Thursday, December 21, 2006

Keeping Our Children Safe

Ezzie directs us to a recent article by R. Yakov Horowitz about sexual abuse in the Orthodox community (link). This is a must-read.

Some highlights:

Unfortunately, the nature of this challenge is that less turns to more – exponentially – the longer that we ignore these issues. This is true all the more so in the case of abuse since untreated victims are far more likely to abuse others...

It is extremely important to note that school faculty members commit only a tiny fraction of the abuse perpetrated on victims. Abusers are far more likely to be older kids in the neighborhood, family friends, neighbors, peers, extended or even close family members.

How many children are we talking about? How many abuse victims are there?... [W]hen I asked if they would say that there are a) tens, b) hundreds or c) thousands [of abused children], each responded that there are surely hundreds. In fact, Dr. Pelcovitz mentioned that he gets about 5 calls per week from parents seeking help for their abused children – or from adults seeking counseling from scars left from childhood abuse. These numbers concur with my understanding of the magnitude of the problem...

In my opinion, the number one risk factor – by far – for children abandoning Yiddishkeit is abuse and neglect. This is not to say that the majority of kids who are off the derech were abused. But of all the complex and varied educational, social and familial factors that present risk to our children, the most damaging by far, in my opinion, is abuse. The very real threat posed by external influences, such as TV, Internet, ‘bad friends’ are all firecrackers compared to the “atom bomb” of sexual abuse...

As for the question of who should take responsibility for the safety of children, I suggest that it is the parents who need to take the lead on this. Why? Because, sad to say, until there is a groundswell of support for the protection of our children, schools will find it difficult to create and implement the type of programs to teach children how to establish personal boundaries and to ensure their own safety. And, because ultimately they are our children and we are responsible for them.
OK, so I ended up copying a good chunk of the article. That's how important it is.

See also this post.

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