Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Why Disclose? Why Prosecute?

Jonathan Rosenblum
In light of last week’s incredible put-down of the trauma suffered by victims of sexual abuse by Rabbi Manis Friedman (who has since apologized for it) - it is interesting to note what Jonathan Rosenblum said in last week’s Mishpacha Magazine column on this very same subject.

Which was almost exactly the opposite of what Manis Friedman said. In fact it was almost as though he was responding to him without mentioning him by name. But it wasn’t only a response to Rabbi Friedman. It was in response to attitudes that are commonly reflected in communities like Williamsburg.

And perhaps even a response to the Agudah Moetzes. He actually does not qualify the necessity of reporting  reasonable suspicion of abuse to the police by saying one must go to the rabbis first.

It is important to note that this column was published in Mishpacha, a magazine that clearly identifies with the Charedi worldview and the concept of Daas Torah. A magazine that recently echoed the ‘Daas Torah’ cry of G'zeiras HaShmad as it relates to drafting Charedim into the Israeli army.

Jonathan is one of the heroes of the right. Someone I would call a moderate Charedi albeit a right leaning moderate. I believe that his views on the subject of abuse are similar to those of virtually every moderate Charedi despite the apparent contradiction with the official Agudah Moetzes policy about rabbinic involvement.

Which is in and of itself quite amazing if you think about it. One might think that Charedim who have the kind of respect for ‘Daas Torah’ that Jonathan does would require them to be silent about disagreements. If they would even allow themselves the luxury of disagreement in their innermost thoughts!

But then this is Jonathan Rosenblum, a man who has a head on his shoulders and isn’t afraid to use it. This is not the first time he has expressed a difference of opinion with Charedi rabbinic leadership. Although I’m sure he would not characterize it that way.

Unlike Rabbi Freidman’s ridicule of victims who ‘overreact’ to abuse and were told to ‘just get over it’ comparing their embarrassment over sex abuse to embarrassment over diarrhea, Jonathan expressed complete empathy for the pain suffered by abuse victims. Drawing much of what he wrote from Dr. David Pelcowitz’s book Breaking the Silence he said the following. 
Victims of abuse understandably suffer a loss of trust and security. When the perpetrator is someone to whom they look for security or someone representing authority within their community, that loss of trust is greatly magnified. How can they place their trust in a community that has failed so dramatically to protect them? …victims often express greater anger towards those who failed to protect them than with the perpetrator himself.
 Victims may experience not only rage against the community, or the "system," in general, but also against Hashem for not running His world with Justice.' That is one reason victimhood correlates so highly with being "at-risk."
 Victims frequently experience general feelings of worthlessness and blame themselves for what happened to them. It is crucial that when they report being victimized that they hear a clear and unambiguous message that they have been wronged and are not to blame for what happened to them.
 According to Dr. Pelcowitz, however, it is relatively common for parents or others who receive indications of abuse to downplay the significance of that abuse. Yet when the response of the community does not actively and unambiguously support the child by validating their feelings [of being horribly wronged] and ensuring that they feel safe, feelings of guilt and worthlessness can be significantly exacerbated," concludes Dr. Pelcowitz.
Many victims of abuse adopt a pattern of hopeless passivity. When adults act upon their complaints and take them seriously, they counteract those feelings of helplessness and passivity. Other victims engage in dissociation – i.e., enter a state of dream-like numbness to avoid the pain inflicted upon them. Before they can heal, they need to be able "to name the monster." But that naming of the monster can only take place in an environment where they feel comfortable talking about what happened to them and that they are taken seriously.
 So important is validation as a first step in healing that one social worker with whom I spoke actually took a young victim to file a police complaint against a perpetrator who had died in the interim. Dr. Pelcowitz concludes that "one of the best predictors of recovery is the level of support offered once the abuse is disclosed." https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/images/cleardot.gif
 And conversely, even adults who were victimized as children experience a reopening of their childhood traumas when they see new victims denied communal support and protection. That is something that those who ask, "Why can't they just get on with their lives and leave the past behind?" can't understand. The past is often still with them, especially if they did not receive the support they needed. 
(My gosh! Except for the fact that he is a much better writer than I am - he almost sounds like me. Or at least a more civil tongued version of me.)

Do you hear him, Satmar? Do you hear him, Rabbi Padwa? Do you hear him, Rabbi Friedman? Do you hear him Agudah?