Saturday, May 31, 2003

The American Monster - Dr Richard A. Gardner

Dr Richard A. Gardner: Child psychiatrist who developed the theory of Parental Alienation Syndrome
By Andrew Gumbel
The Independent - May 31, 2003

Richard A. Gardner, MD
Richard Alan Gardner, psychiatrist: born New York 28 April 1931; MD 1956; twice married (one son, two daughters); died Tenafly, New Jersey 25 May 2003.

In a contentious child custody dispute in the suburbs of Pittsburgh a few years ago, three teenage boys begged a family court judge not to force them to continue visits to their father because, they said, he was physically abusive towards them. Rather than believe the boys, the judge relied on the testimony of an expert witness retained by the father, a Columbia University professor of clinical psychiatry, Richard A. Gardner.

Gardner insisted the boys were lying as a result of brainwashing by their mother and recommended something he called "threat therapy". Essentially, the Grieco boys were told they should be respectful and obedient on visits to their father and, if they were not, their mother would go to jail. Shortly afterwards, 16-year-old Nathan Grieco, the eldest of the brothers, hanged himself in his bedroom, leaving behind a diary in which he wrote that life had become an "endless torment". Both Gardner and the court were unrepentant even after the suicide, and it was only after an exposé in the local newspaper that custody arrangements for the two surviving boys were changed.

This "threat therapy" was part of a much broader theory of Gardner's known in family courts across the United States as "Parental Alienation Syndrome". The theory - one of the most insidious pieces of junk science to be given credence by US courts in recent years - holds that any mother who accuses her spouse of abusing the children is lying more or less by definition. She tells these lies to "alienate" the children from their father, a shocking abrogation of parental responsibility for which she deserves to lose all custody rights in favour of the alleged abuser.

This is not only tawdry logic, guaranteed from the outset to protect the interests of divorcing fathers, by far Gardner's most enthusiastic constituency, but it has also destroyed the lives of hundreds, maybe thousands, of American families over the past 15 years. In state after state, courts deferred to Gardner's academic credentials and put children in the custody of their alleged abuser, even in cases where police records, medical records and testimony by teachers and social workers supported the mother's accusations.

By now, the concept of "parental alienation" has entered case law and swayed thousands of disputes in which Gardner himself played no part. Yet it has no scientific basis whatsoever. It is not recognised by the American Psychiatric Association or any other professional body. The stream of books that Gardner produced on the subject from the late 1980s were all self-published, without the usual peer review process. His method for determining the reliability of sex abuse allegations was denounced by one noted domestic violence expert, Jon Conte of the University of Washington, as "probably the most unscientific piece of garbage I've seen in the field in all my time".

Nobody with experience of high-conflict divorce cases would deny that mothers, in some cases, make false allegations against their spouses. But Gardner went much further. He believed that 90 per cent of mothers were liars who "programmed" their children to repeat their lies, and never mind the corroborating evidence. He theorised that mothers alleging abuse were expressing, in disguised form, their own sexual inclinations towards their children.

And he suggested there was nothing much wrong with paedophilia, incestuous or not. "One of the steps that society must take to deal with the present hysteria is to 'come off it' and take a more realistic attitude toward paedophilic behaviour," he wrote in Sex Abuse Hysteria - Salem Witch Trials Revisited (1991). Paedophilia, he added, "is a widespread and accepted practice among literally billions of people". Asked once by an interviewer what a mother was supposed to do if her child complained of sexual abuse by the father, Gardner replied: "What would she say? Don't you say that about your father. If you do, I'll beat you."

It beggars belief that such a figure would be taken seriously by family court judges but, in an adversarial system where fathers often have more money to spend on divorce cases, Gardner's theories have proved remarkably persuasive. The journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry wrote in 1996 that a book of Gardner's, Protocols for the Sex-Abuse Evaluation, was "a recipe for finding allegations of sexual abuse false, under the guise of clinical and scientific objectivity. One suspects it will be a bestseller among defence attorneys." And so it has proved.

Gardner's work has created a generation of mothers and children scarred psychologically and, in many cases, physically by the court rulings he has influenced. In one of his earliest cases, a Maryland physicist he labelled a "parental alienator", unfit to retain custody of her children, was subsequently shot dead by her ex-husband. Still Gardner did not change his view that the wife was the true villain; her lies, he insisted, had made the husband temporarily psychotic.

Richard Gardner's background was surprisingly conventional. Born in the Bronx, New York, in 1931, he studied medicine and psychiatry at various prestigious New York universities, and served a stint as a US army psychiatrist in Germany. Appointed to the Division of Child Psychiatry at Columbia in 1963, where he became Clinical Professor of Psychiatry in 1983, he was respected for many years as an expert on childhood experience of divorce.

After he developed his Parental Alienation Syndrome in the 1980s, however, he and Columbia slowly distanced themselves from each other and he spent most of his time in private practice in New Jersey. Along the way, he also turned into an authentic American monster.

"Parenting The Young Sexually Abused Child"

"Parenting The Young Sexually Abused Child"
May 31, 2003

The following is a description of the progressive stages of grief observed in most parents who are dealing with the sexual abuse of their child. The progressive stages of grief apply to non-offending parental reactions and to parental reactions of extra-familial sexual abuse

1) Denial - It is a normal reaction for any parent to have some amount of denial when first hearing the highly emotional news that their young child was sexually abused. Over time as more facts unfold and conversations occur about the sexual abuse, denial usually gives way to the next stage of grief.

2) Anger - Once parental acceptance of at least some of the facts surrounding the sexual abuse has begun, anger will follow. This anger could be directed towards the perpetrator, child or parental self. This anger includes a realization of the "losses" that the parent will face as a secondary victim of their child's sexual abuse. Non-offending parents appear to suffer more losses. For example, if the perpetrator is a stepparent or live-in partner, he/she would likely be asked to leave the home and as a result the non-offending parent faces loss of companionship and finances.

