Sometimes, things disturb me because they are heretical, based on faulty logic, raise more questions than they answer, or seem to be ‘off-base’ somehow, Jewishly-speaking. This book disturbed me – tremendously – because it had the unmistakable ring of truth, and that truth was being voiced by many different orthodox Jews, across the whole range of experience.
There were the shocking stories of the chareidi teenage boys who were groomed by the frum abusers who were meant to be teaching them Torah, or barmitzvah lessons; there were the impassioned cries from therapists of every stripe for the frum world to stop burying it’s head in the sand and to admit there is a huge problem going on; and there were also a couple of articles by orthodox rabbis, struggling to wake their rabbinic colleagues out of their comas, and to get to grips with a tidal wave of abuse that is sweeping thousands, and maybe even tens of thousands, of victims away each year.
There was also lots of uncomfortable facts, and lots of halachic sources on the legal implications (according to Torah law) of things like investigating verbal reports of abuse in a way that met the requirements for lashon hara (evil speech), as well as how to deal with the perpetrators and the victims.
Here’s an example of an uncomfortable fact: the city with the biggest incidence of child sexual abuse in Israel is…Bnei Brak. The combination of loads of kids (many of whom are not supervised by adults a lot of the time), the naivete of a community that still won’t believe that ‘those types of things happen in my neighborhood’, and the denial, cover-up and forced silence that all too often swallows up the victim of these crimes in the frum world – even when they try to get help to stop the abuse from occurring – has created a perfect storm for abuse to flourish in many of our ‘frummest’ neighbourhoods.
Here’s another uncomfortable fact: time and again after the abuse comes to light, the people in positions of authority in the frum world fail to validate the victims, and continue to go to great lengths to ‘save’ the perpetrator’s reputation and ability to earn a living.
Now, if pedophiles only ever attacked one kid their whole life, maybe there would be some justification for the whitewash (and that’s still a big maybe…) But here’s yet another uncomfortable fact: once caught and exposed, each pedophile is found to have molested a large number of victims over the course of their ‘career’, with the average number being around 150 children per offender.
Spiritually-speaking, child abuse is probably pretty much the worse sin there is. What makes it so morally corrupting in the extreme is that children who are abused, especially sexually abused, then go on to have a much higher rate of becoming child abusers themselves. And this is especially true for sexually-abused children who didn’t receive the communal support and adult help they needed to validate their feelings, deal with their experiences, and bring the offenders to justice.
And that, dear reader, is a huge reason why child abuse is reaching epidemic proportions in the frum community. If you do the maths yourself, you’ll see we have a ticking time-bomb on our hands.
I know these aren’t comfortable things to read, but we have to pull our head out of the sand and deal with reality. In the next post, I want to share an excerpt from one of the essays in the book that really blew me away.