Friday, May 25, 2012

R' Horowitz: Why abuse victims protest

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz    About five years ago, as awareness in our community about the matter of child abuse began to rise, many of the long-suffering victims began to hope against hope that things would finally change. People would finally "get it" they believed, and they would once again feel welcome and nurtured instead of being treated as pariahs who ruined the sterling reputations of their abusers. Who knows, they might even get their Level 2 security back again. 

Then they pick up a charedi publication one weekend and see a picture of a group of distinguished rabbis visiting a monster in a Virginia jail cell, who was serving a 31-year prison sentence for raping his daughter in three continents over a period of many years. More than 10 survivors contacted me as soon as that picture ran in the paper. "How could they do that to us?" they asked me. "Don't they know that supporting the perpetrator they are stabbing us in the heart?" they cried. Well, they are. They really are. 

And what in the world should survivors in our community think when they see a huge fundraiser for someone accused of molesting a child? Many of them viewed the very public nature of this effort as clear warning of what is in store for anyone who might dare report a predator to the authorities.
For many of the survivors, though, the final straw was the Internet Asifa. Why were they so upset? Let me count the ways for them. 

To begin with, the kids in the street know the truth -- that the Internet is a firecracker compared to the atom bomb of abuse as far as going off the derech is concerned. Just ask any of them -- or any of the adults in our community who work with the at-risk teen population, what the main reason is for children leaving Yiddishkeit.

Moreover, many of these kids credit the connectivity of the Internet for finally raising awareness of abuse in our community, and as we all know, there is more than a kernel of truth there. "Why are the people running the Asifa blaming the Internet for causing children to go off the derech and saying nothing about the matter of child safety?" they wonder. 

Bottom line, there are hundreds and hundreds of abuse victims and survivors who were once part of our kehilos. Some left completely while others exist on the fringes – misunderstood, marginalized, and hurting.

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