Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Rabbis: Control after belatedly admitting abuse exists

Times of Israel  by Dr.  Michael J. Salamon This is about the politics that have led several prominent rabbis to finally admit that they “are late to the table” on the issue of childhood sexual abuse or even any form of interpersonal abuse, despite the fact that the data has been presented to them repeatedly for many years. This is also about the missing apologies to the victims, their advocates and their therapists who struggled with their patients and their patients’ many crises. This is about the vilification heaped on those who tried to create an environment for healing but were told that their efforts were misdirected. It is also about those who are just now coming to the table but still insist in an offhanded fashion of having the final say as to what may or may not be reported and to whom to report.

Let’s start with this last point. The law in all situations is clear – if you reasonably suspect that someone is being abused you are required to report that fact to the proper authorities. You do not have the right to “think about it”, do your own investigating or discuss it with another individual, no matter the brilliance of that other person or their training. Approximately one in four women are abused and one in eight to ten men are.The longer you wait to report the abuse the more time available to the abuser to continue his destruction. For those who doubt this fact just check out the Jerry Sandusky case. Excuses were made, he was not properly reported. We now know for a fact that this former football coach abused at least ten young boys, the ones who came forward to testify against him, but he likely abused many more. The argument that false reporting causes more harm is itself simply false. Sure there have been cases and situations where there is false reporting and of course there are occasions when a false report can result in harm to certain individuals, we may look at one or two of them in a few weeks, but this is significantly less likely when trained professionals who work in this area exclusively are notified immediately. It gives the abuser and his or her supporters less time to cover up their actions. It prevents abusers from coercing their community into protecting them as seems to be the situation in the Weberman case – you can easily look that case up as well. [...]

I also have folders filled with E mails from Rabbis and other clerics who insist that abuse does not occur in their communities, at least not at the same rate as in the general population. But it does. In fact, it may be more likely to occur in sequestered communities as abusers know the reluctance of the community to report situations to people they consider outsiders. There is also the concern of the “forbidden fruit” phenomenon in societies that restrict appropriate gender socialization. In these files are accusations hurled at me for: not telling the truth, bringing attention to situations that should be kept within the community, that I am a fool for believing any of it, and misinterpreting the information. Such are the politics of blame, misdirected blame.

How much has actually changed? Only time will tell. And it may take a lot more time. When you tell me that you are late to the table but you now see that it is a real problem, but you still have the pressing need to continue to flaunt or deliberately not follow the law you are not yet being completely honest.

1 comment :

  1. Reading Dr. Salamon's blog post one might remain unaware that there are good and highly-competent people who violate the mandatory reporting laws. See:

    Jones, et. al.: Clinicians’ Description of Factors Influencing Their Reporting of Suspected Child Abuse: Report of the Child Abuse Reporting Experience Study Research Group
    Pediatrics Vol. 122 No. 2 August 1, 2008
    pp. 259-266
    (doi: 10.1542/peds.2007-2312)
    Full text:

    Flaherty, et. al.: From Suspicion of Physical Child Abuse to Reporting: Primary Care Clinician Decision-Making
    Pediatrics Vol. 122 No. 3 September 1, 2008
    pp. 611-619
    (doi: 10.1542/peds.2007-2311)
    Full text:

    (There is also the separate issue that Dr. Salamon's blog post proceeds from premises contrary to yesode ha-Tora. To instate the law of the secular state as axiomatic is to abolish Tora. Though that might be fine with many readers of The Times of Israel, it cannot facilitate the change-from-within that the Orthodox communities need.)


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