As the scandals and the chillul Hashem increase, Rabbi William Handler, in a recent op-ed article on JewishPress.com, attempts to justify not reporting abuse to secular authorities.
He asserts that one should go to a gadol who has “siyata deshmaya.” The fact that there is no evidence that this has reduced abuse in the past is far less significant than its assertion of frumkeit. Not one of the major poskim who analyze the level of certainty needed before calling the police has ever made the claim that he is better equipped to deal with abuse. Victims can only be further traumatized when told to go to the very rabbis who failed to acknowledge their pain and hurt in the first place.
The Talmud in Yoma (83a) discusses the role of doctors in determining whether a person is permitted to eat on Yom Hakippurim. It’s clear the Talmud recognizes expertise and trusts the knowledge of a person in his field. Even non-Jewish experts are trusted to determine taste in a mixture of kosher and non-kosher ingredients.
Most troubling is the argument that there is a group of so-called experts working for the state agency protecting children who are looking to take Jewish children from their parents and have the parents prosecuted. In this scenario, if they don’t find the Jewish parents guilty of abuse they will lose their jobs.
Rabbi Handler apparently is not aware that there are not enough social workers available to deal with the many abuse victims in the general community; this renders moot his claim that social workers are looking for victims because they want to keep their jobs. The reality is exactly the opposite – the child protection agencies in fact need more social workers.
It will be unpleasant for parents when unusual injuries of infants treated in emergency rooms are investigated, but children’s lives will be saved. The police are not quick to arrest, and it takes many such incidents before a child is taken away from his parents.
Even when charges are made by one parent against the other in a divorce dispute – a circumstance ripe for false accusation – the welfare of the child requires that every allegation be investigated.
We do not live in a country where the social agencies or police are prejudiced against Jews. Yes, mistakes are made, as in every judicial system, but the solution cannot be anarchy. We read about faulty prosecutions, but no one has suggested the correct response is to let all offenders go free. Sexual abusers, who often are chronic offenders, have to be separated from potential victims. The proper approach would be for the Orthodox community, especially the day schools, to work with the state agencies.
It is no longer the time for this sterile debate. We do little to prevent abuse and less to help those who have been victimized. The cries of the survivors can no longer be ignored.
Where is the support for those who struggle to overcome the double trauma of having been abused and not believed when they came forward? The recent case in Lakewood where the rabbinic leadership defended an abuser (who was convicted after other victims came forward and he admitted guilt) and hounded the victim’s family has produced not one apology from the rabbis involved.
We have seen case after case, conviction after conviction, but there has been no change. What is needed is a discussion about how to get the Orthodox community to acknowledge the extent of the crisis. We must stop trying to protect our image and start protecting our children.
About the Author: Rabbi Yosef Blau is mashgiach ruchani at Yeshiva University and an advocate for survivors of abuse.
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