Four years ago, when I began writing about the topic of child molestation, our community had not yet been slammed by the high-profile abuse cases that drew the attention of the local and national media. Thus, the overwhelming reaction by those who discussed the columns with me was sheer disbelief. "Come on, Yankie, aren't you overdoing it?" they would ask. Others were furious at me for "washing our dirty laundry" in public and for creating a chilul Hashem by writing about these sordid matters in The Jewish Press. Others - even to this day - question the practical value of shining the light of day on these dark corners. "All you do is write these articles. Tachlis! What are you really doing about it?" they ask.
My response has always been - and continues to be - that these essays, painful as they are to write, publish and read, save lives by raising awareness. It is that simple. The more information people have about the dangers and prevalence of abuse, the greater the likelihood that it can be prevented or interrupted - or at least treated very early on when the damage is not as great.
In the few nights since I set aside time and a designated phone line for people who wish to contact me (see The Best Way to Reach Me), I fielded calls on a host of educational and parenting topics. Two calls that I took last night speak volumes about why I write and publish columns on abuse and molestation despite the fact that it is painful and uncomfortable to do so.
The first call was from a heimishe young married man who was molested badly over a period of time by a family member. He called to ask what he could read to help him deal with the pain and confusion of his childhood abuse.
The second was from a frum woman who called me regarding her six-year-old son who was inappropriately touching the private parts of a three-year-old child of a friend of hers. She suspected that her son was molested previously and was sadly repeating the behavior.
What both callers had in common was that they read my Could it Be True? column on abuse and the three related abuse columns for which links are posted therein. Armed with this information, they were knowledgeable enough to reach out for help (I gave both of them referrals to mental health professionals who are trained in the treatment of abuse victims and they both promised to go for help immediately).
Knowledge saves lives. It is that simple. The more information people have, the greater the likelihood that abuse can be prevented, interrupted – or at least treated very early on when the damage is not as great.
Hopefully the professionals can help this young man through his trauma and help the mother of the young child break the all-too-common horrible cycle of untreated abuse victims becoming abusers. It is precisely this domino effect that is causing such misery, destroyed lives, drug addiction and even suicides among our beloved children.
This past week, at a social function; I was introduced to, and spent some time with, a handsome, frum bachur who just returned from an extended stay in a drug rehab facility a few months ago. He was ‘clean’ for a while, but is starting to slip back to his old habits. In my first conversation with him, I asked him how old he was when he was molested.
“How did you know, Rabbi?” he asked. I didn’t respond but just looked at him with knowing eyes. He then informed me that he was repeatedly abused by an adult in his neighborhood when he was eight years old. When we discussed his ‘falling off the wagon’ and resuming his drug addiction, he looked at me with haunted eyes and said, “Rabbi; it’s the only thing that makes the pain go away.”
If the abuse columns I publish and disseminate can save one even child from this gehennom, …
© 2008 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved
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