Religion no excuse for sexual abuse…

This morning the Sydney Morning Herald, reported on the sentencing of Daniel “Gug” Hayman, who was accused and found guilty of abusing a 14 year old boy nearly twenty years ago. Unfortunately due to a number of legal constraints the sentence amounted to 19 months suspended sentence.

In the hearing, Magistrate David Williams and the court heard that Hayman’s strict religious upbringing created sexual naivety which in turn played a part in his abusing of this poor child.

Let’s get it straight, this was a bad person, who did something terrible, to someone that couldn’t fight back, and who couldn’t rewind history to reverse his situation or change his outcome. It happened, and Hayman abused his position, plain and simple he abused.

It saddens me that a court of law has to hear the evidence that states that a religious upbringing could be the cause of such heinous acts.

My very fiber wants me to stand up and scream that this is not religion’s fault, rather this is the act of a pervert. But unfortunately, I think our current state of religious development could in part have something to do with these unfortunate events that continue to crop up in the international media.

We need to get real about sexual education and the sexual health of our community. I am not talking about poorly put together explanations of male and female anatomy, nor how to reproduce, or about safe-sex talks. What I am talking about is general conversation of the importance of sexuality within our lives, the fact that it is a Torah value, the fact that we are born as male or female and that we have differences.

We need Rabbis and teachers who don’t shy away from anatomy instruction, or who utilize Talmudic or biblical metaphors and euphemisms, or who prefer to shrug away the hard questions so that someone else can push them away down the line, problems which occur even at our most modern institutions.

If we continue to rely on isolationist policies of closed communities we are destined to continue breeding another generation of sexual naïve men and women, whom for the most part will continue status quo. But for the extreme fringe who might utilize their ‘naivety’ to justify their acts of abuse or experimentation down the line – we cannot allow any opening that leaves us, the leaders of our community, with any further blame.

Long gone should the days be where a judge says that it is because of our community and the way we raise our children that enhances the chance of abuse, or provides an excuse for such acts.

About the Author
Rabbi, community developer, father; living life and shaking it up!! Originally from New Zealand, lived in the Big Apple, short stint in Canberra and now residing in Sydney. Alon is the Rabbi of Or Chadash Synagogue and the Director of Programs at Shalom, as well as a doctoral student at LaTrobe University. He writes on the daily study of Daf Yomi on Instagram @insta_talmud Website: