I live in the FORMER child sex abuse cover up capital of Israel.
Underreporting of sexual abuse is a global problem. According to Israel’s National Council For the Child, only about 1 in 10 cases of abuse reach the authorities. Here, in Bet Shemesh in 2010, the reporting was only a third of the national average. This equates to 1 in 30, the lowest reporting rate in Israel.
Since Magen, a nonprofit dedicated to prevention, intervention and treatment of sexual abuse of children, began operating here three years ago, the reporting of sexual abuse has increased, and in 2013, it actually doubled from the year before.
We are no longer the sex abuse coverup capital.
Bet Shemesh is a great city. It’s a city full of kids- kids of all kinds and colors and kippas- much like your own town I imagine.
More than reporting abuse, we want it to stop. What can we do to keep our kids safe?
We can and should act both on the personal, family level, and as citizens. There are two organizations that I am personally familiar with that actively work to prevent sexual abuse and harassment. Magen- which deals with children, and Forum Takana which works with victims 18 and older.
As parents/guardians, we must talk to our kids about sexuality in general, and about their bodies and personal space. We must tell them frankly and seriously, but not overly frighteningly, about sexual predators. There is a wealth of information out there on this and we must use it.
Beyond what we can do in our homes, we should be encouraging our children’s schools and youth organizations to adopt protocols for behavior. Forum Takana, a nonprofit for the prevention of and dealing with sexual abuse of authority figures within the religious community in Israel, has created a detailed document outlining best practices and regulations to prevent sexual harassment/abuse.
Parents, check out this Code of Conduct (it’s in Hebrew and English). Contact Forum Takana and they will send you a hard copy to bring to your parent board, get them to submit it to the principal and have it adopted as school policy. This will help protect both students and teachers from being in situations where sexual abuse can occur.
Also, contact Magen which offers seminars and classes on sexual abuse. Ask them to come into your kids’ school. This will both educate the staff and parents on what to look for, and it will show potential perpetrators that you are vigilant and not willing to allow your child to become a victim.
A note about perpetrators.
As you likely know, abusers are most often someone that the victim knows. ‘Stranger Danger’ is just not enough. Kids need to know what to look out for even with people they know and trust.
It is vital for any parent to read the various articles around that discuss the methods and thought process of a sexual predator. You will be surprised, horrified, but EDUCATED so you can protect your kids. Make sure your children know that they can speak to you about anything- ever.
Much information about how molesters operate has been gained by interviewing incarcerated offenders. See here for the full version of the below detailed information on how pedophiles operate (Source: Magen).
- Pedophiles usually begin their pattern of behavior while still teens. The vast majority of child molesters are male, and most sexual abusers were sexually abused as children.
- According to research, an average pedophile will offend 200–400 times before being caught, if ever. The vast majority of offenders do not get caught, and they have no criminal records.
- Rather than appearing to be “monsters,” perpetrators are charming and friendly. After gaining widespread trust, they eventually put themselves in situations and organizations where they have not only easy access to, but also free rein over children.
- Teen/adult child molesters exploit their size and status to influence and control a child’s behavior, enticing the child into sexual activity.
A note about victims.
- Pedophiles particularly seek out shy and naive children; children with disabilities; and children who are experiencing loneliness, emotional neglect or alienation.
- Even children who are getting attention and affection at home still appreciate it from others in their lives.
- Many working parents are desperate for readily available babysitters and those offering extra free attention to their children. Molesters know and take advantage of this.
- Know Where Your Kids Are & Who They Are With At All Times!
- Children who are not educated about child molesters are the most vulnerable of all.
Most cases we hear of are about abuse of minors. The Weberman, Kolko, YU, and other horrific cases are known to have happened to children. However, there is another category of sexual abuse that occurs with people 18 and older. This happens when trusted authority figures, rabbi, counselor, teacher, therapist etc., use their positions and the trust they engender to take advantage of those who rely on them. As in the case with Moshe Katsav, former President of Israel and Mordechai Alon, a well loved and trusted Rav and scholar of tremendous renown, a sexual abuser can be those we would least suspect: men of intelligence, charm, good standing and respect. As horrible as it is to think these things are possible, it is far worse to deal with the repercussions of not doing so.
Here is testimony from a young woman who recognized that something was not right when counseling sessions with her Rabbi became bizarre. Though she escaped physical abuse, her experiences left her shaken and traumatized. It is worth reading to see the progression of the ‘relationship’ and the triggers that warned her off.
We want to think it won’t happen. We want to think it doesn’t happen. But it does. The Jewish religious world is becoming more aware of the damage, repercussions and needs of victims. It is a slow and painful awakening, but it is vital.
Victims need and deserve our love and support. Perpetrators need and deserve justice and to be removed from the ability to harm. The more we speak about it, the more we write about it, the more we stand against it, the greater chance we have of preventing it.
Each and every one of us should support organizations, laws, policies and people who work to eradicate this phenomenon.
On behalf of Chochmat Nashim, we urge you go to your children’s school, your rabbi, your shul, youth group, community center, etc. and spread education, awareness and willingness to talk about this subject. The more open we are about it, the more aware, the fewer opportunities perpetrators will have to abuse and the more courage victims will have to report it.
This is not just about sex abuse. This is about community and our responsibility to get involved when something is wrong. Even when we don’t see it happening . Especially when we don’t see it happening.
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For further information on sexual abuse see: