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December 1, 2015 / 19 Kislev, 5776
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New Group Combating Child Molestation in Ultra Orthodox Enclave

Magen Executive Director David Morris fights child abuse with education.

Magen Executive Director David Morris fights child abuse with education.
Photo Credit: Magen

“In orthodox communities girls are much less accessible to male pedophiles than are the boys; boys are often unaware of and less educated about child abuse, and are therefore vulnerable to this risk.”

More than 45% of the alleged victims were reportedly abused at their schools.

Morris says that while ” schools under the supervision of the Ministry of Education have well developed policies and practices for preventing abuse, and detailed protocols for responding appropriately to complaints,” this is far from being the case in schools which are independent. Those schools, he says, “are relatively under-resourced in this regard and have unclear policies. Unfortunately, this appears to have created a high risk environment for the children.”

As much as 95% of all reports made to Magen were from families describing themselves as Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox).

“Magen operates within the framework of halacha, the Law and best professional practice,” states Morris. “We are pleased that Magen is already trusted by members of the public, and by the Hareidi community in particular, with these most sensitive & important matters – and we admire the courage of parents who are increasingly open to improving the safety of their children, and to responsibly addressing this risk in our community.”

Since Magen came into being, two years ago, many local families have been coming forward with cases that go back years, even decades, and are, therefore, not included in the current statistics. The victims had never dared reveal their trauma to anyone until now.

“We are also seeing some common myths about child abuse starting to break down. For example, that children often lie about having been abused. In fact, according to international expert Dr. David Pelcovitz, who spoke for Magen, “the overwhelming majority of children who report they have been abused are telling the truth”; and according to the Israel National Council for the Child only 3% of children make false reports. It is critical that all adults are supportive, encouraging and empathetic to any child who says they have experienced abuse.

Another common myth is that reporting abuse to the authorities is traumatic for the child. As Magen volunteers have walked many families through the process of reporting abuse, and obtaining professional assistance for child abuse victims, they have actually seen the opposite. The social workers are well trained and sensitive, and the experience can be empowering and therapeutic. In the words of one brave nine year old that Magen helped: “I’m a “gibor” because I’m making sure he can’t do this to other kids.”

“These kids and adults are obtaining the help they need to progress from being a child abuse victim,” says Morris, “to becoming a child abuse survivor.”

In the case of Magen’s email warning of 20th February, the story had a positive result. This week Magen published a follow-up message to the community:

This follows Magen’s previous announcement about a present and current risk to young girls.

The police have now released for publication that a man has been arrested and held in custody on suspicion of attacking young girls over the past weeks in Ramat Beit Shemesh. The police are confident that this man will be indicted.

Magen would like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation to the whole community for all the assistance and cooperation to track down the alleged perpetrator.

While this does make our streets safer B”H, we would caution that most child abuse is not by strangers (as in this case) but by trusted parties – friends, relatives, teachers, neighbors, babysitters, etc.

“There is no doubt that the children of Beit Shemesh, and in Ramat Beit Shemesh in particular are somewhat safer now than they were just two years ago. However, there is a very long way to go – and everyone, kids, parents and professionals, must be more aware and more cautious,” Morris says.

Contact Magen: 02.9999-678; 050 8489001 Email: magenprotects@gmail.com

Confidential Hotline: 052-765.2929

About the Author: Tibbi Singer is a veteran contributor to publications such as Israel Shelanu and the US supplement of Yedioth, and Jewish Business News.

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