web analytics
September 18, 2014 / 23 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Apartment 758x530 Africa-Israel at the Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York

Africa Israel Residences, part of the Africa Israel Investments Group led by international businessman Lev Leviev, will present 7 leading projects on the The Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York on Sep 14-15, 2014.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

When Religious Doctrine Undercuts Mandated Reporting On Abuse


The New York Times got it right. In an editorial published on Thursday May 19, the Times castigated the Vatican for issuing “flimsy guidelines” for combating the sexual abuse of children by the clerical hierarchy.

According to the Times, the Vatican “issued nonbinding guidance,” giving authority to local bishops which in effect bypasses the need to report the criminal offense of sexual abuse, or for that matter any abuse performed by an official of the Church, to the proper legal authorities.

In essence the report places Church doctrine ahead of the law and allows the local diocese the religious right to shield abusive priests from prosecution. At about the same time the guidelines were released, a study, funded primarily by Church sources, was released. The study allegedly reviews the causes for the sexual abuse scandal in the Church and, in an interesting twist of propaganda, blames the social climate of the 1950s, 60s and 70s for priestly indiscretion.

Taken together, this bizarre approach to coming to grips with the depth of the problem and working to set up parameters to prevent further transgressions is not just counter-intuitive, it’s absolutely backward.

The law is quite clear. Individuals who are mandated reporters must report any suspected abuse to the proper authorities. In most states mandated reporters are teachers, doctors, lawyers and child care workers. In many locales clerics are also mandated reporters. Apparently the Church feels that reports are not mandated by Church doctrine and that the best needs of society are secondary to religious doctrine. This could be humorous if it wasn’t so sad. Unfortunately, the Church is not alone in this folly.

Last month Agudath Israel of America held a conference for professionals at which the topic of how and when to report suspected abusers was discussed. The presentation of the topic included a good deal of source review and explanation. The presenter was knowledgeable about the issue. But, shockingly, the position advocated by the Agudah sounds astoundingly similar to that promulgated by the Vatican.

The conclusion stated in the Agudah position is that you must first ask a senior rabbi with experience or “even better, you should ask a full beis din” before you can call the proper authorities to report suspected abuse.

As a mental health professional I am a mandated reporter. What this means is that if I am made aware of a situation that raises a reasonable a measure of suspicion that abuse of any type is taking place, I am obligated by law and my professional license to report the situation to the proper authorities.

Nowhere in my professional training are rabbis considered proper legal authorities in this matter. In fact, if I report only to a rabbi, I put not just my professional license in jeopardy but also the welfare of the individual who is being abused.

Rabbis are not generally trained in forensics or police work and simply have no authority to intercede in any legal capacity to aid the abused person or apprehend the abuser. In addition, I may be breaking certain HIPAA laws related to confidentiality if I discuss a situation related to someone I am treating with someone who has no legal standing.

It is important to understand that most professionals do not have to report often, and certainly they do not do so lightly when they feel the need to report. Further, the reporting system, at least in New York and several other states, allows for a discussion with the agency to which the professional reports in order to better determine if a particular case merits investigation.

A professional can discuss in total confidence what he or she sees as suspected abuse – without providing any identifying information – if there is any uncertainty about the situation being a reportable offense. The specialist helps the mandated reporter determine what is reportable. The system is not generally set up as an immediately reflexive and overwhelmingly reactive response – unless there is clear and obvious abuse.

By issuing the doctrine of rabbis as the first report, Agudath Israel has put my license, my parnassah, my professional integrity and the law of the land in jeopardy. And while that alone is sufficient cause to ignore the position, there is one even more imperative justification for not following the mandate. So many poskim, from Rav Elyashiv to Rav Hershel Schachter, have declared that individuals who abuse children are in the category of a rodef  (a pursuer) and should be reported to the police.

I will go by my legal mandate and the psak of my rav. When I suspect abuse, as a mandated reporter I will follow the law. So will most of my colleagues.

Dr. Michael Salamon, a fellow of the American Psychological Association, is the founder and director of ADC Psychological Services in Hewlett, New York and a board member of Ptach. He is the author of numerous articles and several psychological tests and books including “The Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures” (Urim Publications) and “Every Pot Has a Cover” (University Press of America). His new book on abuse will be available shortly.

