"Protecting Your Kids from Abuse"

This is a brief review of the "Magen" evening, this past Wednesday evening, with Helise Pollack MSW,  "Protecting Your Kids from Abuse".

80% of abused kids never tell.

Kids don't tell, for many reasons, including being scared of being blamed, scared of 'consequences', feelings of guilt, embarrassment, confused moral issues (loshon hora, breaking secrets, etc)

In order to encourage kids to tell (hopefully very early into a situation of potential abuse), any information your kids tell you during routine discourse, should be greeted with encouragement, "I'm glad you're telling me this" - rather than responding instantly with criticism. The worse the news your kid tells you, the more we need to fight down our critical response.

"I cheated in school today, and I got caught."

"I'm glad you're telling me this".

If chas veshalom your kid tells you (or even hints - which is more likely) he/she was abused, always respond supportively. Tell them you believe them absolutely, and that they have done nothing wrong. You are their ally and champion. "We can handle this". By the way, Helise mentioned that there is documented evidence that being believed results in much faster and more complete recovery for the child. On the other hand, not being believed creates a double trauma for the child; Helise described this secondary trauma as "shattering".

Most kids who do talk, will not volunteer any information; they may indicate red flags by behaviour changes,and one should always follow-up such observed changes by talking around what may be causing it (without leading-on or being suggestive). Kids do not lie about this kind of thing (with the very rare exception), but they do understate it. 

In the case that one suspects one's child may have been abused, NEVER, let anyone interview your child "to check if this is for real". Not a therpist, not a friend, not a rabbi, not a teacher. Such people, however well-meaning, are breaking the law, are corrupting evidence and can cause even more damage to the victim child.

The address to take a child to for a professional and police-approved once-only interview is the Mercaz Haganah (Child Protection Center) in Jerusalem (02-644-8844). If there is nothing you go home. If there is something you can go to the police or the social welfare officer, or they can go to the police. 

As for reporting requirements - everyone in Israel is a mandatory reporter. (Unlike the USA where just professionals are).

Regarding dealing with perpetrators, which Helise also does, she says it is difficult to demand strict justice ("should be taken out and shot!") when one knows the perpetrator personally.

Helise likened abusing to adictive behaviour, which is self destructive. It's similar to the cycle of wife battering, etc.. Man feels down, triggers, acts out, feels good, then (often) feels bad. Then the cycle continues.

Pedophiles need to be kept away from kids, even after they're 'cured'. 

Perpetrators put considerable energy and creativity into grooming their kid victims, and also into grooming the kid's parents/guardians. "This couldn't have happened - he's such a caring person and so wonderful with kids!".

Helise mentioned that the MAJORITY of perpetrators are dealing with kids at the professional level (teachers, camp masters, sports coaches, babysitrers, etc). [Which is NOT to say that the majority of people in these professions are perpetrators - as the perpetrators are a very very small minority).

Helise concluded by stating that there is no such thing as 100% safety for kids. (Nor for adults!). 
One must best protect kids by ensuring they are aware, know how to run/say "no", that they share information, and that known pedophiles are kept away from them.

Of course, there was much more information that Helise gave over - and if anyone has any questions they can email: MagenProtects@gmail.com.

You are also welcome to comment or ask questions in the comments section below.

Many many thanks to Helise and to the Radoff's who hosted the evening - for this very successful, informative and important Magen event.


  1. The information about Mercaz Hagana needs some further explanation as it may affect people's decision to report. One of the people who will interview your child there is from the police, so once the expert social worker has confirmed that your child's report is accurate, the file will be opened immediately. the decision is not always yours. I attended the center in Jeruslame with my child after reporting a RBS paedophile. the center is modern, friendly and extremely professional. It is also 100% confidential, but it is important to know that cases will be passed on to local police. Please report, however daunting it may seem.

  2. I have heard that most child abuse is perpetrated by people that the kids know and trust. Relatives, parents friends, teachers, babysitters..etc..

    So teaching our kids about stranger-danger is pretty ineffective.

    So what SHOULD we be teaching our kids?

  3. Commonly used techniques, for helping kids protect themselves, are to teach them about:

    1. Good Touch vs Bad Touch
    2. Good Secrets vs Bad Secrets
    3. How to say No. (And teaching adults - such as overly affectionate aunts etc - to respect No Thank You from kids)
    4. Trusting their own gut-response.

    I am not an expert - and I see value in a follow-up seminar/workshop on teaching parents how to teach their kids about these delicate and very important issues.

    There is also a need for education for kids, parents and staff in our schools about protection from abuse.


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