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November 28, 2014 / 6 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘molestation’

Credible Suspicion

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Note from Harry Maryles: Yet again I am going to dispense with my usual pre Yom Tov D’var Torah and cross post this important message from Rabbi Yakov Horowtiz’s website. I’m sorry to have to post on such a sad subject on the eve of one of our most joyous holidays. But the urgency of this matter compels me to do so.

Rabbi Necheyia Weberman is about to begin his trial on charges of sexually abusing of a young girl. One may recall the massive fundraising event held on Rabbi Weberman’s behalf. One may also recall that that some of his supporters were caught by authorities trying to bribe the chief witness (the victim) in this case to drop the charges. I think we can be sure that his community will continue to do everything they can to get him acquitted.

To put it the way Rabbi Horowitz did, Rabbi Nechemia Weberman deserves his day in court. Let us do what we can to make sure that on that “day” justice will indeed be served. His words follow:

After many delays and much legal wrangling, Nechemia Weberman will finally stand trial in Brooklyn Criminal Court on October 30th for allegedly abusing a young girl in the Williamsburg community over a period of three years — beginning when she was 12-years old.

Mr. Weberman is entitled to his day in court and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

Having said that, quoting the Halachic terms employed in the Teshuva of Rav Elyashiv zt”l, there is clearly far more than raglayim l’davar (credible suspicion) in this case. In fact, all indications point to the inescapable conclusion that something is very, very wrong here.

What Parents Need to Know

One of the most important things frum parents – especially those in the “heimish” community – ought to be developing is a deep understanding of the norms and accepted practice in the mental health profession. Gaining this would allow devoted and caring parents the ability to obtain suitable professional help for their children who need it, and avoid the trauma associated with following the recommendations made by untrained, well-meaning folks (unfortunately, an all too frequent occurrence, one which sometimes creates horrific results).

Moreover, it would help undo the denial and cognitive dissonance of those who defend Weberman — by pointing out how disturbing were the circumstances of his “treatment” of the young girls referred to him.

Don’t Ignore the Warning Signs

Think of it this way. Wouldn’t alarm bells go off in your mind if a doctor performed an invasive procedure without using latex gloves or if he/she picked up a used syringe to give you an injection? Wouldn’t you think it strange if you were a single mother and were requested to meet with your son’s Rebbe or principal at 9 p.m. one evening in a deserted Yeshiva building to discuss your son’s progress?

What Went Wrong

Well, 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 that Weberman:

(1) Had unregulated access to many girls over a number of years in his inappropriate and illegal role as their unlicensed “therapist.”

(2) Had these young girls referred to him for counseling by very Chassidish schools, whose general level of gender separation far exceeds those of the typical “Bais Yakov” (and it would be exceedingly rare for non-Chassidish girls’ schools to regularly refer their Talmidos to a male therapist)

(3) Engaged in private, unsupervised counseling sessions with young girls — often in an office/apartment that contained a working bedroom — violating all norms of yichud and tzniyus.

In addition to all these disturbing facts, it has become clear that these serious allegations are in fact not isolated ones. In fact, since Mr. Weberman’s arrest, I was personally contacted by immediate family members of four additional alleged victims of his who are afraid to come forward, and those of us close to the community have heard similar reports from others as well.

All the victims – none of whom know each other and all of whom are terrified to go to the authorities because of fear of backlash from the community – report striking similarities in the MO of Weberman (his manner of working), fueling suspicion that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

What is most chilling is that each and every one of his victims who came to us is currently married; meaning that (1) this has been going on for a very long time and (2) if there are current victims who are single, they are even more terrified than the married women of coming forward, for fear that going public will ruin their chances of doing a decent shidduch.

Weberman’s 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 this 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. Unbearable pressure is being brought to bear against her and her family to drop the case, which is one of the reasons that a show of support is so important.

Now That You Know

Those of us who work with abuse survivors respectfully implore you to please, please stand with this victim on October 30th and with the other silent and silenced victims who are watching this case unfold very carefully and with all survivors of abuse and molestation.

Please pass this on to your friends and family members and I hope to see you at the trial, heeding the timeless charge of Yeshayahu (Isaiah) (1:16) to “Seek justice [and] strengthen the victim.”

Visit the Emes Ve-Emunah blog.

For Victims of Abuse – A Warm Embrace

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Note from Harry Maryles: I usually take this time on the eve of the New Year to reflect on what kind if a year this was for me. The sudden death of my grandson Reuven who suffered from cancer was unexpected. Although his prognosis was never great, he had defied the odds by living as long as he did. People all over the world davened for him and for that I am still grateful.  But it was not meant to be.

On one unusually warm morning in early March of this year Reuven was taken from us as he suddenly collapsed – never to resuscitated. That was one of the hardest days of my life.  But I am grateful to God for all the blessings he as otherwise given me.  And with God’s help I look forward to a much better year ahead.
 
Aside from that personal note, I am going to relinquish the space I give here to any additional reflection or the Dvar Torah I usually give on Erev Yom Tov- to Rabbi Yakov Horowitz. He asked me if I would cross post an essay from his website on my blog. After reading it, I decided that there is no Dvar Torah that I could deliver that would be more important than his words.
With all the troubles facing Klal Yisroel now, I don’t think there is a single issue more important than the issue of sex abuse in our community. We all know the horror stories the survivors of abuse tell us. And we all too often hear of the devastating consequences they face – some for many years after.
 
In part the altered lives they live are a result of the abuse itself. But it is in part also because of the unfortunate negative reaction to the victims by their own community.  It is to this sad reality that Rabbi Horowitz speaks. The new year is not only a time for reflection. It is a time for change. If there is one thing we need to change as a community it is how we treat victims of abuse.
 
Ksiva V’Chasima Tova to all. The following are Rabbi Horowitz’s words.
As we prepare to stand before Hashem in the days to come, and daven (pray) for ourselves, our families and all of Klal Yisroel, those of us who work with survivors of abuse and molestation ask you to publicly show your support for them in these yemei rachamim (days of mercy).
Part and parcel of the strategy employed by many of the predators in our community is to discredit their victims who have the courage to step forward and press charges against them. Typically, the molester will point to the victim’s 1) diminished level of religious observance and/or 2) self-destructive behaviors, like substance abuse, to “prove” his own innocence.However, for those of us who work with at-risk teens, the fact that one of our tayere kinderlach engaged in hard-core drug use, self-mutilation, suicide attempts, or left Yiddishkeit, makes it MORE likely that the accusation is true, not less. Why? Because we have known for many years now that the vast majority of our kids who have descended into the gehenom of these destructive activities have done so because they were molested.Of all the horror committed by predators against our innocent, precious boys and girls, the premeditated and deliberate defamation of their character is perhaps the most unforgivable; since it abuses them all over again and adds to their disconnect from our kehila – when what they need most is our acceptance and love.
With that in mind, I respectfully ask our readers to please stand with the brave survivors and their families who have the courage to take the lonely path of coming forward and pressing charges, with the other silent and silenced victims who are watching the high-profile cases unfold very carefully to determine whether they too should risk going to the authorities, and with all survivors of abuse and molestation.Precisely because the predators attempt to discredit and disgrace the victims and their families, is all the more reason why we need to reach out to them and let them know how much we respect and care for them.Kindly take a few minutes from your busy schedules and post a Rosh Hashana bracha in the thread* following these lines, and have them in mind in your Tefillos. Previous efforts to garner public support for victims were extraordinarily comforting to them, as they help restore their faith in humanity and let them know that the vast majority of our community members are behind them.
Please include your real names and the names of the cities where you live to personalize your message and to send a clear message that we proudly stand with the survivors and their families.
Abuse survivors are our heilege neshamosour holy souls. They have endured unspeakable trauma in their lives and had their childhood cruelly stolen from them, because they learned at a very young age, at the mercy of cunning and evil predators, to never trust again. Nonetheless, the vast, overwhelming majority of survivors seek no revenge or retribution. They only hope and pray that today’s children be spared from the horror they endured.
Regardless of their observance level, we ought to welcome these survivors as full and respected members of our kehilos. We ought to commit to them that we will do everything possible to remove from our community those who prey on our innocent children and speak truth to power if necessary in the coming year to keep all our children safe and secure.If the great tzadik, Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev zt’l were alive, I imagine that he would embrace abuse survivors in his shul on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and proclaim to Hashem, “Master of the Universe, look at these heilige neshamos who have endured so much with such dignity, and in their ze’chus inscribe us all in the Book of Life.”
Best wishes for a k’siva v’chasima tova and may Hashem answer our tefilos b’rachamim u’vrazon.
*Harry Maryles: As always, I welcome all comments to this post. Rabbi Horowitz is also taking comments in the form of Brachos to survivors on his website. If you can, it would be wonderful to get as many readers of this blog as possible to do so. Once again, Ksiva V’Chasima Tova to all!

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 7/01/11

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Tznius: Wrapping It Up

 

Dear Rachel,

I had no intention of contributing to your column’s most recent debate — until this week, when I attended the graduation of my kindergarten-aged son. Rachel, I am still in shock. Mind you, this is no hick-town modern day school but a well-known yeshiva run by a recognized, well-respected rabbinical head, in a sizable orthodox community.

