It is not yet 9 a.m. EST Wednesday September 17, 2019, and I must have received over 100 emails, texts and phone calls about the arrest of the middle school associate principal of Judaic Studies at the SAR yeshiva day school in Riverdale, NY. According to reports, the rabbi was arrested for the production of child pornography by the NYPD Sex Crimes Task Force and the FBI.
It is horrific! Unimaginable! Frightening!
The reports indicate that the rabbi allegedly admitted to as many as 20 to 25 violations of child pornography. And at least one 14-year-old at SAR may have been one of the victims. At this moment we are awaiting the official complaint against him.
Not every case of molestation and abuse can be stopped, but we should commend the SAR administration for their best practice response. They are doing everything correctly — open and above board. They have scheduled meetings with parents and students and have a team of mental health professionals assisting.
As far as preventing future such situations there is no test to weed out abusers that is 100% accurate — or for that matter even 50% accurate. What we do know is that we must teach our children to let us know, not be afraid to tell us, if something inappropriate is happening to them. The biggest problem is that children are too afraid to open up. We also know that child sexual offenders are less likely to choose children to victimize who are assertive and self-protective. Parents are responsible to educate their children for appropriate self-care and protection.
Molesters often choose to work in environments where they have access to children to victimize but they may take as many as 18 months before acting on their impulse to abuse. It may be impossible to know in a school which teacher is a child molester until a child comes forward and reports an incident that may have occurred. It is then incumbent on the school to report that incident to the appropriate authorities to be investigated by professionals trained to do so.
It is quite possible that an offender abused in a school where they worked previously but no incident was ever reported. On the other hand, we have seen several cases where abusers have been terminated from a school position because of rumors that they have offended but have ended up in another school simply because of the mistaken desire for secrecy and communal disbelief of the charges. We must be vigilant to the fact that the overwhelming percentage of cases reported by children of molestation or attempted abuse are legitimate and require investigation. This is just one reason why offenders are able to molest as many as several hundred victims before they are reported.
For those who want to read more about the state of the art I refer you to the Australian Institute of Criminology report entitled Adult Sex Offenders in youth-oriented institutions: Evidence on sexual victimization experiences of offenders and their offending patterns. We are learning more as we investigate but because the nature of the crime is so sensitive and is perpetuated against the young and naïve, we are still not where we should be in prosecuting offenders. We must as adults do more to inform children and not be afraid ourselves to report our suspicions that abuse may be occurring.