Enough with the “Penetration Fallacy”

We have a serious problem when people say, “But it wasn’t rape,” or “Sexualizing a child without touching is creepy but not sexual abuse.” Creepy is practically a synonym for sexualizing.
Sex crimes should be seen from the point of view of harm to the victim/survivor, not in terms of the mechanics and body parts. There is what I call a “penetration fallacy” where the halachic and legal criteria of severity ignore the psycho-emotional harm.
Professionals report profound harm including suicides and overdose deaths because of sex abuse that did not involve penetration  of any sort. As long as the sexual dimension is apparent enough to make it creepy, it becomes possible for it to seriously harm a child. Not every child. Resilience varies. Some can come out pretty well from horrific things while others are deeply harmed by lesser things.
Even the law recognizes the victim’s perspective by considering victim impact reports and statements in setting sentences. The law bases the amount of civil judgements on the basis of the effects such as subsequent functional impairment, not just the acts. This is correct because some children are more harmed by fondling than others are by penetration.

Jewish law has explicit categories for harm: nezek, tzar, ripui, sheves and boishes. Sex abuse, depending on the particulars can include all five: physical harm, pain, medical healing costs, incapacitation, and shame.

Even those who don’t know technical halacha ought be sensitive to the ethical concern woven through rabbinic teaching about the grave sin of shaming others or even speaking hurtful words. It ought to be so much more obvious that violations of intimacy and tznius in ways that shame are especially grave sins and deeply harmful.

Yeshivish guys, stop asking, “Is she still a besulah (virgin).” It is almost never of any halachic consequence for their future marital status. It is true that a cohen gadol (high priest) can only marry a besulah. But even the most highfalutin schadchanim (matchmakers) are not offering any of them up.
There is a problem of discrimination against survivors of abuse who are open about their victimization. But the cure is not halachic, it is waging war on abusers instead of stigmatizing victims.
The rabbinical community should educate the public to understand these many aspects of the harm of child sex abuse. Instead we still hear echoes of the claim that it was nisht geferlich (not terrible) because there was no penetration. It is time to replace the penetration fallacy with a victim-centered understanding of the harm. It is time for more rabbinic leadership to give attention to these grave tznius violations instead of obsessing about the gauge of stockings and the length of skirts. A longer skirt is of no consequence if it can be lifted and removed with impunity because there is no penetration.

 

There Are No Warnings when Sex Offenders Move From Israel but We Can Fix That

scales of justice and childSex offenders, like smugglers, take advantage of borders to avoid paying for their crimes. Sometimes they hop borders one step ahead of the cops. Israel, unfortunately is a popular destination for our miscreants.

But there is also a reverse flow where Israel’s flotsam washes up on America’s shores. Local communities are often clueless. This is true, even if there was a conviction in Israel because Israel does not have a public sex offender registry.

Let’s say Shlomo Shimon Ben-David gets convicted for molesting a neighbor’s child in Israel. He serves his time and then heads off to the United States. For good measure he starts using his middle name, Shimon, or perhaps, Simon, and becomes an accepted member of his new community and volunteers with a youth group. No one is the wiser about his past history.

Don’t start saying there ought to be a law to deal with the problem. There is a law: the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). If offenders move, start work, or start school in a new state they have to register within three days or can be sentenced to a year. SORNA’s regulations also apply to foreign convictions (IV-B).

Mr. Ben-David should register himself within 3 days of arriving in the the US. But he probably won’t register, even if he knows the law. He has nothing to fear. After all, how will the local jurisdiction even know he has an Israeli conviction. As far as I can tell, local registry enforcers don’t even try to deal with this problem.

Six months ago, on Feb. 8, 2016, President Obama signed a law designed to deal with some of those problems. The bill requires child sex offenders to notify their registry office of their plans to travel abroad. The US government is supposed to transmit  this information to foreign countries and where appropriate, to  INTERPOL. The law also requires the US State Department to mark offender’s passports with indications of their child sex offender status.

Under the International Megan’s Law (HR 4573; 113th Congress, 2nd session) the US government should Continue reading

Chief Rabbi Lau’s Statement about Child Abuse

Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi, David Lau issued a public statement about child abuse. As far as I know it is his first to date.

Below is a translation of its flowery language gracefully executed by *Danny Wool. An image of the original in Hebrew is at the end of the article.

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R. David Stav

It is addressed to religious educators. I suspect it was written in response the arrests of yeshiva teachers last week. See, 6 Alleged Offenders, 22 Children (Ages 2-10), Over 11 Years in Tel Aviv Belz School

It may have also been a response to a statement by Rabbi David Stav, head of Tzohar, that not reporting sexual abuse violates the Torah. Stav was Lau’s main competitor in the election for chief rabbi.

