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JewishMOM.com salutes two revolutionary organizations that are in the front lines of the holy war against sexual abuse in the Orthodox community :

1. For the past 7 years, “Forum Takanah” has been fighting sexual harassment and misconduct by authority figures (i.e. rabbis, teachers, principals etc.) in Israel’s religious community.

Rabbanit Tami Samet (who provided last week’s “3 Rules to Prevent Sexual Abuse”) is an active member of the organization’s adjudicating board along with Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, Rabbi Yaakov Ariel shlit”a, and many other of Israel’s leading rabbis, rabbaniot, and community leaders.

Through Forum Takanah, victims of abuse can present their complaints to the organization’s board, which then takes appropriate action. In a high-profile case last year, it was revealed that Forum Takanah had forced a prominent Rosh Yeshiva with a long-standing history of sexual relationships with young students to resign from his position and forbade him from conducting personal counseling sessions in the future.

Forum Takanah’s ethical code starts with the stirring words, “There is an obligation to purify our camp from sexual misconduct. There is an obligation because of the mitzvah “Your camp should be holy” and also because of the mitzvah to save oppressed people from their oppressors, as it says “Do not stand on your brother’s blood.”

Jewish moms, say “Amen!”

Learn more about Forum Takanah here.
http://www.takana.org.il/eng.asp

2. In the US, one of the leaders in fighting sexual abuse in the Orthodox community is OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services serving the New York area, Northern New Jersey, Southern Florida, and the worldwide Jewish communitythrough their website.

Ohel’s website describes the organization’s innovative “RESPECT Program on Sexual Abuse”

“Ohel Specialists provide counseling for victim and survivors of abuse, ranging in age from young children to adults. Ohel also provides education, treatment and consultation services to victims, survivors, parents, educators, schools and community leaders. The RESPECT program engages in outreach to yeshivas and day schools in the greater New York metropolitan area, providing child safety education and training to students, parents, and teachers in a sensitive manner. OHEL also provides consultation and seminars on the issues to communities across the country.”

Watch Ohel’s video featuring Rabbi Dr. Avraham Twerski and others speaking out against sexual abuse in the religious community:

Learn more about Ohel’s programs here:
http://www.ohelfamily.org/

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CLICK TO RECEIVE THE #1 WEEKLY NEWSLETTER FOR JEWISH MOMS

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Last week, a Nachlaot resident was arrested for molesting a large number of neighborhood boys over the course of several years. Like his young victims, this man was an Orthodox Jew.

In the aftermath of this local nightmare, I decided to speak with our dear family friend Harabbanit Tami Samet, a senior psychologist in the Israeli school system, in order to learn what parents can do to protect their children from sexual predators.

The following are HaRabbanit Tami’s 3 main suggestions about how parents can keep their children safe:

Psychologist Tami Samet advises:
1. Do you know where your children are?

It is imperative that parents know where there children are every minute of the day.

I know this isn’t easy. Many women have large families, and/or live in closed religious communities where the accepted norm is to let children play on their own. But from experience, I have seen again and again that the worst things can happen in the least expected places. Children have been molested in their front yard, in the lobby of their family’s building, in the playground next to their home, etc. And the people doing these terrible things are often the people you would least suspect.

Therefore, as a rule, young, pre-school-age children must never be allowed to play outside the home unsupervised. If your child is playing outside, and you need to go inside, you should appoint another trusted adult to be responsible for watching your child while you aren’t there

Careful adult supervision is especially important for young children since children under the age of 6 have notoriously poor judgment. A stranger could give a child candy, and then that child might think that she must do whatever the stranger tells her to do. We absolutely cannot trust such young children to make wise decisions in dangerous situations.

For children who are already school-age, while you don’t have to supervise them at all times, you must make sure that you know where they are at all times. Some children come home from school and inform their parents that they are leaving the house “To play with a friend until dinner.” As a parent, it is your responsibility to ask that child “Which friend are you visiting?” “Where will you be?” “Who else will be there?”

At times, living in a “safe” community such as a settlement or a religious neighborhood can in fact lead to a false sense of security and lack of supervision which could, G-d forbid, endanger our children.

2. Bad People don’t Always Look Bad
In the religious community, we raise our children to respect adults. So if an adult looks religious, a child will generally assume that this is a good person that he or she can trust. We must teach our children that bad people don’t usually look like the evil characters in children’s books with a patch over one eye and a keffiyeh wrapped around their necks. In real life, we must teach our children that a bad person can also look like a good person or a religious person.

In general, we need to teach our children that dangerous things can happen, and that a bad person might try to seduce them G-d forbid, and that they need to be careful.

Parents must tell children explicitly that if another person asks them to do things that make them feel uncomfortable or that are forbidden, then they must say “No!” We need to teach our children that nobody is allowed to touch the private areas of their bodies, or any other area of their body without permission.

3. Keep your Eyes Open
If your child is exhibiting unusual behavior, or comes home upset, you should check out what happened. There is no need to interrogate your child, but you should ask your child what happened or if something upsetting took place at school that day. And if your child tells you about something that sounds like sexually inappropriate behavior, you should definitely investigate the matter seriously.

To learn more about how to discuss sexual abuse with your children, watch this video with Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

May our increased awareness of the dangers of sexual abuse keep our children and all children everywhere safe!
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Nachlaot is reeling this week from news of a neighborhood resident who, it turns out, had been molesting neighborhood children for years. Before he was arrested, I saw this person almost every single day and he never aroused any sort of suspicion in me. Like his victims, the abuser is an Orthodox Jew. Beyond terrifying.

Here’s a few things I’ve learned over the past few days about sexual abuse:
-The vast majority of cases of sexual abuse involve an adult the child knows and trusts: relatives, family friends, and people in positions of trust.
-Children often do not realize that what is being done is abuse
-Children don’t always tell parents about abuse. If your child tells you about sexual misbehavior, take it seriously.
– Sexual abuse can have very damaging effects on a
child, which can last into adulthood. However, for many
children the effects may be relatively short-term,
depending on the individual child, the nature of the
abuse and the help they receive. How adults respond to
children when they tell them about abuse can be a very
important factor in how seriously they are affected in
the long term.
-If you have concerns about your child, or any child, and
sexual abuse you need to seek professional help.
– Help is available to deal with sexually abusive behavior.*

In her Naaleh.com Question and Answer series Rebbetzin Heller presents a clear approach to protecting children from abusers. I already had the conversation the Rebbetzin recommends with my kids last night. (The only thing I would add to the Rebbetzin’s advice is that children need to be wary as well of inappropriate touching by people of the same gender).

(forward the video to 39:59 to watch)
Vodpod videos no longer available.


Here’s a very short video about identifying a potential abuser that I found really creepy but that will definitely make me more careful in the future…

Learn more about preventing sexual abuse here


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*Guidelines taken from the booklet “Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse” by the NSPCC

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