web analytics
October 21, 2014 / 27 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Bracha Goetz’

How To Talk With Our Children About Personal Safety

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Here are signs to protect our children from danger:

In 95% of cases, the molester’s not a stranger.

He’s someone you know and respect. He’s disarming.

He is drawn to children. And he’s awfully charming.

This is a handy little jingle for parents to keep in mind, but even though it’s short, my rhyme is not for little children. In order to adequately prepare our children we must first be aware of the red flags ourselves. Then we need to schedule an “annual check-up” with our children and clearly and calmly bring up the subject of personal safety.

What would be a good day on the Jewish calendar for us to discuss this safety topic with our children? It’s useful to pick a particular day that comes once a year, so we’ll be more apt not to forget to do it. (We don’t want to discuss it too often, as we do not want to instill excessive fear in them, but we do want them to remain cautious.) Holidays that require substantial preparation are not appropriate times for such a discussion, but how about Lag B’Omer? The warm weather will have arrived, so it could be a good time to remember to have a yearly frank, yet upbeat conversation about this important safety issue – maybe even right along with reminders about fire and pool safety rules.

But if Lag B’Omer has long since gone by, (as it has now) and we have failed to have a prevention education with our children, it is essential for parents to cover this topic with their children before camp, before school, before anytime they will be in a setting away from us.

Parents can have a safety talk about the prevention of molestation with children as young as three, with age-appropriate adjustments being made gradually as maturity and understanding grows, year by year. We do this just as we would discuss any other safety hazard, with some increased detail for our older children.

We can start off by telling our three-year-olds that nobody should ever touch them in the areas that are covered by a bathing suit. The only exceptions would be a parent or a doctor, who may need to check those areas for health reasons and put cream on a rash in those private areas – but even then only with a parent or older family member in the room. If anybody wants to touch them there at any other time, for any other reason, they should say “no” to that person, even if that person is a family member, babysitter, teacher or counselor. And if somebody has already touched them in their private areas, they should tell you about it. We can tell them that if anybody ever touches them in a way that doesn’t feel right, they can ask the person to stop, try to get away as fast as they can and tell someone about it immediately.

Another conversation, at age four, could remind the child of the basics that were discussed the previous year and add that nobody being allowed to touch them may include older siblings, grandparents, cousins, aunts or uncles. Neighbors and family friends may not touch the areas that need to be covered by a bathing suit either. And not only should nobody touch their private parts – nobody should touch any part of their body in any way that doesn’t feel right. If a touch feels strange to them, and they are not sure if it is wrong or right, they should come and ask us about it. We really want to know. Even if they feel silly asking us about it, we very much want them to ask us. We can explain that there are good touches and bad touches. And we can encourage them to ask us about any touching that they are not sure about as well.

At age five, we can tell them that they will probably have some questions for us after we talk with them about personal safety, and we hope they will feel comfortable enough to ask their questions at any time. Too much information is overwhelming to a child, so we want to try to keep each annual conversation about this topic short and simple. We can remind them annually that if anybody ever tries to touch them in a way that feels scary or wrong, even if it’s just a soft, stroking of their arms, some tickling or picking them up, they can tell the person doing it to stop and then they can let us know about it.

We can also add on, at whatever age we feel it’s appropriate, that nobody should ask them to touch or look at their private parts either. And every year there can be a reminder of this safety rule as well. We can ask them, “What if someone wanted to touch you and said to keep it a secret?” And wait for their responses. We can remind them that secrets like that are bad and dangerous and those are secrets that they need to tell us.

Another important point that could be added one year would be that somebody who has been treating them nicely for a while by giving them extra attention, treats, money or gifts, may gradually or quite suddenly start acting in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. We can explain that this could be very confusing, as a child might feel that if the person has been so nice to them, that they should go along with whatever confusing touches the person may have started giving them. It’s very helpful to explain the typical “grooming” process in this way, so the growing child will at least be familiar with this possibility. With this awareness, a child or teen is much more apt to respond to inappropriate touching as an unacceptable real danger if, G-d forbid, his safety is ever jeopardized in this way.

As the children grow older, even through their teens, we can annually add to their basic training by saying that if anybody ever asks them to watch or do things that feel scary or wrong, we hope that they will not feel embarrassed to tell us. We can let them know that it’s best to tell us right away, but even if they didn’t tell us right away, whenever they do tell us, we still very much want to hear about it because if something disturbing or frightening may have happened to them,it was not their fault. This needs to be emphasized, calmly and clearly, once a year.

