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Op-Ed: Abuse isnt just Dirty Laundry

by Eliyahu Federman

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.

26 Comments

  • 1. Chaim Goldman wrote:

    Very important information. Every single parent should be there. However, many people think that it has no relation to them, or their family. Oh, if only they knew what really goes on. It can happen to anyone.

  • 2. a survivor wrote:

    Baruch Hashem. This is something that needs to be done and has needed to be done for many many years. I’m glad to see CH doing the right thing. Thank you CH.info for promoting this event.

  • 3. Thank you! wrote:

    ABSOLUTELY!!! I ALREADY HAVE A SITTER(SAFE RELIABLE)ONE BOOKED!

  • 4. truth to stand strong wrote:

    PERFECT !!!! and we should be able to hunt down these inhuman active thing called abusers

  • 5. Very nice idea! wrote:

    this is the essence of Chehesd (Chassidu)

    first and for-most prevent pain & suffering to the innocent!

    sur meira is the first step in Ahavas yisroel!

    Eli Federman is a true hero!!

  • 6. peace now wrote:

    some of these abusers have Borderline Personality Disorder. They think in a way that is not like the general world. They find ways to punish those who they feel remind them of people who they are angry at from their past. Very dangerous. They walk among us and should not be allowed to perpetuate this any longer. I support this

  • 7. Pidyon Shevuyim wrote:

    This well presented introduction to the issue is welcome (as is the planned event itself, although one wonders whether and where the publicity should appear.)

    On a deeper dimension, adding a flavor of a Halacha nature, adds importance to the issue. Anyone, whether child or adult (yes, adult, as in abused women who have frequented my doorstep); anyone who is the subject of abuse etc. is in fact a prisoner to the “reality” within which they live. They are the most tragic “shevuyim” one can imagine. Captive to a persons shielded by their respectable status. Sometimes by the aura of position, such as teacher, mashpiya (yes, the ones who, even as bochurim, were gathering younger boys to special farbrengens, excursions etc.) school principal or director, and even Rabbi (usually with adult women in stress.) This aura is nigh impossible to break, as my personal experience illustrated to me for years in Monsey, where a neighboring Rabbi was impervious (until exposed). My words of caution to individuals was either ignored, or ascribed to my supposed “jealousy” of a colleague’s success. (There are still followers – deniers.)

    PIDYON SHEVUYIM is the highest priority in monetary Tzedaka – can it be any different in “time and effort” Tzedaka?

    There is a very serious practical issue, as far as Anash and the outlying extensions are concerned. My absolute frustration is, in holding highly sensitive information, given in the most faithfully sworn confidence. What does one do, when tangible (if not conclusive) evidence indicates, that, for example, a pre-school director in an outlying arm, is in fact guilty of multiple M.

    It is not unheard of, in other types of issue, for me to turn up at a crisis center and “case out” the situation first hand. However, any attempt on my own part, to make an appearance (personally) to an outlying post, would be unusually clumsy, and abortive to the purpose of the visit. (The same would apply to turning up locally, here in the Shchunah, to a venue of question, such as a party for kids and or etc. They happen. Farbrengens with lots of mashkeh for the young, propelling them to a stupor, where memories of what transpired will be blurred.)

    There is a possible solution, but it is not for here.
    Rabbi Mattis Kantor, Eastern Parkway, NY.

    P.S. The following quote from Rabbi Mannis Friedman appears to have mistaken the context:
    “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…” (a) His experience is with mature girls who have come to Minnesota for a complete change of life. There is a background motivation to this (which does not diminish the correctness and the mitzvos.) This is not a statistic for Lubavitch in any location chas vesholom. (b)He refers to “half” – how does the anonymous op-edder concur that to 25%?

  • 8. Pass it on wrote:

    Last time, many people I spoke to said that they had not heard of the event till afterward, such a shame. Please pass this on to everyone you know who has children.

  • 9. Shauna wrote:

    Child Abuse is something that truly and desperately needs to be dealt with. Children all over the world, even adults are abused is some way or another but not much is being done to help these individuals. Please, lets help them and give them hope for a better life. Whether its by donating or volunteering or whatever, most of all giving them the love that they so desperately are deprived of. They need our help today! So, go right now and give a child some HOPE!

  • 12. If only to save another wrote:

    This is wonderful!!
    Suggestion: Perhaps hold an even for the children, as well. Sometimes, sickeningly, it is the parent who is abusing the child! Where do the children go to speak then??

  • 13. unAdressed??!! wrote:

    How many speeches and articles would it take to make it “addressed”?!

    the N’shei Chabad Newsletter has been carrying articles and letters on this topic since September of 2006.

    There have been numerous community events (two by Rubashkin, two by Shaffer, one in JCM, one in Bais Rivkah at 310, one in Mosdoth for staff,

  • 14. i survived so can you wrote:

    abuse doesn’t choose its victim by class or status it can happen to anyone. if you don’t think it apply to you go anyways perhaps you can help a stranger. i am a surviver one of four in my family i wish i knew some one back when to pull me through.

    if you are a surviver don’t be afraid to reach out and get yourself help. it doesn’t just go away. it can affect you in so many ways phobias, physical health, relationships = marriage, fertility, childbirth, child rearing and so on. go get help there are many method to suit your needs and comfort.

  • 15. WILL SOMEONE RECORD? wrote:

    definitely every parent should be there!
    will the be a video that can be posted on line?

  • 16. to #7 wrote:

    Would you like me to speak publicly and expose my “amazing” family that hasn’t given me any support? The grandmother who i haven’t spoken to in 5 yrs because she believes that it is my fault that i was abused at age 4 and above? Not only is it my fault – but that i have an obligation to forgive the perpetrator?

  • 17. Hilchos Mesira wrote:

    Shulchan Aruch
    Code Of The Jewish Law
    By Rabbi Shneur Zalman Of Liadi
    Laws of Money Damages – (Laws of Messira)
    [Chosen Mishpot – Kehot Printing –Safer Vov- Page Kof-Chof]

    For Original Hebrew Print – Click Here

    [Free Translation]

    (6) It is forbidden to Masser a Jew in to the hands of a Goy (Gentile), it makes no difference if its his body (גוף) or money (ממון), even ממון קל, which means even if it’s a “light” (small) amount of money.,

    This prohibition (אסור) applies by דיבור, which means outright Messira through speech, Or even revealing what a fellow Jew wants to do, for example giving a hint, for example: if the Goy (גוי) asks the Yid where he can find strew, it is forbidden to tell him that it can be found in a specific Yid’s house, or even to just point to the Yid’s house, – without even saying anything, and anyone that does Massira has no part in the world to come.

    Even a wicked person (רשע) and a sinner (בעל עבירות), it is forbidden to Massir on him, both in regard to his body (גוף) or money (ממונו), and even if this person is a constant bother, for example, he’s always harassing you, it’s forbidden to Masser.

    However, if this wicked person Massered on you, you are allowed to Masser on him, if there is reason to believe that this wicked person will continue his Mossering and the only way you can save yourself is by- Mossering on the wicked person or in a case that you were Massered on and that Messira was not dismissed, meaning it’s ongoing, your allowed to Masser, if that’s your last resort, and no other way out.

    Also one that is violent who regularly hits people and there is no other way to protect yourself from him, unless you will Masser him to Goyim, that they shall take his money or “cut off his hands” that he may not be violent again. However, someone who hit his friend but he is not regularly violent rather this was a one time thing, it is forbidden even for the person that was hit, to Masser his friend, for even though if in this case, the person that was hit does Masser, there are those opinions which exempt him from (דיני אדם) Judgment from man, because a person isn’t (”נתפס על צערו”) [Baba Bathra 16: Raba said: This teaches that a man is not held responsible for what he says when in distress[. Still (לכתחילה) to begin with it is forbidden to according to everyone and he is a Mosser (if he does).

    And even if you have a violent Jew, and he doesn’t want to go to Bais Din, it is forbidden to go to the authorities to force him to come to a Din Torah, until you receive permission from Bais Din, also to force him through the means of Goyim to fulfill the Psak (Halachik Ruling) of Bais din, it is forbidden till you have consent from Bais Din.

    (7) Someone that Masser’s it is permitted to kill him, in any place, and at any time, even in today’s time, even before he actually Masser’s, like if he says “I’m going to Masser on someone either on his actual body or money etc…” he has permitted himself to death, and we warn him, and we tell him: Do not Masser. If he has Chutzpa and says no, I’m going to Masser anyways, it is a Mitzva (commandment) to kill him, and whoever is first in doing so, the merit is his.

    For someone that goes to Masser money of a Jew into the hands of Goyim, it’s as if he’s “chasing” (”רודף”) after his soul. And if someone is “chasing” (”רודף”) after your friend to kill him, it is allowed to save him (your friend), by killing the killer (Mosser).

    And if there is no opportunity to warn him (the Mosser), you do not need to warn him. However if you can save the victim by hurting the killer (Mosser), for example by cutting off his tongue, or to poke out his eyes, then it’s forbidden to kill him (the Mosser).

