Jun 29, 2012
By Joel Moskowitz
I think it is safe to say that despite all the scandal, all the public trials, all the outrage we still just don’t get it when it comes to child abuse. Even more outrageous is the tendency to cover up past abuses and in some cases to vilify the victims. Our blind eye turned to these abuses helps perpetuate the epidemic of bullying experienced by our youth, after all child abusers get protection from school principals, rabbis, priests and communal leaders, why should bullies worry?
The YouTube sensation of Karen Klein, a 68 year old bus monitor from Rochester NY being bullied and taunted by students while she sat and cried was a wake up call to all of us that what we teach at home is paramount to proper upbringing. What message are we teaching our children when there was a fundraiser in Brooklyn for a suspected sexual offender that raised half a million dollars for his defense? Or those four Ultra-Orthodox men who were arrested last week after being recorded bribing then threatening a victim of abuse to drop the charges against her tormentor?
Penn State, the Catholic Church, Orthodox Judaism, Horace Mann and countless other institutions serially cover up instance after instance of abuse and only after it becomes a scandal erupts do they do anything to show sympathy or remorse. Inevitably, the abuser will have his supporters, after all the kids not being abused must think the teacher, rabbi or priest to be just swell. Then the victim becomes hunted again, shamed, called a liar or worse, told that they invited it upon themselves. With all that we have learned about protecting our children over the years – abuse need not be physical or sexual to be considered abuse. I know, because as a teenager I was the victim of terrible emotional and psychological abuse. Twenty-eight years after my episode a prominent Jewish publication printed a story about years of documented abuse by the same rabbi. I used my name for attribution in that article and while most of the responses were overwhelmingly supportive I was not surprised at all to find out that the rabbi’s supporters considered me embittered and vengeful.
Most recently, a former classmate of mine wrote an article for the online student publication of the university we attended. That school happened to have affiliate high schools that we both went to. His article details years of abuse by the principal of one of the high schools. This principal, in what was the worst kept open secret of my generation, time and time again wrestled kids, hit them, pinched them and got them drunk. The school’s answer after decades of abuse was to make this guy a dinner and sent him off to be a principal at a school in another city.
Our culture has taught us to revere our leaders, but our leaders let us down when they protect abusers and refuse to weed out those that will damage lives. More importantly our leaders fail us when abuse is uncovered but excused away or dealt with quietly. We owe our children the knowledge that their safety, security and happiness is the most important thing in the world and that we will do everything in our power to rid our schools, camps, churches, temples and playgrounds of predators.
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