The argument that publicity will give the community a “bad name” and “why air our dirty laundry in public?” does not supersede the obligation to protect the innocent from being hurt. Of course we all agree that our essential concern should be protecting our children and families, not our perceived reputation.
As part of a series on protecting children, an educational seminar to take place March 8th, 2011, at 8:00 PM, at Bais Rivka, 310 Crown Street, Brooklyn, is going to revolve around identifying, reporting and preventing child sexual abuse – a largely unaddressed issue in our community. Noted lecturer and Chabad.org columnist Mrs. Bronya Shaffer is coordinating the event. Mrs. Shaffer believes this event should be mandatory given the necessity to address child abuse issues.
In a Chabad.org article titled Creating a Sane Environment: Protecting the and Innocence of Children Rabbi Manis Friedman chillingly surmises that close to half the people he has met were abused. That is a staggering figure from someone who has been working in our educational system for decades and certainly reflects national survey averages of a 25% rate of childhood sexual abuse (this is an average of slightly varying statistics from different agencies and includes both men and women).
The panel will consist of Dr. David Pelcovitz, Rabbi Shloime Sternberg who is a local Rabbi, Professor Gavriel Fagin and of course Assistant District Attorney Henna White. Mrs. Shaffer will emcee.
Attorney White spearheads Project Kol Tzedek – Hebrew for ‘Voices of Justice’ – a program offering culturally sensitive support, assistance and advocacy for victims of abuse. Dr. Pelcovitz is a psychologist whose career over the past 25 years has focused on clinical practice and research in areas related to trauma, child abuse and parenting.
Prof. Fagin’s clinical practice is devoted to identifying and treating young offenders and survivors of sexual abuse. As someone who regularly refers survivors to professionals, Rabbi Sternberg will reflect on his experience in the educational system. Mrs. Shaffer explained that having Rabbi Sternberg speak would send a loud and clear message that there are those within the community who care, recognize the problem and believe in seeking help.
This seminar will be a tremendous Kidush Hashem because it will show the secular world that we are not afraid to confront the challenges that our community faces – and in fact every community faces. The argument that publicity will give the community a “bad name” and “why air our dirty laundry in public?” does not supersede the obligation to protect the innocent from being hurt. Of course we all agree that our essential concern should be protecting our children and families, not our perceived reputation.
Rabbi Simon Jacobson said it best in an Op-Ed titled Shoftim: Exposing Abuse published on his website in 2008:
…the greatest “Kiddush Hashem” (sanctifying G-d’s name) is when a Torah based community demonstrates that it… isn’t merely concerned with reputations and shidduchim, but that it… demands the highest standard of accountability amongst its citizens, and invest the greatest possible measures to protect its children from predators, create trust and absolutely will not tolerate any breach or abuse. That the greatest sin of all is ignoring or minimizing crimes being perpetrated against our most innocent and vulnerable members: our children.
After expressing resounding support for a seminar on this subject, Rabbi Friedman explained to me that that the most damaging element of being abused is suffering in silence and by identifying the abuse early on and providing a medium for a child to speak out – you ameliorate the suffering.
It is every parent’s and teacher’s mandate to help prevent abuse by establishing a dialogue with their child or student in order to be able to detect and identify early signs of abuse – and nip the issue in the bud.
In essence, the seminar will provide practical advise to teachers, parents and the community on how to: (a) detect early signs of abuse, (b) insure that children will be comfortable talking about any inappropriate behavior, (c) report abuse while protecting the anonymity of the survivor and (d) identify, address and distinguish between potential deviances versus healthy behavior in adolescents and teens.
What are your thoughts on this upcoming educational seminar? Do you think it is imperative on every parent, teacher and community member to attend?
* As of Feb. 15, participating schools include Bais Rivka Highschool, Bnos Menachem, Darchei Menachem, Bnos Yisroel, Beis Chaya Mushka, Oholei Torah, Lubavitch Yeshiva and Igud Hamenahalim.