3) Bargaining - Parents move from anger to a bargaining stage as greater acceptance of the sexual abuse occurs. Parents now accept the fact that the sexual abuse occurred but begin to struggle with the level of impact the sexual abuse had on the child and family and the need for recovery. Bargaining occurs when parents look and hope for a fast and less painful recovery. In doing so they may try to minimize the impact of the sexual abuse and unintentionally give messages that it will just go away.

4) Depression or Sadness - A normal response to serious changes suddenly forced upon one's life is sadness and depression. As parents move through this stage they come to realize the extent of changes and degree of impact on the child and family resulting from the sexual abuse. Parents in this stage acknowledge that recovery could be a long term process and that the sexual abuse is not going to go away. Non-offending parents appear to experience the effects of this stage to a greater degree than parents of extra-familial sexual abuse.

5) Acceptance - Parents who enter this stage are accepting of the facts and the impact of the sexual abuse. Recovery and healing processes are no longer feared by the parent(s). Parents in this final stage realize and acknowledge that their child and family can survive the losses, changes and recovery process.  
At the time of your child's disclosure your reaction will play a very large part in how your child and family cope and heal from the sexual abuse.   

The most important helpful reaction is to believe and acknowledge your child's experience.  Your child will learn from you as a parent and from other significant adults about the meaning of the sexual abuse experience.   

For a young child the most harmful reaction that a parent(s) can give is verbal disbelief and punishment for the disclosure.  Verbally expressed disbelief teaches a child that their internal sense of right and wrong cannot to be trusted.  When punishment occurs children learn the consequence for disclosure is a negative reaction.   

In general, sexually abused children recant disclosures and information when they feel that what they have said is not accepted or heard by significant adults.  In particular, with incest cases, disbelief expressed by the non-offending parent can feel like pressure to a child to recant their disclosure.   
Children may also recant disclosures for the following reasons:their perpetrator denies the disclosure;  they are repeatedly questioned by child welfare authorities such as law enforcement, child protection workers,doctors and others in our legal system;  and finally, when disbelief is expressed by other significant adults, such as teachers or family members, such as siblings.   

As a parent(s) you may find it necessary to reduce further stress by limiting your child's contact with others who are not supportive or believing of the sexual abuse.   

Once you tell your child that you believe them, it will be important to show them by giving support and reassurance.  Being able to give your child support helps validate their perception of the sexual abuse situation.  Two ways of verbally providing reassurance are to tell your child that you are sorry about what happened and to make a statement that it was not okay for the perpetrator to touch them in the way they did.  Some children will benefit from reassurances that they will be protected from the perpetrator. A word of CAUTION: if you cannot protect your child from future contacts with the perpetrator, such as often occurs in disputed incest and custody cases, do not give false reassurances.  Failure to keep promises of protection will contribute to your child's feelings of helplessness.  Another way ofproviding reassurance is to be available to talk when it appears as though your child may need it the most, for example, prior to stressful transitions such as change in day care or at bedtime. 

Talking with your child in a matter of fact, calm voice helps your child feel that you are in control and that you can help them survive their experience. Reactions of shock, such as, "you'll never be the same," reinforces feelings of difference and damage.  Highly emotional reactions such as revenge and extreme anger can increase your child's fear and worry.  Young children tend to feel responsible for parental reactions and feelings.  It is harmful toshow your child that you are in a great deal of distress from their disclosure. Your child needs to know that you can survive the sexual abuse experience with him/her.   

Children who feel responsible for causing the sexual abuse will suffer a more negative impact from the experience.  As a parent you can lessen your child's burden of disclosure and feelings of responsibility for causing the sexual abuse.  You can tell your child that it was not his/her fault and that it took a lot of courage to tell.   

Parental reactions such as, "how could this happen", questions such as, "why didn't you tell me sooner" or "why didn't you tell me", can unintentionally intensify feelings of blame.   

When parents indirectly or directly blame their child for causing the abuse, they are in effect excusing the perpetrator.  Perpetrators are solely responsible for the sexual abuse of a child.   

Parents can have the tendency to want to lessen their child's hurtful/painful feelings by minimizing the seriousness of the situation or event.  Sexually abused children need to have acceptance of their feelings whatever they are.  Empathy with your child's feelings shows acceptance and validates that you are listening.   

It will be important that you resist the urge to treat your child differently.  Should you begin to do so he/she may further believe that they are somehow damaged and different because of the sexual abuse. Parental reactions of guilt, such as, "I should have known", can lead to overprotection.  Over protection can send the message that your child will not recover from his/her experience.  Keeping daily routines and reducing changes can be comforting for your child.   

When a disclosure is made a report to law enforcement or child protection usually follows.  It is helpful to reassure your child about the involvement of these professionals in your life.  For example statements such as, "other adults will help us" or "we need to find other adults to help us" or acknowledging that you don't have an answer but stating, "I will find someone who will answer that question", can be reassuring to a child.   

There has been a great deal of research into the possible numbers and nature of false allegations made by children.  Most professionals agree that false reports are rare.  The majority of false allegations are made by adults, not children.  Taking this into account, of all sexual abuse allegations, fewer than 2% are considered false when made by preschool and kindergarten aged children.  For ages 6-12, 4.3% of all allegations made by children are considered false.   

A false allegation does not mean that a young child actually lied about whether the sexual abuse occurred.  More often with young childrena false allegation occurs from lack of understanding, misinterpretation and possible confusion of information.  Generally preschoolers are very difficult to coach or "program" into giving intentionally false disclosures.   

More recently, concerns have been expressed about a much higher rate of false sexual abuse allegations due to coaching or "programming" by vengeful parents in divorce and child custody cases.  Thus far this concern has not been documented by valid information or research.   

Behavioral changes as a result of your child's sexual abuse experience are to be expected.  These changes are normal responses to a highly stressful experience, even though that experience has stopped because of disclosure. Children have limited verbal skills in expressing their stress; therefore most children will express their distress through their behavior.   

