Monday, February 14, 2000

Dealing with Sexual Abuse

Dealing with Sexual Abuse
By Rabbi Yosef Blau
Ottomail - February 14, 2000

Recent postings have focused attention on the problem of sexual abuse in the religious community. Since sexual abuse is usually a pattern of behavior, not dealing with even a small number of abusers causes many victims to suffer. If we demand the high standard of halachic proof before investigating charges then no progress will be made. Halacha itself allows for appropriate punishments for criminals when Torah standards of evidence are not met.

Accusations alone are not proof. However if an appropriate body is organized to listen to complaints that would include individuals trained to recognize abuse and would be supported by rabbinical leadership, then victims will have somewhere to turn. Predators include rabbis and educators and youth leaders where the victims assume that their complaints will be dismissed. National rabbinical organizations and associations of yeshivos and day schools as well as youth movements should have internal mechanisms to investigate charges of improper behavior.

If the Orthodox community fails to respond internally then there is ample halachic justification to go the the secular authorities. When an individual's actions are dangerous to many and the Jewish community is incapable of controlling him there is no prohibition of mesira to go state agencies and the police.

Because this is an embarrassment, our leadership has been reluctant to acknowledge the problem and it will take broad demand to create a systemic process to reduce future suffering.

Sincerely ,

(Rabbi) Yosef Blau

No comments: