As I report in my book Abuse in the Jewish Community, my sole motivation is to try to protect vulnerable individuals so let’s begin with a disclaimer: At no point have I made any blanket statements against a group of people. I have pointed out mistakes that I believe individuals have made and have brought significant scientific evidence for my position. When I am attacked for my positions it is without proof from the attacker. Most often I am accused of being a Haredi basher or a sonay yisroel, neither of which comes close to my reality. There is a sense of comfort I have in being attacked though, at least I know people are reading what I say and I have touched an important nerve.
I am writing this piece because in the last few weeks I have had several consultations with different adolescent boys who are fearful of going off to summer camp. They are all in different camps but all report the same reason for not wanting to go – they were forced to give oral sex to another camper or counselor in camp last year. In terms of religiousness of the boys involved the complete religious spectrum is represented. There is no one group that is better or worse. Abuse exists everywhere most likely in equal measure.
This is not the first time that I have heard complaints such as these. In one similar incident just a few years ago I was given enough information to be able to report the abuser. The police investigated and when they confronted the 19 year old who was the abuser he admitted to having done this for at least five years to campers and other younger children at the school he attended. He also told police that when he was 11 years old a trusted neighbor forced him into giving oral sex. He told his parents. They did not believe him.
In response to the increasing pressure from New York media on the District Attorney of Brooklyn and Agudas Yisroel of America regarding the way child sexual abusers have not been properly reported or prosecuted and the fact that victims have been intimidated into not testifying against their abusers, the Executive Director and Director of Public Relations of Agudah offered several interviews clarifying their position. Not surprisingly their views reflect a limited understanding of how molesters operate. In brief the Agudah officials still believe that prior to reporting a suspected case of abuse to the proper authorities a question should be asked of a rabbi. According to the Directors, until rabbinic permission is granted a report should not be made. This is counter to secular law and according to other orthodox religious rabbinic bodies it is counter to Jewish law. Secular law requires that professionals report any “suspected” case of abuse. Most other Rabbinic authorities refer to an abuser as a rodef – a murderer, who must be removed from society so as to protect society.
The Agudah representatives further suggested that the reason reports should not be made immediately is that children – in his words – tend to fantasize. Following this logic the Agudah Director tells parents that if a child comes home from school and reports that he was improperly touched the parents should first check with the school principal to see if he fantasizes. Every last bit of research indicates that in the overwhelming majority of cases children do not make up reports of abuse. And, the only way to properly evaluate if abuse occurred is by having trained experts assess the situation. Individuals with a vested interest, such as school principals or teachers or rabbis who have the utmost concern for their community but are not trained in this area are not prepared to do this evaluation. Further, there is no single accepted protocol for treating pedophiles and molesters. That they must be treated is a given. That they must be watched in most cases, likely their entire lives, is also a given. It is for this reason that in the U.S there is a registry of known abusers. Unfortunately this type of registry does not exist in other places.As reported in the New York newspapers, it is likely for this reason that Avraham Mondrowitz wanted for molesting boys is now living freely in Israel.
To suggest that children fantasize or that an untrained individual determine abuse leaves us open to a legacy of abuse not unlike that 19 year old from the summer camp. To not remove the abuser and treat and monitor him or her guarantees it.