It would also be helpful to explain to an older child that confusing touches can lead to holding on for a long time to confusing feelings. Some children may have even enjoyed certain aspects of improper interactions, like the extra attention it brings and they do not need to feel ashamed of having this mixture of feelings. The best thing for their neshamas, however, is to not keep any kind of confusing feelings locked up within them. Great relief can come from talking about any disturbing secrets they may have with someone they feel they can trust. We need to reassure them that such burdens don’t have to be carried by them alone. We can also let them know that if they ever feel that they have something to share that they do not feel they can tell us, we can help them find an appropriate professional with whom they can speak.

In age-appropriate ways, as our children grow, we need to reaffirm to them on a yearly basis that victims of abuse are not responsible for the abuse. They need to tell an adult they trust about what happened, and continue telling until someone takes action to stop it.

By teaching our children how to guard the precious bodies that Hashem has given them, we will not be abdicating our responsibility to them. It is still our responsibility to protect them, but this annual training will make it that much more possible for us to fulfill our parental obligations. In helping to protect our children from molestation, we are guarding not only their vulnerable bodies; we are also shielding their innocent souls.

Bracha Goetz is the author of twelve children’s books, including What Do You See in Your Neighborhood? Aliza in MitzvahLand, and The Invisible Book. She also serves on the Executive Board of the national organization, Jewish Board of Advocates for Children, and coordinates a Jewish Big Brother and Big Sister program in Baltimore, Maryland.

How Can We Prevent Abuse?

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Chaya’s older yeshiva-bochur brother told her that there was no problem with his touching her body. He told her it wasn’t against the Torah, and he seemed to know a lot more Torah than she did at the tender age of 6. He continued to touch her first over her clothes, but as the years passed, the abuse progressed to actual rape. Eventually he got married and started a family, appearing to function just fine to nearly everyone in the community. However, he left his younger sister, now in her late twenties, crippled – emotionally, sexually and spiritually.

There are over fifty young women with backgrounds extremely similar to Chaya’s in just one very recently formed support group for women. They all grew up in frum homes and they have all been sexually abused. They are the tip of the iceberg, just now becoming visible. They are just the most courageous young women, who have (just barely) emerged first. The vast majority of survivors live in tremendous fear of telling their stories (even to another survivor of abuse) for many understandable reasons.

What’s the silver lining, when this type of abuse has been going on for many years? (In some families, this seems to be a “heritage” that has been passed from one generation to the next.) The silver lining is that now, as thank G-d, the abuse is starting to come to light, and each previously isolated victim is starting to learn that he or she is not the only one with this secret corrosive problem, we finally have the opportunity to take necessary constructive actions. Now, not only can we support those who are already victims, and this is sorely needed, but also thanks to the many brave survivors of abuse who are finally, painfully starting to share their stories, we can do even more. We can implement effective education on prevention in order to stop the growth of abuse from continuing in our communities.

Of course, it’s not only teenage older brothers or cousins who can become sexual abusers. Uncles turn out to be frequently cited as perpetrators as well as, neighbors and fathers of friends. A trusted family member or family friend commits approximately 80 percent of sexual abuse, with roughly 15 percent being committed by teachers, coaches, youth group leaders or clergy. Less than 5 percent of sexual abusers are strangers to their victims. This makes sense because gaining the trust of the victim is a prerequisite in the grooming process leading to sexual abuse occurring and not being reported.

Why has the sexual abuse of children become such a pervasive problem in our community, when our core values are diametrically opposed to this lowest and cruelest kind of behavior? It’s this simple: For generations, frum perpetrators were allowed to get away with it. A few sick individuals were tolerated in every one of our neighborhoods. Each of these sick individuals typically scars more than 100 children. Many of the victims who have been molested repeatedly, grow up and sexually abuse other children, creating thousands of victims. That is how the problem has increased exponentially – it has gone unchecked. Silence may be golden, but not when abuse is involved. Abuse thrives in silence.

Chaya, at age 6, needs to be taught that she has the right to say “NO!” to any unwanted touch – even if it’s from an older brother or an uncle. Hershel, at age 4, needs to be told that nobody should touch him in the private areas that are covered by his bathing suit, unless it is for health or hygienic purposes, even if it is his babysitter or his stepfather. Rivka, at age 9, needs to learn to tell a trusted parent as soon as possible if anybody attempts to touch her in a confusing way.

Yeshiva students need to get specific information about sexual topics outside of their Gemara Nashim. Their normal surge in hormones needs to be acknowledged and addressed. Clear-cut directives about not touching younger girls and boys, even if they are siblings or cousins, the addictive pull of acting on sexual urges, and the usefulness of physical activity in decreasing their urges by positively channeling their energy, is much more productive than denial.