Professionals refer to behavioral difficulties or symptoms exhibited by your child immediately after disclosure as the "immediate or short term effects" of sexual abuse.  Children also suffer "long term effects "from sexual abuse.  The majority of professionals define long term effects as behavioral difficulties and symptoms experienced by a child victim upto two years after disclosure.    
Children are affected by their sexual abuse experience in different ways and at differing degrees of severity.  The following are some of the factors that will influence the degree of severity of the sexual abuse on your child:   

1)  Support and belief by parents and significant other adults is the most significant factor that can reduce the negative impact of sexual abuse.  When a parent/child relationship is relatively healthy and positive, the negative impact is reduced for the child victim.   

2)  A child's own internal coping resources will impact the effects of the sexual abuse.  For example, if a child is stress resilient and has not had any other serious life stressors there could be a reduced negative impact.  When children have already experienced life stressors, such as physical abuse and domestic violence, their self esteem and resiliency is already lowered and they face even greater difficulties from an additional stress of sexual victimization.   

3)  The child's age and developmental level influences the impact of sexual abuse.  Generally professionals believe that the younger the child's chronological age or the younger the developmental stage of the child the more serious the negative effects.  Also girl victims appear to process the effects of their sexual abuse differently from boy victims. For example, boys are more apt to act out their anger about the abuse, where girls are prone to hold their anger inside and direct it at themselves.  

4)  Children who have a trusting, parental type relationship with their perpetrator appear to feel the effects of sexual abuse more seriously than children who were sexually abused by a baby-sitter or non-family member. Related to this relationship factor is denial by the child's perpetrator. For example, if a child has a close trusting relationship with their perpetrator who denies the sexual abuse, that child will suffer a more negative impact than when the perpetrator acknowledges and takes responsibility for the sexual abuse.   

5)  When physical abuse, threats or intimidation accompany the sexual abuse, children appear to be more seriously affected.       

Child victims can exhibit a range of behaviors, including suffering from nightmares, fears, regression in self care skills, sexual acting out andrepeating or "replaying" the actual sexual abuse incidents with dolls or peers.  There is no way to predict which behaviors your child will exhibit.
Children will attempt to process or understand their sexual abuse experience on their own.  Therefore, children show various degrees of severity from the effects of sexual abuse.  For example, a child fondled by a non-family member could show serious effects of his/her experience,where as a child involved in an incest experience may show minimal effects. To complicate matters more, children can function well in their day care/schoolsetting but not function well at home and vise-versa.  As a parent it is your difficult job to judge the seriousness of your child's symptoms and whether your child could be in need of professional counseling.   

How to judge the seriousness of your child's behaviors will probably feel confusing.  The following are some thoughts and ideas to consider:   
1)  How long has your child been experiencing the behavior(s)?  For example, has the behavior been occurring for a couple days or persisted for weeks?   

2)  How intense or frequent is the behavior(s)?  For example, is your child having nightmares every night or once a week?   

3)  Is your child having behavioral difficulties at home, school or day care or in all of these settings? 
4)  Is the behavior(s) interfering with your child's ability to function or get through everyday routines?  

5)  Is the behavior(s) disturbing or upsetting the everyday routine of your family?  

6)  Could your child's behavior(s) be a result of a new "stage"of development experienced by most children his/her age and not specifically related to the sexual abuse?  

7)  Is your child accepting of help from you to change the problematic behavior?     

Your child is probably in need of professional counseling and guidance if: behaviors persist over time, are disruptive to either his/her routinesor their family's routines, causes difficulty in either the school or daycare setting and he/she resists help from you.   

We've discussed ways to tell when your child may need special help but how will you know if you may need special help to cope with your child's sexual abuse?  Some things to consider are: if you feel overwhelmed or unable to help your child; when your own childhood issues of sexual abuse resurface because of your child's sexual abuse; and finally when the focus of your child's sexual abuse disrupts your everyday routines and your own emotional needs are not being met.   

Professional helping services will probably focus on resolving your child's problematic behaviors but also reducing the negative effects from the sexual abuse that contributed to the behaviors.  You are encouraged to involve yourself in these services to learn how to help your child with their difficult behaviors.   
The next part of this manual will provide some ideas and strategies to help your child manage their problem behaviors.  Helping your child means helping him/her identify and use activities that can make him/her feel better and reduce their anxiety.  Some activities could include: finding someone to talk to, picture drawing, relaxation exercises, play activities with a special purpose or something as common as using a night light.   

Some of the ideas and strategies will be more successful with some children than with others.  It will be up to you as your child's parent to determine which ideas are better suited to your child's personality and specific situation.   

Fears can be considered common in children between the ages of 2-6 years.  More common fears include: fear of dogs or animals; fear of the dark; fear of thunder/storms; fear of ghosts; and fear of insects.  Children learn to be afraid and parents often model fears for their children.      

In the case of sexually abused children, key factors associated with fear are: fear of recurrence of the sexual abuse even after disclosure; fear of follow through on threats made by the child's perpetrator; fear of retaliation by the perpetrator; fear of negative parental reaction and a generalized fear towards persons who have physical features that resemble the perpetrator, for example: adult males who wear glasses and have a mustache like the child's perpetrator. 
Often because of their age preschool children are unable to verbalize their fears including identifying why they are afraid.  Unverbalized fears can take the form of anger, somatic complaints such as tummy aches and nightmares.   

Parents can help their children most by helping him/her to identify and overcome unreasonable fears.  Having a nonjudgmental and supportive attitude is crucial.  For example, ask, "What can I do to help you feel safe?" OR you can provide suggestions such as, "I wonder if having a night light on in your room would help you feel safe?"  OR validate your child's fear, such as, "It looks like this is going to be scary for you to do today, that's okay, I will help you get through it".
Some children will use their own resources and create routines and rituals to help feel safer.  An example of a ritual is: checking the windows, closet and doors every night before bedtime.  Other examples include: keeping a small light on in their room at bedtime, putting a flashlight under their pillow, or insisting that the bedroom door stay open/closed.   

Parents can also help their children by providing explanations and reassurance.  For example, when helping your child deal with fear of noises, provide a reasonable explanation about what could have caused the noise, such as the wind, the cat under the bed, etc.  Providing reassurance,such as, "I will check on you while you sleep"  OR  "I will leave my door open so that if you need me you can yell and I'll hear you".  Suggesting to your child that re-arranging their room might get rid of scary shadows could be reassuring as well as offering an explanation.  Another way of being reassuring is to explain: "Your fear will get smaller and smaller"  OR  "We will work together to get over your fears"  OR  "I will help you feel safe from your fears".   

