Sunday, November 20, 2022

The Nature of High Achievers that are Sexual Abusers

Former Bnos Yisroel teacher, Zev Steen (Baltimore Jewish Times)
What do Daniel Greer, Chaim Walder, Eliezer Berland, Shlomo Carlebach, Moti Elon, Tzvi Tau, and Zev Steen have in common? It’s not what you think. Although they are all sick, vile creatures who have sexually abused others – often children – I am not talking about that. They are all people of high public achievement. People that were admired by their communities in which thy lived - and beyond. Including by many rabbinic leaders

Yes they are monsters who acted on their sexual aberrations without regard to how it affects their victims. But at the same time they all did great things. The kind of things that often make them public  icons. Which makes it near impossible to believe any abuse allegations. Believing instead that they would never in a million years be capable of abusing other human beings

The question is did they really believe in the causes for which they have achieved great things? Or were they just trying to bolster their reputations as good people who are beyond reproach – enabling them to deny those accusations with a high degree of credibility? Is it just an elaborate way to bolster  denials should accusations surface?

I suppose that is likely the case in some instances. But at the same time, I’m not sure that is always their motive. I suspect that in many cases they were actually motivated to do those great things for altruistic reasons. They actually believed in the cause and worked hard to achieve results. 

This of course does not make them any less a monster. What it does, in my view is show that an individual can have both inclinations  and act like both a ‘Jekyll’ and ‘Hyde’.

It seems that in almost all cases sexual predators are men of great and very real achievement. One might suggest that sex abuse exists in equal measure even among low achievers. And that the media focuses on high profile people because of the irony of people that have done good things being discovered doing bad things. That makes it a more newsworthy. I’m sure that’s true. But I have to believe there is another factor that makes these high profile high achievers more prone to sexually abuse people. 

There is no doubt that these are sick people who have aberrant sexual desires which can only be satisfied on the forbidden object of their fantasies. A pedophile will only get sexual satisfaction with a child. But I think that the same thing that gave them the ‘guts’ and determination to do good things gave them the ‘guts’ and determination to do bad things on real people.  

This is what makes them so dangerous and evil. They have no self control over those urges and have little or no conscience about using others for that purpose. I do not recall any sex abuser expressing guilt or regret over what they did. 

Here’s the thing though.  Evil men are evil men regardless of how altruistic they might be in other ways... no matter how great the things they did were... no natter how sick they are. The harm they do to their victims outweighs it all. Being great but sick is no excuse for destroying the lives of others.

The latest men exposed as sexual abusers are Tzvi Tau and Zev Steen. Both high achievers. The list of Steen’s crimes is long - some of which is particularly grievous. It includes incest! But at the dame time I believe that both he and Tau actually believe in all the good things they did. I wouldn’t even be surprised if Chaim Walder felt same way about all the books he wrote. All while he was busy abusing people himself. Few people were bigger monsters than Walder.  

So all the good these people might have done - which as noted pales in comparison to the harm they caused - means they need to pay the price. Regardless of where the chips may fall. And sometimes those chips have devastating consequences for other innocent people. Like members of their own families. Who never suspected their husband/father ever did - or ever could do - anything like that.  

That very unfortunate situation has motivated  some well intentioned rabbis to keep the abuse quiet – as long as they found a way to prevent the abuser from doing it again. This is, however, a gross error in judgement. It completely ignores the damage done to victims by perpetuating the good name of their abuser.  The  state of severe trauma suffered by victims of sex abuse is well documented. As is the higher rate of suicide among them. That they were violated by high achiever who remains in the good graces of the public must be beyond hurtful to them.  

This is unacceptable. Even if a sexual abuser dies and no longer a danger to anyone, he must be exposed. High achievers that die at a relatively young age are often memorialized in a variety of ways. We cannot allow the name of a Rasha to remain in communal high esteem. They must be exposed and their names removed from any form of tribute. 

That this hurts their family is a very sad - even devastating consequence. But that is not a reason to perpetuate a false positive image of the abuser for posterity.  That his family will be hurt is the abuser’s own fault.  What  these rabbis should instead do is assure that the family remain in good stead with the rest of their community. And do whatever it takes to make that happen.