No, it is not Lakewood I refer to; most families here happen to be middle of the road Modern Orthodox. Of about twenty mothers in attendance, a mere six of us were decently dressed. The others ranged from untznius’dik (cap sleeves with arms completely bare; own hair exposed without even an attempt at head-covering), to outright coarse (skintight tops that leave little to the imagination and… you get the picture).

My heart ached for the Rosh Yeshiva who must have been pained to the core of his being, and for the innocent little boys whose futures are being compromised by none other than the parents they look up to.

To be candid, I grew up in a very modern home where females wearing pants was the norm. (I stopped the practice when I later discovered such attire inappropriate for a Torah-abiding Jewess.) And yet I have to say that for all of our modernity, I never dressed in the crude fashion that some religious women seem to have no problem with.

As I’ve learned it, tznius is a mandate, not an option. In light of the fact that our future generations are being detrimentally affected, I find the blitz of criticism leveled by readers on the original letter-writer unwarranted. Since when has it become “wrong” to take a stand for our principles and to defend Hashem’s laws?

Where is the outcry from influential sources?

My heart is bleeding

Dear Heart,

For weeks now this column has deferred to readers who have had plenty to say about a volatile issue that, as you indicate, affects all of us.

Though many letters were indeed critical, others echoed sentiments and opinions similar to yours. In fact, readers have done such a remarkable job in addressing the topic that what remains for this column at this time is to re-emphasize the importance of guarding our manner of dress (as well as demeanor) and to stress the gravity of being lax in the inyun of tznius (which in actuality encompasses the traits of modesty, humility and restraint).

Needless to say, not all letters made it to print. One reader (submitting his comments to the editor of The Jewish Press) fiercely decried the publication of the tznius column as it originally appeared in Chronicles of June 3rd. The following is an excerpt of his letter:

I wonder how Rachel considers this a crisis in the community? Unless she is talking about the xxxxx community, in which case I would understand because there it is socially acceptable to equate transgressions of halachic law with criminal abuse… I wonder why a woman not covering her knees is considered by Rachel to be a crisis on the level of an agunah who can never remarry, or a young child being repeatedly molested by his Rebbe or a woman battered by her husband. 

I myself am a “black hat” Jew, who adheres to the strictest interpretation of the law, and I am very, very offended by this article… equating a religious “transgression” with molestation and abuse is intolerable.

Sir, with all due respect for your religious convictions, your remarks are most baffling, on many counts.

1) This column tries its best not to discriminate; when a fellow-reader is in distress, we consider it a crisis. Others are equally welcome to disagree, to commiserate or to debate the sufferer…

2) It is not for us to determine the magnitude of one mitzvah over another; we refer you to the words in Pirkei Avos that forewarn us not to judge one mitzvah more (or less) significant than another. Thereby the out-of-control lack of modesty in our midst most certainly qualifies as a Chronicle of Crisis.

3) We do know that among the numerous mitzvos in the Torah, only one – the theme of tznius – is linked to the presence of the Holy Shechinah in our midst. We are warned specifically (in Devarim 33:15): “Ki Hashem Elokecha mishaleich b’kerev machnecha l’hatzilcha; v’haya machanecha kadosh…” – For Hashem your G-d walks among you to save you and deliver your enemies before you; your camp should therefore be holy … to not cause Him to turn away from you.

4) The Jewish nation is considered a “lone sheep among seventy wolves.” But our Creator watches over His children, as long as we maintain our modesty. One should shudder at the thought of our vulnerability should we chas v’shalom turn Hashem against us. (For that matter, do we know why tragedies – such as the molestation and abuse you speak of – fall upon us?)

Several years ago, as readers worldwide will recall, the topic of shmiras halashon was being confronted in every community and on every level, via live shiurim, tapes, pamphlets and workshops, in order to shake our people to the seriousness of its transgression and awaken us to the dangers we place ourselves in with carelessness of speech.

Many people may not be aware that the same Chofetz Chaim who has brought the laws of lashon hora into our living rooms for our own protection in this world and in the next, also wrote a compendium on the laws of tznius. Titled Geder Olam, this work clearly outlines the laws of tznius, as well as the hazards in flouting them: parnassa issues; shalom bayis difficulties; children going off the derech; etc. This volume belongs on the sefarim shelf of every home library.

To “My heart is bleeding”: You speak of your own “modern” upbringing and subsequent growth. Perhaps the mothers (you encountered at the graduation) are yet to embark on their own journey into the wonderful and immensely satisfying world of our religion and heritage. Let us hope and pray for them all.

* * * * *

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.

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.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/how-to-talk-with-our-children-about-personal-safety/2010/10/27/

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