With young children who are unable to verbalize fear, it is helpful to use feeling words similar to the following: "I wonder, when you check the closet, doors and windows if you are afraid"  OR  "Being scared makes your tummy hurt."  Reflecting your child's feelings helps him/her to learn to identify their feelings while giving them permission to say what they might be feeling.  

Modeling calmness and providing a message of optimism that your child can survive their fears is also very important.  You could state,"I know you can get through this"  OR  "I know how brave you can be"  OR "I remember, you were brave when ______ and I know you can be brave again like that now".   
Some children are able to verbalize fear of their perpetrator. It could be reassuring to establish a plan of safety with your child.  For example, when a perpetrator is not in jail and the child has expressed a fear of retaliation, a safety plan could include a calm, matter of fact review of adults in your child's life whom are possible protectors.  Other kinds of safety plans could include a discussion about what-if situations and ideas about ways they could help keep themselves safe.   

A more specific strategy useful in reducing anxiety around fear is to teach your child to "self-talk".  This is where you teach him/her to talk to him/herself to get through a potential scary situation.  For example: your child tells self, "I can do this."   OR   "I'm brave".
Another specific strategy is to read books about other children who have fears.  This can help to normalize and lessen feelings of being different.   

Play can be another means of "mastering" or overcoming fear. Children will use play to act out how to deal with their fear and to help to relieve/reduce their fear.  Parents can interact with their child through play offering suggestions and practicing how to deal with specific fearfulsituations.  For example: using a doll to coach another doll to be brave before going to the doctor or helping a doll to talk about his/her fears.   

Relaxation can also help a child reduce their level of distress from fear.  For example, a soothing back rub just before nap time,  listening to calming music as part of a ritual or routine and teaching relaxation exercises such as deep breathing can be helpful to your child.           
Sleep problems including nightmares are common in children ages 1-6. The two different kinds of sleep problems we will discuss are night terrors and nightmares.  

Night terrors occur suddenly in a sleeping child, usually early in their sleep.  The child will thrash about wildly, while screaming and appearing to be intensely frightened.  The child may appear to be awake but is not.  They will also appear to be confused and will be unable to communicate.   

Children having night terrors will not be aware of their parents presence and will not remember the night terror event.  If your child suffers night terrors it is usually best not to try to wake him/her.  Most children will gradually relax and can then be encouraged to lay down and fall back asleep.  Night terrors are not as common as nightmares in sexually abused children.   

Nightmares are more common in children and are frequently associated with stress. Parents know about nightmares because their child wakes them up crying or yelling in fear.  They usually occur late in a child's night time sleep.  Nightmares are intense and frightening for the child and he/she has difficulty getting back to sleep.  Children suffering from nightmares may need physical or verbal comfort from their parent(s).   

Sexually abused children appear to have frequent nightmares. These nightmares could include actual content from the child's sexual abuseexperience or be the result of bottled up feelings such as anger or fear. Some nightmares include themes of monsters, "bad people" and snakes.  Nightmares can be so intense and real that children may have difficulty distinguishing them as not real.  The following are some specific ideas for helping your child with their nightmares:   
1)  Some children may be afraid to talk about their nightmares, believing that if they did the nightmare would come true.  Encourage them to talk about, act out or draw pictures of their nightmare while explaining that nightmares are not real but make- believe.   

2)  Provide verbal reassurance,  "If you need me to stay with you until you fall asleep, I will". 

3)  Provide statements that will normalize nightmares for your child, such as: "Other kids that had a touching problem like you, have nightmares too" or "Most kids have nightmares when they are scared."  Read books about other children's nightmares and how they confronted them.   

4)  Bolster bedtime routines such as:
  • provide a quiet time before bedtime
  • read a comforting story
  • talk about good dreams
  • provide comforting music
  • lie down with your child in their room and bed
  • rock your child or give a back rub
  • provide a relaxing bath
5)  Be creative, think up and act out safe or humorous endings to nightmares.    

6)  Make a "dream helper" or "nightmare buster", a powerful yet friendly helper to protect from or chase away nightmares.  For example, adream helper could be a special stuffed animal, a nightmare buster couldbe a picture of Batman drawn by your child and hung on the door.   

7)  When helping your child return to sleep afterbeing awakened by a nightmare it will be most helpful to provide physicalcomfort and verbal reassurance that, he/she is in a safe place and nightmaresare not real and can't hurt.  It could also be helpful to turn on a lightin your child's bedroom to show them that are in a safe place.  Any of theabove suggestions could also be helpful, such as: a back rub, lying downwith your child until they fall back to sleep, comforting music or a book.   
Sexual behaviors observed in preschool and school aged children are a partof normal sexual development.  When children are sexually abused they areprematurely introduced to sexual stimulation and pleasure that they are unableto understand and cope with because of their young age.  Many of their sexualbehaviors are a learned response to the perpetrator and sexual abuse acts. Sexual abuse may also increase a child's normal interest in sexual matters.   

Children most often tell parents, by their behavior abouttheir level of distress.  Young children who are sexually abused appear tohave more problem behaviors in the area of sexuality.  These include:
1) excessive masturbation,
2) sexual acting out with peers,  
3) pseudomature or false mature sexual behaviors, and 
4) confusion over sexual identity and what is appropriate sexually between children and adults.  

When helping your child with problem sexual behaviors it is very important that you maintain a matter of fact, non-judgemental and firm attitude.  Reacting in this way reduces the powerfulness of the behavior.   

The following are some ideas and strategies helpful in dealing with excessive or public masturbation:   

1)  Reflect child's confusion, such as "you must be confused aboutwhat is okay, I'll help you".  Follow-up with specific expectations and limits.   

2)  Explain and set limits in matter of fact tone and simple language.  For example when masturbation is in public, you could state "masturbation can be done in the bathroom or bedroom but not in the living room or grocery store".   

3)  Distract child when masturbation occurs before sleep by offering a soothing alternative like a back rub or quiet music.  

