therefore if you know of a particular person that he is currently sinning and doing evil with his own children, you are obligated to save them and report the matter to the police immediately. That is so that they lock him up in jail and they leave there for an extended period of time until his lusts subside and it is certain that there is no possibility there he will be able to repeat his disgusting deeds a second time. But if he is not involved now in sin but it is known that he does such things – then it would be proper to give him a warning that if it becomes known or it is heard that that he even touches a part of the finger nail of one of these children then he will go to jail for a long time.



1 comment :

  1. No warning for abusersMay 16, 2010 at 11:11 AM

    "then it would be proper to give him a warning that if it becomes known or it is heard that that he even touches a part of the finger nail of one of these children then he will go to jail for a long time."

    I do not think that this piece of advice is adequate, nor realistic. In general, a small percentage of acts of abuse only become known.

    Who says the predator will not go on with his abuse, but be more carefull about hiding it? Who says the next abused child will confide in the same person who issued the warning?

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