Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ohel: What do you say to the children who were abused that you neglected to report to CPS?

David Pelcovitz and David Mandel
Please note that the article below was written back in 2003 as part of Ohel's propaganda to give the impression that they were doing the right thing when it came to sexually abused children.  

At that time The Awareness Center had already been questioning their non-compliance to follow the New York State law, that required them to make hot-line reports when they SUSPECTED a child was at risk of harm or neglect.  Their response was to incinuate that our organization was anti-orthodox and eluded that Vicki Polin, who is the founder and CEO of our organization was crazy.  The goal was to attempt to distract the orthodox community from being enlightened of reality.  Their motto always appeared to be "divide and conquer" any group of people who were shining a light on truth. 

Back in 2003, individuals connected to Ohel attempted to state that due to cultural diversity issues that they exempt from following the law of the land.  Their main point was that no one would come to them for help if it was known they would make hotline reports.  The truth is that years ago when the mandated reporter laws first took effect, this was the fear of secular organization.  As time past it was proven that this fear was not reality based.

It's important to note that Ohel Family Services receive both state and federal funding, which obligates them to report cases in which they SUSPECT child abuse or neglect to the New York State Child Protective Services.  By not making reports, The Awareness Center believes that a federal investigation should be made, and criminal charges should be brought up against them.

The Awareness Center is currently looking for cases in which David Mandel, David Pelcovitz or staff at Ohel Family Services has acted appropriately and put the safety and concern of children before that of the rabbonim or other powerful influential individuals?  If anyone is aware of any, please let us know.
Ohel:  What do we say to our children who are molested?
(2003) David Mandel Chief Executive Officer OHEL Children’s Home & Family Services and David Pelcovitz, Ph.D. Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychology North Shore University Hospital 

What do we say to our children who are molested? 

In the last six months child molestation has been described in a series of articles.  The focus has been to inform and educate our community on a phenomenon that exists that most people do not discuss…there are Orthodox Jewish men who are pedophiles.  The second focus was to encourage parents of victims and our community leaders to prosecute these molesters. There are scores, yes scores, of molesters in our midst throughout Orthodox Jewish communities in New York, throughout the United States and in Israel, yet maybe a handful have been prosecuted and jailed.

This topic hits a nerve.  Children who are victims are traumatized.  Parents are angry and confused on how to respond to their child and how to prosecute the molester.  Adding to the confusion are neighbors and community leaders who have rallied in support of the alleged molester refusing to believe that this “good man” perpetrated this crime. The Jewish Press is thanked for its courageous stand in printing this series of articles.  They have taken some criticism from those who feel this is not a topic to be publicly discussed.

Much attention has focused recently on the issue of adolescents at risk and especially drug use.  Drug use is directly relevant to the issue of molestation.  When an adolescent who is a drug user has truly gained your trust and he or she has reached a point of helplessness many will tell you of their experiences of being molested as a child.  We will discuss this in greater detail at a future date.

What do we tell our children who were victims?  How do we take away the pain? the memory? the feeling of being dirty?

Let’s first understand just how complex this issue is. Sigmund Freud established a principle in human behavior that the path to healing an emotional wound is by talking about it. We could disagree with Freud yet this is the very concept that seems to most elude us in our frum circles.  Our response has been to ignore, deny or suppress such conversations both individually and as a community.  So the very first action to take is to speak with the child.

Child molestation is an invasion of the body and brain that is different from other situations we face with children.  We have, lo aleinu, children with cancer who require explanations of how their body is affected and what radiation and chemotherapy is.  We have children to whom we explain the loss of a grandparent or parent, rachmeinu litzlun, and that Hashem took them to a better place as His helper. Sickness and death are difficult concepts to explain to children yet there are physical aspects to them that can be described in a way that the child can understand.

Although some children who are molested may show no obvious changes in their behavior common reactions may include changes in the following areas:
Ability to trust others: Children abused by a trusted adult may have difficulty allowing themselves to get close to members of the extended family or adults they come in contact with in school or shul. Young children may become more clingy and older children may develop a hostile or mistrustful attitude in relating to others. 
Impaired self-concept: Abused children may develop a sense of permanent damage, which may include feelings of shame, self-blame, and a general sense that they are unworthy of love. Some react by gravitating to peer groups dominated by rejected or rebellious children, since they view themselves as not deserving to be in the mainstream. 
Difficulty controlling emotions: Increased irritability or difficulty calming down after becoming upset is frequently seen in these children.  Younger children may manifest regressed behaviors such as an increase in whining, tantrums or bed-wetting.  Older children may become less compliant or more withdrawn.  Feelings of sadness, emptiness and hopelessness may be accompanied by physical complaints such as frequent headaches or stomach aches. 
Academic difficulties: A number of studies have documented higher rates of academic difficulties in abused children.  Impaired concentration and motivation are among the contributors to school difficulties. 
Religious crisis: We have found that some children may experience a crisis in emunah after their victimization.  For adolescents, in particular, it may be very difficult to reconcile religious beliefs with actions by supposedly “religious” adults who act in such a hypocritical manner.



