Sunday, June 30, 2013

My Guidelines for Reporting Abuse Cases

I was recently asked in a Face Book discussion about the guidelines I use for reporting abuse cases. The issue was whether a particularly horrific case involving allegations of incest, gang rape and torture should be published. I decided not to publish it at present. I was asked why I view this case differently than the Weberman and Kolko cases which also involved allegations but which I have extensive reporting? I thought it might be useful to publish here my response to the question.


I don't automatically put a news item on my blog just because it involves accusations of abuse - it involves a judgment as to the costs vs benefits. In the case of Kolko and Weberman - I had additional reports from those I consider reliable that the charges were valid and more important that significant pressure was being applied to have the charges dropped. Therefore there was a major need to counterbalance the community pressure in these cases. A case that is widely covered in the secular press is generally also reported to avoid the impression of cover up. A situation where there are multiple victims is also reported in order to encourage reporting to the police. In situations where the perpetrator has escaped - I generally report it so hopefully he will get caught. Cases that illustrate that the abuser is often a respected or beloved individual is also reported in order to break down the stereotype that a crazy stranger is the abuser. In the present case - there was a single accuser, no indication that there was any evidence or that she was viewed as trustworthy. More important the details reported were especially horrific. I could not find other news sources that were reporting it. I could not think of an obvious benefit to publishing this anonymous case and the negative consequences of publicizing it are obvious. I often - though not always - publicize convictions so that people understand that abuse is not a rare event. There is also the issue of balance - I don't want to simply report all the negative items about our community - people stop reading the items or assume that is all that is going on in the world. in fact I will also publicize related articles from outside our community if it helps provide a context for abuse - such as the Penn State scandal or the Catholic Church

3 comments :

  1. Admirer of Honesty and IntegrityJuly 1, 2013 at 3:23 PM

    I much appreciate RDE's posting to clarify his standards. I happen to agree with him, but even if not, there is at least rhyme and reason for his use of a blog, open to the world, to discuss specific cases. In this, he shares with us his true advocacy, and the fact that he is not on a witch hunt to destroy people just because someone uttered something negative after their name.

    This is not the case for other "advocates", who are triggered into a frenzy of character assassination once someone has suggested a question about them. I am not advocating coverup, nor withholding from police. However, long before any verification of anything, these hotheads are all over the secular media trying to create as much damage as possible. This irresponsibility is pure chilul Hashem. It protects no one, does not save a single soul, and baschmutzes someone who could be innocent.

    Look at many of the cases that ended up in mass media. Was there any to'eles to the publicity? The individual was already removed from sensitive positions, arrests have already been made, and investigations were already underway. Was there any benefit to publicizing these situations for readers of mass media?

    Klal Yisroel has its problems, and these are known to varying degrees within the community. Are most yeshivos havens for molesters? Absolutely not. Those perpetrators who do lurk there must be rooted out and given their due, to protect the children of Klal Yisroel. But it is way beyond chutzpah to brand every yeshiva as a molestation den. But this is what the "advocates" do, which doesn't save a soul or protect a child.

    Unfortunately, "advocacy" groups, which boast quite important causes and missions, fail to accomplish their goals because they get caught up in the frenzy. What a shame.

    Thank you, Rabbi Eidensohn, for being open, honest, and truly committed to the cause.

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  2. "But it is way beyond chutzpah to brand every yeshiva as a molestation den. But this is what the "advocates" do, which doesn't save a soul or protect a child."

    There is much exaggeration in your comment, and the above is one example. I am an attorney in private practice, and co-founder and president of Jewish Board of Advocates for Children. We were originally one of the first and few such groups, and now we are one of many. We have an executive committee, consisting of various professionals and other knowledgeable lay persons, and also a rabbinical committee - Rabbi March Dratch, Rabbi Allen Schwartz, Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik, Rabbi Chaim Wakslak. We additionally, and regularly, confer with other rabbonim across the spectrum, when genuine halachic questions arise. It is you who are making the false allegation, not us. We are not in a "frenzy". We are not "hotheads". We do not "brand every yeshiva as a molestation den". We are in this because for decades the establishment mosdos allowed, for decades, child sex abuse to fester and flourish in our yeshivas, shuls, camps, mikvas, and homes. Before we we became active and organized, we asked the existing institutions to fix the problem. They either dragged their heels, or flat out refused. So new advocacy groups were formed. We have all achieved great success. The wins are too many to list here. You accuse us all of "chillul Hashem". That, in particular, bothers me greatly, coming from a frum Jew who reads the Daat Torah blog, is somewhat informed, and cares enough to comment. We live in a time of great inflation of those being accused of chillul Hashem. Its not a term which should lightly be used. It is a grave sin, for which a Jew can lose olam ha'baah, chas v'shalom. I daresay there are no advocacy groups who have committed chillul Hashem (especially mine!). I leave it to others to suggest whether we have achieved kiddush Hashem. One proof is that but for one case, on a web site that identifies child sex molesters, there have been no false accusations. (And that group and web site - not mine - is doing a spectacular job!) And that web site withdrew the name and photo, acknowledging the mistake. I am also not aware of any false claim of child sex abuse being made in the criminal or civil courts, coming from our community (I am excluding matrimonial and child custody cases where, some years ago, false allegations of abuse used to be common, but no longer is, due to increased judicial penalties). Meanwhile, there have been scores of true allegations, and the lives of thousands of children have been saved.

    Unfortunately, you are not alone in making this type of comment. These comments are not merely untrue. They also deter more good people from getting involved, because they do not want to be accused of chillul Hashem. Let's be careful of what we say!

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  3. Very well said, and urgently demanding to be said. Thank you Elliot.

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