"Magen" - The New Bet Shemesh Child Protection Agency


Published at Tzedek-Tzedek by kind permission of Connections Magazine




When I found out that Shlomi, my 9 year old son, had been abused, my whole world shattered and collapsed.

From the beginning of the year, Shlomi had been selected as one of the rebbe's favorites in the class. Shlomi was a part of an exclusive club, singled out for special attention, helped with homework after school, rides home in the rebbe's car, extra one-on-one help with schoolwork during recess. As parents, we received regular calls from the rebbe, not to complain about Shlomi (as other teachers had often done), but to patiently explain to us Shlomi's difficulties, and how these were being methodically and caringly addressed.
We were thrilled for Shlomi.
That's why we got upset when Shlomi was home so often with stomach aches, headaches, and other unverifiable ailments. Shlomi got behind with his studies, which the rebbe kindly offered to make up with him after school hours and without pay. The rebbe was such a tzadik.
But Shlomi even made a fuss about going to these tutorials. I literally had to carry Shlomi into the car to take him to the rebbe's house.
When Shlomi started bed-wetting, we were recommended by Shlomi's pediatrician to visit a child psychologist.
It came out in therapy that the rebbe had been molesting Shlomi for months.

Devastated, I reached for the phone, and called Magen…it was the best decision I ever made.

---------

Magen LeYeladim U'Lemishpachot (Magen) is a nonprofit organization in Bet Shemesh, Israel, dedicated to protecting children from abuse.

Magen members and activists include mental health professionals, rabbis, administrative professionals, past victims/survivors of abuse and community lay leaders. All Magen personnel are currently volunteers.

Magen spent over a year in research & preparation phase (2009-10). This included visiting most organizations in Israel and several in the United States working with child abuse. In addition, extensive contacts and cooperation were made with Bet Shemesh social services (child protection), the Police as well as Mercaz Lynn. Mercaz Lynn in Jerusalem, provides a combination of services: police, medical services, legal services, and is the sole authority authorized to interview suspected victims of child abuse under 14 years old.

Magen also consulted with experts in the fields of sex crime law (including Adv Yehudah Fried), treatment of victims (ELI Child Protection Association, Helise Pollack, Dr David Pelcovitz), and perpetrators (Doron Agasi, Shlom Banayich, Bnei Braq; Aleynu, Los Angeles; Ohel, New York), Halacha (including Rabbi Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg, Rabbi Yaakov Haber, Rabbi Yosef Blau, Rabbi Schachter, Rabbi Chaim Soloveichik, Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn), and community organization and building in order to ensure a well rounded and deep knowledge base from which to work.

Magen has incorporated the information and strategies learned through these consultations into its innovative, unique approach to combat childhood sexual abuse in the community.
  
Last summer, 2010, Magen quietly opened its doors, to accept enquiries and calls for help from the general public.

The focus of Magen's activities is a unique four point program:

  1. Awareness and Education – child abuse thrives on secrecy and naivety. Knowledge and awareness increases child safety dramatically.
  2. Phone and Email Hotline Service – confidential consultation with trained personnel.
  3. Support for families affected by child abuse.
  4. Management of allegations of child abuse in the community. 

Regretfully, Magen's first year of activity in the field has been extremely busy...

Magen's original synopsis that there was a lack of resources dealing effectively with child abuse in the community; this has been shown to have been accurate.

Magen's activities have provided assistance to literally dozens of victims of child abuse, and their traumatized families.

Abuse cases have included Physical (violence), Emotional, Neglect, and Sexual.   

Awareness & Education –

An examination of the social services of Bet Shemesh highlighted a shortage of trained therapists to treat sex abuse victims. Although the government provides subsidies (250 NIS/Hr) for this therapy, there is a bottleneck – as only 2 local therapists are approved to accept these cases.

Magen has therefore teamed with ELI (AgudahLeHaganat Hayeled –www.eli.org.il)-- to provide a professional training course for local therapists, psychologists and social workers. As a result of a generous grant which has funded half of the costs, fifteen mental health professionals are now participating in this course!

Magen continues to arrange for educational and awareness related publicity within and outside of the RBSA community:

In Orthodox communities many allegations of child abuse are brought before the community rabbi. As such, Magen arranged a seminar by US expert Dr. David Pelcovitz on child abuse to educate and hear from fourteen community rabbis.

Dr. David Pelcovitz also spoke at a Magen launch event, hosted by Reishit Yeshiva, about protecting one’s family from child abuse. This highly successful event was attended by over 200 parents.

Magen arranged for Dr. Yoram Ben Yehudah, head of pediatric emergency at Hadassah Hospital, to give a professional seminar on child abuse to family doctors and pediatricians.

Dr. Rinat Green, in association with Magen, gave several seminars for parents, specifically in communities affected by cases of child abuse. These events were well attended.

There is a lot more work to be done educating the public, and so protecting children better. If you are interested to help write (English & Hebrew) and produce information, put up a website, Facebook page, blog, etc, then Magen needs your skills and time.

2. Information Line/email

A team of ten Magen volunteers has been trained by ELI in order to man a phone line and to respond to email enquiries. The 24/6 email service (MagenProtects@gmail.com) is up-and-running, and the volunteer-manned phone service (052 765-2929) is open to the public in the morning and evening hours.  