4)  Interrupt public masturbation without punishing and suggest an alternative behavior such as playing a game.                     
The following are some ideas and strategies helpful in dealing with inappropriate sexual acting out with peers and play with toys:  

1)  Set limits with a matter of fact, firm voice but not a punitive voice.  

2)  Supervise or monitor your child's play with peers and toys,so if necessary you can interrupt and set appropriate limits.   

3)  When the play is with toys and in front of a peer, use words such as, "it doesn't look like your friend likes that kind of play"and redirect to another more appropriate activity.   

4)  Some sexual play with toys and sexual acting out with peers can be the result of sexual abuse memories experienced by your child.  Your child may be demonstrating or re-enacting them through his/her play to gain control over or an understanding of what happened to him/her. When the play is with toys such as, two dolls having sex, you may choose to interrupt or allow your child the opportunity to replay the situation. If you choose to give your child time to re-enact their experience it is important that you watch for continuous, endless play.  If your child appears to be involved in repetitive play without a resolution or a "safe" ending,you may want to join your child's play and act out a safer ending.  Some parents may have difficulty helping their child with these kind of behaviors and if this is your experience you are encouraged to contact a child therapist for guidance.
5)  Teach your child accurate sex education and sexuality information, using correct terms and correcting misinformation.   

6)  When the behavior is sexual acting out with a peer, use words such as, "it was not okay for _____ to touch your penis/vagina and it is not okay for you to touch ______ in their penis/vagina"  OR  "you are in charge of your penis/vagina, it's up to you to take good care of it." OR  "it's up to you to make sure you give only safe touches."   

7)  When the behaviors are provocative or seductive,use words such as, "I like it much better when you give me a hug and kissl ike this, (demonstrate)".  After you have set these limits and demonstrated for child, catch him/her giving the appropriate affection and praise him/her. OR use words such as this, "I think you are confused about what are okay ways of showing that you love   

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Resolution Regarding Members Accused of Improprieties

Resolution Regarding Members Accused of Improprieties
Adopted by the Rabbinical Council of America - May 28, 2003

WHEREAS, in recent years there have been reported a number of incidents of sexual, physical and/or emotional abuse perpetrated by rabbis and teachers, including members of the Rabbinical Council of America, against members of the communities that they serve and others, adults and children, in violation of Torah law and of civil law; and

WHEREAS, failure to respond to such cases is a violation of the verse, "Thou shalt not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor" (Lev. 19:16; see Hilkhot Rotseiach 1: 14); and

WHEREAS, it is the duty of the Rabbinical Council of America to protect the integrity and welfare of the members of the community that its members serve; to serve and help its members in times of crisis; to represent to the community the best of Torah values; and to protect the dignity of Torah and Orthodox Judaism; and

WHEREAS, events of the past have proven, to our great dismay, that organizations and individuals have not always dealt with these incidents in the best possible way; and

WHEREAS, rabbis must conduct themselves in ways that are exemplary in their religious, moral and interpersonal conduct, not only because of their personal obligations that are governed by the Torah and the Halachah, but in fulfillment of the ideal of ahavat Hashem, "And you shall love the Lord your God: that the Name of Heaven be beloved because of you" (Yoma 86a)., an obligation that calls upon each Jew to conduct himself/herself in ways that reflect nobly on the Torah and God, and to refrain from any improper conduct in all areas including, but not limited to, sexual, personal, and economic behaviors; and

WHEREAS, the verse, "And you shall be guiltless before the Lord and before Israel."(Numbers 32:22) extends the concerns of conduct to mar'it ayin and heshad, suspicious behaviors, and places a higher responsibility on personal and professional conduct of all Jews, especially rabbis; and

WHEREAS, improper behavior can cause a hillul Hashem, a desecration of God's Name, a transgression that it is more difficult to atone for than for any other sin, so that not even repentance, the atonement of Yom Kippur, and personal suffering can absolve one of this offense (Yoma 86a); and

WHEREAS, the Halachah recognizes that an adam hashuv (a prominent person) is held to a standard of behavior and morality higher than that to which others are held and must refrain from any improper behavior, even if not explicitly prohibited or illegal, lest he cause a hillul Hashem, a desecration of God's Name. An adam hashuv, a well-known and well-respected person, and a talmid hakham, a pious, learned scholar, are expected by others to live according to strict moral standards-therefore, the greater the desecration when they fail to live up to these expectations. Their failures reflect negatively not only upon their personal reputations, but upon the Torah that they claim to uphold and upon the God they represent. Among others, these behaviors include embarrassing one's colleagues due to the nature of the rumors that are spread about him (Yoma 86a), embarrassing one's colleagues by the less-than-dignified activities in which he engages (Rosh to Moed Katan, ch. 3, no. 11) and degrading the honor of Torah (Pesahim 49a); and

WHEREAS, the Mishnah, Avot 4:4, reminds us that sequestering a hillul Hashem will always be unsuccessful: "Whoever desecrates the name of Heaven in private will ultimately be punished in public, whether the desecration was committed unintentionally or intentionally." Hence, a conspiracy to conceal information about abuse will ultimately be made public, creating an even greater hillul Hashem; and

WHEREAS, the Talmud, Berakhot 19b, posits, "Wherever a profanation of God's Name is involved no respect is paid to a rabbi"; and

WHEREAS, R. Akiva explained the biblical verse, "And you shall love your friend as yourself (Lev. 19:18)" by positing, "What is hateful to you, do not do to your friend." (Shabbat 31a), we are obligated to respect and protect the integrity, welfare and dignity (kevod ha-beriyot) of our fellow humans;


The Rabbinical Council of America condemns in the strongest terms any act of sexual, physical or emotional violence, abuse or impropriety, perpetrated by any of its members against any child or adult and declares to all victims that the abuse is the responsibility and sin of the abuser and is not the responsibility or sin of the victim; and

The Rabbinical Council of America recommits itself to fulfilling its responsibility for the welfare of the members of the Jewish community at large and the general community as well, especially to those who have been victims or who claim to be victims of an act of sexual, physical or emotional violence, abuse or impropriety; and

