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The Problem with the Jewish Taskforce Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault

October 19, 2012 – 8:05 am23 Comments

By Vivien Resofsky
I have been attempting to engage The Jewish Taskforce Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault (The Taskforce) since 2006, both directly and in the pages of The Australian Jewish News because I am deeply worried by their approach – particularly by their assertion that children can and should be taught to protect themselves against adult predators. The truth is, they can’t.

I am so concerned that I have also submitted complaints to the JCCV, Jewish Care and the Rabbinical Council of Victoria about what I believe is The Taskforce’s dangerously misguided approach to a very complex issue; however, nothing has changed.

The best evidence indicates that we cannot leave children to protect themselves; however, The Taskforce refuses to acknowledge this. The Protecting our Vulnerable Children Inquiry Report (Feb 2012), weighed up all the worldwide research and evidence about the effectiveness of teaching children personal safety to prevent abuse. It accepted Finkelhor (2009 ),Smallbone et al. (2008) “There is little convincing evidence for the effectiveness of these programs for preventing sexual abuse.”

Ms Weiner, who has no degree or equivalent in any field related to child protection does not agree with the research. She states that, “Giving a child the tools to say NO denies the perpetrator the opportunity to abuse.”

Why would Ms Weiner advocate a position that goes against the best evidence? Unfortunately, Ms Weiner’s position is echoed by Mrs Balfour, head of The Early Learning Centre at Beth Rivkah, who believes The Taskforce – that schools do not need to educate parents, because children under the age of five can protect themselves!

Alongside Debbie Weiner, Taskforce board member, Sheiny New, also speaks publicly on behalf of the group and about child abuse. Ms New has spoken and written extensively about this issue, however, like Ms Weiner, she has no degree or equivalent in the area.

This information, however, is not available on The Taskforce website. In fact, much information about who comprises the Taskforce and their work with children is absent from their website. There is a serious lack of transparency that characterises the group. It is usual practice for a group that purports to protect children to articulate this and to clearly state it as part of their vision; however, the word, “child,” is hardly mentioned on The Taskforce site.

While The Taskforce has existed for 17 years, it only first acknowledged the issue of child abuse  in 2006. It then moved to gain a monopoly on the protection of our children despite its lack of experience and the lack of qualifications of Taskforce volunteers.

In 2006, The Taskforce emailed Di Hirsh of the NCJW, strongly requesting that Ms Hirsh and her organisation withdraw their support from a community child protection awareness and education campaign. The Taskforce’s reasoning for this demand was that they wanted to present an efficient and unified communal response to such a sensitive subject in The Taskforce’s forthcoming forum.

In doing this, The Taskforce successfully removed support for a campaign that included child welfare professionals so that a group of volunteers could be the sole providers of communal education on child abuse.

It is important to remember that The Taskforce is a voluntary organisation whose members are not professionals in the area of child protection; however, The Taskforce have positioned themselves as the community’s authority on the matter.

Because they have worked for 17 years to raise awareness of family violence, they believe that qualifies them to advise on child abuse. Not only is this a logical problem, it also requires a real leap of faith because The Taskforce has only spoken out against child abuse in the last 6 years.

The Taskforce personnel also base their credibility on the training they receive from experts. Many of these experts are highly respected in their fields; however, educational seminars that last for a couple of hours, or at most, a couple of days, can not qualify people to do the work of trained professionals. The Taskforce should not therefore position itself as able to give advice on a par with professional advice.

The Taskforce’s lack of professional personnel leads it to offer poor advice (such as the idea that children can protect themselves). Ms New’s public statement that with the right treatment, victims of child sexual abuse will be, “just fine,” goes against research that demonstrates that only 1 in 10 cases of abuse is even reported. Many abused children cannot get help at all, because their abuse is unknown. Educating parents to spot signs of abuse can address this issue. This is not, however, what The Taskforce is doing.