Dozens of calls for help have been received and the callers effectively assisted. Furthermore, once the existence of the line/service is more widely advertised, requests for help will multiply. This process is underway.


3. Case Management & Support for families affected by abuse.

For families impacted by child abuse, the experience is traumatic and crisis intervention & support are vital. Magen assists families to gain perspective, see and evaluate their options for reporting, get treatment for the victim, deal with community relations, and understand the position of both civil (Israeli) and Religious (Halacha) Law. These services often enable the family to weather the difficult time with less trauma and with fewer long term negative effects.

At the moment, this function of Magen is being performed by members of the Board of Directors. Magen’s board consists of three social workers as well as four laymen with considerable experience and involvement in helping with child abuse cases.

Trained social workers or case workers will be the day-to point of contact for families. Being there for them is essential and can range in scope from keeping in regular phone and email contact, to complete multi-faceted case management.

A support group for abuse survivors & families is planned as there are many individuals and families with unresolved trauma from abuse incidents and nowhere to turn. As an example of this, in a recent Magen event, a survivor spoke. At the conclusion, fifteen members of the audience approached him afterwards to tell him that they too had experienced abuse.  

4. Community coordination regarding response to alleged abusers.

Options for dealing with convicted child abusers by State authorities include imprisonment, treatment programs, suspended sentences and fines. Suspected child abusers can be incarcerated pending court hearings, house arrest and placed under restraining orders.

The civilian community can use behavior protocols (e.g. restricting the movements or behavior patterns of the alleged/convicted child abuser), restricting employment, exclusion from community institutions, exposure to a limited or total population, encouraged participation in evaluation and therapeutic programs. The effectiveness of such protocols and community pressures will vary from case to case.

Magen has been called upon to assist members of the public and community leaders in developing and implementing appropriate responses to allegations of child abuse made against members of the community.

While experimental by nature, Magen believes that these community responses have increased the safety of children both inside and outside the community. The more parties cooperating, such as community leaders, schools, police, social services, the more effective the response.  


Challenges and Future Plans:

Programs aimed at an effective community response to allegations of child abuse are open to a minefield. Opposition to such a coordinated and responsible response, within the framework of the law and halacha, comes from many sources, including alleged abusers, community leaders and members of the public.

Issues such as control and power have at times taken precedence over the safety of children. 

Magen plans to provide education and awareness to leaders and the general public, including the latest techniques and policies for protecting communities from child abuse.

Magen also plans to form an Advisory Committee which will bring prestige and community weight to Magen’s programs in this area, perhaps along the lines of Takana’s Forum.

Further development of strategic level cooperation with the police and social services will continue to be high priority.

As our efforts increase and gain support we will expand beyond Bet Shemesh to other communities. Already, word is spreading and while at this stage, most of the enquiries and cases are being received from the English speaking population, through use of the local media, and targeted informational campaigns, we intend to reach other populations groups (native Israelis, Sephardim, chareidim, national religious, secular, Russians, Ethiopians). It is envisaged that once the services of Magen spreads to these communities, they will also call upon Magen for help.

Interestingly enough, "Magen" in Bet Shemesh has already inspired the establishment of two other "Magen" organizations (Magen USA and Magen L-I) – both of these are now providing child protection services for Jewish communities in New York, USA.   


Parents Appeal for Support

As parents there is no greater pain then seeing your own child suffer. When we found out that our young  daughter was molested by XXXXXXXX  we were angry, frustrated, confused and directionless! Where do we turn for help? How to we expose the molester? How can we notify others? What’s the process for reporting this to the authorities? And most importantly, how can we get our daughter help.

We contacted Magen and they sprung into action giving us encouragement and guidance throughout. Assisting us with the all the procedures from the police reports to fighting with the molester's employer (who refused to believe this occurred, nor accept responsibility).

We cannot express enough to you how necessary the organization Magen is and how vital your support for this organization is. Magen has already put predators “out of business” and our community has become safer and wiser because of Magen.

On behalf of the hundreds and thousands of children that live in the Bet Shemesh area, we implore you to generously support Magen now and for many years to come.

With much thanks and appreciation,
Mrs & Mrs H
Ramat Beit Shemesh


How Can You Help Magen?

  1. Awareness: Please bring together a group of adults or kids, who are interested to learn more about child protection – Magen will provide an informative and fascinating program.

2. Hotline/Email – if you have any concerns or questions about child abuse, you are warmly invited to contact Magen's confidential information & support service. Call

  1. Volunteer – whatever you are good at, please offer your time and energies to Magen. We need everyone – from mental health professionals, to PR experts. Magen is solely manned by volunteers – please step forward to help!
  2. Donations – Magen's programs have already had a powerful impact in protecting our children, for remarkably low cost. Please donate to Magen generously. If you wish to sponsor a program, please call 02-9997026. Please mail your donations to: Magen, 15/5 Nahal Refaim, Ramat Beit Shemesh. 



"Magen" - Creating a Safer Community for Kids
MagenProtects@gmail.com

Hotline: 052-765.2929 
Sunday thru Thursday - 9am-12am; 8-11pm
Fridays - 9am-12am
Motsei Shabbat - till Midnight

Administrative & Non-Urgent Matters
02-9997026
050-8489001
  

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