When Abuse Becomes Mundane

Three calls in 24 hours. Three distressed victims of abuse. And that’s just to my private line, not even to the Lema’an Achai office line (where there are professionals who deal with kind of stuff 24/6…).

A man who called to say that he’d found a toddler wondering around in the streets, and had returned the child to their home – where the parents were apparently oblivious to the child’s absence; the family seemingly have other problems, including “troubles” with the police. The man who called suspected neglect, and was frightened the child in future might run into a road or otherwise get hurt... What should he do?
He said had considered reporting this to the Child Protection Services, but was afraid of suffering retaliation on members of his family, if he reported them…

A woman whose child had returned home on several occasions from the transportation service to the out-of-town school she attends, with scratch marks and bruises on her body. There were gruesome pictures as evidence. The mother believed she knew the culprit. She had reported it to the police, the school, and child protection services. What else could she now do?

And a third person, who was so concerned about “consequences” that they asked me to not even generically describe the nature of the alleged abuse they called me about.

Unfortunately, each is a humdrum everyday kind of event, that happens in every neighborhood. No screaming headlines, or flashing blue lights, or public outrage.
People get rightly distressed by child sex-abuse - but other forms of abuse, physical, mental, adult sex-abuse tend to be overlooked.

Abuse is all around us, all the time, and it is easy to become numb and even uncaring.

It is hard to grade abuse in levels of severity. Because abuse is not just the process, it’s the result. People can amazingly recuperate from the most outrageous forms of physical, mental and sexual abuse, and yet, for example, a few vicious words can scar someone for life.

That wondering toddler may stay quietly in their home, or he may walk under a car; the beaten child, who has already regressed in development, might bounce back to the cheery child they were – but they may be traumatized for life; and the third person may have an overly vivid imagination – or may indeed suffer the most appalling attack and "consequences"….

So how is one to go about responding to such calls?

It is my position that the key factor in any case of alleged abuse, is not to presume guilt or presume innocence of the alleged perpetrator – because only the police are equipped or authorised to investigate that – but always, always, presume risk to the alleged victim.
Always Presume Risk!!


  1. I'm not so sure that the police are all that competent / willing, but they certainly won't be able to do much if the community doesn't cooperate with them.

  2. agreed with the poster above- I have seen first hand what a community can accomplish if they want to cover something up.

  3. Just the other day I saw a 7 year old struggling with a 2 year old - kicking him to try get him to come home, outside the Makolet. I always do my best to step in and take charge in situations like this but for some reason, all I said to the child was - "you don't need to give him blows - just take him by the hand and take him home". I could have kicked myself for having left without getting involved, perhaps I didn't because I was feeling ill and had other pressing obligations - maybe we are just getting numb to whats going on! David hits the nail on the head - I mean, how many times does one see this sort of thing, children being left on the street - can one always get involved? Sometimes the parent was the one that sent the child to the makolet. Many times on returning the child the parents are almost upset with me for getting involved. There are times where parents are thankful but one wonders how many times this has happened. We definitely need a system of dealing with these sort of incidents or at least tracking them - short of calling the police. Repeat offenders should be reported and/or setup with social workers.

  4. How can we set up a system when the parents themselves are negligent?

    How many times have you seen a parent leave their kids in the car and the engine running? But if you tell them insurance doesn't pay on a stolen car when the keys are left in it, suddenly they take the keys out.

    Is it normal to put a 7 year old in charge of a younger child for more than a few moments and far from view? And do you know anyone who went to a wedding and left their kids without a babysitter - because they were "already sleeping anyway"?

    Are we too busy to be responsible? Do we think we have special protection in Eretz Yisrael? Is it because we're among Jews that of course our children will be safe and grow up properly?

    How can we regain the social stigma against negligent parenting?

  5. How can we implement any of these ideas when Rabbonim punish those who are trying to do something?

    We have to ask ourselves some serious questions when instead of being lauded Lemaán Achai and David Morris are actually "banned

    It is not all Rabbonim, of course, just a select few who try ot dominate and control every aspect of their followers lives.

    RBSA has many educated, sincere and dedciated individuals. It is sad when what could be great contributions to the community are washed away by a few egotists who must have things their way.

  6. Abuse and neglect are two different things.
    Neglectful parents may be uneducated or overwhelmed, while abusive parents may be evil or crazy. There's a difference between parents who are not careful and parents who are raping their children. By calling everything from insults to rape abuse, it minimizes the severity of sex abuse.
    That said, please publish the Israeli laws for supervising children. People think I am crazy for hesitating to have my almost 9 year old walk my 4 year old somewhere. But I do leave my almost 9 year old (and very responsible) child home alone for a few minutes (i.e. she's sick and I run out to get her medicine) if I truly must. Is that legal? Is it a bad idea?


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Minister for Welfare Visits Lema'an Achai Today

Will Motty Borger’s Suicide Make Any Difference?