Pardon me, as I step up onto my soapbox.
On Friday, I defended R’ Hershel Schachter. It was an extremely odd experience. The reason it was so odd was because I actually did not agree with R’ Schachter. You’ll not see one word of agreement in my post on Friday.
What you will see is an attack on the Forward. What the Forward did was wrong, sensationalist, and terrible reporting.
Their lede was offensive and their lack of nuance was deplorable. I sought to set the record straight on what R’ Schachter said and what he actually stands for. I wanted to explain exactly what R’ Schachter meant and help people to see that what the Forward said was not accurate.
Some people disagree with me that R’ Schachter actually did not mean what I say he meant. That is, almost every case should be reported to the authorities except in a very small number of unclear situations. That’s okay. I am 99% positive that if you would ask him if I representing his opinion correctly he would say yes.
Other people were livid that I was “supporting” R’ Schachter’s opinion on the halachic obligations as they relate to abuse. Those people are angry that I dared to lend credence to R’ Schachter’s position that there should be some sort of gatekeeper between the authorities and the abuse victim.
The thing is, I didn’t do that. What I did was show, to the best of my knowledge, how what R’ Schachter said, or at least meant, was not what was being reported in the Forward. If the Forward had reported what was actually said, first of all it would have not been such a big deal, but more importantly, it would not have been as interesting.
The real story was R’ Schachter dismisses mesira as a reason not to report and unless there is serious doubt about the veracity of a claim one should go to the authorities. This is the most progressive position I have heard in a public statement from any Rosh Yeshiva on abuse.
However, for my liking, it does not go far enough. I know a lot of people only came to this blog because of this story. But my position on abuse was already outlined in a previous post: Weberman is Found Guilty: What It Means. Here is what I said there, in case you have trouble following a link – but you should read the rest of the post too.
In order for our community to handle abuse properly, three things need to happen.
1) We need to discard the concept of mesirah. The word needs to be excised from our lexicon and it must be relegated to an anachronism and relic of the past. If you need three poskim to explain why there is no prohibition of mesira in sex abuse cases read this: Mesira (The Jewish Informant) in Halacha. People who cover up abuse are thousands of times worse than any moser. Stop covering up and making excuses. We cannot stand for this in our communities.
2) We need to understand the horrible effects of abuse. We don’t get it. We never really will get it. But we need to know that it is much worse than we could possibly imagine. Here are just some symptoms of abuse (that do not apply equally to all survivors). Abuse victims contemplate suicide. They don’t trust anyone. They hate Jews. They hate God. They cannot be intimate. They are scared to commit to relationships or jobs. They seek escape via substance abuse. They cry every day. They become numb and cannot feel anything. They isolate themselves. They never grow up. They need to spend thousands of dollars on therapy and are never really cured. As much as the abuse hurts, the apathy from the frum community hurts even more. Which brings me to number 3.
3) We need to accept survivors into our community with love and affection. We cannot judge them. We cannot allow them to feel second class. We cannot protect their abusers. We must tell them that we do not accept the monsters that harmed them into our communities. We cannot choose monsters over innocent victims. But here is the hard part. We need to acknowledge their pain and suffering without making them feel like they are damaged goods. Yes, their lives have been severely affected for the worse. But they can live beautiful, meaningful lives. We just need to let them. We cannot screen abuse victims from shidduchim and we cannot excuse bad behavior because one is a victim. Yes, they are going to have a hard time because of everything that we still need to understand about the harms of abuse. But that’s okay. We need them to know that we don’t mind if they have a few issues here and there. Who doesn’t? They cannot be stigmatized, otherwise they will never come forward and we run the risk of losing another generation of sex abuse victims.
Let us hope and pray that Weberman was correctly found guilty and more importantly, let us hope and pray that this case is a tipping point. Let us hope and pray that this case is the wake-up call we needed. Let us hope and pray that there are no more korbanos to the Gods of shem tov and chillul Hashem. Those are noble pursuits, but not at the expense of our children.
Ad kan. Enough is enough.
To be clear, my posek has no qualms about reporting all cases of abuse and that is who I follow. No gatekeepers, no investigations, no interrogations, none of that. Get rid of all of it. R’ Schachter should have said. It’s almost what he said, but he didn’t go far enough. I do not agree with R’ Schachter. But I don’t think the Forward was justified in their attack on R’ Schachter either. Not to mention, I don’t appreciate all the people out there who hate me now because they think I agree with R’ Schachter. I don’t. So don’t hate me. Thanks.
Also, I do not condone racial speech. Never. It was not acceptable. I don’t excuse it. I merely provided some context and a character opinion.
And do me a favor, share this post so that all the people who thought I said that I support R’ Schachter can have the record set straight.