WED AUGUST 24.2011
In every large group there may be a very small number of individuals who engage or might engage in unacceptable behavior. So the question becomes, how do we identify such individuals and prevent them from entering our schools?
THE PROBLEM WITH OHEL IS AT THE TOP.WE KNOW THERE IS A CHANGE WHEN THEY BEGIN REPORTING ABUSERS TO THE POLICE HORAV YOSEF BLAU ROSH YESHIVA YESHIVA UNIVERSITY
Social service organizations have for many years been required to fingerprint and complete a criminal background check on all employees. It can take from several days to a week to get results of a fingerprint check. Every now and then a hit comes back on a prospective new hire showing a criminal record. The system also sends information to employers of any new criminal proceedings against a person already in their employ.
Which brings us to the point of Prevent, Police, Prosecute.
There are several ways we can work to prevent the sexual abuse of our children. Parents must speak to their children at several different stages in the child's life, while schools must adopt a strong program to educate students, faculty and parents as well as monitor and adhere to mandated reporting protocols.
Another important factor whose time has come is the fingerprinting of all people employed in yeshivas and day schools, as is currently required in public schools. A detailed proposal by Elliot Pasik, Esq., and other advocates is a sound template urging the state legislature to enact laws requiring fingerprinting in private schools.
Why is this important? It comes down to playing the odds. It's only a matter of time before a hit will come back on an employee of some yeshiva or day school who has a criminal record and possibly a history of sexual abuse.
There are very few individuals in our community who have been convicted of crimes related to child sexual abuse, and even fewer on Megan's List. It may be a long shot, but we always want the odds to be in favor of our children.
Years ago in an article for The Jewish Press, I urged parents who had reason to believe their child had been or was being sexually abused to report it to the police.
"The concept of protecting one child (from shame and stigma) by not reporting this to the police," I wrote, "virtually assures that other children will be hurt in shul, in yeshiva or in the neighborhood park."
In a dozen subsequent articles in newspapers and magazines I emphasized the importance of working with police and district attorney staff to prosecute child molesters. Only by pushing abusers into the criminal justice system can we prevent them from harming other children. Moreover, once child molesters are prosecuted and have a criminal record, we will know who they are, and through fingerprint checks can keep them from jobs that provide access to children.
In Breaking the Silence: Sexual Abuse in the Jewish Community, a book I edited with Dr. David Pelcovitz, Rav Dovid Cohen, Ohel's mara d'asra for 41 years, describes the imperative of adhering to mandated reporting laws including contacting the police when sexual abuse takes place.
In the Mi Sheberach for a sick person, we refer to refuas hanefesh u'refuas haguf - healing of the soul and healing of the body. The healing of the soul comes first. If someone were to break into our home or car, or physically attack us, we would without question call the police. It is an attack on our person, our guf. Sexual abuse has been described as an attack on the soul as well as on the body. And if the Mi Sheberach gives priority to nefeshbefore guf, it is a strong message to protect the soul. If murder of the body can result in a life sentence for the convicted killer, why not a similar sentence for murder of the soul?
Playing the odds with lottery tickets is fine. Playing the odds with people who work with and to whom we entrust our children absolutely is not. Prevent, Police, Prosecute - three P's to protect our children from harm.
David Mandel is chief executive officer of Ohel Children's Home and Family Services. He can be contacted at email@example.com.