If we believe that our child is a victim of molestation and talking is the very first step, what is it that we should talk about?  We should emphasize the following to our son or daughter.

  • We, your mother and father, love you.

  • You did absolutely nothing wrong.

  • Your body is yours, let’s discuss how to protect it in the future, no one can touch your body in any way without your permission.

  • Your body is good, it’s not dirty.  Someone else who is not good did something that he wasn’t supposed to.

  • He was wrong for doing this.

  • You were not wrong for letting him do this

  • Since the majority of children are molested by people they know – relative, neighbor, coach, man in the neighborhood, Rebbe - you need to discuss trust in older people and role models.  This one person did something bad. Place an emphasis on all the other people that are good, loving and kind.

  • It is human nature to shy away from discussing sexual issues with our children when they’re young adults let alone when they may be ten or fifteen years old. Yet this is what we’ll need to discuss. How can we know what really happened unless we explore it in detail?  There were only two people there, the molester and your child and you certainly won’t hear the details from the molester. 

Molesters are repeat offenders.  Their modus operandi is to molest many children over a period of time or to have a continuous relationship with one child.  Your child was an unwilling victim.  Yet, these sexual experiences have taught your ten-year-old certain pleasures that are confusing and contradictory.  A recent story of a child molester in the Bronx best explains this complexity.  The NY Times on February 5, 2000 states “investigators believed that five children did not report this molester to the police because he treated them extremely well.  They knew that what they were doing was wrong but they were showered with gifts and kindness by the molester.”  If a molester is kind and if his physical acts create a sense of pleasure for the victim you can appreciate the magnitude of the problem we are dealing with.  These are specific issues that need to be explored with your child.

  • Whom should you tell?  Should you confide in your child’s Rebbe? We believe not at first, but you should listen very carefully to any nuance of change that the Rebbe and teacher may be describing about your child’s behavior in class.

  • Don’t start to overprotect and smother your child.  Don’t begin to behave in an erratic manner by not letting him or her go to friends anymore or to the store by himself.  You want to teach him to regain his confidence and his ability to make good choices so don’t begin to limit his choices.
  • Again, we, your mother and father, love you. You did nothing wrong.  Your body is good. Someone else did something wrong.
  •  These are issues that you can emphasize repeatedly and over a period of time with your child if you become aware that he or she was a victim.  All too often we don’t know who is a victim. So it is important to discuss with your young child the concept of his or her body and protecting it.  You can use any words to describe this concept of protecting themselves when they’re playing with friends, in a school bathroom, in camp, and so on.
  • Now let's go back a step.  Go slow.  Your child may need professional help.  He or she may find it embarrassing to talk to you.  He may feel dirty, that he can’t tell you how his body was violated.  Even if he talks to you he will still be very embarrassed.  In fact he may even feel worse about having shared this information with you.     After all, children believe that parents are the oldest people in the world. Your child  may open up to you in a way that you won't know how to respond.  You certainly don't want to make the situation worse. You have to recognize this and respect this. 
Don’t push the notion that you can tell mommy everything.  It’s often easier to speak to a total stranger.  Accept this and seek professional help.  This is not an indication that you have failed as a parent. On the contrary, it is a sign of your  strength, recognition that others can lend support.

Children are, by their very nature, resilient.  Once the secret is disclosed, the child is made to feel safe, and family members respond with love and reassurance, the overwhelming majority of children are able to recover quickly and live a normal life. At the same time there are a number of children who will require professional help.

·      There are other parents in your circumstances.  It will be good to compare notes with someone else.  You do this all the time about the most mundane things in life why not about your most important treasure, your child’s emotional health.  OHEL or other organizations can assist you with individual or family counseling.

These suggestions are very broad guidelines.  We continue our journey to educate our community to increase awareness of child molestation.  As we push the issue of prosecution of molesters to protect our children and our community we can use these guidelines to speak to our children who were victimized or discuss with our children how they can protect themselves.

1 comment:

The Awareness Center, Inc. said...

Here's an old case in which Ohel stonewalled a police detective who was conducting an investigation regarding a past sex offending employee.

‎"Now-retired sex-crimes Detective Sal Catafumo recently told The Post that his 1984 investigation of a bogus Borough Park rabbi who had reportedly molested "hundreds" of children - including some Ohel orphans - while working as a child counselor got nowhere when cops tried to question the agency.

"They weren't cooperating," Catafumo said. "Kids... had complained to Ohel and it was swept under the rug ... [and] never reported ..."
The rabbi was indicted, but he fled to Israel."