The Rabbinical Council of America commits itself to reevaluating its policies and procedures in cases of accusations of acts of violence, abuse or impropriety made against any of its members and to develop and enact, in a timely manner but no later than June 30, 2004, those policies and procedures that will effectively and responsibly respond to accusations made against any of its members including:
  • a reevaluation of the role and function of the Vaad Hakavod;
  • the adoption of standards, policies and procedures for the reprimand and censure of members of the Rabbinical Council of America, as well as provisions and procedures for the suspension and revocation of membership;
  • the adoption of provisions for reporting convicted or admitted abusers to the Placement Committee so that they will be prevented from assuming positions that will place others in possibly harmful situations as well as to develop responsible means to identify abusers to those communities or institutions to which they may move;
  • the development of plans to help members who have been involved in improper behavior find appropriate therapeutic support, as well as the development of procedures to help the families and congregants of these members deal with the very trying circumstances they face;
  • the education of rabbis in proper conduct in interacting with others as well as in ways to being falsely accused of improper behavior. We are also concerned about the possibility of a false accusation made against a member and commit ourselves to develop means to evaluate the veracity of an accusation and to help and support a rabbi who is falsely accused. We recognize the great difficulties involved in evaluating an accusation and in determining its veracity. The Rabbinical Council of America commits itself, in developing these new procedures, to proceed with careful and responsible deliberation in developing guidelines for investigating and trying to determine the validity of accusations; to take into account the issues of confidentiality as it applies both to the accuser and the accused; to respect the need for integrity and timeliness in the investigative process; and to consult with such professionals as lawyers and psychologists, as well as with victims and their families who can contribute in many significant and important ways in formulating and executing these policies.

The Rabbinical Council of America maintains that reporting acts or suspicions of child abuse is not mesirah* and commits itself and its members to reporting acts or suspicions of child abuse as required by civil law; and

The Rabbinical Council of America recommits itself and its members:
  • to assert responsible leadership in publicly condemning acts of sexual, physical and emotional violence, abuse and impropriety and in formulating
  •  to execute educational materials and programs that will educate its rabbis and lay persons in the areas of sexual, physical and emotional violence, abuse and impropriety,
  • to execute procedures and policies that will safely, sensitively and effectively protect the members of the community from violence, abuse and impropriety,
  • to deal appropriately with its members who have perpetrated such violence, abuse or impropriety; and

The Rabbinical Council of America urges its members to assert responsible leadership in their individual synagogues, schools, organizations and communities in publicly condemning acts of sexual, physical and emotional violence, abuse and impropriety and
  • in formulating and executing educational materials and programs in their synagogues, schools, organizations and communities that that will educate the members of their institutions and organizations in the areas of sexual, physical and emotional violence, abuse and impropriety.
  • to establish and execute procedures and policies in their individual communities that will safely, sensitively and effectively protect the members of those communities, synagogues and schools from violence, abuse and impropriety, including the proper training and education of all staff members and the publishing of guidelines for acceptable behavior as well as guidelines for the reporting of suspicions and acts of inappropriate behavior, and guidelines for effectively dealing with those reports; and
  • The Rabbinical Council of America commends those organizations and individuals that have raised these important issues in our community; that have developed programs that have helped victims of violence and abuse to acquire therapeutic, psychological and legal help; that have furthered public awareness of these issues; and that have furthered the physical safety, emotionally integrity and spiritual well-being of individuals and of our community at large.


  1. Arukh HaShulhan maintains that mesirah was prohibited because of the nature of autocratic governments under which Jews lived throughout much of our history. Such informing often led to dangerous persecution of the entire Jewish Community. He posits that this injunction no longer applies in those communities in which the government is generally fair and non-discriminatory. (Arukh HaShulhan, Hoshen Mishpat 388:7. This source is cited authoritatively by Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz in "The Abused Child: Halakhic Insights." Ten Da'at, Sivan 5748. p. 12). Accordingly, it is obligatory in the Western world today to inform the civil authorities about individuals who abuse others.
  2. The prohibition of mesirah applies only when testimony assists civil authorities in illegally obtaining the money of another Jew, not when it aids a non-Jewish government in fulfilling such rightful duties as collecting taxes and punishing criminals. When, however, the information concerns the criminal activities of a fellow Jew - as long as the Jewish criminal has also violated a Torah law, and even if the punishment will be more severe than the Torah prescribes (RaN to Sanhedrin 46a) - the ban of mesirah does not apply. (Rabbi Herschel Schachter, "Dina deMalchuso, Dina,"Journal of Halachah and Contemporary Society, I, p. 118.)
  3. Even should one hold that the prohibition of mesirah is relevant today, reporting child abusers to civil authorities is nevertheless mandatory. According to Rema, even when the prohibition of mesirah is in force, "a person who attacks others should be punished. If the Jewish authorities do not have the power to punish him, he must be punished by the civil authorities." (Hoshen Mishpat 338:7 and Shakh, no. 45. See also Gloss of Rema to Hoshen Mishpat 338:9.) Our Batei Din today have neither the power nor the authority to handle such matters.
  4. Shulhan Arukh rules that the prohibition of mesirah restricts an individual who is being harassed from making a report to the civil authorities. However, when there is a meitzar hatzibbur (public menace), mesirah is permissible. (Hoshen Mishpat 338:12, see Shakh, no. 59 and Gra no. 71.) Child abusers and molesters clearly endanger the welfare of many children with whom they have contact. (Rabbi Waldenberg quoted in Nishmat Avraham, Vol. IV, p. 209.)

See Rabbi Michael Broyde, "Mesirat Meida al Avaryanim lidei ha-Shiltonot be-Artzot ha-Berit," Hadarom, vol. 72-73, Elul 5762, pp. 7-38; p. 37, note 90.

