Dear Dr. Yael,
I am writing in response to your column written by A Guilty Mother. As a pediatrician for over 30 years this letter was quite painful to read and unfortunately it happens too often. What was not addressed, which I feel was just as important as the child abuse, was the need to report this event to the authorities. Too often I have heard the same line that this will destroy the accused family or ruin the teacher’s chances of finding any new employment. Even though these consequences are sad, it still does not negate the importance of reporting such an event. Shame on us if this happens again to another family.
Ron Nagel MD
Shame On You, Dr. Yael Respler!
Letter to the editor by Shmuel Sackett
I have lived in Israel since 1990 but I still visit NY, from time to time. One of my greatest treats when coming here is that I spend Shabbat with a dear friend – The Jewish Press. This past Shabbat – my first one in NY for close to a year – was no exception, and I read your wonderful paper from cover to cover. I enjoyed every article, except for one which made me very angry.
It was the “Dear Dr. Yael” column. A woman asked Dr. Yael a question. She and her husband had opened their home to someone from Israel who was collecting funds for a reliable organization. They gave him a nice room, delicious meals and free access to their kitchen and refrigerator. They were happy to do this chesed until tragedy struck. They found that this individual was molesting their children! The woman wrote that, as a result, their children are “in intensive therapy.” She then wrote that “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.” The woman then stated that she wanted to file a lawsuit but her husband “felt sorry his wife and children.” She then concluded her letter that Dr. Respler should share this story with her readers to warn parents about child molesters.
Dr. Yael’s answer to this unfortunate mother was that she felt sorry for “what happened to you and to your family.” She told the mother not to feel guilty since she had no idea this would happen. The rest of her article focused on important advice to parents about the horrific problem of child molestation; how to avoid it, how to talk to children about it and how to be aware of the dangers.
Why am I so upset? Because Dr. Yael – and this unfortunate mother – missed the most important point of all. The first thing to do when you find someone has molested your child is call the police and press charges. It doesn’t matter if the molester is a rabbi with a long beard or the female principal of your daughter’s yeshiva. I don’t care if the molester is a respected member of the community or the maggid shiur in the morning Daf Yomi. The first thing to do – before anything else – is to call the police and have this dangerous person thrown into jail immediately!!
You don’t “send them back to Israel” or threaten them with “a lawsuit.” You don’t ask them to get “psychological help” or worry about “their wife and children” you worry about your children and other children who will be the creep’s next victim if he/she is not off the street and behind bars.
This is what Dr. Yael should have answered before writing her suggestions. She ends her article that “we live in a world with many sick people” and that she is “sorry for all the trauma and pain” that the woman’s children endured but, Dr. Yael; if the only thing mothers are supposed to do are watch for warning signs and take their kids for professional help, then we are all in big trouble. I will repeat what I wrote above: The absolute first thing to do is to go to the police, and keep pressing hard until this dangerous person is sent to prison for harming an innocent child. After that, yes; get professional help, therapy and whatever else is needed to get the child back on his/her feet.
I urge Dr Yael – and all therapists, educators and rabbonim – to convey this message to the public so that, just maybe, the sick individuals who traumatize our children, will realize that the frum community has stopped playing games and that these molesters will spend serious time in prison.
Thank you for your important responses. I agree with both your letters and should have included the importance of reporting molestation in my response. Unfortunately, the letter that I received was that they already sent the meshulach home and did not report him. While I focused on prevention and dealing with child molestation both of you are correct that this person should have been reported. I appreciate your letters and thoroughly agree with your assertions. I apologize for this serious oversight. May we know of no more tza’ar!