Guest Post by Dr. Asher Lipner
Rabbi Adlerstien's article written in support of Rabbi Horowitz's call to action for the community to support the victims of child molestation against their alleged perpetrators is a refreshing and welcome change of attitude coming from the Haredi Cross Currents Internet blog. Survivors of abuse and children's advocates look forward to welcoming Rabbi Horowitz and his supporters on March 26th at the courthouse, so we can all come together to fulfill the mitzvah of "Lo Sa'amod Al Dam Reyecha," not standing idly by the blood of your neighbor.
However, with success come further challenges. Now that the community has achieved the accomplishment of getting two prominent Charedi rabbis affiliated with Agudas Yisroel openly supporting advocating for victims to prosecute their abusers, we now have an historic opportunity to make a real push to stop both the abuse of children and the intimidation of victims.
Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, the Novominsker Rebbe and the Nasi of the Moetzes Gedolei Yisroel of the Agudah, has been personally supportive and helpful of several victims' families, and has encouraged them quietly to report the heinous crimes to the authorities. In the current case the compliant family has now suffered the tortures of hell perpetrated on them by an angry community that has mounted the usual powerful campaign of intimidation and vindictiveness against the young victim and his family. These heroic Jewish parents, standing up for the safety and dignity of their develpmentally delayed son desperately need our Gedolim to publicly show their support for the victim and to put a "ban" with a “kol koreh” against people attacking victims of abuse who report to the authorities. If the Rebbe, Shli"ta together with other Gedolim would publicize their support for the victim and his family, the amount of healing it would bring both this family as well as countless other victims who are suffering in silence, afraid to speak out about what happened to them, would be incalculable.
After all, in the Torah, when a Jew is murdered it is Ziknei Ha'ir, the Gedolei Hador, who are obligated to represent the community in the Mitzvah of Egla Arufa and to proclaim 'Yadeinu Lo Shafchu Es Hadam Hazeh - Our hands have not spilled this blood." Standing together will send a strong message to the judge, the victim and the relatives, and all child molesters that the blood of Yiddishe kinder is not cheap.
For those who question the comparison between child molestation and murder, I have encountered several survivors of child sexual abuse whose pain is so chronic and so great that they feel that it would have been better to have been murdered. Indeed, it has been shown in many studies that there is a significantly higher incidence of suicide in this group of people. It is for this reason that Gedolei Haposkim including Rav Elyshiv have paskened that when one knows or even has "Raglyaim Ladavar - reason to suspect" that a molestation has taken place, one has an obligation to report it to the authorities.
Anecdotally, Oprah Winfrey once asked an incarcerated molester about his regrets. He replied with conviction "I killed the person she could have been". That is what molesters do. They kill off the ability for a neshomo to reach its potential as it continues to be racked with trauma and confusion, often struggling with its emunah, and the question of "How could a frum person have done this to me?"
Unfortunately, survivors of abuse were horrified that even after a courageous daughter from a Heimish family successfully prosecuted and won a conviction against her father who abused her for years, there were still several rabbis who put her through more pain and suffering by signing a "kol koreh" calling her father a tzadik and defaming her character. No Charedi rabbis publicly came to her defense. A respected Rov in Lakewood reported his son's molestation to the authorities, and the community retaliated so harshly that the family was forced to move out of town. Again, there was no protest in support of the victim. Another woman in Lakewood, whose son died from a drug overdose after being severely abused by a molester as a child, had her house burned down when she publicized her son's story after his Petirah. And once again, the family suffers alone with no public rabbinic support.
My professional clinical psychology practice includes many children, adolescents and adults who are suffering from the painful effects of being molested as children and having no safe place to express their pain in the community. Studies show that for a victim of abuse, having community support in confronting their abusers can be very healing for symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I would like to respectfully ask Rabbis Horowitz and Adlerstien to join the survivors and all child advocates in beseeching our Gedolim to offer strong public support to the victims of abuse in our community who prosecute their abusers in the spirit of being like Hashem who is "Mevakesh Es Hanirdaf". Hashem advocates for victims.