Child sex abuse: Change must begin in our homes
By Yehudis Goldsobel (The Jewish Chronicle)
May 21, 2015
After considerable deliberation and a thorough re-examination of all the evidence, the retrial of Todros Grynhaus concluded this week with a conviction.
There is one less sex offender on our streets, and his many victims - now adults - can now begin their long journey of healing without fear of encountering their attacker on the street, in a local shop or in the synagogue.
As the founder and director of Migdal Emunah, a support service for Jewish victims of sexual abuse and their families, I am proud of the community for standing up against Grynhaus.
I am proud of the victims who filed a police complaint and went through the painful process of giving testimony, and I am also proud of the rabbis who supported the victims in their reporting.
Unlike previous cases of victims being shunned by their community, it is clear that attitudes are beginning to change.
However, despite the result of the recent trial, major flaws remain in the way our community responds to accusations of sexual abuse, and if we are to ensure the safety of our children, it is imperative that change takes place both in our homes and in the community at large.
As the Grynhaus case has very clearly proven, sexual predators are hard to spot, and the fact that someone is a respected leader, teacher or activist does not suggest that they are beyond suspicion.
While the Jewish tradition speaks negatively about Jewish informers and mesirah - the reporting of Jews to secular authorities - the existence of a transparent and just judiciary means that these rules do not apply today. Therefore, if you are suspicious about an individual whom you believe may be crossing the boundaries of acceptable interaction with another person, especially a vulnerable person, do something about it and report it to the correct authorities.
It is also crucial that we make the effort to appreciate the good work of the police. We should speak positively about the police force, and value the support and resources that they give to the Jewish community. By doing so, we show trust in the police, and dispel any myths people may have when thinking about coming forward to them.
While I strongly believe that more training must be given to rabbis and rebbetzens about the signs, dangers and impact of sexual abuse in the community, no amount of informal training is sufficient to handle complex cases and dangerous, deceitful predators.
Despite all the best intentions, handling an abuse case "from within" does not help the victims, and can even harm any future legal case against a sexual abuser. There is great difficulty in managing such complex cases and any one individual cannot reasonably maintain impartiality. Thus there is a clear need for a team of professionals involved in each case.
Sexual abuse cases need the intervention of the correct legal authorities and professionals as soon as possible.