This makes Ms Weiner’s claim that The Taskforce is, “tackling abuse head on,” difficult to believe. Ms Weiner’s and The Taskforce’s refusal to support parent-directed education is evidence that best practice is not in place. Parents need guidance to help them learn how to assess whether or not good child protection procedures are in place in schools and other institutions. They need to know what to look for. For example, does the organization train staff about child sexual abuse? Does the organization have a code of conduct for adults working with children? Does it outline clear expectations about boundaries between staff and children? How is staff misconduct handled?

It is difficult to understand why The Taskforce relies on extremely out of date ideas of child self protection. We used to think programs that teach children to identify and refuse inappropriate touch would prevent child sexual abuse. Personal safety programs for children have been in existence for over 25 years but experts now advise that children can’t fend off would-be abusers by themselves.

The Protecting our Vulnerable Inquiry 2012, weighed up all the worldwide research and evidence about the effectiveness of teaching children personal safety to prevent abuse. It agreed with Finkelhor 2009 and Smallbone et al. 2008: “There is little convincing evidence for the effectiveness of these programs for preventing sexual abuse.” (The Protecting our Vulnerable Children’s Inquiry Report 2012)

Telling parents that something will prevent abuse when it clearly will not puts children at unacceptable risk. Sexual abuse is most commonly a gradual process of desensitization, further complicated by the power imbalance between the victim and perpetrator. Would-be abusers use a grooming process to gain trust and acceptance.

Grooming can be described as a psychological process that breaks down a child’s resistance by using techniques such as gift giving, engaging the child in peer like activities, desensitizing the child to touch, isolating the child and then making the child feel responsible for the abuse. Grooming can take place over months or longer. Those who would offend try to get themselves into a situation where they are alone with a child who trusts them. The abused child is then caught in a web of confusion, guilt, deceit and mistrust and a child commonly feels overwhelmed and powerless to stop the abuse.

Ms New, however, advises that parents should educate themselves and then educate their children. The Child Protection Inquiry, however, does not expect parents to educate themselves. It recommends that efforts should focus on raising public awareness of child sexual abuse and providing parents of all school-aged children with education.

Parents need to become aware and even trained in the defence of their children. They can create a barrier between those who would abuse and their children. They need to discuss matters with their children in language that is not threatening and gives the child age-appropriate references. Parents can vet situations when they leave their children in the care of others and ensure that stringent screening, monitoring, training and reporting policies are in place. They need to know the steps they can take when they suspect something is not right. Schools should continue to teach children about personal safety, but the responsibility for protecting children should be placed on adults.

Finally, we must ask ourselves if it is appropriate for a single group to address matters of abuse in both the Ultra Orthodox and less religious communities. The differences in attitudes, values, and culture are enormous between the extremely religious and the less religious sub-groups in our community. Can and should a single group be charged with such a broad agenda?

According to Ms New there are “Jewish” specific factors that impact on why victims of child sexual abuse don’t report. When she refers to “Jewish” factors, are these applicable across the board or only to the Ultra-Orthodox community?

When The Taskforce makes statements like, “We consider ourselves to be a light unto other nations, and if we start talking about violence and abuse in what we consider a perfect Jewish family that light will be dimmed just a little bit and she (the victim) did not want to be the cause of more anti-Semitism…”
or
“Living in a host country we would prefer not to create anti Semitism.”
or
(referring to the Shidduch system)“…The first question asked is: “Is it a nice family?” sexual assault does not a nice family make. Don’t be judgemental. If your brother had to choose between two equally lovely girls but one had been raped 6 months ago which would you choose?”

Do any of these statements apply to non-religious Jews who are the vast majority in the community?

Why then have the JCCV and Jewish Care welcomed The Taskforce’s attempt to be the sole organisation dealing with abuse in the community? Many non-religious Jews are horrified by such attitudes and might wonder why The Taskforce is not doing more to combat them. Meanwhile Ms New asks us not to be judgmental of that belief system. Surely such a group cannot represent our entire community.
***
Vivien Resofsky is a social worker whose specialist training (in both Australia and the USA) underpins her extensive practical professional experience in areas relating to child protection and domestic violence. She has worked with children and families at Jewish Care, The Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service and DHS Child Protection and is an accredited trainer of several programs.

Her writing has appeared in numerous publications; for the Australian government; and for the wider media, including The Herald Sun, The Courier Mail, and The AJN. Vivien is also the author of the highly regarded Wesley World series of books which are parent/child guides to personal safety.

Vivien’s work, which has focused primarily on child abuse in the past six years, draws together research and evidence-based theory, practical experience and programmes with evaluated, evidence-based success.

Vivien recommends parents interested in furthering their knowledge of child protection visit the following sites:
. Stewards of Children: www.darkness2light.org
. What do I say now? www.cfchildren.org
. Parents Protect: www.parentsprotect.co.uk
***
The Jewish Taskforce Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault has been contacted to offer them a right-of-reply. To read a previous article about The Taskforce written from their own point of view, please see Breaking the Conspiracy of Silence.

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23 Comments »

  • Not good enough says:

    Well written article – about time some light is directed at those protecting abusers by ignorance and apathy. They also knew something and did nothing.

    I’ve had direct experience with the Jewish task force, and it was a shocking revelation to discover none of these people have any qualifications whatsoever, in what is a very specialized area.

    More like a ladies luncheon organization than Task Force. They like to see themselves as the communal headlight – shining the light on the serious issue of child sexual abuse and family violence. Just a facade/billboard organisation without any real merit.

    My contact with one of its members regarding the disclosure of historical child sexual abuse and the female member (without any formal qualifications whatsoever) declared that the abuser in question had in fact been cured. WHAT? No qualifications whatsoever, yet she believes she is qualified to say the alleged perpetrator of serious sexual assault and who is still within our community has been cured of his “problem”. WHAT? Has this person been dealt with by the authorities? No – can’t and shouldn’t talk about it because the grandchildren might not get a marriage proposal if it was made known.

    Quasi organization – the alleged abuser of this case was an original, founding member of the Jewish Task Force, and could possible still be a member for all we know. Go figure! The only obvious task is to force the secrets back under the carpet.

    IMHO the task force is there only to protect the >good names< of the many abusers within our small community. Shocking state of affairs and totally unacceptable in today’s society.
    Not good enough.

  • Talya says:

    Agreed, 100%, from a fellow DHS Child Protection Practitioner.

    Although, I do want to acknowledge the fact that the taskforce has built a better awareness of the issues at heart in the religious community.

  • Emanuel Newgant says:

    Fascinating, scary article. With all the prevalent conflicts of interest in the Melbourne Jewish Community, especially in the sexual abuse area, I’m surprised they don’t nominate Yeshivah Centre as the authorised training provider. In the meantime, their current “training” programs haven’t helped at least one senior Rabbi in town, and there’s no prize for guessing where he’s from.

    https://www.facebook.com/manny. waks/posts/116338515190306? notif_t=share_comment

  • Emanuel Newgant says:

    Sorry. The link above has spaces in it. Without the spaces the link works.

  • Yaron says:

    If even part of this is true, our communal organisations have failed to protect the children of the community.

    We should all be demanding mass resignations from many of our communal leaders.

    The realist in me sees this as another failing that will be ignored, and within weeks we will be at business as usual.

  • kukush says:

    Eds: Comment removed, as it is a personal attack by a completely anonymous person (and in a bullying undertone) on a named individual who is neither the author of the article, nor yet left a comment under the article.

  • Emanuel Newgant says:

    kukush sounds more like a YC troll, rather than “unbiased” and “level headed”. So worried about the community healing, so sanctimonious, so pious.

  • Steven says:

    At the time, kids in Kramer’s class were not offered any councelling by anyone, and instead all the school-kids were told not to discuss the molestations with anyone. The task force was around then and knew what happend in Yeshiva.

  • Jonny says:

    Question to the author or others… Surely there are a few psychologists or social workers in the task force? As a psychologist I have mandatory reporting obligations. I would have imagined mandatory reporting underpins the task force… Scary indeed!!

