Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Your child reports being abused: What would you do?

I was recently consulted by a father whose son reported being abused by his rebbe. I think it useful to ascertain what you would have done in his case. While it is clear that major advances have occurred in the frum community in the last few years - the situation is unfortunately not where it should be.

Case: 5 year old son returns from school and tells his father that his teacher hurt him in his private parts. Father contacts two well regarded rabbis who tell him unequivocally to call the police. However a friend put him in contact with a gadol who tells him that he needs to get a consultation with a therapist who is an expert in abuse to first evaluate [and will violate mandated reporting laws and not report the abuse] and this needs to be supervised by a rabbi - since there is no clear proof that his son was molested. And even if this expert determines that there was abuse - he needs to get the permission of the rav of his community before he calls the police. He contacts the rav of the community who says that normally he would recommend calling the police in this situation however for political reasons he can't do anything regarding the yeshiva that the son attends.

After this the father is very confused so another friend recommends that he call me. I explain the situation from the psychological and halachic perspectives. I tell him that it is very unlikely that his son is making up false claims and that he needs to call the police. Aside from his son's welfare - he needs to protect the community against the teacher. That as long as there is a reasonable basis to believe the son was molested he can and is required to call the police. Father agrees that it is best to call the police - but first asks what will be the consequences. I explain that there is a distinct possibility that he will be ostracized by the community and that his son will be kicked out of school and not be accepted in in any of the community's other schools.

In addition - even though therapy would probably be successful that there would be negative consequences to shidduch possiblities for the son and other siblings. Father said he can't have that happen. He said that one rabbi suggested that the teacher simply be monitored to ensure he has no yichud with the students  and that is sufficient. I asked him if he willing to allow other children to be abused in order to preserve his status in the community. He said - "I need to think about this."

What would you do? Would you take the risk of sacrificing your family's place in the community in order to report a teacher who is abusing children?  That would practically speaking mean that you would need to move to another community and even there might not escape the negative consequences such as being called a moser? In addition your child would be forever branded as a molested kid and have reduced chances of a decent shidduch and that his siblings would have have significant problem.

21 comments :

  1. I think that we can all agree that there is a major problem with our society when we cannot protect our children and communities from predators due to stigmatization. Personally, I might quietly investigate and then kill the teacher. It would probably be the least harmful action for my family and would certainly ensure no repeat performance by the perpetrator.
    What a shame that those who are supposed to be the community leaders won't deal with this rationally.

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    1. Jail time isn't good for families.

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    2. No doubt. But it is preferable to letting the situation continue and accepting it in silence. An abused child will know that his father did what was in his power to ensure that the abuse would NEVER be repeated.
      And will the liberal courts today, a person could probably get a slap on the wrist for 'justifiable homicide'.

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  2. If unable to go to the police, as a first step I would put up notices about the story in prominent places and see where things move from there.

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  3. can the parent call the police anonymously?

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  4. Pained but HopefulMarch 5, 2013 at 2:25 PM

    This scene is described very well, and is almost exactly what would occur in virtually every case involving a school/yeshiva related perpetrator. It is a painful reality that the parents here could easily decide against reporting because of the expected consequences. And we readers of this account have little difficulty in seeing the inequity of this, yet understanding why the parents would make their choice.

    I would expect the "advocates" to jump onto this site, with the vilest pronouncements, the regular stream of accusations, and the anti-Torah rhetoric. It is most critical to realize that their yelling and harsh statements about yeshivos, gedolim, rabbonim, etc. have not helped a single child yet. As noted in the preamble to this post, there has been much progress in this subject, and much more is needed. This will be accomplished by working "with" the system, not rallying against it. We are expecting the climate of how abuse is handled to change, and this is a process that takes several years. There may be victims in the interim, and there will be those who are guilty of committing the crimes, covering them up, preventing the detection and prosecution of them, and the revictimizing of the victims. These are not excusable, and there is a Beis Din shel Maaloh for them. Radicalism will not accelerate the process, well underway, to reach the point we all wish will come sooner.

    The concentration of efforts to teach children about personal safety is most effective direction, and the education of all those working with children together with policies that prevent such tragedies needs to be expanded in every yeshiva and school. I know these statements and tefilos do not provide an answer for this present sh'ailoh, but that's the best anyone could hope for.

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  5. Sounds simple to me.
    I would get far away from any school or any community that tolerates abuse and blames the victim.

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  6. We have to learn to trust Hashem! We must call the police. I would send my child to public school with a yarmulke on his head and a lunch box of kosher food and teach him Torah myself. If this father does the RIGHT thing and reports to the police, Hashem should bless him with siyata d'shamaya in chinuch and shidduchim for his children.

    If the community wants to make a Chillul Hashem then count me out!!!

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  7. Why should the father go to the police? I mean, the father of the previous victim didn't, and so the son of the father who called Reb Daniel got abused too. It's like a chain letter. Why would he want to end that cycle? Why leave a community who supports this? Gosh, what's the question?

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  8. ChanaRachel writes, "I would get far away from any school or any community that tolerates abuse and blames the victim."

    I agree that a community that will punish you for doing the right thing is not a safe place for children.

    Rabbi Eidensohn, you and others have done a good job of justifying reporting to the police on halachic and practical grounds. But at the same time we both know that the social pressures usually lead people not to report child abuse.

