Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Haredim dealing better with abuse: R' Cohen - Director of Prisoner rehabiliation

JPost   Despite the prevalence of these stories, Rabbi Avinoam Cohen, the director of the Welfare and Social Services Ministry’s Torah-Observant Prisoner Rehabilitation Program, believes the haredi community is doing a better job of dealing with the issue of pedophilia.

“Slowly they’re starting to understand, there’s a type of movement,” said Cohen, who deals with around 60 ultra- Orthodox prisoners at a time who have agreed to go through a personalized rehabilitation process. “It’s not like it was five or eight years ago. They’re not going to leave their children with someone like this [who is known to have a problem], or they will go to the police.”
“The victims [of sexual abuse] caused this movement,” he said. “They feel it in their bones that it’s getting better. The awareness has increased because of the publicity about the incidents, and the children who are failing out of school and no one understands why.”

Cohen works to implement successful rehabilitation programs for pedophiles to ensure they don’t re-offend, a difficult struggle given the large numbers of unsupervised children in haredi neighborhoods.[...]

But a trusted adult or parent ignoring a child who says they were sexually abused, or, as in T.’s case, trying to convince him it didn’t happen, “is worse than the original abuse,” the rabbi continued.

That attitude, at least among the less extremist haredi communities, is changing. Cohen spares no words in his anger over rabbis who allow known sex offenders to move to another community, rather than deal with police.

“They need to put rabbis who don’t go to police in prison,” he said. “I can think of at least 20 religious commandments that they’re breaking.”

Another remaining challenge is dealing with convicted offenders who have served jail time and then return to the community. Even if they don’t return to their own community, they will still likely be in a neighborhood with many children.

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