Government Inquiry into Child Abuse is Welcome and Overdue
By Manny Waks
As a former victim of sexual abuse within the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, I welcome the Baillieu Government’s decision to launch a wide-ranging inquiry into how religious organisations in Victoria have handled child abuse allegations.
While over the years, based on a range of reports, the Catholic Church has been the major public culprit in the way they have handled sexual abuse allegations, clearly they are not the only ones within the religious sphere. From my own experience and knowledge I can testify that there has been widespread sexual abuse against many children within the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Victoria, which was practically common knowledge to both community members and its leaders.
What has also become abundantly clear is that the mishandling of these cases of abuse by the ultra-Orthodox institutions has been negligent if not criminal. There have been numerous examples where victims and their families have been made to suffer, subsequent to the abuse, by these institutions and their leaders, especially when they have sought to seek justice. There are also a number of cases in which these religious institutions and their leaders irresponsibly removed paedophiles from their institution without ensuring justice for the victims and ignoring the safety of other children, who in some cases were later abused by the same perpetrator.
From my personal experience I hold the Yeshivah Centre directly responsible for the widespread sexual abuse that has gone on there over many years. They knew about it yet failed to act. Through their mixed messages, non-cooperation with the authorities and insensitivity I am deeply concerned that the Yeshivah Centre has not understood the gravity of the situation, nor how they should deal with these serious allegations. They are continuing the victimise the former victims and their families. They are being disingenuous when they claim to be doing all they can for the victims and the police—in fact it is an outright lie.
I am convinced that this wide-ranging inquiry—including the ability to compel witnesses to testify—would uncover more evidence of abuse and cover-ups.
For the sake of justice for past victims and for the future safety of our children, this proposed course of action is imperative—it is indeed long overdue. No institution should be above the law and it is about time these religious institutions are held to account. In our case, many of the former victims of the Yeshivah Centre plan to hold that institution and its leaders to full account in due course.