Saturday, March 28, 2009

Abuse & the sounds of silence - Yated editorial


I just showed the following editorial from the Yated to Rav Sternbuch. His response was,
"Why isn't there any mention about stopping the perpetrators?" Why isn't there a condemnation of those who committed the crimes against these children? Why are they afraid to condemn the perpetrators?"
This editorial is a welcome step forward but it 1) acknowledges that American gedolim have been aware that there has been a significant problems for years - without doing anything about it. 2) he claims that our American religious leaders were ignorant about how to handle the problem - so why didn't they ask the police, why didn't they ask psychologists and social workers? 3) why has there been an active repression of talk about these issues and pressure on the families not to come forth? 5) why is his focus on belatedly helping the victims handle their suffering without acknowledging that a significant cause of the problem are family, friends and rabbis who should should have been protecting the children instead of abusing them? 6) what is this talk about the abuse being a gezeirah? Does he think that G-d's name is being sanctified by the abuse of these unfortunate children?! That is obscene!


VIN reports an editorial of the Yated editor Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

There is an issue that has been on my mind for several years. It is an extremely sensitive topic and I tried writing about it many times but couldn’t find the right words with which to express what I wanted to say in a way that would be beneficial and adhere to standards of derech eretz and fairness.

I have discussed my predicament with many gedolim and they all encouraged me to write about it here in the Yated and said that Hashem would help me find the proper voice.

The sad fact is that children in our community are being abused by perpetrators who prey upon their innocence and our silence. We don’t have a count of how many people are hurt, but it is much larger than we realized, even a short time ago. There is no real debate about the catastrophic effects of abuse.

The innocence and purity of children is destroyed for life. The victims remain hurt, shamed and scarred. They suffer in silence, afraid to reveal their secret to anyone. They are hounded by feelings of guilt and embarrassment and live lives of tortured pain. The overwhelming majority of survivors suffer in silence, unless they are lucky enough to endure agonizing, arduous, expensive therapy. However, even a lifetime of therapy doesn’t ensure that the victim can ever be fully healthy again. Not every young victim’s psyche can be healed. Victims are much more likely to go off the derech, become addicted to drugs and lead a life of abusing themselves and others.

Let us be clear: For too long, we weren’t tuned in to these innocent victims’ stories and their pain. For too long, we weren’t sufficiently aware that this problem existed and thus were able to ignore the quiet pleas, the sad eyes, the pained lives, and the personalities withdrawn. We didn’t recognize the warning signs and thus largely ignored the phenomenon. Equally clear, this inattention was not a function of some high level conspiracy to harm people or cover up for criminals or abet nefarious activities. It was simply a function of a lack of education about a complex and highly sophisticated problem. It was a result of our leadership simply being unaware of the depths that such sordid people could sink to, and the extreme skill perpetrators exhibit in covering their tracks. And yes, it was undeniably a gezeirah, which, as so often is the case, claims innocent holy souls - bikroyvai Ekodeish.[...]

9 comments :

  1. i think this article was a great step forward. yes, more needs to be done, but something is better than nothing.

    i find it quite interesting that everyone thinks rabbanim in america aren't doing...or are denying...and all that. i've had the rabbanim on my side from day one! i'm wondering how it is that my case seems to be so radically different than any other case i hear of...

    ReplyDelete
  2. oh, one more thing-i have more problems with this weeks article in the english language mishpacha magazine than this one. this article is only claims to be about opening up about abuse. the mishpacha article claims to be about "preventing, identifying, and halting abuse" (i'm looking at the cover of the magazine right now) and fails to actually give any information on how to go about doing so.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I wonder if the bloggers can/will take any credit for this change of policy by the Yated?
    Judging by the proximity of current events, it most probably has to do with the recent suicide of an abuse victim in Lakewood.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Elliot Pasik, Esq.March 29, 2009 at 5:06 PM

    Strong words from Rav Sternbuch. I share similar sentiments.

    For five years, we are told, the Torah U'Mesorah Vaad Roshei Yeshivos is working on this problem. Five years! All without public disclosure, accountability, or input.

    And we wonder why we are in this matzav.

    ReplyDelete
  5. "Equally clear, this inattention was not a function of some high level conspiracy to harm people or cover up for criminals or abet nefarious activities."

    It couldn't be the fact that people were worried about the legal and financial ramifications of such activities being brought to light about their mosdot. No, no, no one must not suggest that.

    ReplyDelete
  6. "why has there been an active repression of talk about these issues and pressure on the families not to come forth? "

    "I wonder if the bloggers can/will take any credit for this change of policy by the Yated"

    I give credit to the Yated for finally addressing the issue. I also note that Hamodia advertised and discussed the molestation conference last year in Boro Park aimed at education of parents.

