Dear Dr. Yael,
I thought I was doing a huge mitzvah. Baruch Hashem we are well off and we give a lot of tzedaka. I took into our home to live a meshulach from Israel who I felt was collecting for a good cause. My husband and I provided a stunning private room and bathroom, Shabbos meals and often supper. He felt comfortable enough to take food from our refrigerator and we took him in like a ben bayis. He seemed so normal.
Well guess what? Our children started displaying all kinds of symptoms. We took them to a top child psychologist and he discovered that this “guest” was molesting all of our children over the months that he lived with us and collected money for his amazing cause.
Now all our children are in intensive therapy and needless to say this guest is no longer welcome in our house. We told him to go back to Israel and get psychological help and that if he ever stepped foot in America we would file a lawsuit against him. I wanted to file a lawsuit but my husband felt sorry for his wife and children [he has a large family] in Israel. Dr. Respler please share this with your readers. Please tell parents to warn their children about child molesters. Please tell people to not allow anyone into their homes so easily, and guests should have no free access to their private home, children, kitchen, etc. I believe in chessed, but chessed begins at home. We feel so guilty that we allowed our children to be traumatized because we wanted to do chessed. I know that your column is well read. PLEASE PRINT MY LETTER.
A Guilty Mother
Dear Guilty Mother,
I am so sorry about what happened to you and to your family. Please don’t feel guilty. You had no idea this would happen. Unfortunately in my practice my adult clients tell me that they were molested often by Shabbos guests and sometimes repeatedly. We must be careful who we take into our homes. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR CHILDREN WITH FREE BABYSITTERS WHO WANT TO REPAY YOU FOR HOSTING THEM ON SHABBOS. IT CAN BE A VERY EXPENSIVE AND TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCE FOR YOUR CHILD WHILE YOU TAKE A NAP. I will review what we must tell our children from a young age.
My own amazing former pediatrician Dr. Susan Schulman speaks out about this dilemma often and tells her patients what to tell their children. I use her protocol.
Children must be told that anything that is covered by a bathing suit is private. I sometimes tell my clients to say it is “kadosh” No one can look or touch there.
Tell the child from the time the child is able to speak and is sent away from the house even to playgroup [children have been molested in playgroup] the following information on their level:
1] There are no secrets from Mommy and Daddy/Ema and Abba/Mommy and Tatty. If someone tells you that we are doing something that is a secret and you should not tell your parents, you must tell us.
2] If someone tells you they will buy you a present or tries to give you a present to go with them somewhere privately DON’T GO – we, your parents will buy you presents and what you need.
3] If someone tells you they will hurt your parents – tell them that your parents are very strong and no one will hurt your parents. They are saying this to scare the child.
4] Tell your child never to go anywhere where there are no other people. Secret hiding places, “hide and seek” must be played in safe places in your house where you can supervise.
5] Even the mikvah can be a dangerous place. DO NOT SEND YOUR OVER 13-YEAR-OLD SON ALONE TO THE MIKVAH. Children are molested in the mikvah.
6] Sleep away camp and dorms can be dangerous as well. You must warn your child about all possible situations.
The following are signs to be aware of that your child may be molested but is either afraid to tell you or does not even understand what is happening.
Signs of Molestation at 2-9 Years of Age:
Fear of certain things: people, places, activities, behavioral regression: (bed wetting, stranger anxiety, trouble eating, or changes in appetite)
Nightmares, trouble sleeping
Withdrawal from loved ones
Feeling shameful or guilty
Masturbating excessively victimizing others
Fear of recurring attack
Signs of Molestation in Adolescents 9+:
Nightmares, trouble sleeping
Doing poorly in school, promiscuous activity, drug and alcohol abuse
Signs of aggression, running away from home, fear of recurring attack, changes in appetite
Suicidal thoughts and gestures
Overly mature behavior exuding anger toward being forced into situations out of their control
Physical Warning Signs of Child Abuse:
Although physical signs of abuse are rare, if you see any of the following signs, take your child to the doctor for an examination to determine the cause:
Pain during urination and/or bowel movements bleeding, discharges or pain in mouth, genitals or anus
Sexually transmitted diseases
Difficulty walking, sitting, standing torn, bloody, stained underwear involuntary urination or defections
Self-induced injuries, i.e. cutting, burning, suicide attempts
There is a lot of molestation within the family. Unfortunately this is even harder. I will deal with this in another column.
Please Dear Readers – Protect your children! We live in a world with many sick people and the internet and technology magnify these problems!
Dear “Guilty Mother,” thank you for writing this crucial letter. Please get the professional help for your children. I know that you are doing so. I appreciate this letter.
I am sorry for all the trauma and pain that your children have endured. Please take comfort that this letter will help other children not endure such trauma. Hatzlocha!