Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Unique Charedi issues with child abuse - Jerusalem Conference on Abuse 2011

When I started seriously researching the issue of abuse several years ago, I was informed that contrary to common belief - child abuse is a problem for the chareidi world just as it for the rest of the world. Unfortunately it is still a common misconception. I still get comments that abuse is rare in the chareidi world and so it is claimed that  all this talk about this disgusting topic is just giving the wrong impression that there is a serious problem and it is polluting the purity of the environment

Even among the enlightened ones there is a strong feeling that the seriousness of the problem should be publicly minimized. In fact one of my friends cautioned me - "even though it is true that abuse is the same as the rest of the world but it is a chillul haShem to say such a thing. You can bring about needed change by mentioning there is a problem - why publicize that we are as bad as the goyim in this area."

Last week there was a conference on child abuse in Jerusalem. Dr. Bunzel - a prominent frum psychiatrist from Bnei Brak and one who has a close working relationship with Rav Silman made a number of important observations.

1) the rate of abuse in the Chareidi society is actually higher than in the outside population  There are some chareidi abusers who have abused hundreds of kids.

2) Many of the chareidi abusers don't understand the problem with what they are doing. They say, "But I didn't know that this behavior is assur. It is something I don't want others to know that I am doing  but the Torah doesn't prohibit it" The problem is that many don't have words for sexual activity and don't really understand what the Torah prohibits. Even when they do, they think that if there is no genital intercourse with the child above 3 for a girl and above 9 for a boy - the physical contact which gets them aroused is not prohibited. They ask ," Where does it say in the Torah that you can't touch or look or take pictures or show pictures or movies to kids. where does it say that oral sex is prohibited? The goyim prohibit these things but that is not what the Torah says and we are only concerned with the Torah!" Perhaps worst of all they have no awareness that what they are doing to the child is destroying the victim.

3) Bnei Brak is a paradise for perverts because it has a naive population of children who don't understand that the unpleasant acts that someone is doing to them is sexual abuse and even if they realize it no one is going to call the police - especially not their parents. That is because that would be a violation of  the horrible sin of mesira which they views as more serious than the abuse itself. Typically their rabbi will tell them he will take care of the problem  - but don't go to the police.

4) Chemical castration is often the only thing that changes the molester and even that is not 100% successful.


  1. Dr. Yitzchak Kadman, president of the Israel National Council for Children, once publicly said that Bnei Brak is the pedophile capital of Israel. He was quickly criticized by some frum politicians.

    I've heard similar statements made by frum therapists in New York that our rate of child sex abuse is higher than other communities.

    Clearly, something is terribly wrong in our communal structure, here and in Israel. But, many have been saying this for a while. In the past, our difficulties made for good discussion. The difference now is that we can all see the actual consequences.

  2. This is full of complete falsehoods. Not once, not once, on this blog or anywhere for that matter, has any proof to the repeated lie that abuse is as rampant (or more rampant - hah!) in the frum community as it is in the secular world.

    No, simply repeating this untruth in the hope that, like Joseph Goebbels said "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it."

    In order to prove this lie you would have needed data on abuse in both the secular world and in the frum world. The data in the secular world exists (although itself of questionable reliability), but NO DATA EXISTS of any reliability whatsoever in the frum world. And whatever the reason for that is, it means you cannot claim that abuse is as or more rampant in the frum world, since there is NO DATA.

    So the self-evident anecdotal truth that it is much much less rampant -- albeit unfortunately it certainly does exist -- in the frum community remains.

  3. Fenster:

    The identity of the speaker is the decisive issue.

    I've never said that child sex abuse in the frum or Chareidi world either exceeds or is the equal of that existing in other religious, ethnic, or national communities. By any yardstick, I'm not qualified to do so. Occasionally, I'll get a phone call, or an email from a victim, and there will be a meeting, and a discussion, but that's not data for our community, and I also don't possess, at my fingertips, the data for other communities.

    Some psychologists, on the other hand, are qualified to speak on the issue, usually by virtue of their professional reputation. They have previously demonstrated some level of mastery of the professional literature on the subject, and they also have clinical experience. Here, Eidensohn is quoting Bunzel, speaking at a public conference, where the public utterances are subject to verification by their peers.

    As I note above, Dr. Kadman made a similar statement, and I've spoken to frum therapists here, state-side, who have stated similarly. One very well-known psychologist told me that while attending an international conference, therapists from other nations told him that the child sex abuse in our OJ community well exceeds that existing in other religious communities.

    I agree, though, I would like to be directed towards the data, the studies, the articles, but quite frankly, even if the data, etc. is slim, I'm satisfied with what Drs. Bunzel et al. are saying. The Chareidi community in particular has a serious problem, and we shouldn't wait for the perfect comparative study to be done before enacting some of the clear solutions that are staring us in the face - educating children and parents, criminal prosecution of offenders, compliance with mandated reporting laws, employee background checks, etc. The longer we wait, the more victims.

  4. Uh, fenster, you are not making a very good argument. Without data, you can't claim it is less rampant either.

  5. Where does alleged data on the religious Jewish vs. the secular abuse come from? No one (not Dr. Bunzel and not the other "anonymous" sources) have even alleged to posses such data. Therefore no one is qualified to make a comparison in the absence of such data.

    Forget the comparison. What is the rate of abuse in the Orthodox Jewish community? Ah, you don't know because no such data has authoritatively been compiled or exists. Yet you make comparisons?

  6. The main point is we are dealing with Dinei Nefashos.
    Everything must be done immediately, without hesitancy ,when "there is a reasonable cause to suspect"-raglayim ladavar." to protect our children.

  7. If it is more common in the frum world, I wonder if the main reason is that there are more male teachers of young children (whom are mainly taught by women in the non-frum world).

