Silence is NOT Golden!

There is no excuse. Plain and simple–there is NO excuse.

Over the past many weeks, it seems that the online and print media have carried numerous stories of children who were sexually abused and people who knew and didn’t report the incidents.  Excuses for not reporting ranged from a person not wanting to get involved, to the (insane!) reason of the potential damage to a chance for a shiduch (marriage match) for a member of the family of the victim or the offender.

Every time an offense is known about and goes unreported, there are terrible ramifications: The victim is once again victimized by NOT having been protected; the abuser is “free” to molest again; the abuser will (statistically) abuse others beyond their “current” victim; the abused potentially grows up to abuse others.

So, let’s set the record straight. We are guided by the Shulchan Aruch–the Code of Jewish Law. If one opens the Shulchan Aruch and looks at Choshen Mishpat 388, it becomes abundantly clear what the responsibility is of one who knows about abuse that is being perpetrated. If one reads  the commentators (both the Sha”ch and the Me’irat Enayim) on subsections 7 and 12– with the associated comments–one will see immediately what is required of us by Jewish LAW.


Let’s just take one “excuse” for non-reporting and take it to its (il)logical conclusion. A child is being abused by an offender.  An adult becomes aware of this abuse and approaches a family and tells them NOT to proceed with reporting it to the authorities. When questioned by the family as to “why not report?” they are told, “Your family will have problems getting a shiduch for his/her siblings.”  Or, just as terrible–they are told that the family of the abuser will be embarrassed and have trouble finding a match for their kids.

What if instead of sexual abuse, the case was that someone was walking around with a baseball bat hitting young children over  their heads. Would people be told in those cases not to report? Would they feel that it would be a source of an embarrassment to the family to report the offender ? Would they be concerned that the family of the victims would have trouble finding a shiduch. Of course not! No one would hesitate to stop THAT form of abuse.

And yet, when it comes to sexual abuse, people zip their lips, keep their mouths shut and make sure that victims and their families do the same. And more kids get hurt; and more kids lives are ruined and the cycle of abuse continues. All because someone was afraid that mentioning the words “sexual abuse” would ruin someone’s chance for a match.

What about the OPPOSITE thought? Would you want to make a match for your child with the child of someone who KNOWINGLY prevented an abuser from being reported?

People, it is time to wake up. These are innocent children being harmed.  Silence in these cases is the DIRECT cause of the child continuing to be hurt.  Silence is the DIRECT cause of other children being hurt.

To those who prefer to keep silent I say: While you are sitting there wringing your hands over a shiduch for YOUR child, know that ANOTHER person’s child is having his life ruined because of your silence.

About the Author
After living in Chicago for 50 years, the last 10 of which Zev Shandalov served as a shul Rav and teacher in local Orthodox schools, his family made Aliya to Maale Adumim in July 2009. Shandalov currently works as a teacher, mostly interacting with individual students.