Friday, July 22, 2011

Agudah Clarification on Reporting Abuse

The Agudah has put out a statement clarifying its position on reporting abuse to the authorities. Read it in full please.

Personally, it is extremely non-compelling and somewhat distressing. The Agudah is saying that one should report abuse if they are reasonably sure, but not in a case of mere suspicion, and instead talk it over with someone. However, because people are not experts in what would qualify as knowledge/assurance vs. what would qualify as a mere suspicion, they should first discuss that with a Rabbi knowledgeable in the matter.

That essentially boils down to saying that a person should talk it over with a Rav regardless of what they think, to make sure that they are making the right call in reporting to the authorities. That seems to be a huge error, as this again means it is solely up to the Rav involved to determine if the authorities should be contacted, which was exactly the problem previously. This comes off more as a protective clarification where the Agudah is saying "of course abuse must be reported", but in practice it will come down to the personal discretion of the Rabbonim who are asked.

It is also disingenuous for the Agudah to claim that telling all people to report to the authorities is 'further than the law', which only requires mandated reporters; the law certainly feels everyone should report abuse as well, but adds an additional level to mandated reporters that by law they are required to do so or they can face punishment for failing to.


  1. I believe there is some degree of sense in having a "filtering" system of how to report suspicions so as not to lambaste the reputation of innocent parties. However, I agree that this is somewhat of a "soft" and possibly ineffective solution. What I think the Jewish communities should REALLY do is have a police liaison who, in coordination with a Rav involved, can pursue the situation further. But I strongly believe that a more objective law-enforcement professional should ALWAYS be involved to make those difficult judgement calls on whether or not to create public declarations of suspected sexual abuse/predatory/threatening behavior.

  2. Right. And I don't like the format, where they're claiming people should report, but effectively making it always go through a Rav. It's misleading.

  3. There are also many therapists who were not trained in this area and give absolutely wrong advice etc.(just like Rabbonim who don't know enough)
    I do not think that rushing to the police is always the right answer... In fact, here in EY, I saw a documentary about a therapist who was trying to convince a peadaphile to go to receive treatment thru the Health Ministry BEFORE actually acting out as the police, even if contacted , can not always do anything.Anyway, what would he be charged for and how do you define the defense?
    As this is a "hot subject" and IMHO, getting worse and worse (partly because of the liberalism and acceptance of all this in many circles), I think that there is no real one correct answer and many professionls and Rabbonim need to hear more and more information about this as I think there is alot of ignorance as to this suject.
    I do think it would be wise to publish names of thereapists and Rabbonim who have expertise on the subject and refer people to them! That would solve alot of the problems.
    Things aren't really so "clear -cut" , for instance, what about an adult who has the wrong kind of relationship with a young boy - "he loves him" in a way he shouldn't, but hasn't acted out sexually with him - who do you turn to???
    WHat about the damage done to someone who did nothing and was reported to the police with absolutely NO basis,

    By the way, FYI, many times an exconvict needs help and doesn't get it (see the documentary - it is in Hebrew on Ynet)

    I think it is good that the subject is spoken about in public, but I wouldn't rush to one only conclusion - life is too complicated for that.

    I do believe that society needs to be protected from these people (and I suppose the dos and donts will change according to the "wave of liberealism" - after all in many states same sex marriages are recognized - a thing never heard of yrs ago)- I am not sure that the solution is to put these people in jail, unless they are really cured there = otherwise, society is protected for only a short amount of time

  4. Anon - I very much disagree. Saying that there are therapists who give wrong advice is meaningless; you don't take a chance because there are some people who might get it wrong. This is obviously an area where erring on the side of caution is appropriate.

    I do think it would be wise to publish names of thereapists and Rabbonim who have expertise on the subject and refer people to them!

    I think this would be helpful, so long as it's reviewed by therapists and police who have spoken with these Rabbonim and verified that they have appropriate expertise and understanding on the subject.

    WHat about the damage done to someone who did nothing and was reported to the police with absolutely NO basis

    The police don't barge in and grab people just because someone reported a concern. They investigate appropriately. Yes, false accusations are horrible, but that's true of anything.

    I think it is good that the subject is spoken about in public, but I wouldn't rush to one only conclusion - life is too complicated for that.

    Who is rushing to a conclusion? Appropriate steps should be taken immediately. That isn't rushing to a conclusion, that's rushing to protection until a conclusion is made. Not doing so is much worse.

    I am not sure that the solution is to put these people in jail, unless they are really cured there = otherwise, society is protected for only a short amount of time

    Who's putting them in jail?

    The adults who have weird relationships or pedophiles who have not acted out won't be punished; they will be made to seek help, and possibly monitored somewhat. Is that not appropriate?

  5. police don't just go an arrest someone. If information of suspicion is given the police do proper investigative work to find out if anything actually occurred. If nothing happened they won't arrest the guy. I assure you that if the same scenario was given but to a Rabbi, they wouldn't necessarily have the means or the want to investigate properly, and what if the this happens and there is a basis for the suspicion- would you want that person to touch your child? In my opinion, The Agudah is not saying this so that less "suspected" people would not have their reputation tarnished for nothing, but rather so that the sickos and pedophiles can "seek help" and not have to get arrested. Don't know about you but i do not think that is a solution. You also have to know your child. Do they make things up, do they live in a fantasy land? If you have a child, with whom you have an open and honest relationship and this child always gives you accurate information and is honest, and they said that G-d forbid someone touched them, I would run to the police, and forget the rabbis!There is the concept of "dina d'malchusa dina" (The law of the land, is the law), and Rabbis have to learn that not everything can be swept under the bushes and not every Jew desrves to be 'protected"- enough is enough!

  6. Dear Ser,

    I find all the "Rabbonim bashing" very hard, please bash the thrapists who also "cover up" everything and are even willing to bear witness in court concerning repeating offense and to whom and when they are shown to be wrong, try and put the blame on whoever.

    I don't know any Rabbonim who let these things go on and on do you? Is that what the article mentions?

    I do know Rabbonim who gave these people a "second chance" to go and get help and I know more than one instance where the Rabbonim THEMSELVES, then gave someone over to the police. And to your next question as to taking respnsibilty for what happens as to protecting society, I happened to know FIRST HAND, about one person, that the Rabbi warned the man and then went on to warn the families freindly with this person, demanded the man had ongoing contact with him and let enough people in the neigborhood be on the look out - all the above is much more than your standard therapist (even if he is trained to deal with these issues and many many aren't but can't admit it) would have done, wouldn't you say???? And what about the laws that the therapist must abide to as to when they are reuired to let the authoritis know and that way they can lose the working relationship they had established with the sick person! I think that many therapist are in such a predicament and am sure that some innocent children have suffered because of it!

    Yes, mistakes are made in every circle - and therefore it is important to inform people!

  7. aNON- I am not "bashing" rabbanim, and no-where did I say that anyone should go to a therapist either, they too, as you say, cover it up. Yes, i do know of a quite a few instances where Rabbonim did not say anything and knew. Take the Levi Aron examply, i don't know if specific Rabbonim were told, but society as a whole was scared to say anything, neighbors knew he drove little boys around etc. no-one said anything because as a whole, we are told not to say anything. I am not bashing rabbonim, i am simply stating that the mere reason we are told to go to rabbonim first, is so if they deem it necessary, the polic don't need to get involved- but why not? If the person really is innocent then the police will come to that conclusion. Let the rabbonim do their jobs and leave the police to do theirs.

  8. Dear Ser,

    I don't think thew police could have charged Levi Aron with anything!!!!!

  9. Anon 2- exactly my point. The police don't charge people with things, unless there is valid evidence. However, had there not been a "stigma" to stay quiet, more people in the community would have talked about him and the fact that he drove little boys around- there would have been an awareness and a sense of being careful. But thanks for proving my police not arresting every suspicious person, theory.

  10. Dear Ser,

    Unfortunately, I think poeple think that "if only the police/Rabbonim/ etc did this or that - we would all be safe/____"

    I wish this were so. There are so many "sickos" of all kinds out there - I don't think the police can handle it! Do you?

    Alot of these sick people don't even think they are sick and haven't acted out (yet?) so how can u stop them? I assume the way liberalism is going ( and the US is a leader in this) in the future this will not even be considered sick (just like same sex marriages, etc.)

  11. Anon- I don't necc think the police can handle as you say "all of it", but i think they are trained to handle whatever does come their way, in terms of pedophiles etc, more than most Rabbanim. I don't think this will be any legislation passed ever, because people are very cautious when it comes to kids, and no law that hurts kids, or allows people to hurt kids, will ever be passed. Same sex marriage is not physically harmful to anyone, so you can not equate the two.

    Just as a disclaimer- i personally know of cases where the police handled the situation a heck of a lot better than the Rabbi's did- no system is fault proof, and we can't prevent every sicko from being caught. My point was that we need 2 stop this stigma of be silence and Rabbi's teaching people to brush such things under the bush- sicko's do not and should not get protected, the ones who need protection are the kids. So let the police do that- it's their job and let rabbis do theirs.

  12. People always inclined to ask for direction from others (such as from rabbonim) before deciding on a course of action will continue to do so with or without an Agudah position paper. The main thing for such people is to be very choosy about whom they go to. Rabbonim vary considerably in knowledge of a given topic and in judgment. Friends and associates (even distant ones in the same network) of a suspected person should never be called in as advisors.