Monday, May 26, 2003

Jewish Community Grapples With Sex Abuse

Jewish Community Grapples With Sex Abuse
By Stephanie Saul - Staff Writer
Newsday - May 26, 2003

This is the first in a three-part series.
It was the sound of ripping cloth, they said, that woke them up.
Camp Mogen Avraham
On an August night in the Catskills, with summer camp almost over, the boys had fallen asleep in their bunkhouse, exhausted from play and religious study. Only minutes later, they would later testify in court, the noise awakened them. Then came mysterious movements in the dark cabin. The campers lay still. Why was a human figure hovering over the bed of a 10-year-old Woodmere boy?
The terrified boy blurted out his allegation to a camp counselor almost a day later: Someone, he said, had torn open the seat of his pajamas and sexually abused him.
The boy's parents were called to camp more than a day later, but police were not notified.
"We all concurred that considering the trauma that would possibly result from further action, it would be best not to take any additional action," according to the camp's notes, later filed in court in a civil suit. A state Department of Health sanitarian later found that the camp violated state regulations by not reporting the accusation.
Police learned of the allegations two months later, alerted by a psychologist who was treating the boy. The boy's mother later told a state official she felt pressured to remain silent, according to state health department records. After all, the alleged abuser and the camp officials were revered religious leaders.
The accused was eventually acquitted by a judge, who said "contradictory and sometimes retracting statements" left him unclear about what happened. The camp suggests that the alleged incident was fabricated.
After more than a year of charges and disclosures concerning sexual abuse of young people by Catholic priests, the story may sound familiar. But the camp, Mogen Avraham, is a popular summer retreat in Bethel for Orthodox Jewish children. And the accused was not a priest, but a teaching rabbi from Forest Hills.
The alleged 1998 incident at Camp Mogen Avraham is just one in a growing dossier of allegations that rabbis, cantors and other Jewish religious leaders have abused children and teenagers in their care, a Newsday investigation has found.
In sheer numbers, the problem is unlikely to rival the Catholic Church's, since priests outnumber rabbis by roughly nine to one. While there is no data on the number of clergy with sexual disorders, experts say that, anecdotally, the problem does not seem as severe in the rabbinate as in the priesthood, even in relative terms.
Even so, some rabbis call the sexual abuse allegations a "crisis," and religious organizations are grappling with ways to handle it.
Vicki Polin, MA, LCPC
"We have a huge problem on our hands, a problem that is just beginning to be addressed in religious circles," Vicki Polin, a psychotherapist, said in recent testimony to the Maryland legislature.
Polin, who is Jewish and calls herself a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, runs The Awareness Center, a Baltimore-based clearinghouse that tracks sexual abuse allegations against Jewish religious leaders. The center's Web site lists about 40 alleged cases of abuse involving rabbis and cantors. As with the Catholic scandals, Jewish victims say they still struggle years, even decades, later with this betrayal of trust.
Rabbi Sidney Goldenberg
"I can honestly say that he ruined not only my Bas-Mitzvah, but my faith in Judaism," wrote one woman, now 30, referring to Rabbi Sidney Goldenberg. In a letter to California prosecutors, the woman said Goldenberg, then a cantor, made lewd comments and rubbed her thigh in her parents' home in Seaford in 1985. At the time, he was supposed to be helping her prepare for her bat mitzvah, the joyous and solemn religious celebration when a Jewish girl turns 13.
Goldenberg was convicted in 1997 of abusing a 12-year-old California bat mitzvah student, after investigators uncovered a 27-year trail of complaints by girls against him. He served three years and is now living on Coney Island, according to police.
Like the Goldenberg case, the abuse allegations tend to have common elements, including some familiar from the Catholic scandals:
Children and in some cases parents are reluctant to accuse respected clergymen. When they do, they are often disbelieved, dismissed, even derided.
"You have to understand the extent to which the guys in the school looked up to [the rabbi]," says one man, now 38, who says he was abused as a teenager by a rabbi now teaching in Israel. "He was beyond question."
And another rabbi recalls dismissing several girls' complaints against Goldenberg as "some giggly thing."
Rabbi Yosef Blau
Religious authorities fail to report abuse charges to the police. Among strictly observant Orthodox Jews, this tendency is bolstered by the ancient doctrine of mesira, which prohibits Jews from informing on other Jews to secular authorities, a legacy of centuries of oppression of Jews in many countries.
When religious leaders try to investigate cases and prevent abusers from having contact with children, their efforts often fail. "Few rabbis have any training in recognizing abuse, and the rabbinical courts have no investigative arm," says Rabbi Yosef Blau, the spiritual counselor to students at Yeshiva University.
Rabbi Dr. Avrohom Mondrowitz
Alleged abusers continue to operate freely by moving among congregations, states, even countries. Avrohom Mondrowitz, a self-styled rabbi who once had a popular radio show in Brooklyn, is living openly and teaching in a Jerusalem college although he is wanted on charges of sexually abusing four Brooklyn boys, aged 10 to 16. If he ever returns to the United States, he will be arrested, according to the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes.
Rabbi Baruch Lanner
Many of the alleged abusers were popular, even charismatic leaders, who were thought to be particularly good in relating to young people. Rabbi Baruch Lanner, convicted last year of endangering the welfare of two girls at a New Jersey yeshiva, sidestepped abuse allegations for years, in part because of his reputation as a dynamic figure in an Orthodox youth program.
Rabbi Hershel Billet
Unlike the Catholic Church, Jewish authority is not centralized, but various groups within the branches of Judaism have begun to strengthen anti-abuse policies for their members.
At its annual meeting, which starts today in Rye, the Rabbinical Council of America, an organization of 1,100 Orthodox rabbis, features programs on curbing abuse, including one entitled "Rabbinic Behavior: Confronting a Crisis of Accountability."
"We're trying to establish that inappropriate behavior is inexcusable," said Rabbi Hershel Billet, president of the organization and rabbi at Young Israel of Woodmere.
Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb
Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, a psychotherapist who is also the Orthodox Union's executive vice president, said he hopes the rabbinical council will make a firm commitment during the meeting "to develop a real, real tight program" combating sexual abuse.
The rabbinical council is expected to discuss ways to adjudicate abuse allegations against its members, with penalties that include ouster.

