"On behalf of many victims and survivors of child sexual abuse within Jewish institutions, I would like to acknowledge and thank the Victorian Government for launching this Inquiry. With today’s publication of the Inquiry’s report, we can of course celebrate a milestone in a long journey but we should also reflect on the significant work that still lies ahead.…"
Speech at Rally of Hope
Victorian Parliament House
Wednesday 13 November 2013
Tzedek Founder & CEO Manny Waks
Thank you to In Good Faith and Associates for initiating this rally, and for the opportunity to address you all here today.
On behalf of many victims and survivors of child sexual abuse within Jewish institutions, I would like to acknowledge and thank the Victorian Government for launching this Inquiry. With today’s publication of the Inquiry’s report, we can of course celebrate a milestone in a long journey but we should also reflect on the significant work that still lies ahead.
This Inquiry was the catalyst for the establishment of Tzedek (“Justice” in Hebrew), the only organisation within the Australian Jewish community that is dedicated to the issue of child sexual abuse.
With the widely-accepted and harrowing statistic that 1 in 3-4 girls and 1 in 5-6 boys before the age of 18 experiences sexual abuse, we are clearly in the grip of an epidemic, which impacts every segment of society. This scourge transcends geographical boundaries, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, race and gender. It not only impacts the victims of abuse themselves; it also impacts their families and the broader community.
For far too long the issue of child sexual abuse has been a taboo topic within our society. It took a great deal of time and work to raise the public awareness and begin the long task of societal education. Sadly, it has taken even longer for many of our religious institutions to begin to address this issue. More specifically, as a proud member of the Jewish faith, I must sadly report that we have only recently begun to deal with the issue of child sexual abuse.
I am nevertheless proud and delighted that around two years after I went public with my story of sexual abuse by two perpetrators within the Orthodox Jewish community, the issue is now discussed openly within our community. This is significant progress within a limited period. Indeed, we have witnessed multiple court-cases precipitated by numerous victims, all that have concluded with convictions. There are also multiple other cases currently before the courts – in both Melbourne and Sydney – together with additional police investigations underway. Significant progress has indeed been made.
But we still have a long way to go. Perpetrators continue to roam freely in our streets and within our community. There are still many victims and survivors who continue to suffer. There is still a culture of cover-up in some segments of our community.
A cultural shift is needed. The victims are never to blame. The perpetrators must always be held to account for their crimes through our judicial system. And those involved in a cover up must also be held to full account. Absolutely no one is above the law – not Priests, not Rabbis, not Imams nor anyone else in positions of power and authority. And no institution – religious or otherwise – should be above the law, nor should they be allowed to evade justice for any reason whatsoever.
Clearly we require a range of reforms – social, pastoral, educational, legal and structural – and I am confident that these will be seriously considered and implemented with bi-partisan support.
I hope that the momentum that has been generated as a result of this Inquiry will be maintained. We must implement policies and reforms that will ensure the safety of the most vulnerable and precious within our society: our children. We must ensure that justice is achieved. We must ensure that what has happened once will never happen again.
We must stand up as a community, together, and say loud and clear:
Enough! No more silence.