Parents need to be taught to report abuse to child protective services or the police. Expert professionals are needed when dealing with these serious and dangerous problems that are beyond our capabilities. The most compassionate thing that can happen to perpetrators is for them to be caught and stopped as early as detected. The earliest point of all is beforehand – so prevention is of paramount importance.

In most states, parents and students in public schools have been required to learn basic information about protection from sexual abuse for over twenty years. Parents of students in our day schools still feel unequipped to be proactive in protecting their children from predators. The students in our day schools are unprepared to respond to advances from familiar adults unless they are clearly instructed about this very real possibility.

Educational materials appropriate for all for all age children, including our teens, needs to be made available for use in our day schools, our yeshivas, and our homes. One place to access this essential curriculum is from Mrs. Debbie Fox, at Jewish Family Services in Los Angeles. She has spearheaded the creation of great resources for frum youth on this topic. (Literature and videos are available by contacting Mrs. Fox at dfox@jfsla.org.) If groups of parents request their school’s involvement, they can be even more effective in implementing this critical programming. By increasing awareness and making prevention education a top priority, we can greatly minimize the proliferation of abuse.

The darkest form of education has been going on for far too long behind our own closed doors. Can we now end the strong resistance to seeing what has been happening and open up these same doors to light?

Thank you, Chaya. You are a real woman of valor, teaching us so painfully what we weren’t facing.

Bracha Goetz is the author of ten children’s books, including Aliza in MitzvahLand, What Do You See at Home? and The Invisible Book. She also serves on the Executive Committee of the Jewish Board of Advocates for Children. To enjoy Bracha’s presentations for both women and children, you’re welcome to email bgoetzster@gmail.com.

Title: Aliza in MitzvahLand

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Title: Aliza in MitzvahLand

Author: Bracha Goetz

Illustrated by Yishia Suval

Publisher: Judaica Press

 

 

   After reading Aliza in MitzvahLand your children may never again be able to get away with saying, “I’m bored!” This brand new, refreshingly imaginative picture book is a boredom buster!

 

   Aliza in MitzvahLand tells the story of a child who is often heard complaining, “I’ve got nothing to do!” Aliza has gotten used to being entertained, but her attitude gets a makeover after she enters a wondrous “looking glass world” where things are switched around, and she discovers that:

 

   “When I’ve got nothing to do,

   It’s because I’m forgetting…

   Our world was made for giving

   Not getting!”

 

   This whimsically illustrated book draws a child into a different kind of land where everyone is joyful because they are caring about and giving to others. Practical and creative ideas for activities are also discovered in MitzvahLand, encouraging children to get genuinely excited about looking for their own opportunities to do mitzvos.

 

   This book can be such a delightful – and helpful – gift to give to anyone who is a relative or teacher of children. Or you can give it straight to a child you love, so that they can learn to create their very own MitzvahLand!

 

   This is the tenth book for children’s author, Bracha Goetz, who became a ba’alas teshuva after graduating from Harvard over 30 years ago. Goetz’s books often explain very deep and complex concepts in amazingly simple ways – so that children (and even adults, finally) can understand them.

Title: Aliza in MitzvahLand

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Title: Aliza in MitzvahLand


Author: Bracha Goetz


Illustrated by Yishia Suval


Publisher: Judaica Press


 


 


   After reading Aliza in MitzvahLand your children may never again be able to get away with saying, “I’m bored!” This brand new, refreshingly imaginative picture book is a boredom buster!

 

   Aliza in MitzvahLand tells the story of a child who is often heard complaining, “I’ve got nothing to do!” Aliza has gotten used to being entertained, but her attitude gets a makeover after she enters a wondrous “looking glass world” where things are switched around, and she discovers that:

 

   “When I’ve got nothing to do,


   It’s because I’m forgetting…


   Our world was made for giving


   Not getting!”

 

   This whimsically illustrated book draws a child into a different kind of land where everyone is joyful because they are caring about and giving to others. Practical and creative ideas for activities are also discovered in MitzvahLand, encouraging children to get genuinely excited about looking for their own opportunities to do mitzvos.

 

   This book can be such a delightful – and helpful – gift to give to anyone who is a relative or teacher of children. Or you can give it straight to a child you love, so that they can learn to create their very own MitzvahLand!

 

   This is the tenth book for children’s author, Bracha Goetz, who became a ba’alas teshuva after graduating from Harvard over 30 years ago. Goetz’s books often explain very deep and complex concepts in amazingly simple ways – so that children (and even adults, finally) can understand them.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/title-aliza-in-mitzvahland/2009/06/24/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: