Thursday, March 10, 2016

Child Abuse: A case illustrating the difficulties of reporting - what would you have done?

Guest post regarding actual events.

Some of the details have been changed to protect privacy.

The Situation

A male teacher is in charge of a small class of girls at an Orthodox school. The girls are aged seven and eight years old.

The girls have been told not to touch the teacher. With one exception, the girls observe this rule.

One girl has a habit of sticking her arm out when she passes by the teacher and brushing him with her hand. She does this, apparently, unconsciously. When it is brought to her attention, she apologizes.

The words of the apology indicate that the girl touched the teacher accidentally. This would seem to be the case, since it generally happens when she is not facing the teacher directly. Yet the girl's tone tells a different story. She seems to only become aware that she touched the teacher after she touches him.

That is, only when she is notified of what happened does she realize what she did and recognize that she touched the teacher.

The teacher gently rebukes the girl numerous times. He devises games for the class where they practice consciously keeping their distance from the teacher. Still, this girl repeats her behavior of touching the teacher, and sometimes at the most inopportune times, such as in the presence of her patents.

Warning: the following is a graphic description.

Even though the girl touches the teacher without looking at him, invariably her hand strokes his crotch. As stated, this can happen even when there are other people, including her parents, around; and even with a large space to play. The girl drifts over to the teacher and without warning extends her arm.

The girl's reaction is also invariable: "Sorry," without the least hint of having intended to break a rule.


(1) The girl likes the teacher. The girl enjoys being near the teacher. Her arm moving towards him is not intentional, and given the height difference, the contact point is just incidental.

(2) Same as (1), with the added understanding that pre-pubescent children can exhibit some overt sexual behavior. This can be intuitive, picked up from observing adults, or some combination.

(3) The girl is being sexually abused. Aa male in her life is engaging her in some activity that involves the girl touching him. The girl is non-verbally communicating this to the teacher when she touches him.

The Question

What should the teacher do? The context is that the only men having regular contact with the girl are her father and her teacher.

An independent investigation will almost certainly center on the father, and may ultimately boomerang on the teacher.

The teacher is under stress because of the constant vigilance required for him to be aware of the location of the girl in the class at all times. Furthermore, he finds himself lashing out at her because she often manages to touch him when his guard is down.

The teacher is reluctant to broach the subject with the parents because if there is ongoing abuse, one or both of them may be involved, or aware of the abuse. For example, the girl's mother may tolerate the father abusing her daughter, since to deal with it could lead to the breakup of the family. The mother does not have a paying job and is dependent on her husband for financial support.


  1. This one sounds easy. As a teacher is in no position to assess which option may be correct, he should seek counsel with a professional.

  2. This would be one of those situations where a competent rav would probably be better than the authorities since
    1 he doesn't know abuse is even taking place.
    2 if not careful, he could be the one suspected of of abuse
    3 If the parents don't want to cooperate, given there's no proof, probably nothing would happen anyway. He would then just cause havoc without any real benefit

  3. It doesn't even need to be a rav, just someone competent to give reasonable advice

  4. "(3) The girl is being sexually abused. Aa male in her life is engaging her in some activity that involves the girl touching him. The girl is non-verbally communicating this to the teacher when she touches him"
    Where in the world did you get that from? How did you come to that conclusion? analyzer, are you qualify to do that

  5. A suitable professional should start discussions with the girl.

    Why does the post jump straight into 'investigations' and 'abuse'?

  6. Teacher must talk to parents, or ask for another professional to talk to them.

    First, to make the parents aware that there is a problem that needs to be addressed.
    Second, the problem will increase as the girl ages.
    Third, the girl might touch other girls now or when she gets older... I've read a terrible case like this on a forum for frum women... a little girl was being abused by an older girlfriend at a religious school for years before the mother of the abused girl found out...

    This girl surely saw (or was a victim of) something that makes her behave this way. If not properly addressed now, the problem will increase throughout the years and bring great turmoil for the girl, the teacher (who will not sleep ok knowing he could have helped her)... other kids... it's a snowball of troubles.

    If the father is involved, the mother can be helped by a women's shelter. There's a shelter for frum women in Canada, Auberge Shalom.

    If a cousin or grandfather is involved, other children in the same family might be suffering.

    If there's abuse, it could have taken place once only, during a relative's visit... who knows... there was a jewish blogger who suffered from years for being abused by her grandfather... the blog no longer exists it was shocking to read that this single pedophyle abused most members of 2 generations of his family... and that some abused children and grandchildren became abusers themselves... she even made a genealogical tree that pictured all those who were affected... the blog was

    This girl's touching might be the tip of a past, present and future "iceberg"... only a honest conversation with the parents will reveal.

  7. Found the blogger's words on JCW website:

  8. so what? This just shows how twisted things have become. If the teacher is having problems with this perhaps he shouldn't be a teacher as he seems to have a lack of good judgement.
    Innocently touching someone in public is fine; teaching a child that touching someone else and making games to drill in the need to avoid contact is not fine at all.

