Monday, August 04, 2008

Standing Up for Victims of Sex Abuse

I have had my issues in the past with New York State Assemblymen Dov Hikind and have been strongly critical of him. But so too have I praised him when he deserved it. This is one of those times for which he deserves praise. He has come out very forcefully with a powerful commitment to eradicate teachers who are sex abusers from the Yeshiva classroom. He apparently made this commitment on his weekly radio program which is available at Vos Iz Neias.

B’Makon She Ein Ish… this man has put his declared war on silence and inaction He will not ask any Shailos. He will not keep quiet. He will act to prevent perversion:

“My office is committed to doing something. I have actually assigned staff members to work on this. We are going to stick with this. Those who are abusing our children, doing inappropriate things, I’m coming after you in every single way. Quit before your name is released and your family is embarrassed! I will not be silent or shy away.”

It’s about time we had a public figure that forcefully stands up for our children. It is unfortunate that this hasn’t been the attitude from rabbinic leaders from the start.

Decades long abuse was covered up because of side issues pertaining to familial embarrassment, improper application of the laws of Lashon Hara and ill conceived notions of protecting the good name of Yeshivos and the like.

Because of that - abuse has flourished with near impunity. An who knows how many victims have suffered. In my many posts on the subject of 'Off the Derech' kids, time and again I am told that many of these kids are victims of abuse. If that’s true and one sees the population of OTD kids, then the number of abused children is gigantic.

One would think that after all the publicity about abusers in the Orthodox world that Yeshivos would be extremely sensitive to sex abusers on their faculty. That it takes negative publicity for a school administration to act is a commentary on their sense of priorities. Apparently they feel that it is worth putting their children at risk in order to retain a popular teacher. But in light of the negative publicity, one would have though that religious schools have modified their approach. Hopefully they have.

But in at least in one case it seems they couldn’t care less about their children. From VIN:

Hikind then introduced a Williamsburg mother whose son had been molested by his menahel at age 8.5 and left Yiddishkeit at 19 as a result. Most significantly, the mother related the years of devastation, isolation, shame and lack of trust in Torah authority figures. “It was a betrayal of his beliefs,” reports the mother.

After a lengthy discussion on how the victim’s family tried to get the menahel to treatment without embarrassing his own family, which didn’t work, the mother reported that even though the menahel failed a lie detector test and was temporarily removed from his position, he has been returned to teaching in summer school and will be returning to yeshivah in September.

Dov Hikind was outraged by this and it showed in his response which is exactly the way I feel:

How can one of the most prominent yeshivos, that educates tens of thousands of kids, know they have a molester destroying people’s lives! How can they continue with him? How’s that possible?

He noted that the mother tried to get this ‘teacher out of the classroom quietly but was betrayed!

It seems that a political leader is far more sensitive to children and families of sexual abuse than are those who would teach our children. I have no clue about this school. That it is in Williamsburg leads me to believe it is a Satmar based school. There is no ‘monkey business’ in Satmar. Satmar Chasidim tow the line of their Rebbe. Can it be possible that the Satmar Rebbe of Willimasburg approves of what that Yeshiva did in re-hiring that teacher? I hope not because if so, than he is a partner in the crime.