Rabbi Avi Shafran again proves himself to be incapable of understanding the harm he does. Rabbi Shafran would have you believe…
…criticism of Shafran (and, by extension, of Marvin Schick) for his behavior surrounding the New York Jewish Week's' coverage of the Michelle Friedman, et al, paper on women and sexual abuse in Orthodoxy.
Shafran, whose Jerusalem Post column appears at first glance to be identical to a Cross Currents blog post from late last week, would like you to believe all criticism directed toward him is based on one idea – that sexual abuse in haredi society is at the same level as sexual abuse in non-Jewish (or Jewish but non-haredi) society.
But Shafran's argument is false.
Certainly, some people criticized him by claiming that Friedman's AJP study proved abuse rates are the same in haredi society as outside of it.
Most people, however, criticized him for minimizing sexual abuse within haredi society and for giving short shrift, both to victims and their advocates.
Shafran's Jerusalem Post and Cross Currents pieces rely heavily on a brief paper written by Dr. Nachum Klafter for Rabbi Gil Student's blog Hirhurim. Dr. Klafter notes:
This study provides no conclusive information about the rate of sexual abuse in our communities, and should not factor into Jewish communal policy decisions.
And this would seem to support Shafran – unless the entire paper is read as a whole. Because Dr. Klafter points out the failings in the arguments made by haredim like Marvin Schick. Dr. Klafter also notes the study's authors themselves made it perfectly clear that no sweeping conclusions could be drawn from the study, and they did this before the Jewish Week wrote its article and before haredim like Schick and Shafran complained.
And Dr. Klafter concludes his paper this way:
…From my perspective as a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, I believe that there is still not enough being done in Orthodox communities to prevent sexual abuse of children. The areas which I believe would be the most productive are preventive education for parents and children, and mandatory criminal background checks for all employees of day schools, seminaries, yeshivas, and summer camps. My perspective is informed by the following: (1) an understanding of the devastating consequences of childhood sexual abuse which comes from in-depth psychotherapy treatment of numerous patients who continue to struggle with the consequences of it during adulthood, (2) being privy to numerous incidents of sexual abuse in Orthodox communities across North America which have been horribly mishandled when mental health professionals and law enforcement were not involved, and (3) seeing numerous incidents of sexual abuse in Orthodox communities where involvement of the legal authorities and mental health professionals was enormously helpful to victims and their families, as well as to institutions and communities as far as preventing further incidents of abuse.
This may be why Rabbi Shafran, the official spokesperson for Agudath Israel of America, failed to link to Dr. Klafter's paper (or mention its source, for that matter) in his Cross Currents post. The Jerusalem Post article also contains no link or mention of Hirhurim.
Shafran then draws a conclusion from the study that also cannot be drawn, for the very same reasons the study's authors warned that no conclusions should be drawn:
Both of the recent papers, moreover, noted that the study's data in fact yields the remarkable (yet somehow unremarked upon by the Jewish Week) fact that the survey respondents who were raised Orthodox were 50% less likely to have experienced sexual abuse than those from non-Orthodox homes. Considering that the survey asked if abuse occurred at any point in respondents‚ lives, it is plausible if not likely that much of the abuse reported among those raised non-Orthodox occurred before they joined observant communities.
First of all, Shafran (intentionally, I believe) ignores what is the most likely reason for that disparity – ba'al teshuvas (BTs), people not brought up Orthodox but who have later adopted a haredi lifestyle, are more likely to speak about sexual abuse than women who grew up under the haredi system of Omerta.
Secondly,those same BTs are trained to despise the secular society they left behind. Speaking about abuse that took place in that non-haredi society reinforces their newly held religious beliefs. That means BTS are more likely to discuss sexual abuse that took place before they became haredi, while haredim are less likely to discuss abuse that takes place within haredi society.
Worst of all is this:
NONE OF which, of course, is to deny either that abuse exists in the Orthodox community (as it does in all communities) or that all communities, including the Orthodox, have a responsibility to put effective measures into place to prevent it. But the fact of its existence in the Orthodox world is no justification for drawing unwarranted conclusions about its extent there.
The background checks Dr. Klafter calls for have been rejected by Agudath Israel of America, which has fought mandatory background checks for all religious school employees in New York State. It refused to deal with the issues of sexual abuse and rabbinic pedophilia at its convention, and its rabbis have been widely linked to cover ups of rabbi-on-boy sexual abuse.
Dr. Klafter wants measures taken to stop sexual abuse and pedophilia in haredi society. Rabbi Shafran opposes those measures, and his organization has done nothing significant to stop sexual abuse and pedophilia in the communities it claims to represent.
And that is the truth behind Avi Shafran's spin.
[Hat Tip: Yankel.]