    If this teacher can't tell the difference between sexual grooming and touching he should move on.

    If the girl is deliberately trying to touch the teacher in his crotch area then he needs to discuss it with the head and her parents but that does not seem to be the case here.

  9. Don't you read this blog to know that the moderator and most of the posters, myself included, have huge egos that we know as much if not more that any professional physiologist or Rov / Rabbi.

  10. There doesn't seem to be an issue of mandatory reporting, because there isn't anything to report. Red flags? Does this type of behavior constitute a flag? Sounds pretty far fetched to me.

    If the principal of the school can be trusted to use discretion, I would suggest that the teacher bring up the issue with the principal, so that he can get input from a senior staff member. The principal might have some information which might be relevant.

    BTW, all this is assuming that there is no Daas Torah problem with a male teacher being "in charge of a small class of girls". I'm not so comfortable with that. אברהם היה מגייר את האנשים, ושרה מגיירת את הנשים. Boys with male teachers, and girls with female teachers. Maybe the teacher should be considering looking for a new job.

  11. To make the point about how ridiculous this scenario is. A teacher who thinks that a little girl innocently touching him is some kind of abuse (that he thinks he is doing?) should find another profession. The key term here is 'professional judgement'.

    from yahoo answers:

    Are teachers allowed to hug students?

    Best Answer: I teach in the UK and, contrary to an earlier answer, there is no law prohibiting teachers from hugging students. The teacher needs to use their professional judgement to work out when it is appropriate to hug. It would be appropriate if a child was hurt or distressed and initiated the hugging process. In such cases it is part of the teacher's role to comfort, reassure and protect the child. It would not be appropriate for a teacher to randomly hug a student for no reason. My own policy is to respond to a hug (e.g. hug back instead of freezing in terror) if a child initiates one.

    It is a sad reflection of today's society that some people instantly jump to the wrong conclusion when they hear about teachers hugging children. All of the teachers I know care deeply about the general health and well being of children as well as their education. We see them for 7 hours a day, more than some of their parents, so it's hardly surprising they sometimes turn to us for a comforting or reassuring hug. We'd be lacking in our duty of care if we just brushed them aside and ignored them.

  12. In a sense, this post is ridiculous. We (with our inflated egos) already know the answer.

    If the mossad is from a 'closed' community, nothing can be done. The school, the parents, the rabbonim, classmate's parents, etc will sweep it under the rug (no need to deny; that is irrelevant), and the girl and her future husband will suffer. If its an 'open' community, maybe they'll do something. Either way, the (heroic) teacher is a troublemaker, don't expect him to move up in his career (unless he has protexia.)

    2. Don't discount the possibility a female is molesting her, and she is only taking it out on the other major adult in her life, her teacher. (Someone mentioned she might be acting similarly with her classmates.)

  13. Please point to where you see the same words

  14. Before the teacher does anything, he should get advice from a lawyer.

  15. This teacher should have a camera installed in the room to record all events. He probably should also wear a body camera himself. He should never meet with this child one on one without another adult there with him. All suspicions should be dispelled by the camera record.

  16. This girl is 8 - not 4! She knows what private parts are and they need to be respected. I would tell her that just as she would want her parts respected, she should respect the private parts of the teacher. Her next step will be sitting in the back with a pair of binoculars to see the board.

  17. In my opinion, all schools should institute an issur yichud/touch of any kind with teachers. It should be on penalty of dismissal. Let their parents hug them. All schools should be outfitted with video cameras as well. This will help start to solve all problems of touch in school. All cases of suspected abuse should be sent directly to the police department.

    It would seem to me, that this guest poster is himself a pedophile, or this case was brought to his attention. I think in this case, the child should immediately be removed from the class, and not allowed any contact with this teacher, on penalty of expulsion of student, and dismissal of teacher.

    I also believe the case should be forwarded to children services or police department immediately to open an investigation. Better safe than sorry.

  18. So when we were kids and all the rebbeim would put us on their lap and teach us the aleph beis or pet us in whatever ways as was common among most of our rebbeim as well as our parents rebbeim, and was done for thousands of years before, they were all perverts?

  19. Males should not teach small girls

  20. Crazy. This is the problem with the haredi approach to life. Something can be bad so immediately ban anything connected to it.
    What kind of world will we be living in where teachers treat impressionable kids like lepers? Every kid needs a hug now and again or a helping hand up if they fall. Don't outlaw human contact because of a few perverts.
    If a pervert is alone with a kid do you think they will care about no touching laws? If they are in public what are the point of the laws?

    You want to remove a kid from a class because she likes human contact? What exactly are you going to explain to her? It is evil to touch people?

    The teacher should be removed because he is disturbed enough that he comes up with activities to train children to treat people like lepers. This is aside from the fact he apparently thinks of little girls as sexual objects whom he can't touch because he's worried ... I don't want to continue.

  21. It's a poshut cheshbon that an activity which you do repeatedly becomes second nature and ends up being done without thinking. Chazal say this in many places: Mar Zutra's silver cup, the Chovos Halevovos's Chasid who wouldn't criticize a dead dog, the chumras of yichud by an arusah and a son-in-law, the gemora in sotah that after doing an averah twice it becomes like heter to him, are all examples of this idea. The Rambam in Shemonah Prakim emphasizes that because of this it's better to give one dollar 100 times than 100 dollars once to tzedakah, because when you do it often it makes an impact on you. The Chinuch gets a lot of credit for this idea also when he says adam niphal lephi peulosav.

  22. 'Yahoo answers'

    You have got to be kidding....

    You are correct there is no law prohibiting hugging or indeed any sort of contact unless it is for sexual stimulation or enjoyment. It's clear in the legislation.

    Which is why mohelim that do metitza b'pa don't spend most of their lives in prison. Whereas if Joe Blogs would do EXACTLY the same thing he would be locked away for a long time.

    But it takes a brave teacher to take the chance, obviously depending on circumstances...

  23. Of course they weren't all perverts. There were some who were though. i have met them up close. Call me crazy; I wouldn't want my child on any rebbes lap. All the love in the world can come from the parents, and siblings. The core job of a rebbe is not to love, or show love. It is to educate and teach. Touching is not necessary.

  24. There is no problem with the Haredi approach to life. There is only a problem with certain individuals. These individuals must be stopped from harming our children. We must protect, protect, protect. Anyone who doesn't have this as number 1, is not a leader, and is not building anything.

  25. Politically IncorrectMarch 11, 2016 at 11:23 AM

    Didn't know that one can make a shiur from every narischkeit. In this case, my first impression would be that when you ask a shayla, it is automatically treif. .....why in the world should I child want to touch the teacher. that!!! Something is wrong here. Separate them asap. I would scream for help. ...

  26. who would you scream for help from?

  27. Politically IncorrectMarch 11, 2016 at 12:09 PM

    From such a situation which is so imminent of an impending disaster. ..

  28. The_Original_Bored_LawyerMarch 11, 2016 at 5:36 PM

    ". A teacher who thinks that a little girl innocently touching him is
    some kind of abuse (that he thinks he is doing?) should find another

    You totally missed the point. The teacher does not think the little girl is abusing him. He thinks the fact that she is acting this way -- which is very unusual -- is a symptom of possible abuse at home.

    He also should be worried that if someone ever sees this, they will think HE is abusing HER.

  29. That's your personal preference. But it is natural and normal and healthy for a rebbi to love his talmidim. And how rebbeim interacted with their talmidim for thousands of years is still the best today.

  30. I mention this blogger on my post below. Since the blog disappeared, this is the only record online of the abuse she suffered. It's not related to the case of the teacher/8yo student. I mentioned it just to illustrate that even if the parents are not involved in any sort of abuse, another relative might be.

  31. Shani,

    This girl is looking for attention at best, or is being abused by someone outside, perhaps inside school. Of course she knows what she is doing. The question is why is she doing it ?

    We have to be super sensitive to protecting our children. As mechanchim, we have to be on the lookout for pedophiles. As parents we have to be on the lookout for abuse physical and sexual in our midst. We must report it to authorities. We must protect our children.

    ערום ראה רעה נסתר פתאים עברו נענשו (משלי כז/יב). וכן הוא אומר ערום ראה רעה ונסתר ופתיים עברו ונענשו(משלי כב/ג). ולהסביר כפל , וההבדל בין הפסוקים דנראה כמיותר לגמרי, נראה לי לפרש, דהכל לפי ענין הפסוקים, דבפרק כב מסביר לנו שהע״ה ששם נבחר מעושר רב ,דהנה עושר לא בא מחמת מעשה רק עשיר ורש נפגשו, עושה כולם ה׳. משא״כ שם טוב לא כן, דפח עומד לפתי להיכנס בתוכו. כל מיני מחלוקות ודברים הנראים מצוות. אבל הערום ראה רעה ונסתר, ולא התערב במחלוקת ״לש״ש״ ולא נכנס לעשות ״מצות שלא לשמה״. ומש״ה כתוב ונסתר פעולה שהיה צריך לעשות מעשה להיסתר, לאפוקי עשירות דהכל משמים. ובפרק כז. מדבר על בן חכם ומדבר רק על החכמה חכם בני ושמח לבי, וע״ז שלא מדבר על פעולה כתוב דבר חכמה ערום ראה רעה נסתר פתאים עברו נענשו. וזה ממשיך קח בגדו כי ערב זר דהוא מלמד מעלת הערום כנלענ״ד ברור

  32. Several years ago, my daughter traveled from Israel to chutz l'aretz to visit her former seminary. During her visit, she noticed cameras in each room. She learned that staff members insisted the the cameras be installed. One angry, troubled teenager makes a false claim and a Rebbe's reputation and profession gone forever. And if there is a rotten egg among the staff, he will either control himself, or look for work in a more suitable environment.

  33. If the Rebbe is not a molestor, then of course. If the rebbe is a molestor, then of course not.


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