|Articles: Child Sexual Abuse|
Child Sexual Abuse in Our Community
|OHEL clarifies two important facts regarding the article that appeared in The Jewish Week of 8th May 2009.|
|OHEL Was Invited By and Spoke To The Passaic Community |
OHEL was invited by Rabbis and community leaders to the Passaic community to discuss prevention and response to sexual abuse. This evening was precipitated by Stefan Colmer moving into the Passaic community. The evening, attended by 400 people, provided very specific information to parents, community leaders and local Rabbis on how parents can speak to their children and what a community can do to be safe.
|Statement Concerning Mandated Reporting |
As with doctors and lawyers, the confidentiality relationship between a therapist and client can only be broken in extremely rare and prescribed circumstances.
Section 413 of NY State Social Services Law
Mental Hygiene Law
OHEL fully complies with New York state laws, including those related to mandated reporting. OHEL provides information and support to victims and parents, enabling them to report to the police instances of sexual abuse. OHEL cooperates with police and prosecutors in any investigation.
The questions that OHEL, and we all must ask are 1) What can be done to increase awareness and prevention?, 2) What can be done to increase reporting? and 3) What can be done, and should be done, to protect the community from convicted and paroled molesters, as well as alleged offenders who have neither a prior conviction or are facing any charges, but who live amongst us?
It is the objective of this paper, to further a community dialogue among community leaders, Rabbis, parents, educators, legislators, law enforcement and social service agencies and to deliver an agenda of action that is a resounding call for expansive responsibilities that protect our children, families and communities.
OHEL AND HISTORY OF ENGAGEMENT
OHEL's RESPECT Program on Sexual Abuse focuses on the areas of: Respect, Education, Safety from sexual abuse, Prevention, Evaluation, Consultation, Treatment.
OHEL has provided numerous seminars on "Sexual Abuse Prevention and Safety" across the New York area, as well as the communities of Passaic, Teaneck, Los Angeles, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Miami, Baltimore, and Ottawa. So too, OHEL has collaborated awareness efforts with the Jewish Family Services (JFS) in many communities.
OHEL regularly provides intense clinical training workshops to professionals in private practice and to those working in other agencies. OHEL has additionally published a significant number of articles, and produced many awareness and educational videos.
Thousands of copies have been distributed to parents, and educational institutions nationwide, as well as Canada, England and Israel.
Most importantly, OHEL has treated victims of child sexual abuse, and helped them and their families rebuild their lives.
At the request of the Rabbinic Administrative Board of Torah Umesorah, Rabbi Professor Aaron Twerski, Esquire and David Mandel, CEO of OHEL drafted a set of Behavioral Standards and Guidelines that were subsequently adopted.
Most recently OHEL has been a community partner with Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes and the Project Kol Tzedek, an initiative to encourage victims to report abuse.
A CURRENT OVERVIEW: LACK OF AWARENESS
"It happens in synagogues - imagine that" - these are the words of HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Shlita in OHEL's video "Ignorance Is Not Bliss" about sexual abuse in the Jewish Community.
Child sexual abuse is still a subject that many in our community simply do not discuss. For some, being more open in confronting such abuse is a public admission of some malignancy within Jewish Orthodoxy itself.
It is not. It is merely a reality that child sexual abuse affects all people of all backgrounds and all communities - and the Jewish Orthodox community is no different. It exists, it is not going away, we must talk about it, and we must collectively, more fervently address this challenge.
As Susan Schulman, M.D. remarks in OHEL's latest awareness video," There is no epidemic of child sexual abuse, but there is an occurrence that does not decrease by denying it."
Secrecy is our worst enemy. While we can never completely rid ourselves of such abuse in our community, ignorance, denial or inaction provide such abuse with a more fertile environment.
It is simply no longer tolerable.
Secrecy, shame and stigma compromise the safety of our children.
A CURRENT OVERVIEW: LACK OF REPORTING
Over 90% of child sexual abuse cases are never reported to the police. In more insular communities, such as the Jewish Orthodox community, the reporting rate is even lower.
The acute sense of personal shame, and the danger that a family may forever be stigmatized are cultural factors that contribute to a lack of reporting to the police. Such influences may range from apathy and indifference to anger and protest, from the worst neglect to an overstated ability to create a perfectly safe environment without fear or danger.
If protecting our children is our absolute priority, we need a dramatic change of mind-set.
The simple fact is that until more child sexual abusers are identified, charged, sentenced and consequentially monitored through state sexual crime prevention systems, our communities can never be as safe as they should and must be.
One can only imagine the horror faced by a parent on learning of such a crime, then wrestling with a decision to report or not to report and their knowledge that another child could be sexually abused by their inaction.
We need to strive towards a new dawn, where a parent believes that identifying and pursuing charges is not only the right thing to do, but finds a community that is unanimously supportive of such a resolve, and grateful for the arduous and very public efforts of that family in making the protection of other children their priority.
AN IMPERFECT SYSTEM
That most perpetrators do not go to jail is not a Jewish phenomenon.
Former Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro was noted for her aggressive pursuit of pedophiles. In six years of sting operations,1999-2005, she succeeded in having 111 men arrested with a 100% conviction rate. However, the overwhelming majority received probation, with only eight perpetrators sentenced to jail.
OHEL would be the first to acknowledge that the current systems which all social service organizations must operate within - are not perfect.
OHEL would welcome expanded mandatory reporting laws.
But until that happens, OHEL must naturally comply with all existing statutes, as like any other social service organization.
There has also been much news coverage of proposed reforms to child sexual abuse legislation. OHEL welcomes this too.
While OHEL can provide a perspective on such issues, these are fundamentally issues that the state legislature grapples with. At the end of the day, OHEL's work is in safeguarding the community and providing a defensive wall between our children and the cycle of child sexual abuse.
A TIME FOR ACTION
Individuals, communities and organizations have a responsibility to be much more proactive.
OHEL offers the following practical suggestions.
- Parents should speak to their children about prevention and response
- OHEL has authored a number of articles on abuse and prevention with leaders in the field. Visit ohelfamily.org for more.
That the Jewish Orthodox community is now more actively talking about child sexual abuse is welcome. However, the need for words that translate into collective action is paramount.
While OHEL has been actively addressing the area of child sexual abuse for years within our community, profound change can only come from the collective will of more willing partners.
It is a time for a dramatic change of mind-set and action.
For the sake of our children.