As Purim approaches, thousands of Israeli children and families grapple with poverty
If you were to attend a convention of mental health professionals who specialize in treating abuse victims, and if you were to ask the attendees what steps or initiatives they would like to see implemented to protect children from predators and to assist those who have already been victimized, you would probably get responses like:
With that in mind, even a cursory examination of the Child Victims Act of New York State Assemblywoman Margaret Markey raises the question of why not one of the items listed above is included in a bill ostensibly designed with the noble goal of helping to protect children.
The Markey legislation would extend the statute of limitations in New York State on both criminal and civil cases involving the sexual abuse of children. It would also open a one-year “window” during which time victims of abuse could bring claims for events that occurred even decades ago, not only against the perpetrators but also against the institutions that employed them.
The bill has been the subject of intense debate in our community, as many abuse victims and individuals who are advocating for child-abuse prevention have passionately supported the bill. The recent joint statement released by Agudath Israel and Torah Umesorah opposing the legislation has generated a great deal of discussion – much of it critical – from outside the Agudah constituency and even from members of our own kehila.
There are other significant questions that come to mind when reflecting upon the Markey Bill. Currently, students have only 90 days after they turn 18 to file a claim for abuse that allegedly occurred while they attended public school. The Markey Bill would not change that in any way. Why would secular legislators in Albany be more interested in protecting kids attending parochial schools than those in the broader population?
Imagine the (appropriate) public outrage that would ensue if the state were to offer free flu shots to private school kids and not to those attending public schools. (It is perfectly fair to note that public schools have far more safety measures for screening, training and oversight than do private schools. But to suggest that there is little or no abuse in public schools and, by extension, that public school kids are not in need of legislation to protect them is flat-out ridiculous.)
Additionally, what is being done to prevent the cycle from repeating itself, as we all know that untreated victims are far more likely to abuse others? Shouldn’t we turn over every stone to help fund the treatment of abuse victims – for their own mental health and for the safety of our community at large?
Due to the fact that for years now I have been, and will always continue to be, a staunch and vocal advocate for victims of abuse and molestation worldwide – writing and lecturing about the horrors of abuse in our community long before any of the ugly media reports and lawsuits began and long before it became socially acceptable to do so – I was approached by many dedicated individuals and asked to throw my support behind the bill.
I fended off the requests and stayed on the sidelines, as my antenna kept tingling each time I read and re-read the content of the bill, mostly because I was troubled by the dichotomy between the treatment of abuse in private and public schools, and by the exclusion of far more immediate and effective measures that would help today’s children directly. Something just didn’t add up.
About the Author: Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is founder and dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam and founder and director of Agudath Israel's Project Y.E.S.
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Those of us familiar with the do’s and don’ts of accepted practice in the mental health profession saw similar blaring warning lights in our minds, as should have occurred when the facts were made public regarding the accusations against Nehemia Weberman. This case may very well be our community’s most important abuse trial during our lifetimes. It is imperative that we have a huge turnout in support of the victim, a courageous young lady who, may she be gezunt andge’bentched, is determined to see this through to the end so others won’t suffer like she did.
These lines are written in loving memory of our dear father, Reb Shlomo Zev ben Reb Baruch Yehudah Nutovic, a”h, whose first yahrzeit is 7 Menachem Av. May the positive lessons learned from this essay be a zechus for his neshamah.
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One week ago on my website I announced my intention to attend the next court appearance of a man who was arrested last year and is now standing trial on 10 felony charges of child abuse.
Dear Rabbi Horowitz:
We were taken aback when our 18-year-old son just called us from Eretz Yisrael (we live in Europe) and told us that he was coming home and wants to immediately go to work. He said that he is wasting his time in yeshiva, and just can’t take it anymore. He said that he will “run away from home” if we don’t allow him to go to work.
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