July 12, 2012 by pitputim
I am reblogging this one from Daas Torah, as it’s important, and yet another tragic story.
I just finished a long trans-Atlantic call with an American rav whose grandson was recently abused in a shul in Europe during davening. He was distressed by a number of developments besides the fact that his grandson had been abused. 1) the community rav who had been consulted said that the perpetrator had suffered enough embarrassment already and thus nothing more should be done. The rav stated clearly that the matter should be dropped and if the police were involved it would be mesira. He was clearly ignorant of the rulings of Rav Eliashiv and other gedolim on the matter. 2) Despite this the parents reported the abuse the police – but they didn’t seem interested in getting involved either. 3) To make the matter more distressing the family has been informed that the alleged abuser has been observed in the past – touching kids inappropriately in the mikveh – but nothing was done. 4) The parents of the child are now being harassed and threatened by the community as trouble makers and informants.
This American rav is well aware of the halachic and psychological issues and suggested something which is very simple – but should be very effective in changing the dynamics of the situation. Most people would have no problem of reporting if they witnessed a child being raped or severely beaten. In fact they probably would physically intervene to stop the abuse. The events of Penn State have hopefully taught us that good people don’t act unless they know that they must act and are informed in advance what constitutes abuse. Similarly most rabbonim today acknowledge the importance of reporting abuse – to the local rabbi or police – but they would not necessarily recognize that inappropriate touching or fondling is abuse
Therefore the American rav suggested that the community needs that important poskim publicly proclaim in a written declaration what actions constitute abuse that we need to report. The proclamation must state clearly and unambiguously that abuse is wrong – even if it doesn’t involve rape. It must list the halachic requirements to prevent harm by reporting. And finally it needs a clear and unambiguous list of specific actions that constitute abuse that need to be reported.
Here is a tentative text regarding what is abuse:
You must report the following to your rav and/or police department. If you see a child being touched inappropriately in the mikveh, playground, summer camp or school or neighbor’s home. Not only must you report inappropriate adult fondling of a child – but also such actions between children – even if they are the same age. You must report not only what you yourself observe but also when you hear rumors or your children tell you – it needs to be reported in order to verify and stop it. In sum – all awareness of abuse that you know about - must be reported to someone. However it is not enough to just report that you witnessed or heard about abuse. If the person you report to doesn’t follow through – whether it is a parent, teacher, principal, rav or police – you must persist either with that authority or find someone else who will listen and act. It is clear that a child’s well being is not to be sacrificed to avoid chilul hashem, financial loss to a yeshiva or synagogue, or the embarrassment to the family of the abuser or even a prison sentence for the perpetrator. There is no prohibition of lashon harah to report these issues, nor is there a prohibition of mesira. A Rav or community leader is obligated to listen to any and all alleged incidents of abuse. Every member of the community is obligated to make sure that children are protected and that perpetrators are stopped.