    Is this kind of sexual abuse only a modern phenomenon? Is there any record whatsoever of sexual abuse within frum communities before the last few decades? Or even in earlier centuries?

  8. It is interesting that the sources that more abuse is occuring in the frum world are frum therapists - not anti-semites. Dr. Bunzel a frum Jew - works extensively with the frum community in close coordination with Rav Silman.

    Instead of taking this as something that needs to be addressed - I am hearing cries "where is the data".

    The skeptics have one source of data - the degree to which they hear reports of abuse. Since this is a topic which is deliberately kept secret - frum therapists who specialize in the area and have the confidence of gedolim are much more likely to have a realistic understanding.

    This is like the frum yidden who insist on smoking because they know that by not smoking on Shabbos that cigarette smoking is not harmful.

    The bottom line is that if the assertion is true then we need to redouble our efforts. If it is false then all it means is that we devoted extra energy to ensure the safety of our children. On the other hand if it is true but we refuse to believe it - it is a disaster.

    So why don't you do a cost/benefit analysis of false positives and false negatives.

  9. Fenster,

    As others are saying: Since you don't of any data you cannot claim that it is "false" and "lies". At least Rav Eidensohn brings a name of a frun Doctor who inside knowledge.

    And as others say, we're talking about diney nefoshos. something is terribly wrong in our hashkafah that pseudo "kovod...." overrides the lives of human and yiddishe neshamos. and as far as Chillu Hashem, it is already out there that the rabbis shoved under the rug and there is no greater chillul Hashem and the only to fix is to actually deal with and attempt to fix it.

  10. The frum doctors don't claim to have any data. If they do, where is the data?

  11. The best (and probably only) data is the arrest records. This are official and public. The fact is arrests of frum people for abuse happens at a far far lower rate than in the secular world.

    And don't believe claims of massive cover-ups. Cover-ups exist. They exist in the secular community no less than they exist in the Jewish community.

  12. It does not seem that coverup exists in secular community to that extent being that they do not have clerical leaders who encourage their followers to sweep it under the rug as was the custom in our circles and publicly till the very recent years.

  13. I see a major problem in the frum world, there seems to be a tendency to put hzl in the same category as child abuse, more serious is that sometimes people try to minimize the seriousness of this issue by pointing out that it is not against the Torah
    "anyway this all issue of underage in my eyes its only a legal matter not a moral matter.
    there is by the sefaradim places where they marrie the daughter by 16 (mexico), and מדינא דגמרא there is no problem at all.
    yitzchak got married with a 3 year old
    a father can sell a אמה עבריה till she is 12 and the אדון can marrie her...."

    This is quote is from http://www.guardyoureyes.org/forum/index.php?topic=4112.15

  14. Danny:

    In New York State it is possible for a 14 year old to get married with parental consent. There is nothing immoral or illegal about it.

  15. Dovid- this is not about marriage, this is about sex with underage girls http://www.sexlaws.org/answer_board_question-17_and_15_with_parents_permissionis about sex with underage girls http://www.sexlaws.org/answer_board_question-17_and_15_with_parents_permission

  16. Danny:

    The age of consent in NY as well as most of the country is 16. (In some states it is 15.)

  17. The Neviim were often attacked, criticised, insulted, imprisoned, and hunted down like animals, because the ovdei avodah zarah could not accept hearing the emet.

    It takes tremendous courage to speak the truth on such a sensitive subject - and to open the risk of criticism and attack from those in denial.

    Yosher Koach Rav Eidensohn.

    And kavod to Dr Bunzel, for his good work.

    May Hashem bless you.

  18. Dovid-
    I am not sure what your point is, the context of my original post is that someone was arrested for having sexual chats with a kid, someone posts that its not that bad, yiztchak married a 3 year old, I find that very disturbing and I'm sure you do to.

  19. I think it is completely nuts to claim that coverups exist in the secular world the way they exist in the frum world. I don't know the data, but I believe the experts like this frum psychologist in the article know what they are talking about and have analyzed the data and give a truthful opinion. But regardless of that, one thing that is CERTAINLY a problem in our frum community but largely does not exist (except in few isolated cases), is a Culture of Coverup. And a culture of coverup makes a problem like abuse that much more monstrous and destructive to our children and society. It's really a shame that people are in such a state of denial that they cannot except facts, and this very refusal to accept these facts further endangers our children and society. God have mercy on us.

  20. Well, the expert frum psychologist offered no corroboration of his "data", other than his unsupported claim.

  21. Also I want to add, that the fact he presents that this is more rampant in our society than it is in any other communities, is shocking to me and so horrific - how can this be? What have we become? How did we go so wrong?

  22. He was just trying to shock, even though it is untrue and the claim uncorroborated and unsupported.

  23. Numbers, statistics?September 4, 2011 at 8:39 PM

    Why, oh why, are we paying any attention to numbers here? They are totally irrelevant. What does matter is that there is a problem, it is not very rare, and we are doing way too little to stop it. Since an abuser is less likely to be reported, because of all the issues found in the secular world, plus the perception that halacha forbids it, plus the stigma of being labeled a moser for making a report, we have a problem that festers with more severity. Calling it epidemic is probably inaccurate, and ineffective. There is much to do.

    In reality, there is plenty being done, and the claims otherwise are misleading. There has been great progress, both in Eretz Yisroel, and in USA on bring attention to this, cases being reported, prevention programs being launched, books for adults and for children being published, and developing systems to create mechanisms through which allegations can be addressed. I reserve my right to be unhappy with the progress that has yet to be made, since there are likely to be victims until then.

    But the numbers have no impact on the victim - for him the incidence is 100%. Let's not forget that.


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