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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 2/06/09

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Dear Rachel,

It is a relief to finally be coming to terms with the fact that abuse of children exists, sad to say, even in out midst. As revolting as the subject may be (and it should be to every decent human being), hiding from this unfortunate reality or pretending it does not exist is far worse.

What is disconcerting, however, is that there seems to be more attention given to guarding our young boys over our girls who are equally vulnerable. Just a couple of months ago, a supposedly handicapped man in a heavily populated Brooklyn neighborhood solicited the help of a young girl whom he then reportedly molested.

Adults as well as children can be victims of abuse, but parents have the obligation to do everything in their power to protect their innocent ones from predators who walk among them.

I recall your addressing this subject before. Please, Rachel, remind the many readers of your important column of how crucial it is for parents to communicate with their children.

Thank you for your service to our communities.

A grateful fan

Dear Grateful,

One would certainly hope that the subject of child abuse being out in the open, discussed (and debated) in private circles and in the public forum, would be enough to prompt parents into ever more vigilant care of their children. And yes, it seems that we have gone from obscurity to over-exposure – while missing some vital specifics along the way.

Regarding that Brooklyn incident where it was reported that a male individual “with a walker” had lured a teenaged girl into his home by asking for her help, this story quickly and quietly disappeared from the media radar screen when it was learned that the so-called perpetrator (a formerly upstanding decent family man and prominent member of the Jewish community) had suffered a stroke a while ago and had been left somewhat physically disabled as well as mentally challenged.

Following this episode, the man’s alarmed family members took immediate steps to ensure that he would no longer unwittingly create an embarrassing scene for himself or cause panic and trauma to a hapless victim.

A most worrisome element of this situation, however, seems to have been left unaddressed: Who has given our girls the okay to come to the aid of a male, and, moreover, to enter into a private dwelling alone with him? While it is highly commendable that our youngsters are schooled in the middah of chesed (kindness), guidelines clearly need to be drawn.

When a young girl encounters a situation where a male seems to be in need of assistance, she should never attempt to help him on her own. No matter how authentic or pathetic the man and his predicament may appear to be, the girl should under no circumstance volunteer to help. She can and should, if possible, alert other (adult) passersby to the male’s plight, but she herself should keep walking.

As far as our young boys are concerned, the horrendous acts of abuse that have come to light in recent years leave many of us dumbfounded. But here again, there are elements of this sort of exploitation that are being ignored.

Take the case of a young married man who has had difficulty managing his role of husband and father, who is known for his penchant of peppering his speech with vulgarities and who has struggled with various addictions over the years. Little known is the fact that as a young boy he was physically abused – not by the stereotypical older, “respected” male, but by his own peers!

His complaints to adults (whom he had looked up to and depended on to help him out of his wretchedness) apparently had fallen on deaf ears. The lessons to be weaned from this ongoing tragedy: (1) Parents should never dismiss their children’s ranting and complaining, regardless of how whacky or illogical they may sound; (2) Warning our children to be wary of strangers or anyone who may want to touch them inappropriately is not enough – they must also be cautioned to never allow even their own friends or other little boys to “invade their privacy!!”

Furthermore, we must also warn our own against behaving in a loathsome manner toward any other child. While yesterday’s bullies would pick on the weak and meek by taunting and teasing, today’s intimidation can take on a much more sinister form of injury that can leave devastating lifetime scars.

Finally, at the risk of coming across as defending the most hated offender – the child molester, I dare suggest that we pause for an instant to consider that “he” too was once someone’s little boy. And the likelihood that he was “taken advantage of” by another is statistically strong.

As an adult, the abuser – by virtue of his intelligence and maturity – should be held culpable for his actions. But what of the young victim who learns to become a victimizer early on, too early to even associate the term of “abuse” with the acts visited upon him by a “trusting” adult? (Often, the immature and slow-minded become easy prey for the abuser who assesses them as least likely to offer resistance.) Absent counsel, guidance or support of any kind, the young “sufferer” (convinced to remain silent) grows up to replicate the deed that was done to him on others.

Outraged citizens advocate locking up the child abuser and throwing away the key. How would that help and what will that do to the young victim/abuser? If he were your child, would the outcry be the same?

Only our awareness will halt the vicious cycle. And that is why it is imperative that parents not only guard their children from becoming victimized, but that they educate them appropriately to the pitfalls of chas v’shalom becoming victim or victimizer.

Hashem yishmor!!

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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