“Magen” – The Community Response to Child Abuse





by David Morris
(Published this week in Connections Magazine)

Child abuse happens in all cultural, ethnic, and income groups.

Child abuse is harm to, or neglect of, a child by another person, whether adult or child. Child abuse can be physical, emotional - verbal, sexual or through neglect. Abuse may cause serious injury and may even result in death.

The tendency to abuse children is not connected to any other known social category. It is not more prevalent in poor communities than in rich. It is not connected with cultural sophistication or lack thereof and nor is it connected to levels of religiosity.

In short, there are no grounds for you to believe “it couldn’t happen here, surely!”

Child abuse, unfortunately, happens wherever, in Bet Shemesh, Ramat Bet Shemesh, Modiin, amongst both religious and secular populations.

Indeed, 70% of reported child abuse cases in Bet Shemesh, are from within orthodox communities.

In a seminar about child abuse, arranged by Lema’an Achai, attended by over forty local professionals and community leaders, David Mandel, CEO of Ohel in New York, was asked “why do pedophiles attack children?” Mandel answered: “Because they know they CAN.”

Whether or not potential child abusers are located in our communities is largely beyond our control. However, our RESPONSE to the phenomenon of child abuse is in our control.

Fortunately, many individuals and community leaders have a responsible and well-informed approach to the phenomenon of child abuse. They encourage education and knowledge on this topic; they are supportive of kids and families who have been abused; they are knowledgeable and fully respect the child protection laws, and cooperate with the various institutions which are authorized to deal with child abuse allegations. They prioritize the safety of our children, above and beyond (sometimes) competing community interests.

However, in some cases, regretfully, the pattern of response to allegations of child abuse has been to:

  1. Blame and attack the victim
  2. Deny or minimize the allegations
  3. Protect the alleged perpetrator and disrupt legal process
This pattern of response is unfortunately predictable in our close knit community, because no one would want to admit that we have such problems. However, the result of such a response to child abuse cases, has been that some pedophiles and other child abusers have been enabled to operate with relative impunity (or treatment), and with unhindered ongoing access to our unsuspecting children.

One response to this is “Magen” (full name “Magen Leyeledim U’Lemishpachot" Protection for Kids and Families), a new organization in Bet Shemesh, specifically focused on protecting our children from abuse.
Before launching this organization publicly, Magen spent over a year in intensive preparation and rigorous research.

Magen’s team have surveyed almost every organization and model dealing with aspects of the child abuse problem in Israel, including visiting the Child Protection Center (Mercaz LeHaganah) in Jerusalem, The National Center for Child Welfare (Moetzet Leshalom Hayeled), The Association for Child Protection (ELI) in Tel Aviv, Shlom Benayich in Bnei Braq, The Orthodox Women’s Crisis Center in Jerusalem, The Haruv Institute (studies and policy regarding child abuse) as well as discussions with Takkana, with Nefesh (the Orthodox therapists organization), with criminal lawyers who specialize in child abuse, with leading rabbonim who have experience in this field, and expert therapists. Magen has also met with experts from Jewish communities around the world, including Dr David Pelkowitz, David Mandel (Ohel, NY), Debbie Fox (Aleinu, Los Angeles), and other child abuse specialists.

Most importantly, Magen has been established in close cooperation with the Social Services and Child Protection Services in Bet Shemesh.

Magen’s research has shown that this issue can be tackled effectively if all sections of the community work as a whole, with full cooperation. Lead by our Rabbis, community leaders, educators, social services and individuals, we can help considerably in solving or at least reducing child abuse.
As a result of this research, Magen has selected four areas of activities where help is needed in the current services available at the community level:

  1. Education and Awareness:
In the field of child abuse, ignorance is not bliss. Indeed, the opposite is true – the first line of protection for us and our kids is awareness and knowledge of the problem.
Magen has already launched a program of seminars, public service information materials, and professional level courses.

Upcoming projects include:

1. Therapy for Abused Kids: The government provides substantial subsidies for therapy to victims of child abuse. However, there is a dramatic shortage of trained therapists who are qualified to supply this therapy in Bet Shemesh. Magen is therefore teaming with ELI (Aguda Leshalom Hayeled) to run professional level courses in Bet Shemesh for psychologists, social workers and other professionals.

If you are interested to join this course please contact Magen.

Unfortunately, these courses are expensive, and often beyond the financial means of the therapists – so you can help by sponsoring some or a part of this critical project. For sponsorship details please contact Magen.

  1. Seminars for doctors and medics: Doctors and medics are often on the front lines in identifying, treating and even preventing child abuse. Magen has therefore teamed with Dr Yoram Ben Yehuda, head of Hadassah Hospital’s Emergency Department and Israel’s foremost medical expert in treating and preventing child abuse.
Dr Ben Yehuda has kindly agreed to give a professional enrichment seminar to pediatricians, family doctors and other medical professionals in Bet Shemesh. Reishit Yerushalayim in Bet Shemesh has generously donated their facilities for this seminar. The course will include the history of child abuse in Israel, resources available to doctors and medics, and case management scenarios based on real life situations.
The seminar will be held on 25th August at Reishit, 21 Rechov Rashi, Bet Shemesh at 6.00pm RSVP to 0545.720.391 or hillel.abrahams@gmail.com.

