Michael J. Salamon

Who Warns and Protects the Children from Abuse

Several years ago, I was told by a man who at the time was in his mid-20’s, that when he was nine-year-old camper at a sleep away summer camp he would wear three pairs of shorts or bathing suits under his trousers to make it that much more difficult for his learning rebbe to touch his genitals. I have heard that strategy used by young male campers repeated often over the years. It may make it more difficult for the offender to achieve his objective of molesting a young child, but it does not dissuade them from continuing to achieve that goal.

I just heard again today from a young man who used the same strategy when he was a camper. I told him that I was amazed how many such young people were able to create such a superficial but somewhat effective technique to protect themselves. He told me that an older camper suggested the use of so many layers when he saw that he might be a victim of the same abuse that he had experienced when he was a younger camper. The strategy to protect oneself seems to be a clandestine one handed down from older campers to vulnerable younger ones.

I wondered aloud why not just report the abuser and have him or her evicted from the camp and sent to jail. He responded “It’s just the way it is and will always be. Even after all the promises that the camps make, they still keep hiring people like that. And no one wants to talk to the police.”

I wish I could say that I was shocked by the response this young man said. I have spent decades working with people who have been abused and am very much aware of the dynamics of the abuse cycle, how organizations may protect themselves over the needs of those they service and how communities, especially certain insular ones, still refuse to accept the reality of child sexual abuse and as a result promise to protect but in reality, do little. Still, with parents increasingly aware of the need to protect their children, one wonders why these rituals continue. It is fair to say that there are protections in place in many camps and schools and there is an increase in reporting abusers to the proper authorities. In some locations though that is not the case.

In several recent cases prominent community members have spoken out against reporting abusers. Even when an abuser is arrested, charged, and convicted the abuser is often praised as a valuable member of the community who, according to their supporters, never did anything that they were charged with. The Malka Leifer situation is a case in point. It took many years of intense advocacy to move the allegations of her abuse to a hearing. She was defended, protected and at times even hidden by a false defense of cognitive decline by prominent officials before she was ultimately extradited to Australia to be tried. Hers is but one of many hundreds, perhaps thousands of cases, awaiting their day in court. Some of those may never make it to their day of reckoning because institutional leaders do not want to expose their organizations to legal consequences, so they employ legal delay tactics.

Therapeutically there are techniques to aid survivors, but the legal system is slow and institutional interventions are even slower. While there are organizations and some skilled attorneys working to assist survivors’ vindication and validation for the survivors of abuse is hard to come by as a result. And because of this systemic sluggishness abusers may be caught but will manage to escape, and go on to other institutions to find victims. Perhaps the only concrete defense is the word of mouth passed down from the older campers to the younger ones.

About the Author
Dr. Michael Salamon ,a fellow of the American Psychological Association, is an APA Presidential Citation Awardee for his 'transformative work in raising awareness of the prevention and treatment of childhood sexual abuse". He is the founder and director of ADC Psychological Services in New York and Netanya, the author of numerous articles, several psychological tests and books including "The Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures" (Urim Publications), "Every Pot Has a Cover" (University Press of America) and "Abuse in the Jewish Community: Religious and Communal Factors that Undermine the Apprehension of Offenders and the Treatment of Victims."
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