Of all the problems affecting the Orthodox Jewish community, I can think of no greater - more destructive problem than that of sex abuse. This is an issue that - not that long ago - was at best put on the back burner and at worst kept hidden very deep in the closet.
But thanks to some courageous victims coming out of that closet – and the many blogs and other media willing to deal openly with this issue, we now know that this is a serious problem. What we may not yet know is just how serious. Is it an epidemic? I don’t know. Perhaps not yet. But it is by virtually all accounts a much larger problem than previously thought. That’s why even the Agudah has publicly addressed it… albeit rather meekly.
The problem is that there are still people who would rather see this story stay in the closet hidden from public view. They still believe that there is more harm than good done by trying to openly and forthrightly deal with these problems.
What abut the victims? Nebech! … they will say. But… let them get over it! …and just get on with their lives. And if they can’t well - tough. It may be too late for them anyway they will claim. They will further claim that dealing with it this way will just make the Torah world look bad and it’s is just not worth it.
This is of course the ‘stick you head in the sand’ approach. If you are the average layperson whose family members have not been victims of abuse, its somewhat understandable if one does not grasp the enormity of the problem. Sex crimes are an uncomfortable subject, Most people don’t want to talk about it, hear about it, or deal with it – if it didn’t happen to them or a family member . See no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil.
Among those, however, there are some who go further than just having that attitude. They will actually try do something about it in order to keep it buried deep in the closet. So when good people arise and try to create solutions, these people see fit to thwart them by any means necessary including all kinds of intimidation! They see it as necessary for the greater good of the community.
That is why it is important to read what victims of abuse have to say. I posted a letter niot long ago from an anonymous victim. For another perspective I offer a link to a guest post on UOJ.
Many of you may know that I have mixed feelings about UOJ. I support his goals - if not entirely his methods. And he has seen fit to author some pretty harsh words against me in the past. But this writer’s words - which also contains some language and graphic descriptions that I would not normally permit here - override all of those concerns and ought to be read by everyone.
The post deals with the fact that molesters are often victims themselves. It implies that the potential of molestation has the potential of a geometric increase with every passing generation. But it also deals with the fact that it is possible for molesters to be successfully treated under the right conditions.
Here is are some excerpts from this very powerful post:
All or most seem to concur that a large percent of victims will due to the mental trauma, (and lack of normal sexual maturity while in a proper and healthy state of mind), likely and sadly become child-rapists themselves (albeit without being able to comprehend the severity of this due to having been programmed as such by the molestation). A far larger number will at least entertain thoughts of abuse and sexual violence…
Now, although we are sickened by this reality and the seeming unstoppable cycle of ever-increasing molestation and its resulting side effects, and although victims must be held accountable for improper actions (just like children are taught lovingly that they must be responsible for stealing and biting etc.), you would have a heart of stone not to feel sorry for the victim of child molestation who turns to this very same trade. This person’s confusion, post traumatic stress disorder, disassociation, depression, low self esteem, the insatiable need for over stimulation brought on by the inability to reconcile what happened as a child or teen, and a slew of other side effects of abuse, are more guilty than he himself…
Now, look me in the eye and tell me what you would say if you found out that Kolko or Mondrowitz or Lanner or Colmer or any of the other alleged or convicted prolific molesters/rapists were themselves raped, sodomized, or prematurely stimulated by others as children?
If true, was not their plight at the hands of an authority figure… any less painful then the plight of his very own victims? What about his molester? Was he molested too? Don't we owe it to possible victims of rape and incest, who in turn abuse others, to discern and consider whether we are dealing with one whose heart and spirit died a horrible death years earlier at the hands of another molester?
In the meantime - as noted above - the ‘stick you head in the sand’ approach has given rise to a vigilantism that counters any actions to successfully deal with this problem. This is what happened to Dr. Benzion Twerski.
They now seem to have the upper hand. And they are using that upper hand to torture many of those in the Torah world have suffered through it – whether personally or by a loved one! These vigilante ‘Kanaaim’ must be stopped. I will end with an excerpt from Rabbi Yakov Horowitz’s website:
This incident with Reb Benzion is just another sorry example of the Chinese Water Torture we have suffered through over the years as we gradually and increasingly have ceded the moral high ground to the kanoim. Make no mistake about it. We – the vast majority of charedi moderates who have been bullied into submission by these people – are in a struggle for the very soul of our Torah society. And thus far, we have been losing very badly. I plan on writing about this matter in a series of columns in the near future and let the chips fall where they may. Stay tuned.