Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The plague of silence
The plague of silence
by Ayelet Cohen Vider
April 4, 2007

When an Orthodox victim dares to reveal her story, society reacts with harsh and scathing accusations. If she should file a complaint, everyone often rallies around the abusive authority figure. The plague of sexual abuse can be found everywhere

Young Orthodox girls report incidents of sexual abuse three times as much as non-Orthodox girls. Incest among religious families is reported with the same frequency among religious and non-religious girls and women. For years we thought that sexual abuse occurred among the wanton secular society. We dress modestly, do not touch each other and are protected from all harm.

Over the past few years the wall has begun to crack. Quietly and secretly the stories are beginning to be heard with hesitant voices and great worry and fear. It is the fear to blacken the face of this quality society of which I am a part, the fear to harm a family member, an older brother, a respected principal, an esteemed rabbi. It is also the fear that I will harm my chances to be married. They are missiles of fear and terror, of silence and of closed eyes.

“I wore dirty clothes, I neglected my outer appearance to an extreme, and I did not allow any teachers or counselors to touch me. In the beginning they left me alone. Then a wise counselor arrived and asked and understood, and I told her about my brother. He learns in an esteemed yeshiva. Every free weekend and vacation when we were home together, he would come into my room at night and get into my bed and touch me all over…This is what she told the principal, he promised to take care of it but he did not do anything”.

Orthodox victims carry the burden of abuse alone for long periods of time. It is difficult for them to share their situation with others, first of all because it is difficult for them to digest the abuse; the contradiction between the honored and good person in whom they believed and the aggressive and abusive person they have uncovered.

Secondly they have a hard time revealing themselves as abused. In a small familial society where everyone knows everyone else, if you tell one person it is as if you have told a hundred and you will become the conversation of the day.

When the victim dares reveal her story and break the wall of loneliness, society reacts with harsh and scathing accusations. A high level of idealization, especially of male spiritual authority figures, characterizes religious society. The image of the tzaddik (righteous person) is a factor of spiritual and honored importance. He represents the values to which we aspire as a holy society - Torah knowledge, good deeds and a high spiritual level. When a complaint is filed the masses rally around the powers of authority.

He receives wide support from the men and women around him and since he is a powerful man he is surrounded and connected to powerful people. In a confrontation between the accuser and the accused the temptation to stand with the accused is great. The abuser, in his denial of the act, speaks to the universal desire not to see badness, not to hear of it or speak of it. On the other hand, the accuser is asking society to share her painful journey. Her individual pain and society’s pain in shattering this idealized figure is a type of smashing of the tablets.

She requires involvement and action, and she demands the ability to face hard contradictions. This is a harder request and therefore few answer it. Most would prefer to stay out of the story in the best case, or enlist for the good of the abuser in the worst case, and the accuser remains alone again. Now she is no longer alone for everyone is now a partner in her story, her nakedness is exposed in public, but against the doubts, accusations and the lack of the desire to believe her she stands alone.

When we as a movement volunteer to help her and enter the picture, the arrows are directed at us- the words against us are very aggressive and belligerent. In attempts to promote treatment we receive suggestions such as: write a letter of apology and the matter will be closed or alternatively we receive threats by the top lawyers in the country.

Our collective memory as a society teaches us that even distinguished educators and esteemed rabbis have fallen in this matter and that this can be done by anybody to anybody, whether it is a family member, a maintenance man, driver, principal, teacher, caretaker, doctor or rabbi. Our awareness of this serves as immunization to this happening again - for the individual abuser, the individual abused, and we as a society.

Ayelet Vider Cohen is a clinical psychologist, and active in “Kolech” treating victims of sexual abuse


Anonymous Cases at Toronto's Sefardic shuls said...

Sephardi cover ups said...
Dear UOJ,

There have also been cover ups of crimes in the Spanish & French Moroccain kehilot of Toronto. Hazan Alain Oziel, a member of the prominent Oziel family who control the Spanish Petah Tikva synagogue, was imprisoned for molesting boys he was teaching for the bar mitsva. After years of cover ups by the powerful people in charge, some parents decided to go to the police and they also sued the board.

Here are some Toronto Star articles:

Ex-cantor jailed for attacks on boy

Toronto Star - Toronto, Ont.
Author: by Gary Oakes TORONTO STAR
Date: Feb 4, 1996
Start Page: D.16
Section: NEWS
Text Word Count: 360

Alain Oziel ``wounded the soul'' of the victim, who was a member of his congregation, Mr. Justice Victor Paisley said last week in Ontario Court, general division.

The victim, now 28, cried in the University Ave. courtroom as the judge detailed the sexual abuse he was subjected to by Oziel at the ages of 13 and 14.

Prosecutor Margo MacKinnon recalled that the victim ``cried out in anguish'' as he testified about what Oziel did to him.

Cantor's sentence cut after bypass surgery Abuser to serve minimum term in penitentiary

Toronto Star - Toronto, Ont.
Author: By Gary Oakes Toronto Star
Date: Mar 29, 1997
Start Page: A.12
Section: NEWS
Text Word Count: 355

A one-time cantor in a North York synagogue has been granted - largely for health reasons - a reduced sentence for the ongoing sexual abuse of a young teenage boy more than a decade ago.

Alain Oziel was sentenced in February, 1996, to five years in prison after Mr. Justice Victor Paisley found that he had ``wounded the soul'' of the victim.

Paisley acknowledged Oziel's age, then 59, and the fact he was in poor health but said: ``He will serve as an example to others - don't do this crime.''

End of item.

At the French Magen David synagogue, a 14 year old was following younger boys into the bathroom to molest them. This was covered up by the rabbi and board members. Someone who found out about it reported it to the Jewish Child Services who conducted a very weak investigation. So called experts said the molester was not a danger even though it later came out that he molested a number of boys. It did not help that parents of the victims were participating in the cover up. There is an expression in French, cete une honte, they did not want anyone knowing about a shameful story.

The molester's father did not want his son, who seems to be mildly retarded, causing anymore trouble so he made sure he never came again to synagogue. The molester is now in his 20s and is working at a kosher bakery.

The rabbi involved in the cover up is a strange man. He was always fighting with people and did not have his contract renewed. He suddenly resigned as the secretary of the Toronto beit din when he was afraid that Rabbi Shochet was going to kick him out. He went to work for a funeral home and you could no longer recognize him. He put on a toupee, leather coat and fake blue contact lenses.

April 05, 2007 8:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why doesn't the blog and the Awareness Center record Oziel as a documented case?

April 05, 2007 11:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

if there's cases you know about you should forward the information to Vicki Polin at the awareness center. I think that's how it ends up on the awareness center's site.

I don't know how this blogger operates.

April 05, 2007 11:45 AM  

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