Originally published at 7:46 pm Sunday, December 18, 2011
Earlier today I spoke with a young adult survivor of child sex abuse.
This person was raped as a toddler and again a decade later, and was physically, emotionally and sexually abused both in between and afterward. This person has been homeless, was discarded by family, and never had the benefit of a healthy or loving family life.
Today this person was extremely depressed and suicidal.
In the hundreds of other calls between us over the past years, there have been other such calls – many of them.
This is what sexual abuse often is, what it does to a person, how it impacts their lives for years after the abuse stops.
The "good news" for haredi leadership is that this one isn't 100% yours.
This person wasn't raped by a rabbi.
This person was not born haredi – or Modern Orthodox or Conservative or Reform.
This person was born to a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father and most of the abuse I mentioned above has nothing directly to do with the Jewish community in any form because the family did not identify as Jews – except that the victim of it is Jewish.
As a teenager, this person joined a haredi community. But as community leaders found out about the abuse – and about the therapy that would be necessary to heal from it – and as they found out about some of the behaviors – cutting, promiscuity, susceptibility to the promiscuity of others – this victim had and that are common to victims, they cut the victim off.
They did so because, as one of their rabbis told me then, they had an obligation to protect their kids from the bad influences and possible danger the victim could pose. And, after all, the damage done to this person hadn't been done by them. It wasn't their problem.
That some of their own members a few years older than the victim tried to use the victim for sex, that one of their own rabbis may have been inappropriate in his dealings with the teenage victim (or, perhaps, reached the border of that behavior, dallied there a bit but did not cross it), that the victim was now a part of their haredi community – none of that mattered.
It was in their eyes, more or less, all the victim's fault.
And so the victim was booted out.
I write this because I hope, perhaps against all hope, that you will allow yourselves to understand.
According to government statistics, the average pedophile has more than 100 victims in his molestation career.
One pedophile in Borough Park alone will damage more than 100 haredi kids. Ten pedophiles will damage more than 11000. The 89 pedophiles Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes claims to have dealt with in the past three years alone will damage more than 10,000.
While you run around beating your chests and screaming that "we're better than goyyim," those "less-than-the-goyyim" pedophiles are destroying your kids' lives – thousands of lives.
You tend to view all this through the scope of protecting your "holy" community from "antisemites" like me, from the "self-hating Jews," the little "Hitlers," who want to bring you down.
Instead of viewing hundreds of damaged kids who are in pain and who need professional help, you fret about what the goyyim think about you and what other Jews think about you.
To the small extent that you do deal with these victims, you almost always do so through the scope of kiruv.
In many cases, these victims are not behaving like you think a frum Jew should. They may no longer keep Shabbos or kosher. They could have tattoos or piercings. They could be abusing drugs. They could be having sex or even prostituting themselves.
So you try to find ways to bring these kids back to "frumkeit," instead of trying to get them the professional therapy and non-judgemental support they need to heal.
As much as this may shock you, the world does not revolve around you. This isn't about you. It isn't about making you feel better because you convinced one or two of these kids to keep Shabbos or kosher again.
It's about the real psychological needs of these victims and getting them the best professional therapy available so that they can heal, and doing so in a way the recognizes that years of your misbehavior and years of trying shove these kids under the rug have done damage that cannot be healthfully undone by a little kiruv.
If some victims decide as they heal to become haredi again, fine. The free and un-pressured choice should always be theirs. If others do not, that also has to be fine.
But what you're doing now is "saving" a small number of victims while you fail the much larger number of victims who cannot or who will not return to your version of Orthodoxy.
You're helping victims for your own reasons and on your own terms to benefit yourselves, rather than helping all the victims in the ways they really need help, and to benefit them – not to benefit you.
You have been profoundly selfish for many years and you're being profoundly selfish now.
And that has to stop.
I've spent dozens of sleepless nights helping kids who you failed.
And I know activists you vilify who have done the same and even more.
You might have noticed that things are now getting worse.
State budgets that fund therapy for victims, always inadequate, have been or are about to be cut even more than they have previously been cut. It can take a month or more for a victim to get a therapy appointment – if that victim can find a therapist who takes Medicaid or other government insurance programs which are at best woefully underfunded.
The strain on common resources – shelter, food, clothing – is strained even more because the economy has been so bad for so long.
So your refusal to do the right thing is even worse now than it was two or three years ago.
You fear many things.
You fear a change in the law that would make it easier for victims to file civil suits against your yeshivas and rabbis for the enabling of child sex abuse and for covering it up.
You fear the shame that could come when what you did and the number of lives your selfishness has cost becomes public.
And you fear what for you may be the most important thing – that when your childish, selfish behavior and your misdeeds are made public, when there are court cases and real publicity and real transparency, your followers will abandon you.
Make no mistake – I hope they do.
In fact, I hope they rampage through the streets of Borough Park, Williamsburg, Crown Heights, Monsey, Kiryas Joel, New Square, Spring Valley, Lakewood and other haredi enclaves and run you all out of town on a rail.
You all deserve it.
You're the sorriest excuses for leadership that I've ever seen.
