Last week’s column by Gary Rosenblatt, reflecting on the Baruch Lanner case a decade after the scandal became public, is but one chapter in the story of calling attention to rabbinic sexual abuse.
Much work has been done by volunteers, particularly by former victims of such abuse, to draw attention to an ongoing situation that, however improved, continues to cast a stain on the community. It is true that abuse is now more widely acknowledged and discussed as a serious problem that demands communal attention, and that standards and procedures have been put in place in various youth groups, etc. But it is also true that in some elements of the Orthodox community the stigma of shame and fear continues to prevent families from going to the authorities when abuse is suspected.
Grass-roots organizations like the Jewish Board of Advocates for Children and Survivors for Justice have been formed and play a leadership role in terms of communal awareness, concern for the well-being of victims and advocacy for state legislation that would extend the statute of limitation for victims of child abuse crimes to seek legal recourse.
In addition, a small number of rabbis (Yosef Blau of Yeshiva University), politicians (State Assemblyman Dov Hikind), Jewish journalists (Phil Jacobs of the Baltimore Jewish Times, Mayer Fertig of the Jewish Star and our special correspondent Hella Winston), victims and bloggers have sought in various ways to shine a light on the shadows of abuse and inform the community of a reality that many would wish away.
Much has been accomplished these last 10 years in terms of awareness in the community; a good deal more remains to be done to assure that predators can no longer victimize young people and get away with their crime, confident that families will choose to remain silent.
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