Insularity breeds a form of arrogance. Arrogance not in the sense of conceit or even superiority, rather in the sense of overconfidence. Overconfidence that things that are awry can and should be handled internally, only by those in charge of the governance of the culture and certainly not by an objective outsider.
When it comes to sexual abuse it remains the norm. Only when the media become involved will the police be summoned. Otherwise, the information is handled and buried internally.
Just last week it was reported that a French Cardinal, Jean-Pierre Ricard, admitted that he had behaved reprehensibly with a 14-year-old girl several decades ago. His admission came one year after a report issued by a commission set up at the request of the French Church into abuse by leaders of the Roman Catholic Church found that clergy members in France abused over 200,000 minors since 1950. Add Jean-Pierre to that list. He, perhaps out of a late onset of guilt, came forward to add his own name to the list. If the commission missed him how many more were missed?
It is quite rare for an abuser to ever admit to his abusive behavior. Do not place much confidence in an organization that is confident that it can police itself, even independently. Cases can always be missed but independent evaluators tend to be more rigid in their investigations than internal, organizational reviewers often are.
I bring up this French Cardinal because it reaffirms what we see in two cases that came across my desk just a few days after reading about the Cardinal. One of the cases in Israel and one in the US. The situation in Israel involved the leader of the Noam party, Zvi Tau, who was accused by two individuals of sexual abuse. Some of the reports are 40 years old. Forty years later it is coming out, in part because it may have been initially minimized. The other situation included several accusations and current charges against an individual accused with having child pornography on his computers. The fact that William Zev Steen was involved with more than one girl’s school in Baltimore, and it was found that there were charges of rape and sex abuse of a minor against him dating back to 2005 did not seem to prevent him from becoming a teacher in one school and Director in the other.
Putting aside the fact that statute of limitations has passed and likely that when it was first reported it may have been dismissed or ignored there is an ongoing pattern of concealing information about abusers within an insular community. It is true that victims of child sex abuse do not usually report what happened to them for many years out of fear that they will not be believed, being revictimized or any number of other personal reservations. But my concern includes the notion, and I concede that it may not a provable fact but a reasonable and serious notion, that someone in the community knew that something was amiss with these individuals, the Cardinal and the two in our communities. After all, abusers do not just abuse a single victim, they set up a community, they abuse more than one victim, and they almost always leave a trail. What does it take to acknowledge the possibility that an individual has abused? Does it have to take 10 or 40 years until someone comes forward to say they were abused before the abuser is exposed?
While writing this piece I just received another report of an abuser Chaim Halperin. This one in the UK, Chaim Halperin. But I also received word that the “preeminent” Hareidi Rabbi of England, Rav Zimmerman, has commented about the abuser by name and recounted the fact that his abusive behavior was known years ago. Many people refused to believe it and gave him a pass. As expected, when an abuser has supporters, the abuser will continue molesting. It is surely time for our communities to stop believing abusers. To start believing victims of abuse. To allow the authorities the ability to perform the necessary investigations and charges to remove these heinous individuals. But that can only happen if we are worldly enough, and aware enough that we cannot do it on our own.