It is interesting that he managed not to make public statements about other sex abuse scandals involving prestigious religious teachers such as Motti Elon, Ezra Sheinberg, Naftali Maklev, Meir Pogrow, Elimelech Meisels, Eliezer Berland, Ben Tzion Sobel, and Matis Weinberg. Lau doubtlessly knows of many others who  escaped public exposure,  criminal prosecution, or any sort of consequences.

But he has finally spoken, so let’s read it and then evaluate it.


Tammuz 29, 5776

August 4, 2016

To All Who Work Educating the Children of Israel in Good Faith

Greetings,

Re: Awareness of Injuries Caused to Students

Much to my regret, terrible incidents occurring in our courtyards and domains have recently been made public. Cases in which boys and girls alike have been hurt in their homes or educational institutions have taken place recently, shocking anyone with a heart. How painful it is to hear that those very places, which should be a support, a stronghold, and a source of succor for our children and youth have turned into a nightmare and source of terror for them.

At this time, it is incumbent on parents, educators both male and female, family members, and anyone else involved in the sacred work of education to open their eyes and assist anyone who needs help insofar as possible. Turning away is not an answer to these difficult and painful issues, and everyone must know that they bear responsibility, even if the matter does not affect them directly. Continue reading

Frum Watch as a Replacement for Failed Messiah

Frum WatchThe February buyout of Failed Messiah by Diversified Holdings left a gap. For almost 12 years, its previous proprietor, Shmarya (Scott) Rosenberg, kept tabs on all the misdeeds of the orthodox world mostly by locating and aggregating news from other sources, and sometimes with original investigation and reporting. His sources included public professional media, blogs, kol korehs (rabbinical proclamations), pashkavilim (flyers, often anonymous), and other leaked documents.

The orthodox world, especially its Haredi segment, does not distribute information that can embarrass it, except in the rarest and most unavoidable circumstances. So those wanting to understand its happenings benefited from Shmarya’s work. It now seems clear that the new owners of Failed Messiah bought it to shut down its criticism. In spite of early promises to continue to cover sex abuse problems, they have done zilch. However, at least the old posts are still up. Should they delete them, they are mostly copied over on the Internet Archive. Just plug in the no-longer working link from FM or any other source, and it will show up if it is on the Archive.

Frum Watch, a FaceBook page attempts to fill that gap and they do a pretty good job at the aggregating function. In fact, I would say they do a better job than Failed Messiah. There is less needless inflammatory language. They have a commenting policy prohibiting bigotry towards any group and they enforce it. They are a collective, including some Hebrew and Yiddish fluent members who occasionally translate and in any event annotate or synopsize material from non-English sources. They seem to post a good half a dozen or more stories a day. There is no muss and fuss. Sometimes they let the story title speak for itself. Sometimes they briefly introduce it. Sometimes, when needed, or when they have more to say, they add to it.  Continue reading

Convicted Molester Stefan Colmer in Brooklyn and Appearing with the Name, David Cohen

In June (6/8/16) I reported that Stefan Colmer, a convicted sex offender was banned by all orthodox synagogues in Passaic, New Jersey. (see Passaic’s Orthodox Rabbis Ban Child Molester Stefan Colmer from their Synagogues).

Stefan Colmer Sex Offender Registry Photo

Stefan Colmer Sex Offender Registry Photo

According to the sex offender registry he has changed his residence to a Boro Park  address, 1423 55th Street in Brooklyn, NY 11219. This happened sometime in the last seven weeks.

His employment is listed at 171 47th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11312 (Sunset Park).

He is registered as driving  a 2012 Silver Nissan Altima with a New Jersey license plate H89CKT.

JCW located a LinkedIn entry under Dovid Cohen It has Comer’s picture and lists job titles and coporations Colmer has listed in the past. The listing is for an “Electronics Support Manager/Product Developer” with two companies, Impecca LLC and Taryag Ventures, LLC. Since it is a different name with no reference to Colmer there is no way to be sure it was created by Colmer. But the possibility is concerning.

Stefan Colmer LinkedIn Business Card as Dovid Cohen from JCW site 7-29-16

Stefan Colmer LinkedIn alias as Dovid Cohen

It is against the law to harass Colmer or do anything violent against him and I am absolutely not encouraging that. If by some unlikely chance he has totally changed, good for him and us. But only a fool would rely on his having changed.

He is on the Sex Offender Registry precisely because he is considered likely to re-offend. So use this information to make it less likely.

If he does re-offend, it is my advice that you do not call rabbis. Do not call the Vaad Hatznius, Shomrim or the 66th police precinct in Boro Park which is mired in scandals over taking bribes from orthodox political players . Continue reading