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.

 

Beware of Moshe Friedman: Your Stomach Will Turn After You Read the Police Report

Moshe Friedman got a sweetheart deal which kept him out of jail and off the sex offender registry when he pled guilty on February 1, 2017 to a misdemeanor charge of “child endangerment” (NY Daily News).

Some of his defenders will say he didn’t really do anything serious. Maybe he just slapped a boy who was misbehaving. But you won’t say that after you read the police report with allegations of a string of sadistic sexual tortures that led to his indictment for multiple felony acts which could have put him in prison for decades.

According to the signed and sworn police report which was the basis of his indictment: The People of the State of New York County of Kings v Moshe Friedman:

…Between September 01, 2013 … and June 06, 2014 … at … [a yeshiva in Boro Park], the defendant … on multiple incidents per month

  • Did strike the informant’s hand with defendant’s hand when informant’s hand was injured and treated with a cast
  • Did place defendant’s hand on the informant’s exposed buttocks
  • Did grab the informant’s penis,
  • Did insert the defendant’s finger into the informant’s anus
  • Did insert a banana into the informant’s anus
  • Did put the defendant’s mouth on the informant’s buttocks
  • Did place the informant’s penis inside the defendant’s mouth
  • Did bite the informant’s penis with defendant’s mouth
  • Did tie a string around the informant’s penis
  • Did shove a rag into the informant’s mouth
  • Did tie the informant’s lips shut with string
  • Did display a gun to the informant and state to the informant in sum and substance, “you’d better not tell your parents, or I’ll kill you and your family.”

The … [boy was born in] 2007.

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Vote to Protect Kids in NYS

New York State law does a lousy job of protecting children. NYS’s Statute of Limitations prevents lawsuits or criminal prosecution of child sex abuse if the victim does not file complaints before their 23rd birthday.

The state legislature and governor passed on a chance to fix these laws yet again as they have for almost a decade, all because of an unholy alliance with the Catholic Church and Agudath Israel of America. Governor Cuomo is in on the deal.

The short term solution is replacing obstructionist legislators. Protect New York Kids is an organization focused on this problem. They have identified candidates committed to reforming child sex abuse legislation, donated to their campaigns and organized on their behalf. Check out their recommendations when you go to the polls on Tuesday.

 

 

Using and Abusing Forgiveness: Dina Friedman’s Survivor Reflections

Teshuva, mechila, repentence and forgiveness are things in which Jews believe. But when it comes to sex abuse, their meaning and measure has been mutilated and disfigured into meaningless parodies. A superficial claim of repentance is proferred and the victim is pressured to graciously accept it and go on as if all has been remedied.

I want to thank Dina Friedman for her fine essay chronicling her reactions over the years to the fake apology farce. She recounts her enlightenment  with snapshots of her mindset over successive High Holy Days.

Check out her posting: I don’t forgive the man who raped me. scales of justice and child