Yesterday was the 17th of Tamuz, when we traditionally fast and start the three-week period of mourning for the destruction of Jerusalem and the first and second Holy Temples. It is a time for introspection about the nature of our relationships with one another and G-d. Unfortunately, we are living in a time when many Jewish people are “destroyed” from various forms of abuse: physical, verbal, and emotional.
This frequently occurs to those that are more vulnerable in society (e.g., exploited children). It is especially tragic that children — those that are still innocent and defenseless — are made to suffer at the hands of those that are bigger, stronger, and authority figures in their lives (teachers, clergy, etc.).
At the time, the child may not even fully know or understand what has occurred to them. And the other grown-ups may not take the child seriously or even want to believe them. “The child is just being childish!” “Maybe the child is playing a practical joke?” “The child just may be coming to terms with their own sexuality.” But also, maybe it’s more convenient not to believe the child–who wants to think that these bad things really happen and perhaps by people that we otherwise hold on societal and religious pedestals?
The more denials and circling the wagon: “It couldn’t have happened,” “But the person who is being accused would NEVER do such a horrible thing,” or “We weren’t there and don’t know what REALLY happened.” But the child who was there and suffered at the dirty hands of the perpetrator does know, deep down, what happened, and the scars of the abuse are there forever. The violation, the broken trust, the sick use and abuse, and typically the lies and the shame.
But remember, they are the children! We are the adults. We are entrusted to protect the children. This is basic humanity–and I should say even “normal” animals protect their young. The sick dogs of the animal kingdom eat their young, so the strong survive. We are not supposed to be dog-eat-dog animals, because G-d gave us a soul, a conscience, and a Torah. We know right and wrong or we definitely should. Therefore, it stands for us to protect the innocent children, the defenseless, and our future.
At the most basic level:
- Listen (carefully), empathize, and be supportive.
- Don’t be dismissive, make assumptions, or jump to conclusions.
- Yes, everyone deserves a fair hearing and for the facts to be known.
- No, we can’t as a community run from this uncomfortable issue any longer!
Thankfully, states like New York have passed laws like the Child’s Victims Act that extend the statue of limitations for child sexual abuse claims, and this takes effect next month on August 14, 2019, so finally justice for the many victims can sought.
For those out there that are indeed the worst animals amongst us–sneaking, deceitful, and pretending for so long that they are upright when they did harm and abuse to the children–justice, justice in this world and the next.