Thursday, September 10, 2015

Mesira IV: Child Abuse and Fire

I just spent three posts talking about Jewish policemen, traffic laws and fines all under the heading of “Mesira”. I am sure most readers realize that this isn’t really the main topic I wanted to write about. I as much as said so in the first post which I called a “preamble”.

Yet it took me three lengthy posts to adequately cover this “preamble”. I was hoping I was ready to move on to the main subject which – if you haven’t figured it out – is the hot topic of mesira vis a vis child abuse.

Now, I haven’t spoken about it much in the past for a number of reasons.

  • It’s a very touchy subject

  • It’s been dealt with to death by other bloggers (so what does anybody need me for?)

  • I am not a professional in the field – although I certainly know enough to write what I plan to write

  • By itself, it’s not really a chareidi issue – it’s a social issue and a community issue. There are chareidi pedophiles and non-chareidi pedophiles. There are not any more per-capita pedophiles in the chareidi world than in the non-chareidi world. Perhaps there are less. There is nothing in chareidi hashkafa that sanctions pedophilia or that will cause somebody to become one.

The only real issue is: how does the chareidi world deal with the issue?

In this vein, I did write about it over six years ago in my post about The Genie of Ochel Nefesh (well worth looking at). My purpose in that post was to help people understand the hashkafic premise that would lead Agudas Yisroel to oppose the proposed Markey Bill. Why should they oppose any bill intended to alleviate the plight of se%ual abuse survivors?  The answer is that the Markey Bill was slightly off the Mark(ey).

That was the only time I previously dealt with this issue. So, why bring it up now?

Well, what has triggered this entire thread of posts is the Kol Koreh that was printed in the Aug. 26 issue of Mishpacha Magazine. If you haven’t seen this Kol Koreh yet and don’t know what I am referring to, be patient. I will (bl"n) provide a copy when I discuss it, but I cannot really go into it yet. There needs to be at least one more preamble post.

I was hoping I was ready to write the main post – the Big one – about the Kol Koreh. I wanted to discuss what is right with it – which led 107 Rabbanim to sign it; and what is wrong with it – which is probably why a far greater number of Rabbanim did not sign it.

If I only wanted to write what is right about it, it wouldn’t be such a long post. But, since I also want to write what is wrong with it, it would by itself become an exceedingly long post. And I need to at least try to cut my posts down to bite-size pieces. This would be impossible if I don’t invest at least one more post on some more “basics”. After investing three long posts on examining the basics of mesira, if I intend to write a post about mesira vis a vis child abuse, we must likewise examine the basics of child abuse.

We will discuss the following topics;
  • Classes of child abuse
  • Degrees of child abuse
  • Courses of Action for Dealing with child abuse

Ready? Here goes:

Classes of Child Abuse

Child Abuse is like fire. A very destructive element. And fire is fire. The best way to deal with fire is to extinguish it. Like to douse it with water. So, any time you see a fire the best thing to do is douse it with lots of water, right?

Not always. Anybody who knows anything about fire knows that there are several classes of fires. A Class A fire is ordinary combustibles and can be safely extinguished with water. But a Class B/C fire (Flammable liquid or gas) is very different. We are told not to use water, but that’s not all. We are told that not only do we not expect the water to work, but that water will very likely spread the burning material and make things a whole lot worse. So, a remedy that will have a positive result for a Class A fire will not only not have a productive result for a Class B/C fire, but will likely have a counterproductive result. Yep, both kinds of fires look more or less the same – fire is fire; but if you don’t know what it really is that caught fire, you can wind up doing more harm than good.

Well, child abuse is child abuse…or, is it?

No, not really. There are different classes of child abuse
.
Now, since I am not a professional and don’t know professional jargon, I will make up my own terms. There are basically two classes of child abuse:

  • Class A that I will call Domestic Child Abuse
  • Class B that I will call Pedophilic Child Abuse

The defining distinction between the two classes is that in Class A – Domestic – the primary caregiver of the child (i.e. parent[s] or legal guardian) is the one (or ones) perpetrating the abuse. In Class B – Pedophilic – the perpetrator of the abuse is somebody other than the primary caregiver of the child (though it may be an authority figure like a teacher/rebbe or a counselor).

After the defining distinction, there are many other distinctions. I will list those that come to mind. (Note – The following are merely generalities that are most frequently at play. Obviously, nothing is absolute and there is plenty of cross-over.)

In the case of Class A abuse:

  • The motive of the perpetrator is control and domination, not se%ual urges (even if se%ual abuse is involved). The perpetrator is commonly suffering from one or more of: low self-esteem, depression, narcissism, schizophrenia, BPD, or Peter Pan Syndrome. Even when the abuse is se%ual, it does not indicate that the perpetrator is pedophilic; he may be equally attracted to any se%ual target. The perpetrator does not abuse anybody outside of his immediate family – the home is the arena of the abuse.

  • In the case of Class A abuse, there are three possible remedies:

  1. Separate the abuser from the victim by removing the abuser from the arena.
  2. Separate the abuser from the victim by removing the victim from the arena.
  3. Do not separate the abuser from the victim, but rather implement methods to stop or lessen the abuse. Treat the underlying cause.
Each remedy has its pros and cons. And, as is usually the case, the one that is the most beneficial to all parties - option #3 - is the most risky and difficult to implement.

  • In the case of Class A abuse, the authorities that are called upon to intervene are usually social services and not law enforcement. The perpetrator is deemed to be an abusive person but is not automatically looked upon as a criminal. Social services is focused on assisting the victim, not on prosecuting the offender.

  • In the case of Class A abuse, mandated reporting is almost always applicable.

In the case of Class B (Pedophilic) abuse it is almost the complete opposite:

  • The perpetrator may not be suffering from the above list of dysfunctions (low self-esteem, etc.). His motive is indeed se%ual satisfaction. He is primarily - and possibly exclusively - attracted to children (i.e. pedophilic). In many cases, he will davka not abuse anybody from his close family or who he cares for personally. He will target an unlimited number of victims. The arena for abuse can be anywhere.

  • In the case of Class B abuse, the above three remedies are not as effective. Option #3 is usually not successful because the underlying cause is a fetish and not a treatable dysfunction. In this case, the abuser must be either relocated or restrained and potential victims need to avoid encountering the abuser. However, if the abuser is enabled by virtue of a position of authority, it may be sufficient to relieve him of his position.

  • In the case of Class B abuse, the authorities that are called upon to intervene are usually law enforcement and not social services. The perpetrator is usually immediately cast as a criminal. Law enforcement is focused on prosecuting the offender, not on assisting the victim.

  • In the case of Class B abuse, it is not clear if and when mandated reporting is applicable.

To summarize, we see a vast, almost diametrically opposed, distinction in these two classes. It tells us that different cases can have different causes and call for different courses of action. And what is effective in some cases may be disastrously counterproductive in others. Although they are often shoved into one basket because they carry a common umbrella term – child abuse. As such, to the untrained eye they may look identical just as most fires do.  

Degrees of Child Abuse

This is a much shorter topic. Generally, it is only relevant to Class B (Pedophilic) abuse. But it is the classic issue with any type of molestation – even adult molestation:
At what stage is an unwanted or prohibited se%ual encounter severe enough for Halachic or legal intervention?

Of course a full blown verified act of giluy arayos (k’kanah b’shfoferes) must be prosecuted to the nth degree with community or legal action. There is every justification to “throw the book” at the fellow. But, short of this, while there is no argument that even a subtle non-invasive act such as groping, fondling, caressing, stalking, peeping, etc. is totally unacceptable and would qualify the perpetrator to be called a “creep” and a “skunk”, nevertheless, at what point does “unacceptable” become “impeachable” at a criminal level? And are Torah standards and legal standards in sync on this? And, while we’re at it, are your standards and my standards in sync on this?

Courses of Action for Dealing with child abuse

Earlier, when I discussed the two main classes of child abuse, I talked about the remedial options from a “scientific” perspective. But, because all this is a preamble to discuss the issue of mesira, we have to look at our options from a practical and Halachically sound perspective.

Realistically, or scientifically, we may have a number of options. Like the three options that I mentioned for a Class A abuser. But Halachically, we only have one option – whichever is the best one. And, only after the best one doesn’t work, are we allowed to try the next best one.

In this subject, the concept of Rodef is repeatedly called upon. This is our go-to heter for reporting an abuser. Alas, there is a catch. We have a known rule in Hilchos Rodef (see Rambam H. Rotzeach 1:13) that if one is able to save the victim by only maiming the Rodef (or disarming him), he is not allowed to "go the distance" and bump him off. Doing so is capital murder.

