Friday, November 14, 2014

Can’t Happen Here!

Illustrative photo. credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP via the Jerusalem Post
Barbara Sofer’s opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post  reveals some statistics about sex abuse that raises some questions in my mind.

1. The percentage of sex abusers are between 95% to 97% male.  

It’s not that I am surprised that there are more male sex abusers than there are female sex abusers. Virtually every incident that appears in the media involves a male abuser.  But still that is a startlingly high percentage.

Why is it that only males are driven to act on their illicit lust with innocent victims despite the fact that those victims lives are ruined?  Is lust a greater issue for men? Or is it that men are more inclined to act on it than women?

2. There are more boys molested as a percentage of the whole among Orthodox Jews than there is in the general population. 

That was surprising too, since I had always believed that the percentages to be the same among both. Until I saw the reason for that.  It is because of the increased level of gender separation in Orthodoxy.

That too raises questions. Is there a bigger proportion of gay men in Orthodox Jewry, than in the general population?  If it is lust that motivates them would  a heterosexual predator be interested in abusing a member of the same sex? How can a straight male satisfy his lust with a male victim? Are there more gay men in Orthodoxy? Or does nurture play any significant part in determining sexual orientation?

3. 90% of the complainants know their abusers. These are not strangers lurking outside the corner store; they’re teachers, counselors, even fathers. 

90%! That should be a wakeup call about who is doing the abuse in communities that are populated by Orthodox Jews. If a child in Boro Park is sexually abused, it is probably a religious Jew who did it.

4. Most victims are under 18.

5. There is a new category of abuse now happening in the Frum Community: Spiritual abuse: 
It’s about women whose husbands’ increased religiosity isn’t about getting closer to the Creator, but controlling their wives’ behavior and isolating them. 
6. Studies show that sexual abuse in the Orthodox  world – whether in Charedi, Centrist or Left wing circles -is at the same level as it is in the general population.

This too is not a surprise to me. It is not a new statistic. It has been known for some time now that sex abuse is not a function of religion, Hashkafa or of level of religiosity. It is a criminal act often sourced in mental disorders like pedophilia - irrespective of one’s type or level of observance.  What is somewhat of a surprise is the level of denial that still exists among Orthodox Jews about it. Jerusalem Psychologist Debbie Gross posits that ‘there was that pervasive myth that such perversity didn’t exist in the idealized religious community’. ‘Not in my community.’ ‘Not in my school.’

Dr. Gross  is the founder and director of the Crisis Center for Religious Women. Founded about 20 years ago – it is an organization that ‘raises awareness, suggests means of protection and offers healing help for those who have been sexually abused’.  Why the need for an organization designed specifically for religious women? There were after all many rape crisis centers in Israel. Here is her explanation: 
Jerusalem’s women believed they, their husbands and their children needed guidance that would suit their religious lifestyle. Attitudes towards modesty, relationships with religious authorities and community attitudes were different. Even talking about sex was different. 
If this attitude doesn’t change, the problem will persist… and probably only get worse. Which is why I am happy to see that a conference on these issues will be taking place in Jerusalem in just a couple of weeks. From the Jerusalem Post
From December 1 to 3, the Crisis Center for Religious Women is hosting an international conference called The Jewish Community Confronts Violence and Abuse, to be held at Jerusalem’s Ramada Hotel. 
Lest anyone think that no one of any significance will be there, please note the following from the Jerusalem Post
Among those who will open the December conference will be Mayor Nir Barkat and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau. Attending will be rabbis Abraham Twerski, David Cohen and Yosef Blau, who have been mavericks in confronting these dark subjects. Dr. James M. Cantor and Linda Graham will bring international expertise from outside the Jewish community, and educators are flying in from everywhere in the Jewish world. 
As Ms. Sofer points out, ‘This is good news’. Indeed it is.