Friday, September 05, 2008

Sexual Abuse and the Shtetl

Another child abuse allegation surfaced within the community, this time spilling out beyond the narrow confinements of the Shtetl and into the secular newspapers. It isn’t the first time, after the Catholic clergy’s guarded muck became public it was only a matter of time before our distressed young found the courage to come forward. Many did. Though the latest story involves a Chasidic teacher, a rebbe in our own schools. As usual, the many friends of the alleged perpetrator vouch venomously for his innocence. They may be right, and hopefully the court will be able to sort that out. However, what many people miss in child molestation cases is that most of the time the perpetrator will have a kind and loving persona, the type that kids gravitate to. Kids run from boogiemen and nervous preachers, they like the candy-giving smile-sharing caring type, confusing them with real love, with real care. Sexual mistreatment is prevalent in out community. Only the apologetic, the one who when biased enough can deny the existence of pre-historic artifacts, can claim otherwise. If the numbers are comparable to the outside, more than, less than, is undebatable, for no one can keep records on hidden facts; what is arguable is why? Why can a community so puritanical in theory spawn such frivolous behavior? I think the answers are many pronged, I have thought about it often, either when thinking about my own kids or every so often when it pains me to see friends dabbling with sad affairs and blaming it on childhood abuse. (It is even sadder that their blame is real, for how an incident shapes the mind of a youngster the grown ups are live testimony.) The fact that our kids have zero sexual knowledge and have no biology education contributes a lot. I wonder if there is another culture in the world that feels the need to teach their children on the day they get married what they are supposed to do at night. Granted, for many it won’t be shocking, but I can assure you that the number of boys that are stunned enough to faint or react badly is larger than one might expect for such an instinctive behavior. Can you fault the rabbis? Just the other day I spoke with someone outside of our circle who repeated what she heard, presumably from a victim, that blamed the hypocritical Orthodox authorities who look away at the horrible molestation that happens in our midst. I can hardly blame someone who felt the pain first hand who feels like that, and since hypocrisy is a feeling, a perception of sorts, I can have no say perhaps, but I still believe, in general, that those detesting the rabbinical authorities are those who chose to believe in them at the first place. They are human beings, just like you and me. In fact, their gravitation to power is quite the indication of their imperfection to begin with. In reality, such an incident, when proven, is extremely shameful for the perpetrator, to such an extent that the kids marriageable prospects are shattered, the worst punishment in our society. Perhaps because of this there is an immense pressure to silence such allegations and are dealt with internally—in an exceptionally unsuccessful manner. What happens is that these monsters, after being warned, try it again, this time being more conniving. The result is rarely a happy ending, more accurately the kids grow up and then deal with the Vaa’ds and the Mishmeress and the rest of them, whose obsession with sex might very well be a result of molestation too. Go figure. Some kids, those blessed with strength or short memories, or whatever it is that makes them not act out, can hide their torturous thoughts indefinitely. Those who don’t, suffer from anxiety, depression, and a host of other ills that some non-thinking nitwits within the community take as a sign of the bearers irritable lies. That is what causes the abuser to feel safe amongst us, and that I hope, for our sake alone, will be eradicated. I want to see a Kolko, or a Monderowitz in jail. I want to see them suffer and deter future abusers from tampering with our precious kids.

20 comments:

  1. You are absolutely right, and these Rabbi's can yell and scream all they like, but molestation is an enormous problem in the community, and the few instances that make the light of day are just the tip of the iceberg.

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  2. "Why can a community so puritanical in theory spawn such frivolous behavior?"

    Why can a community so religious in theory spawn such atheists?

    No person is perfect and no community is perfect. We are probably 100 times better however than anyone else, Hella Winston's sour grapes aside.

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  3. All valid points. I might add my theory the reason why it's so hard or our people to acknowledge this issue, since it proves that the dimensions of sin are much more complicated than the Reishis Chucma puts it, and even a man who guards his eyes and thoughts can be a real Sheigetz. It undermines the entire basis for Tzenuis. What do you think?

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  4. Shtreimel,

    Regarding your observation at the end of this post that:

    Some kids, those blessed with strength or short memories, or whatever it is that makes them not act out, can hide their torturous thoughts indefinitely. Those who don’t, suffer from anxiety, depression, and a host of other ills that some non-thinking nitwits within the community take as a sign of the bearers irritable lies.

    I thought you might want to check out an interesting article about the genetic source of a person's psychological resiliencef. I've found it really helpful in giving me some empathy for people who don't seem to be as resilient as I am.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/30/magazine/30abuse.html?scp=4&sq=depression,%20gene&st=cse

    (If the link dosen't work, the title is "A Question of Resilience").

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  5. 1) I’m not shocked at the revelation.
    2) Why on earth was this guy back? UTA has gone nuts!
    3) I wonder who will end-up burdening the 50M.
    4) The Englemen’s show unconditional love for Joel; rare in the community for a shaigetz.
    5) Things will eventually change, but gradually. It will take a dozen or so of such stories.

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  6. I too have grown tired of the cover ups and excuses. I have personally witnessed a handful of friends who went through this ordeal and even included a little of my experience with the Baruch Lanar case in my blog I’m done making excuse (it’s hidden somewhere near the bottom half.) Whether it affects 1000 kids or “just” a 100, any number is too much for any community. Spousal abuse, child abuse and drug abuse are universal problems and we need to address it rather then proclaim how much less of it we have then the “goys.” I challenge anyone (we know who that is) to look in the eyes of a child who was molested and say, “No person is perfect and no community is perfect. We are probably 100 times better however than anyone else.” See how much that comforts the victim. Disease of the mind affects all and cannot hide behind the Torah.

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  7. I challenge anyone to point out where on my blog I recommended that homosexuals, whatever the age of their partners, not be punished.

    Saying "there are few Jewish criminals" has no connection with "Jewish criminals should not be punished". It was because I don't have time to deal with crazy comments like this that I began moderating comments.

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  8. SG and the Raz,
    The most important point IMO, the one that many fail to recognize, is that the rabbis or the men of power don’t look favorable on child molesters, just as they wouldn’t condone other sexual deviances. They do however, deal with is in the most unproductive manner, relying on ancient texts (such as without penetration there is no basis for real punishment etc.) or on ancient remedies (“here, see this as a warning”). It is their refusal to involve the authorities with real power (i.e. the goyim - the DA, the cops) that keeps this issue alive and painful.

    Not Jewish,
    We are probably 100 times better however than anyone else

    Not that I expect a coherent answer (without referring to your own smut as reference) but your bias is obvious; what do you base your assumption on?

    Renaissance,
    “The Englemen’s show unconditional love for Joel; rare in the community for a shaigetz”

    I noticed it too, and found it amazing. Kudos to his parents who put their natural love for a child above their love for the torah.

    Sharon,
    Interesting indeed. Makes me want to check my genes!

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  9. JP,
    Whoever said so?

    would you condone punishing those who "just" fondling kids without penetration or ejaculation - contrary to halacha?

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  10. Reb Velvel,
    You have a keen observation. The story goes that when the askonim talked about organizing a bus for people traveling into the city, lest they feast on the pritsuz at the subway, one person said to the previous Satmar rebbe that as a daily commuter he can assure the rebbe that there isn’t really anything extraordinary going on in the closed subway cars that merits a bus. The rebbe turned around to him and said “woe to the person that is so immersed in shmutz that these views don’t even mean anything to him”.

    It is true; think of yourself as a young bucher (or myself for that matter) on the NY subway in the morning. Hormonal kids who are trained not to look at woman in the eye, talk shyly to them – only if absolutely needed and with no physical contact – not even a handshake, the mare presence of a mini skirt could work wonders. Years of riding the subway have worked their toll on me, sadly I’m immunized to this, and yes, my mind doesn’t see every mini skirt as a potential "eveireh".

    The backlash of tzenius!

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  11. would you condone punishing those who "just" fondling kids without penetration or ejaculation - contrary to halacha?

    Probably.

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  12. Frankly, I kind of doubt that any gay men just fondle kids, like straight men don't just fondle women.

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  13. The stop at fondling if they are caught in time which all too often they are not. It’s kind of a warm up, typically they test the waters each time pushing it a little further to see how far they can go.

    As for “probably” your answer Mr. Stein should be absolutely!

    And it’s not so much about equating “few Jewish criminal” with “not punishing them” as much as it is about communities in general (Catholic, Orthodox Jews, Amish, etc) trying to cover up this disease and focusing on the positive low number (if even that could be proven) instead of focusing on the fact that any number is unacceptable. It’s as if a fire burnt down my house and I rejoiced that only one of my 8 or so of my family members died. Losing one is a tragedy and there really is no reason to put a positive spin on it.

    I don’t believe any Rabbi, or decent individual for that matter, ever condones such a behavior. It is just that when those incidents are discovered, our community seems to weigh in the public embarrassment it will cause, the perpetrators status/image and past community service all get taken into account when the welfare of the victim and the safety of others need to be the ONLY concern. We need to send a clear cut message that echoes through every kollel, yeshiva and shul that this behavior will not be tolerated and no amount of Torah knowledge will save the abuser.

    BTW, I noticed that Mr. Stein linked his homesexual blog. I’m curious, why he assumed it was the case of a man to boy interaction and if his policy of “probably punishing” them would also be relevant if the act ‘only’ occurred between a Rabbi and a girl? JP if you’re reading this, is male/boy child abuse a worse offense then male/girl abuse or are they equally despicable and punishable?

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  14. The Orthodox community doesn't tolerate any sex outside marriage. I don't understand what this nonsense is about "we have to stop rabbis from having sex with students". We have to stop anybody from having sex outside marriage.

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  15. Frankly, I kind of doubt that any gay men just fondle kids, like straight men don't just fondle women.

    Projecting your own fantasies?

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  16. Do you think I should fondle gay kids or female rabbis? That's outrageous.

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  17. JP:""Why can a community so puritanical in theory spawn such frivolous behavior?"

    Why can a community so religious in theory spawn such atheists?"

    They're for the same reason. Embrace of the ritual over the ethics. Embrace of the rules over the reasons for the rules. The reasons are simple and the rules more or less (in theory) descend from them based on application to situation.

    BUT, this is guaranteed to eventually be unworkable as until a law is constructed to give a flashcard simple answer, anything that you can get away with is the rule. Look at secular governmental law. We know right from wrong in theory, but unless a law is written to cover it, we do whatever we can get away with.

    The result is more laws on the books than anyone can keep track of and enforce, guaranteeing things falling through cracks, showing not only the imperfection of the system but the growing ineffectiveness and irrelevance of the system, thus generating contempt for that system, weakening it further.

    So it's either let your conscience be your guide or wait till the rabbonim write up ten thousand more laws to cover everything that never existed at the time of the temple or Sinai.

    "Is it permitted to fax a facsimile ketubah via unsecured Internet connection to a fax by Internet service for proofing purposes to a party whose number you're guessing at and if so and they don't respond do you go ahead with that as the finished form?"

    When common sense and thinking and feeling for yourself is replaced by others doing it for you, what do you do while you wait in line for them to do that?

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  18. This reminded me of the case recently in Israel - Rebbetzin Bruria Keren's arrest on sexual and physical abuse charges of her children. Two of children were commiting incest and the Rabbis knew it but never reported it or sent the children for pyschiatric and medical help. Instead they told them not to tell anyone else.

    My question is - shouldn't they also be held legally accountable, for having such knowledge but not taking appropriate legal action? I know this is an Israeli case, and their laws may be different, but still, it's so heartwrenching and sick.

    How can their spiritual and community leaders allow this to happen? It's beyond protecting your own kind. By ignoring or hiding or turning a blind eyes to it, they are just as guilty and might as well be doing the act to these children themselves.

    I found this website that might be of some interest and perhaps help someone.

    http://www.theawarenesscenter.org/

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  19. Window dear, the sick people you mentioned lived on the fringes of society, they would be on the fringes of every society.

    People in our community would sure cry for help when their own kids are having an incestuous relationship. It's the kind of help that they seek and are given that put us to shame.

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  20. But you missed my point. The point is the cover-up.

    And why do you think a child that is suffering from incest and child suffering from sexual molestation is any different? The predators are different, but the mental and physcial repercussions that these victims are suffering from are not.

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