  • 18. To #8 wrote:

    I believe you have misunderstood the meaning of the words you quoted. Look again.
    “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 … abuse.”
    In other words: Rabbi Friedman ESTIMATES that ALMOST half the people HE EVER MET have been abused. This is a reasonable assumption because he in general works with people who have had some pain and/or disorder in their lives. This appears to agree with the statistically proven averages that 25% of all children have been indecently abused so.

  • 19. Verbal Abuse wrote:

    What is the point of the school’s principals going to these lectures, when they deny that their teachers can be/have been verbally abusive of students? I have yet to see a teacher in a CH mosad be fired because s/he has time and again verbally abused a student. Verbal abuse is abuse – can’t wait till I’m done with the school system…

  • 20. Whom are they fooling? wrote:

    All these big Mosd Heads who agree to attend are giving the false impression and the false sense of security to CH that our Mosdos “are on top of it” and are safe now.

    Nothing is further from the truth unless you want to let yourself be fooled.

    The problem until now was not that no one knew what abuse is and not that no one knew it was wrong. Nor was the probelm that no one knew what to do about it until now.

    What’s the real problem we face?

    The real problem is that the higher ups in each Mosod have always covered up on the perpetrators and never got them arrested.

    Yes, I said “the dirty word” ‘Arrested’.

    There is no way abuse is going to stop by covering it up or in dreamland to think that the Badatz is going to take care of it.

    The cover-up gets worse when the perpetrator is found out to be someone from a very prominent CH family a member of SHPITZ – there is no way any Menhel is going to have him arrested.

    As long as perpetrators don’t get arrested, the abuse will continue.

    So whom are they fooling with this “GRAND MEETING”?

    It’s all a big hot air balloon until the Menhalim actually get the perpetrators arrested.

    Does abuse exist in CH schools?

    It exists in every other element of society so is CH the only place on earth which has no sick perpetrators?

    So according to statistics we know 100% for sure that Mosdos in CH have experienced abuse.

    Has anyone ever heard of any arrest?

    So whom are they fooling with this false sense of security and what’s the point to attend this farce and participate in a cover-up meeting to help make all the menahalim look good as though they are doing something, when they clearly have never, ever yet, gotten anyone arrested for abuse ever!

  • 21. CALA NY wrote:

    The Coalition Against Legal Abuse has exposed corruption on Henna White, please read more on calany.wordpress.com – Be Aware, SHE IS NOT YOUR FRIEND!Neither IS OHEL!

  • 22. Dont moser, do it yourself wrote:

    When it comes to child molesters,
    don’t moser, just take a gun and blow his head off!

  • 23. Malky wrote:

    If there is a hero to be had, it is Mrs. Bronya Shaffer. She and she alone has brought this issue to the attention of people in Crown Heights. All the events that are listed by #13 were organized by her. She is the first person in my whole life to who I disclosed my abuse by my uncle. She helped me find a therapist and held my hand the whole time I was dealing with my family. She told me about these events so I could feels omething’s being done. She organized every speaker and every meeting. She continues to be a lifeline for people who are sufferring from been molested. She is truly and really the hero of this story.
    Also, the post about CALA by #17 should be ignored. It is one crazy lady who has some sort of aks to grind.

  • 24. #21 Hakt A Chinik wrote:

    #21 is a waste of time to read.

    His talk about Mesira is a non-issue as proven by his own words.

    In his own words, someone who hits and is violent and there is no way to stop him you may Moser him according to Shulchan Aruch.

    All Pedophiles are 100% unstoppable.

    It’s a proven established fact.

    All Pedophiles are SICK IN TH HEAD and there is no cure this mental illness.

    It is 100% for sure that they will continue their immoral “hitting” (abuse) and hurting children in a way which is worse than killing children.

    Throwing them in jail does not cure their disease it only stops them (for the time being) from doing it until they are eventually let out of jail, when they will once again continue the same thing they did before going to jail.

    There is no question about it and all Rabbonim agree that a Pedophile should be reported to Police since there is absolutely no other way on earth, to be able to stop this diseased man from hurting more children.

    Mrs Shafer is wasting here time if she claims we need not go to Police because there is no way on earth to stop abuse any other way. It is 100% physically impossible to stop such sick people any other way.

  • 25. Anonymous wrote:

    To #7 Please contact the organizers if you are willing to speak publicly. They are looking for a survivor to tell their story. This will help empower others.

  • 26. Shea wrote:

    Dear # 22,

    That’s not the halacha, the halacha if a person is molesting children you turn them over. A trained/licensed medical professional has the training to determine if a persons claim is believable enough to warrant going to the police and their medical opinion counts as being a witness halachicly. While your message is sympathetic when dealing with a rodef we are in gallus and have laws to follow.

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