    For better of for worse, the internet changes the way information is spread in the Charedi world. To quote from an article in the Jewish Week(" Black Hat Meets Blog"):

    "Whether or not the Internet proves helpful or hurtful or a bit of both, most community observers say the Web has forever changed the way Orthodox individuals interact with the world.

    “The Internet poses an incredibly serious threat to the status quo in these communities — as it does to any society that controls information and suppresses public dissent,” said Hella Winston, a sociologist and author of “Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels.”

    Rabbi Yaakove Horowitz in Human Problems (Mishpacha Issue # 194) discusses the ”virtual media ban in our charedi papers on any negative news" :

    "In addition to the ‘standard’ cognitive dissonance described above, two factors contribute greatly to its staying power[of drugs and abuse] in our community. The first is the fact that we are, Baruch Hashem, surrounded by evidence of the astounding successes of our Yeshiva/Beis Yakov systems; thousands of wonderful, spiritual teenagers. How can the negative information we hear about compete with the superb things we see? Additionally, there is a virtual media ban in our charedi papers on any negative news. Few things add to the disconnect and cognitive dissonance more than hearing frightening things about an event such as the arrest of a frum drug dealer or pedophile in the secular media, while our papers completely ignore its existence. We ought to be enormously proud of the first factor, but I suggest that we must end the practice of the second.

    The only way to combat cognitive dissonance is to discuss these matters in our public squares, painful as it may be; which is why Mishpacha magazine deserves our appreciation for publishing these columns. Trust me, I wish there was a more discreet way to do this, and if any of our readers have any suggestions for creating venues for this dialogue, please contact me with them. But in the meantime, I will continue to write these essays, as I feel that straight talk and education is the only way to significantly improve things. "

    Obviously, the issue is also how to discuss these issues in a way which is appropriate according to the Torah.

    ReplyDelete
  7. 1) acknowledges that American gedolim have been aware that there has been a significant problems for years - without doing anything about it.

    Incorrect. Rav Avigdor Miller ZT'L was fighting these molesting Rabbi's already 20+ years ago. In fact, Rav Miller's life was threatened as a result of his efforts against these perpetrator's! (He did NOT back down as a result of these threats.)

    2) he claims that our American religious leaders were ignorant about how to handle the problem - so why didn't they ask the police, why didn't they ask psychologists and social workers?

    Perhaps they believed the police etc. was not the correct approach to fighting this? (A thought.)

    3) why has there been an active repression of talk about these issues and pressure on the families not to come forth?

    Agreed.

    5) why is his focus on belatedly helping the victims handle their suffering without acknowledging that a significant cause of the problem are family, friends and rabbis who should should have been protecting the children instead of abusing them?

    Agreed.

    6) what is this talk about the abuse being a gezeirah? Does he think that G-d's name is being sanctified by the abuse of these unfortunate children?! That is obscene!

    Agreed.

    ReplyDelete
  8. his focus is on lifting the silence. that can only happen if we get help. i don't think this in any way takes away from the fact that we should have been protected. it's just not what he claimed the article was about, and therefore not the focus. these are two seperate issues. yes, i should have been protected, but now that it has happened, i need help to overcome the challenges that this brought.

    and what's the issue with calling it a gezeira? is that really a problem? i believe that it was a gezeira that i was hurt. that doesn't mean that i'm happy about it, or that i want other people to get hurt. just that obviously, for whatever reason, God wanted this happen to me.

    ReplyDelete
  9. My understanding of his use of "gezerah" is that the rabbis who allegedly lead us were blinded to the truth and forced into inaction by a decree from on High.

    Effectively, he blames God for: rabbis abusing children; rabbis covering up for the abuse; rabbis being blind to the realities of the long-term effects of the abuse; rabbis intimidating and threatening victims; rabbis being more concerned with the financial health of their "moisdois" than with the well-being of children, and rabbis completely and improperly, naively and foolishly, not telling victims of crimes to go the proper authorities. It's really all God's fault, He decreed it, because how could such brilliant, compassionate men make such a profound mistake for so long?

    God didn't decree their wrong behavior: they adopted it for themselves. What God may decree on a child, we'll never know, but as with all sin, it's not for you to undertake to do the sin; let another do it. Yet here, the rabbis committed atrocious sins of omission--and, in some cases of intimidation, commission as well----and that's what's so repulsive.

    They are no longer trustworthy to be listened to, they know it, and now we all know it. They misled, threatened, intimidated and hurt this community for 50 years because of financial self-interest in not wanting the inevitable lawsuits. That's leadership? We need another paradigm. Rabbinic leadership does not seem to be working out.
    Everytime they fail miserably it's a gezerah? That was the excuse for the Holocaust. Now this. Ad mosai?

    ReplyDelete

ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL NOT BE POSTED!
please use either your real name or a pseudonym.