    To make further progress in combating abuse we need to find ways to break the norms and to prosecute those who obstruct justice.

    I know this is more easily said than done. But I think activists need to focus their engergies on these goals.

    Rabbi Eidensohn, I realize you put this out as a question but we also need to know your thoughts about how to move forward.

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  9. I would quote the pasuk in Yirmiyahu, the one about finding a hotel in the wilderness to get away from such drek.
    Myself I wouldn't live in such a community or want to associate with such people in the first place.

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  10. I think a community that kicks abuse victims out of schools and ostracises them is not worth living in and does not deserve the name "religious" or "orthodox" or "g-d fearing" or "Hareidi" or whatever.

    so one more reason to go to the police, face the consequences, and move on to a different community if there are negative consequences.

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  11. normally he would recommend calling the police in this situation however for political reasons he can't do anything regarding the yeshiva that the son attends

    This is a clear violation of the deoraysa of lo saguru mipnei ish. Any rabbi who says this should immediately resign his position.

    I once read a story about a famous rav (can't remember who) in the late Middle Ages who had just been hired as the rav of a prominent town. No sooner did he move in, than a local maidservant (a poor orphan Jewish girl) came to him with a complaint that her employer, one of the richest gvirim in town, had failed to pay all the wages due her.

    New rabbi summons said gvir to him for a din Torah. The gvir shows up, acts very arrogant, and tells the rav that if he rules against him he will see to it that he is fired and never hired again. Undaunted, the rav hears the case and rules that the maidservant is owed back-pay, and if he does not pay up quick, he will put him in Cherem.

    At which point, the gvir breaks into a big smile and says, "Rebbe, congratulations. Now I can confirm you as the Rav of the town. This was a test to see if you can pasken without fear or favor. And you passed with flying colors." And he then calls in all the other town leaders who were waiting outside, and they give the rav a hearty mazel tov.

    Chaval al de avdin ve lo mishtakchin.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, but in real life the Gvir smiled and said "Good, now pack your bags, you're finished here!"

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  12. Do not assume that reporting to the police will automatically lead to ostracism and rejection from your community. However, if that is what you most fear, having your son or others' children open to be further preyed on by an abuser is far worse, and could result in your son and others' children suffering lifelong trauma, relationship difficulties, departure from the derech and even suicide.

    Please call the police, but alongside that, line up the ambulances along the runway. Via people like Rav Eidensohn start to build a new network of supportive rabbinic and community supporters. Not every Haredi school gives free rein to abusers and/or wrongly convinces itself it can supervise offenders well enough to ensure no further molestations take place. Start to build a network of friends and especially of parents who have gone through rescuing their children from abuse at the expense of sacrificing the false friends who preferred ongoing abuse to be condoned and/or denied.

    Your situation is very similar to that of an intimidated wife who knows her husband is molesting their child but knows that speaking out about it will have apparently terrible consequences. You know your son is not safe. Nor are other children, He comes first. And so do they. Any school that tells you it can keep an abuser under control is really not a safe place for any child. However lovely the chevra you have come to love through your son's time there.

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  13. I went to the police. I asked a shaila and was told that a molester is a rodef and that I MUST go to the police.

    My husband was banned from several synagogues and no shadchan would work with us.


    It was very hard to 'do the right thing". My children suffered terribly when their friends were forbidden to "talk to the child of a moser". It was hard to be home on Shabbat. It was terribly heartbreaking for my daughter to think that she would never be married because no shadchan would work with us.

    Fast forward several years later:

    The molester is no longer working with children in our community. Last I heard he is in RBS but Magen knows about him. He sued the community for firing him but in the civil court documents also revealed that he was a fugitive from an arrest warrant for child abuse in the past.

    B'H My son is sincerely religious and very dedicated to his learning.

    My daughter is happily married to a Ben Torah. B'H

    My husband prays at a new shul that is set up to make it nearly impossible for molesters to be alone with children.

    May Hashem grant all of us the strength to protect our children.


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    Replies
    1. Been There - you are in a unique position to mechazek other victims who are struggling with the issue that you once struggled with. Perhaps you can find some way to bring your story and your message to those who could most benefit from it.

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    2. And I am absolutely sure that had you not reported him to the police, your kids would have no respect for you or your husband and they probably would have fried out, as I have seen with my own eyes.

      Do the right thing, go to the police and let the chips fall wherever and work from there. And had you not reported the person and he goes on to molest 30 other kids? Could you live with yourself?

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  14. The parent absolutely has to report the molester to the legal authorities. This molester is a walking time bomb who will undoubtly hurt numerous other children - in short he is a ticking time bomb - a terrorist.
    This molester is a sick man who needs to get help. If you knew that there was a drunk individual driving a car dangerously in your neighborhood - of course you would call the police, if you see someone brandishing a knife and threatening people - of course you would call the police, if you see a drunk on the street - of course you would call the police, if you see someone breaking into a house - of course you call the police.
    So why if you know that someone has molested your precious child (and has probably caused irreversible damage to your child) do you wonder whether or not to call the police, or first to call the Rav, or Rebbe?

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  15. This question must be asked to the senior rabbis of the community. And what they say should be public knowledge. As long as people think even mistakenly that children are less important than other things, calling the police may not do the job, because of the power of some communities to deal with that.

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