Ohel Calls For ‘Collective Action’ On Pedophile Problem
NY Jewish Week Staff Report
In the first public comment by the Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services after the publication of an article that raised questions about the responsibility of social service agencies to report sex offenders to the authorities, the organization is calling for “collective action” from the Orthodox community.
But exactly what that action would entail is not described.
The statement, published as a full-page advertisement on page 11, comes a week after The Jewish Week reported on the case of Stefan Colmer, 32, a former yeshiva student awaiting charges of sodomizing two teenage boys after dropping out of an Ohel program for sex offenders (“A Suspected Pedophile Falls Through The System,” May 8).
The Jewish Week story noted that Ohel did nothing illegal in not notifyingthe community about Colmer after he left the program. It focused on the complex religious and social issues involved in efforts to police sex offenders inside the Orthodox community.
While some urge victims and/or their families to call the authorities in the case of abuse, Ohel takes a more circumspect position.
The full-page statement asserted that “we need to strive towards a new dawn, where a parent believes that identifying and pursuing charges is not only the right thing to do, but finds a community that is unanimously supportive of such a resolve...”
Asked to elaborate, David Mandel, the CEO of the group, stopped short of saying that families should go to the police. He said that on hearing of an alleged abuse, “we explain to people what all their options are, therapeutically and legally.”
He noted the sensitivities involved, citing data that in more than 80 percent of child abuse cases, the victim knows the offender. “We’ve always spoken of the need to respond to the child, getting evaluation and, if necessary, treatment,” Mandel said.
Psychologist Michael Salamon said he “soundly applauded the statement,” adding: “But in order to achieve this, reporting [notifying the police] is required.”
The statement also said that “Ohel would welcome expanded mandatory reporting laws” that would require certain individuals to alert the authorities about sex offenders.
Asked who such expanded mandatory reporting laws should be applied to — rabbis? Ohel social workers? — Mandel said he had nothing to add.
Here is the relevant section of federal health care privacy law:
Summary of the Privacy Rule - (PDF)
Permitted Uses and Disclosures. A covered entity is permitted, but not required, to use and disclose protected health information, without an individual’s authorization, for the following purposes or situations: (1) To the Individual (unless required for access or accounting of disclosures); (2) Treatment, Payment, and Health Care Operations; (3) Opportunity to Agree or Object; (4) Incident to an otherwise permitted use and disclosure; (5) Public Interest and Benefit Activities; and (6) Limited Data Set for the purposes of research, public health or health care operations.18 Covered entities may rely on professional ethics and best judgments in deciding which of these permissive uses and disclosures to make.
Serious Threat to Health or Safety. Covered entities may disclose protected health information that they believe is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to a person or the public, when such disclosure is made to someone they believe can prevent or lessen the threat (including the target of the threat). Covered entities may also disclose to law enforcement if the information is needed to identify or apprehend an escapee or violent criminal.40
Ohel needs a large does of sunlight. Let's hope that dose arrives in the very immediate future.