Rabbi Israel Kestenbaum at home prior to his arrest
Sources within the organization say that the impetus for the panel's work includes old abuse allegations against Rabbi Ephraim Bryks of Kew Gardens Hills, which he has repeatedly denied, and the recent arrest of Rabbi Israel Kestenbaum of Highland Park, N.J.
Kestenbaum, a chaplaincy leader for the New York Board of Rabbis, was charged in February with endangering the welfare of a minor after allegedly discussing sex with an undercover police officer posing as a teenage girl in a chat room called "I Love Older Men." Kestenbaum has pleaded not guilty.
Rabbi Ephraim Bryks
Rabbis concerned about sex abuse say accusations against a rabbi are often handled quietly, or not at all. Accused rabbis go on hiatus briefly, then revive their ministries in other congregations, even other countries in the far-flung Diaspora.
Rabbi Matis Weinberg
One of those was Rabbi Matis Weinberg. Accused of sexually abusing students at his California yeshiva two decades ago, he is said to have agreed to leave teaching. But Weinberg resurrected his teaching career in Israel. When Yeshiva University in Manhattan recently unearthed the allegations against Weinberg, the New York school severed its ties to the Jerusalem college where Weinberg had lectured until recently.
Weinberg has never been charged with a crime and has denied the former students' allegations. Through a friend, he declined to discuss the charges with Newsday.
The allegations against Weinberg have been widely reported in the Jewish press and have helped bring the issue to the fore in recent months.
Like the Orthodox rabbis' council, representatives of other branches of Judaism say they are taking steps to combat sexual abuse.
Rabbi Jerome Epstein
"I would rather this not become an epidemic and I think what we need to do is take affirmative steps to guide people before they make mistakes," said Rabbi Jerome Epstein of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the lay arm of the Conservative movement. Epstein said the group's committee on congregational standards is currently working on a "best practices" document.
Rabbi Steven Rosenberg
Rabbi Steven Rosenberg of McAllen, Texas, formerly the leader of the Jewish Center of Bay Shore, said his Conservative congregation already has adopted such rules.
"If I have a bat mitzvah in my office, the door is never closed," said Rosenberg, who also tells his 23 religion school teachers "they are not allowed to touch students, not a pat, not a hug."
"It is very important for me for my congregants to know: That kind of behavior -- we will not tolerate it," said Rosenberg.
Rosenberg was sensitized by the case against Sidney Goldenberg, the former cantor, who had worked at the Bay Shore synagogue before moving to California.
Rabbi Paul Menitoff
Many rabbis say their groups would always notify police about abuse although their rules usually do not spell this out. Such notification was one of the remedies embraced by Roman Catholic bishops in the priest abuse scandal. And Reform rabbis are in the process of revising their ethics code to include such a requirement, according to Rabbi Paul Menitoff, executive vice president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.
The National Conference of Synagogue Youth, an Orthodox group, does have a policy requiring that police be notified, an outgrowth of its scandal involving Lanner, a longtime youth leader with the group.
In that case, a religious court called a bet din concluded in 1989 that the most serious charges against Lanner were unfounded, clearing the way for his continued youth work. Last year, more than a dozen years later, he was convicted in New Jersey on abuse-related charges.
Orthodox Jews frequently rely on the batei din, but Blau, a member of the Lanner bet din, has become an outspoken critic of the religious court system.
For one thing, he said, judges in the religious courts often know the accused, making fair decisions difficult. In addition, he said that perjury before a bet din is rarely punished.
Appearing in February before dozens of students in the main study hall at Yeshiva University, Blau and the two other members of the Lanner bet din issued an extraordinary public apology for their role in allowing Lanner to continue unchecked for so many years.
"We must do everything in our power to protect potential victims from abuse," the apology said. "This includes reporting accusations of abuse to Jewish and, at times, to secular authorities."
Such a secular-reporting requirement is controversial among some Orthodox groups, partly because it appears to run counter to the doctrine called mesira.
In ancient times, one who violated the doctrine and reported a fellow Jew to secular authorities could be killed on sight. Today, the punishment is generally ostracism in the community.
The vast majority of rabbis agree that mesira is overridden when there is imminent danger to possible future victims, but Blau says the taboo remains, particularly among the most traditional Orthodox.
Civil authorities who seek to act against rabbinic abuse often become frustrated by the reluctance of witnesses to testify.
Prosecutors in Sullivan County complained during the case that their witnesses faced pressure when they tried to prosecute Yaakov Weiner, the teaching rabbi acquitted in the Mogen Avraham case.
"It was a bitter pill for me," remembers Tom Cawley, the former Sullivan County assistant district attorney who prosecuted the Mogen Avraham case. "They sent their kid to camp up here in Bethel and thought he'd be taken care of. Someone was taken care of, all right, but it wasn't him."
Weiner, who has taught in several yeshivas throughout the metropolitan area, consistently denied the charges. Attempts to reach him through one of his lawyers were unsuccessful.
The boy's mother and father, a rabbi himself, would not discuss the case with Newsday. But camp and State Health Department records filed in court indicate that the parents were not told of the alleged abuse until nearly 48 hours after the boy spoke of it, while the 36-year-old Weiner's father, a rabbi well-known in the Queens Orthodox community, was notified sooner.
Contacted recently, the camp's current executive director, Moshe Wein, defended the camp's handling of the accusation, saying, "There's no evidence to indicate that an incident took place." He added, "This may be one of those cases in which a child lied."
Lawyers for Weiner at his bench trial made much of contradictions in the boy's statements. But the most confusing testimony came from the alleged victim's bunkmates.
One of the boys reversed his story between the time he spoke to police and the trial several months later, Cawley said in court.
"We believe that there was pressure placed on the victim and children's families to get them not to testify," said Sullivan County District Attorney Stephen Lungen in a recent telephone interview. "There was a child who could have substantiated what was said, and that family would not cooperate."
The entire matter left Sullivan County Judge Frank Labuda confused.
"It is clear in the evening hours of August 8 and the morning of August 9, two years ago, something happened at bunk 3 Gimel bunk... " he said in his January 2000 ruling. But Labuda concluded that trial testimony "does not create a clear picture for this court of exactly what happened in Gimel bunk nor who did it."
He found Weiner not guilty.