Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Enablers Must Suffer Consequences

One of 22 sex abuse suspects arrested in Israel yesterday  (screenshot -Ynet)
22. That’s the number of people that were arrested for sex crimes in Israel yesterday. Why were so many arrested all at once? Were they a cult? No. They were individual perpetrators that were never reported to the police. Instead they were dealt with ‘in house’.

What kind of community would deem it appropriate to do so? I think we all know that answer to that one. But in case there is any doubt, the location of these arrests should tell the story: Jerusalem, Bet Shemesh, Beitar and Bnei Brak. 4 cities noted for some of the more extreme Charedim. Let me be quick to add that by far not all the of the Charedi residents of those cities are extreme. That should be obvious, too. But it is also clear that a large number of them are. As are the rabbinic leaders they listen to. Especially in the smaller cities. And the more extreme, the more closed off from the civilized world they are.

Unfortunately when a society is so closed off  (as these people are - by choice) you end up with a situation like this. Advances in how to more appropriately deal with sex abusers and survivors are not learned. The main concern therefore, is as it used to be for all communities where sex abuse took place - for the welfare of the community, the abusers, and their families - instead of concern for the abuse survivors.

Here is how Ha’aretz reported the story: 
The investigation by the police’s Jerusalem District began after they received information that ultra-Orthodox elements were concealing information on sex crimes in their community. 
These Haredim allegedly received their rabbis’ blessing to seek and collect information on sexual predators in the community, without involving the police. They did so, even maintaining written records of attacks and the people involved. At the end of the process, the perpetrators were forced to agree to undergo therapy within the ultra-Orthodox world. 
During their investigation, the police seized the notebooks in which the records were kept. Tens of alleged attackers were documented, some of whom had committed serial offenses, including against children, the police said. 
Based on this information, the police arrested 22 suspects, ages 20 to 60. Each is alleged to have committed several attacks over the last two years. 
No matter how many times I hear a story like this, I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that the people that have committed serial sexual offenses continue to be allowed to roam the streets with impunity. While their crimes are no doubt concealed from the public. While it may be laudable that their leaders require them to get some from of therapy, this does not excuse them from concealing their identity. Nor does it excuse them from not reporting them to the police. And certainly there is no excuse for simply expelling them as Ha’aretz reports they did in some cases  – leaving the communities to which they migrate vulnerable to their attacks.

Also, unsurprising is the way some in those communities reacted to those arrests:
In some cases, ultra-Orthodox residents in the four cities – Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, Betar Ilit and Bnei Brak – attacked the police, throwing stones and other items, and tried to block the arrests. In Jerusalem, the windows of two police cars were shattered by rocks.
Of course they reacted that way. They had no clue why these people were arrested. Why should they? No one ever told them.  And even if they were told, they wouldn't believe it - unless it came from their own leadership.

Not long ago Agudath Israel of America seemed to have come around to the idea that enablers should suffer consequences.

But in extremist Charedi enclaves in Israel, the leaders are not only are they not concerned with enablers, by dealing with it in house they actually are the enablers. What does this do to survivors? Who knows what their lives are like now! But based on the testimony of hundreds of survivors of sex abuse, it is highly unlikely that their lives are anything but hell! How could it not be - knowing that the people that molested or abused them sexually are walking their streets with the protection of their leaders - as though nothing happened! All while survivors are left to their own devices.

It isn’t too difficult to see the thinking of the leaders in those communities. They believe that it is the best interests of their community to take matters into their own hands. We know their mindset from the way cases of abuse was handled in the past. Not only in the Charedi world… not only in the modern Orthodox world… but in society in general.

It was always the institution that was protected. That concern rose above all other considerations.Certainly above the welfare of the survivor. Just ask the Graham Spanier, the former president of Penn State who tried to protect his school by covering up the serial sex abuse of Penn State’s assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. And then consider Spanier’s well deserved fate. From the New York Times
On its second day of deliberations, the jury in Harrisburg, Pa., found Graham B. Spanier guilty of one misdemeanor count, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. 
The consequences of a cover-up to survivors are by now unfortunately very clear to those of us that live in the real world. As are the consequences to that those that covered it up as in the above mentioned Spanier case.  But in the extremist world of the Charedi cities where 22 sex abusers were arrested, Charedi leaders seem to be clueless. They live in an opaque and almost impervious bubble.

I don’t know what the law in Israel is with respect or those who cover up sex abuse. As noted, they are enablers and that ought to be considered a crime. Is subjecting them to arrest what it would take to see justice being served?

If they were to suffer the same fate Mr. Spanier did, maybe things would change. Purposeful ignorance should never be an excuse to get away with ‘murder’. Which is how many professional therapists - even the most religious ones among them - describe the consequences to a survivor that was abused sexually.