Read the statement below carefully.
Most cases of child sexual abuse you (God forbid) will encounter are suspicions, meaning you won't see it happen and the child – maybe even your child, God forbid – will be too afraid or confused to tell you what happened.
All you will have is suspicions based on the child's suddenly and dramatically changed behavior and related signs.
And as coyly worded as this RCA statement is, in cases like this, senior RCA rabbis like Hershal Schachter insist on rabbis screening evidence before reporting to police or child protective services.
Here's the statement:
RCA Reaffirms Halachic Requirement to Report Knowledge or Suspicion of Abuse or Endangerment to Secular Authorities Without Delay
Jul 25, 2011 -- The Rabbinical Council of America reaffirms its position that those with reasonable suspicion or first hand knowledge of abuse or endangerment have a religious obligation to report that abuse to the secular legal authorities without delay. One of the unique features of Jewish law is that it imposes upon every member of the community an obligation to help others avoid danger. The biblical verse “do not stand by while your neighbor’s blood is shed" is understood by Jewish Law to mandate that one must do all in one’s power to prevent harm to others - even if monetary harm, but certainly physical harm.
Consistent with that Torah obligation, if one becomes aware of an instance of child abuse or endangerment, one is obligated to refer the matter to the secular authorities immediately, as the prohibition of mesirah (i.e., referring an allegation against a fellow Jew to government authority) does not apply in such a case.
As always where the facts are uncertain one should use common sense and consultations with experts, both lay and rabbinic, to determine, how and when to report such matters to the authorities. False accusations are harmful to those falsely accused – but unreported abuse or endangerment can be life-threatening, as we have recently been tragically reminded.
In addition and as a separate matter, those within the Jewish community whom secular law deem to be “mandated reporters,” must certainly obey the particular reporting requirements, which vary from state to state in the US. A person covered by mandatory reporter laws must comply with those laws, even in a case in which Jewish law might otherwise not require a person to report such child abuse.
The difference between this and Agudath Israel of America's position is as follows:
1. If yor're a mandated reporter, you should follow secular law and report. Agudah says mandated reporters must ask a senior rabbi or beit din before reporting anything short of cases where the abuse was witnessed or very clear circumstantial evidence exists (anal bleeding, for example).
2. If not, in cases where you have uncertainty about whether or not abuse has taken place, you must consult with a rabbi and lay experts to determine whether or not what you suspect can be reported to police or child protective services. Agudah on the other hand does not recommend or require consultation with lay experts like doctors or therapists.
3. Agudah views almost every case short of seeing the abuse take place as questionable, meaning rabbis must decide whether or not police and CPS are notified. The RCA gives some leeway here, allowing your own instincts and knowledge to play a role in deciding whether to report directly to police or CPS on one hand, or to bring your suspicions to a rabbi or beit din.
The reality is that most laypeople under the RCA's statement will be reporting to rabbis, not police or CPS.
And that advice means that many pedophiles will be left in the community – especially when they are rabbis themselves.
[Hat Tip: Seymour.]