Evidently, Halacha does not allow us to indiscriminately "throw the book" at an abuser.

Likewise, the gemara (Bava Basra 57b) tells us that if a man passes through a road where the women are doing laundry, if there was an alternate road (a “darcka achrina”) but he chose this one, even if he closes his eyes he is considered a rasha (wicked). A simpleton may ask: Does this apply even if the alternate road is considerably longer or much more difficult? We know that this is a fool’s question because it is obvious that we are talking where the alternate road is longer or more inconvenient than the chosen road. Why? Because if the chosen road with the un-tznius women was the less convenient or longer one and yet he still chose that road, he has no justification at all to take this road. Do we need the gemara to tell us that he is a rasha?

We learn that when Halachic considerations dictate a course of action, it is not necessarily the easiest and most convenient one. Very often it is not. Yet we cannot pass up this course for another just because the other one is easier.

Go back to the concept of Rodef and the Rambam I referenced a few paragraphs ago. Note the terminology of the Rambam (free translation):

All who can save [the victim] by disabling one of his limbs and he did not bother himself with this but rather saved the victim by killing the pursuer, behold he has spilt blood and is worthy of death.

We just can't take the easy way out simply because we "don't want to be bothered" when there is an alternative less damaging to the pursuer. Why? Because our goal right now is not to put the pursuer out of business but to protect the victim.

Hence, in Class A abuse where I presented three possible options, there is no question that if option #3 is doable (without prolonging danger to the victim), we must take that course. Even though it is usually the most difficult one to implement. Why? Because it will have the best result. Only, if we are convinced that it won’t work or won’t be safe enough for the victim can we choose one of the other two. (If it’s up to us.)

So, now let’s look at the Class B scenario – the community pedophile. Undeniably it is a much stickier situation. Definitely, the easiest most convenient option is to get rid of the guy. Either run him out of town or turn him in and get him locked up. Unfortunately, the easiest option is not always the one we are allowed to try first. Since there is something intrinsically wrong with turning somebody over to secular authorities, just like there is something intrinsically wrong with travelling a road where women are doing the laundry, if there is a “darcka achrina” with an equal, if not better, result, even though it isn’t nearly as neat and quick, we may be required to take that route.(I wrote earlier that if he is in an authority position, it may suffice to relieve him of his position.)

So, in the case of the Class B (Pedophile) abuser, I wrote that is some cases he is only a threat to outsiders but not a threat to his immediate family. As such, a solution that leaves him and his family intact while restraining him from getting involved with outsiders is the preferred solution. This will doubtless require prolonged supervised therapy with general community supervision which will amount to a heavy imposition on some community members, but if it's doable, it may be the inconvenient "darka achrina "course that we need to take (or rule out).

As a Torah community we don't always have the luxury to take the easy way out. 

Let's say Joe's house catches fire and there are no other houses nearby. Left to itself Joe's house will eventually burn to the ground and burn out.


Now the house is totally insured but some of the costly electronics inside are not. Joe thinks he can safely remove the electronics within a half hour but this means allowing the house burn for another half hour. Well, Joe may not rush to call the fire department. Joe knows that when the fire department comes, what they will do is indiscriminately douse the entire place with water. They don’t care about what’s in it. They may save half the insured house but they will ruin the expensive uninsured items.


So if, let's say, some do gooder neighbor gets on the phone and calls the fire department, is this neighbor doing anybody a favor?

Obviously not. As long as there was very little risk that the fire would spread beyond Joe’s house, then what is the whole purpose of putting out the fire at all? (It will eventually go out by itself.) Isn’t it only to preserve Joe’s property? So, if by some ironic twist, rushing to put out the fire may cause more damage, why do it?


Likely, the neighbor did not want to chance the fire of spreading even if Joe’s house was far from others. But Joe is interested in suffering the least amount of personal damage. And, ironically, allowing the house to burn for thirty minutes longer would cause less damage to Joe than if it was put out right now.


Well, a fire is a fire and child abuse is child abuse. But if it’s a Class B fire and you try to douse it with water. You may end up doing lots of damage and not even put out the fire. But even if it’s a Class A fire and water will put it out. If you are too quick and freehanded with the water, you may succeed in putting out the fire but also inflict with the water more damage than the fire would have done.


And all this is to keep in mind that when we deal with alleged (or actual) child abuse – we are playing with fire.

Related Post:


The Genie of Ochel Nefesh and the Markey Bill



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