If you had any guts, if you really were the ethical and moral people you claim to be instead of the preening poseurs you really are, you'd resign immediately and go live in a life of seclusion in a forest somewhere. Or, at least, you'd resign, stop calling yourselves rabbis, and get real jobs painting houses or shoveling snow.
But you're probably not at the guts and truth stage of your development yet, and chances are, you never will be.
Despite your claims to the contrary, my disgust for you is not comparable or equal to antisemitism, Nazism, or some type of self-hating pathology.
My disgust for you is comes from your own actions, from the Kol Koreh's banning "wrong" color women's stockings and finding heresy at every turn, while at the same time you let thousands of kids suffer rape and abuse, and then refused to help them unless their victimhood fit your narrow view – and you often would not help them even then.
You could simply announce that you were wrong, that your policies and your actions and inaction cost lives. You could apologize to all the victims and their families publicly and in person, and to your community, and to those of us you have repeatedly tried to smear to protect your Wizard of Oz-like leadership.
You could give a nonprofit non-haredi social service agency that you do not control a large grant to fund therapy for the haredi child sex abuse victims you helped make, and you could allow those victims to heal in peace.
You'd have to grow up to do this. You'd have to become the men you have never been.
You could do it.
But it would take courage that you certainly lack and it would cost money hat you don't want to spend on "non-Torah" things like this.
After all, in your minds a Satmar rebbe driving around in a new $80,000 SUV, to cite a very recent example, is far more important for kavod haTorah, honoring the Torah, than helping some kid with tattoos and body piercings who "isn't from such a good family anyway" and who never really was a "Torah scholar" or a "hasid" or whatever labels you use to exclude people you can't be bothered with.
Keeping your family businesses – the supposedly nonprofit yeshivas you all run – profitable and their rosh yeshivas – you and your sons and brothers-in-law – comfortable and employed is the most important thing, you think, because you "own" them and because they make you a lot of money and because the Torah they profess to teach is "more important than anything else" – including telling the truth about your years of covering up for pedophiles and spending real money to help the victims you created by doing that.
Except the Torah you claim to teach disagrees.
It views saving human life as more important than Torah study – especially when those lives are in danger in significant part because of your personal failings as leaders.
How many victims must there be before you stop posturing and start helping?
You have made yourselves and the Torah you claim to represent hated by many, including me, and you did so out of your own selfishness and greed.
Will you ever grow up?
Or do we have to bury more kids from "not so good families" and watch more victims lead shattered lives while you cluck knowingly and murmur that these victims "aren't frum anyway" and they "brought it on themselves" or their parents "brought it on" by wearing the wrong colored socks or a too stylish pair of glasses?
You all deserve every type of shaming and embarrassment that can be heaped on you.
Yet all any of us want is for you to stop your coverups and your lies, stop your infantile behavior and start helping the victims you helped create.
It isn't too much to ask.
It really isn't.
But if history is any guide, and it almost always is, this request will be too much for you to understand and too much for you to act on.
You could, of course, prove history wrong.
Or you could wait for the day when you find yourselves facing charges that include obstruction of justice and some other things I'm sure you've thought of.
A wise attorney knowing what I believe to be your current situation would tell you to make amends as quickly as possible, to do the right thing and not the selfish thing, and to hope that doing so stands in good stead when your day in court comes. It's the same advice Sholom Rubashkin was given. He ignored it until it was too late.
Time, I believe, is finally running out on you and on those politicians who have done your bidding.
Penn State, Syracuse, and a DA's bizarre refusal to account for the 89 haredi pedophiles he claims to have dealt with these past three years and the bizarre and probably illegal deal he made with you regarding them have, I think, seen to that.
The wheels of justice turn slowly, but they do turn and they are turning now, faster than before.
As you are so fond of saying when what you want to say can't be said, hamayvin yavin.
Take that as you wish.
And of course, consider its source very, very carefully.
Here are some sources to help you make your decision:
The typical child sex offender molests an average of 117 children, most of who do not report the offence.
Source: National Institute of Mental Health, 1988.
About 60% of the male survivors sampled report at least one of their perpetrators to be female.
Source: Mendel, 1993.
About 95% of victims know their perpetrators.
Source: CCPCA, 1992.
It is estimated that approximately 71% of child sex offenders are under 35 and knew the victim at least casually. About 80% of these individuals fall within normal intelligence ranges; 59% gain sexual access to their victims through, seduction or enticement.
Source: Burgess & Groth, 1984.
Higher Among Sex Offenders
Offenders who served time for sexual assault were 7.5 times as likely as those convicted of other crimes to be rearrested for a new sexual assault. Approximately 8 percent of 2,214 rapists released from prisons in 11 states in 1983 were rearrested for a new rape within three years, compared to approximately 1 percent of released prisoners who served time for robbery or assault.
This 1997 BJS report (NCJ-163392) was written by statistician Lawrence A. Greenfeld. The complete embargoed 44-page document is available to the general public at the BJS's Internet home page, by clicking on "What's new at BJS."
Additional BJS materials may be obtained from the BJS fax-on-demand (301-251-5550), or by calling the BJS Clearinghouse (1-800-732-3277).