Yesterday evening after dark, a pre-bar-mitzvah-age boy came to our front door collecting for a school-based charity drive. No reflector. No adult accompanying him. He does not live on my block and subsequently no one – including his parents – really knew exactly where he was or whose door he was knocking on. And I stopped counting after ten such children came knocking on our door since Rosh Hashana.
L’ma’an Hashem; haven’t we learned anything from all the tragedies and ruined lives of kids who have been abused? At least in previous years, many or most of us thought our community was somehow immune from problems of this nature. What is the excuse now?
My dear friends, this lack of supervision is simply unconscionable knowing what we now know about the scope and magnitude of child abuse nowadays.
In fact, over the years, we have noticed a significant spike in abuse-related calls to Project YES around the joyous Pesach and Succos Yomim Tovim.
Those of us who work in the arena of child safety attribute the greater number of abuse cases during these times of year to:
1) The less structured environment at home, in Shul and at play.
2) The fact that children are exposed to a far greater number of pre-teens, teenagers and adults during Yom Tov than they are during the average school week.
We are all busy before Yom Tov, but we at Project YES strongly encourage you to speak to your children about child safety before Succos, and give them a refresher talk if you already have.
We plead with you to take this matter seriously and do everything in your power to keep your kids safe. There are two steps you ought to take in order to accomplish this:
1) Have safety talks with your children – using effective, research-based techniques that will educate and empower your children without frightening them.
2) See to it that they are properly supervised over Yom Tov.
There are four basic messages that children need to internalize in order for any abuse prevention program to be truly effective:
1. Your body belongs to you
2. No one has the right to make you feel uncomfortable
3. No secrets from parents
4. Good touching/bad touching
Please educate yourself before speaking to your children so that your discussions generate light and not heat. Additionally, it is important for you to know – and to share with your children – that although “stranger danger” is a genuine concern, the vast majority of molesters are family members or people well-known to the children.
As Tenafly Police Chief Michael Bruno brilliantly said during a magnificent talk he gave on child safety, “We need to train our children to consider the “it” (the inappropriate action being done to them) not the “whom” (regardless of the relationship or stature of the individual who is doing it).
There are free resources available in the Karasick Child Safety Initiative section of our website www.kosherjewishparenting.com, and we encourage (read: plead with) you to take advantage of them, including a comprehensive list of Links to Safety Resources for Parents and our three free Child Safety videos; #1 , #2 , #3.
Thanks for reading these lines, and kindly take a minute to forward this to others – for the only way our children and grandchildren will be safe, is when each and every one of us is well educated about child safety.
Best wishes for a Chag Samayach and much Nachas from your family.
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