Sunday, September 27, 2015

Erring on the Side of Safety

Guest Contribution by a Noted Religious Psychologist

R' Henoch Plotnik signed  on to the  Kol Koreh
I was sent the following from a respected religious psychologist that chooses to remain anonymous. He is considered an expert in the field of sexual abuse. It was sent in response to my recent post on Rav Dovid Cohen’s endorsement of a Kol Koreh signed by 100 Charedi rabbis requiring suspicions of sexual abuse to be report directly to the police. It follows unedited in its entirety.

My two cents.

Aside from agreeing with Rav Dovid, I have a few comments to note.

There are two overlapping issues here, crime and psychopathology.  Therapists do not treat crime, and the criminal justice system cannot remedy or cure psychopathology.  In an effort to tease these out a bit, while both can coincide in the same individual at the same time, let’s expound.  When an incident of molestation occurs, a crime has been committed.  

This single incident alone does not determine pathology.  Any review of criteria in the DSM would note that various symptoms, conditions, or behaviors must have a duration or repeated events in order to qualify for a diagnosis.  This is actually accurate, because a lapse of judgment does not indicate a disease or disorder.  That is unquestionable.  This would mean that there needs to be an alternative explanation to the “ruach shtus” that is behind every aveirah, which although it sounds like mental illness, does not exempt one from culpability.  

And there is a clear halacha about the exemption of a shoteh from responsibility.  There are many episodes of molestation that involve a single or limited number of events.  This situation might not qualify for a diagnosis of pedophilia.  Such cases might be prosecuted for the criminal aspect of victimization and the involved damage, but would unnecessarily be handed off to therapists to treat.  Such individuals cannot be cured because they are not ill, any more than someone who committed any other aveirah.

In pedophilia itself, there are different underlying issues.  There may be a (1) perverted sexual attraction.  There might be (2) sexual addiction.  And there may be (3) sociopathology – a criminal victimization tendency.  Of these three, it is generally believed that #2 is treatable (I agree).  #1 is subject to the current debate on SSA.  I believe in theory that it is treatable, but there is no current knowledge of just how to accomplish that.  #3 has never been shown to be possible, despite the massive investment of governmental bodies to insist their prison system is rehabilitative.

In this regard, someone shown to be a serial molester belongs incarcerated for life, to protect society.  Limited sentences become comical, as several cases in the media indicate.  However, there is a sometimes complex and intricate judgment to make – whether an offended is a serial molester or not.  How much of a risk is he (or she)?  

I am firmly convinced that there is nary a Rov, however great a scholar, talmid chochom, or boki in Shas and Poskim, who has the skills to assess this.  Most mental health professionals lack such expertise.  Even the most highly trained would be making an educated guess (and I would rely on that).  

So how is anyone to make a judgment of “raglayim ledovor”?  In theory, this sounds responsible – it would attest to the risk level.  In reality, I have no clue how anyone, including the greatest gadol, could do this.  Perhaps there is a “ruach hakodesh” factor, where a gadol would possess the ability to read the future and know that there will never be another victim.  Are we permitted to rely on this?  Even Chassidim who ascribe “ruach hakodesh” type powers to their rebbes would struggle with this.

So Rav Dovid is clear on this, and we should also be so.  We have a situation where there is a safety issue, and we need to be ready to err on the side of safety.

Have a great, wonderful, and Simcha filled YomTov.