The Novominsker Rebbe, Rav Yaakov Perlow, issued a call for action in response to the festering scourge of child abuse and molestation. As a result of his seminal address at the recent Torah Umesorah convention, several groundbreaking initiatives have been launched to ensure that our children are safe at all times.
Torah Umesorah is preparing to train hundreds of principals, rabbeim and mechanchos across the country. This training will provide them with tools not only to prevent instances of child abuse and molestation from occurring within their schools, but also to recognize symptoms among students indicating that they may have been molested outside the school setting. (Statistics show that perpetrators are rarely strangers; generally, they are people the child knows and trusts.) The training program is slated to begin this fall.
In addition, a training program for thousands of summer-camp counselors is now being rolled out. The program, endorsed by Rav Elya Brudny, rosh yeshiva, Mir Yeshiva in Brooklyn, will consist of short, animated video lessons, followed by quizzes. The quizzes will enable camp directors to ascertain that all counselors understand the dos and don’ts of relating to and protecting their charges, and that they are able to identify warning signs and respond appropriately. The counselor training program, endorsed also by Dr. David Pelcowitz and Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, will make summer camp the special, cherished experience that it should be. As Rabbi Perlow stated at the convention, “We must ensure that predators are not able to disturb our children; we have no sympathy for the perpetrators.”
These and other initiatives will generate increased awareness of the problem and greater sensitivity to warning symptoms, and will likely result in more people contacting trusted community organizations that specialize in addressing child abuse and molestation. “We are deeply sympathetic to the victims,” Rabbi Perlow said at the convention. Gedolei Yisroel are making this issue the highest priority.
“Our staff are already reporting a sharp increase in calls from community members looking for guidance and assistance,” said Rabbi Zvi Gluck, director of Amudim Community Resources. “We are now in the process of setting up a crisis line. The days of looking away, pretending that these problems don’t exist, or pushing them to the side, are behind us; we have to take a strong, positive stance to protect and empower our children.”
To assist victims of abuse and molestation, a group of concerned donors established a fund to subsidize trauma therapy. The fund, named ASAP, is currently assisting 250 victims, with new applications arriving daily.
With one out of every five children in our community likely to be victimized, this serious threat to our families has the potential to destroy generations. More initiatives are on the way, as the Torah community unites to combat this intolerable situation.