About the Author: Dr. Michael J. Salamon is a fellow of the American Psychological Association and the author of numerous articles and books, most recently “Abuse in the Jewish Community” (Urim Publications).


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “When Religious Doctrine Undercuts Mandated Reporting On Abuse”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
The Iron Dome was called on for the first time in 2013 to intercept a missile fired by terrorists in Sinai at Eilat.
National Lawyers Guild seeks to indict Obama for helping Israel build Iron Dome
Latest Indepth Stories
ISIS-strat-3

Arab leaders who want the US to stop Islamic State are afraid of being dubbed traitors and US agents

The Iron Dome was called on for the first time in 2013 to intercept a missile fired by terrorists in Sinai at Eilat.

National Lawyers Guild:Sworn enemy of Israel & the legal arm of Palestinian terrorism since the ’70s

A little less than 10 percent of eligible Democratic voters came out on primary day, which translates into Mr. Cuomo having received the support of 6.2 percent of registered Democrats.

The reality, though, is that the Israeli “war crimes” scenario will likely be played out among highly partisan UN agencies, NGOs, and perhaps even the International Criminal Court.

Peace or the lack of it between Israel and the Palestinians matters not one whit when it comes to the long-term agenda of ISIS and other Islamists, nor does it affect any of the long-running inter-Arab conflicts and wars.

Rather than serving as a deterrent against terrorist attacks, Israel’s military strength and capabilities are instead looked at as an unfair advantage in the asymmetrical war in which it finds itself.

Sisi:”The religious nature of the Middle East creates challenges for the governing authorities.”

For too long the media and international community have been preaching that “Palestinians” bear no responsibility for the consequences of their decisions and they are passive victims of the conflict.

Iron Dome intercepted over 1,000 rockets aimed at Israel with a success rate of over 90% in 2014

We talked about the responsibility that comes with the pen, its potential to influence and inspire.

Amnesty International:The crippling of the power station was “collective punishment of Palestinians”

Originally scheduled to be held elsewhere, the hotel canceled, pressured by local missionary groups

It’s likely that some of the rebel factions, including US clients, have indeed made pacts with ISIS

More Articles from Dr. Michael J. Salamon
child abuse

Healing requires that the victim be validated for being harmed and the guilty assume responsibility.

The recent conviction of an unlicensed therapist in one of our communities has led to serious soul searching on the part of some and confusion for many others. The most strident argument of his supporters is that he was convicted without proof; that the accuser made up the story to get back at her community and directed her anger at this amateur counselor.

Mental health specialists tend to speak about their patients according to a classification referred to as the DSM, which stands for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This classification system was first published in 1952 by the American Psychiatric Association as a method to classify mental disorders and develop a statistical baseline through which disorders can be understood, studied and treated. It is not the only classification system available.

The New York Times got it right. In an editorial published on Thursday May 19, the Times castigated the Vatican for issuing “flimsy guidelines” for combating the sexual abuse of children by the clerical hierarchy.

We may not want to accept it, but abuse occurs everywhere, even in our own communities. The effects of abuse are devastating and long lasting – not only on those individuals who are abused but on their families as well. Even one act of abuse against a person, regardless of age, can have a significantly negative impact that may last a lifetime.

Did you hear the speech President Obama delivered in Cairo week before last? I don’t mean just the words but the sound, the tone, the delivery – the way he actually articulated his sentences, the cadences, the pauses and the breaks for applause.

I am a child of the ‘60s. I learned to play guitar to music from the Rabbis’ Sons, Shlomo Carlebach and Lennon and McCartney. When we had a kumsitz at our youth functions we would intersperse Simon and Garfunkel music with songs from the Six-Day War. In 1970 I accompanied Rabbi Carlebach when he played an impromptu concert at Zion Square in Jerusalem.

My Feb. 22 Jewish Press op-ed article “Losing Rational Orthodoxy” seems to have struck a nerve. Much of the feedback was positive, some was negative, and even more was intensely ambivalent.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/when-religious-doctrine-undercuts-mandated-reporting-on-abuse/2011/06/01/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: