Orthodox face 'double whammy' in reporting child sex abuse
Friday, 23 July 2010 19:17 Asher Lipner
OPINION: An Orthodox couple from Lakewood are very special and heroic people. When they found out that their son was molested by a rabbi, they confronted the rabbi and got him to admit it.
But when the rabbi became defiant and would not go to therapy or agree to leave the synagogue, they went to the police and had him arrested.
The mother has said that more than any act of communal concern or heroism, she did this as a simple Jewish mother for her son. She knew that if the rabbi was allowed to get away with it and nothing to happen to him, her son would forever feel abandoned and unprotected at his time of need.
The family is now suffering the "double trauma" of most victims in our community. One, their son has symptoms of PTSD. He was a very, very religious boy. His father is a Torah scholar and a majority member in the town. A Posek halacha
But the family as a whole is paying a double price. For going to the police to protect their child, something that in other communities is considered normal parenting, they are being attacked as "anti-Torah," by evil people. I would like to call them ignorant people.
In Lakewood, most people have spent years learning Torah. And even if you want to say that they don't understand the "long term ramifications" of sexual abuse (do they think it is GOOD for the kids?), they certainly know it is not something that they would want to happen to theirs. And Hillel said that the whole Torah while standing on one foot can be summarized as "Don't do to others what you don't want them to do to you."
(one who issues rulings within the community). And he was not supposed to be exposed to sexual situations and certainly not the sexual act before marriage. His innocence was robbed. His spirtuality is being challenged. His sense of security shaken.
SIDEBAR: The battle over sex abuse reporting in the Orthodox community is exploding worldwide, and one of the hubs is in New Jersey. State law requires anyone with reasonable suspicion to alert authorities. But rabbinical authority has ruled in Orthodox communities for thousands of years, mainly due to splits with secular law over civil issues (unlike the Catholic Church scandals). Victims have been threatened, ostracized and driven out. Yet, in the wake of the latest incident, rabbinical and secular authorities in Lakewood say they are trying to "bridge the gap."
It would be such a big Mitzvah (good deed) for each and every one of us to write a letter to the family thanking them for the heroic service they have done for all of us, and for the example they set of good Jewish parenting that we should all strive for.
I will not tell you what to write, because I know each of you can say the right thing if you look into your hearts. Thank you, and we should all be eager to see this plague stamped out from our community once and for all.
Rabbi Dr. Asher Lipner, Ph.D., an ordained Orthodox Rabbi, is Vice-President of the Jewish Board of Advocates for Children. The opinions expressed in this article are his and do not necessarily reflect the position of any organization.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Some Jewish expressions in the rabbi's piece have been changed to more common vernacular. The parents' names have been removed to protect the child's identity.
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