  1. Magen Child Protection Education for Kids and Parents: Magen recently organized an awareness event, aimed at pre-schoolers in a local nursery. We teamed for this with the Orthodox Women’s Crisis Center in Jerusalem. The event was well received by the kids & their parents.
Magen are ready to provide Awareness and Protection events for kids of all ages and also for their parents.

How You Can Help: Can you assemble a group of kids or parents to learn more about child abuse, and how to take practical steps to prevent it? For example, via your school, shul, youth group, or simply put together a group of your friends (chug bayit)?

Magen will support this by teaming your group with the expert speakers, age appropriate activities and materials.

2. Information Line

Invariably, there is a short time period between people becoming more aware and educated about child abuse, and their need to consult one-on-one with a knowledgeable party about specific concerns.

You have noticed that a family friend or relative seems to be ‘grooming’ your child.

Or, you have started communicating with your child about abuse, and your child has now shared with you disturbing information about a specific individual.
Or …You have never told anyone, but now you know the need to talk and get help. You were abused.

Magen is therefore launching an Information Line.

Amongst the issues Magen can discuss with you are typical signs and symptoms of child abuse; how to obtain help for you and your child; guidance to the authorities involved in protecting children; an explanation about the Mandatory Reporting Law in Israel; support for you inside and outside the community.

If you need such information, please contact Magen.

Magen is currently arranging training for volunteers with appropriate backgrounds in mental health, education or community work to help man the Magen Information Line.

  1. Support & Assistance for Kids and Families Affected By Abuse
“When I found out that my kid had been abused, my whole world collapsed.”
While being a severe trauma for the victim, a case of child abuse can also be a major crisis for the victim’s family and others around them. With appropriate intervention and help, it has been shown that both the primary and secondary trauma can be successfully reduced, and, effectively managed. In parallel to obtaining professional therapy for the victim - friendly, knowledgeable and compassionate support for those others affected can be a life-saver. 

Therefore Magen provides such support and assistance for kids, families and others affected by a case of child abuse.

  1. Dealing with the Alleged Perpetrator in Our Community
The great majority of alleged perpetrators of child abuse are not drifting around dark parks, wearing long raincoats, grabbing passing children. By the nature of the problem, alleged perpetrators of child abuse are living amongst us. He (most are male) is therefore our neighbor; he davens in our shul; his kids are friendly with our kids; he is a colleague in our workplace; he is our relative. And he has a major problem – which must not be lovingly overlooked, or suffered silently. The question of what to do about an alleged perpetrator in our community is tremendously perplexing. Once the problematic individual has been reported to the authorities, the fact is, that most reported child abusers do not go to jail. And, even those who do, return afterwards to society. They come home.

Most child protection organizations do not deal with the alleged perpetrators as a part of their mandate.
However, organizations such as Takana in Jerusalem, Shlom Banayich in Bnei Braq, Ohel in NY and Aleinu in Los Angeles have developed models for dealing with alleged perpetrators in the community; the objective is to eliminate or reduce the risk they pose to our kids.

Whether we look at the alleged perpetrators as dangerous, or we view them as people afflicted with a sickness or “yetzer”, who can be helped and maybe cured, it is clear to Magen that ignoring the alleged perpetrators in our community is not an option.

Conclusion: Child abuse exists in our communities, and is not always being sufficiently addressed by the existing resources.
Magen has been established to better protect our kids from child abuse.
Magen now requires your assistance, to help fund the programs of this new and critical community organization. We currently have zero funding, and a lot of work to do!,
We welcome people willing to  volunteer their time and expertise.

Whether you wish to receive help from Magen, or to offer your help and volunteer, please contact:  MagenProtects@gmail.com

Comments

  1. ”The tendency to abuse children is not connected to any other known social category. It is not more prevalent in poor communities than in rich. It is not connected with cultural sophistication or lack thereof and nor is it connected to levels of religiosity.”

    Perhaps it is not more prevalent in one culture, community, or religion, but it surely goes far more unreported and undetected in close knit religious communities.

    From www.rabbihorowitz.com:

    Here is text from a Nightline article on the subject: “The only victims that cooperated with the investigation were Italian. They were neighborhood boys who trusted the rabbi because he bought them gifts like bicycles. Not a single Orthodox Jewish boy or their parents would talk to the police. The statements of four Italian boys, aged 11 through 16, were the basis for the indictment against Avrohom Mondrowitz. He was facing eight counts of sexual abuse in the first degree, endangering the welfare of a child, and five counts of sodomy in the first degree.”

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yaasher koachem. Magen is the result of proper planning and research and will hopefully become a model for other religious communities in Israel and America. Success depends on support and trust within the community.
    Yosef Blau
    yosblau@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. To children development proper pre-school is play a vital role.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The aguna nightmare and Jewish world child abuse have a common enemy: male-oriented authority figures ruining lives. Males are authority figures who can ruin lives with lashon hara, bribes, threats, etc. Ketubot are not worth toilet paper. Smicha or being a rebbe, candy man, etc. is a too-common detail with Orthodox Jewish child molesters. That's why Catholic church is full of molesters: men are FATHERS, women are "sisters'. Vulnerable children and women are the victims of patriarchal societies.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you Rabbi Blau - for your consistent support and assistance in establishing Magen.

    We very much appreciate it!

    Yeshar koach!

    ReplyDelete

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