  • philip mendes says:

    Hi Rachel and Manny: a few quick points due to shortage of time: 1) I don’t see any point in demonising the Tasforce. I think it is similar to many other groups in the Jewish community dealing with mental illness, poverty, disability etc. They are mainly made up of volunteers, and have succeeded in bringing these issues to the community’s attention. Ideally, these orgs would be staffed by professionals, but they are not for a whole lot of reasons – mainly funding I would guess. Also many Jews attend universal, rather than ethno-specific services. 2) Child abuse is a complex issue. It mainly occurs in the home rather than at the hands of strangers. It is the result of many factors – poor parenting skills, mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse etc. Many people have children who are neither able or willing to care for them. What is being increasingly discussed here and in the media at the moment is another manifestation of child abuse – systematic abuse by members of religious groups. This also reflects a range of factors – particularly ordinary men, who are often not heterosexual, being asked to both remain celibate, and reject their natural sexual inclinations. There is of course a lot more that can be said. 3) Much public attention focuses on rescuing children from child abuse, and then forgets them. The real challenge is providing holistic support and care to those who have been abused and neglected both in care and after care.

  • Vivien Resofsky says:

    Philip you raise valid concerns about child protection. It is a difficult area. There are many causes of child abuse. There are no easy answers when mental illness, drug addiction etc impact on children. But these are not the issue that we are debating now.

    The causes of child sexual abuse are different to the causes of why parents physically abuse or neglect their children. Yes it is much harder to address complex parental issues that impact on children.

    All forms of child abuse are abhorrent and as a community we need to do much more, not only in the Jewish community but in the wider community as well. But firstly we have to believe that change is possible, then we need to look at what other countries are doing that we are not doing.
    #Are you aware of the work that is being done in Israel in relation to supporting children and families who have experienced physical abuse and neglect? Have you visited a Youth Village?
    # Have you read about the work of Victor Vieth in the USA? http://www.minpost.com/driving-change.
    # Have you read about the work of The National Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) in the USA. CASA programs recruit, train and supporting volunteers to represent the best interests of abused and neglected children in the courtroom and other settings CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to watch over and advocate for abused and neglected children, to make sure they don’t get lost in the overburdened legal and social service system or languish in inappropriate group or foster homes. Volunteers stay with each case until it is closed and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home. For many abused children, their CASA volunteer will be the one constant adult presence in their lives.

    Now back to child sexual abuse. Phillip, I believe it is important that the community understands the decisions that are being made on its behalf. As a researcher you would know that unless we ask questions nothing changes.

    The vast majority of people who abuse are not parents. According to ABS (2005), 14.3% of people who sexually abuse children are parents.(13.5% are fathers or stepfathers, 0,8% are mothers and stepmothers). Therefore your comment about child abuse (It is the result of many factors – poor parenting skills, mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse etc. Many people have children who are neither able or willing to care for them) does not apply to the vast majority of child sexual abuse.

    In 2011 The JCCV convened a forum in response to the crisis at Yeshivah College. It was just that, a crisis because parents of Yeshivah College were afraid for the safety of their children.

    A father asked a series of questions including: “As a parent this is the first time that I have been to a presentation like this. Why hasn’t this been alerted to us sooner and in a more prevalent way? I have four kids at school and I just wonder why after seven years this kind of education has never happened? Why is it that schools are not educating parents more frequently about the risks our children face?

    Ms New told the father: “The answer would have to be (as Mary said) the research is very new”

    With the protection of our children now at the forefront of our concerns we need to answer the father’s question openly.

    Not only is there reputable research, programs based on research were ready to go when The Taskforce began to respond to child sexual abuse in 2006. The Taskforce has not implemented effective parent education programs. This has been a deliberate choice. We need to ask the question: Why is the Taskforce opposed to giving parents the information they need to protect their children.

    Part of the education that parents need concerns how abuse can be prevented in schools and other organisations. Schools should have a child protection policy – that states its willingness to protect children from abuse and the procedures it has implemented to ensure that children are protected.

    Through education, parents learn how to assess a child protection policy as well as how to assess the procedures that have been selected to ensure children remain safe..

    Why didn’t Ms New tell parents about child protection policies etc at the Forum?

    I have raised several concerns to JCCV, Jewish Care and Rabbinical Council of Victoria, about weaknesses and gaps in the current response to child sexual abuse but, nothing has changed. Why not? The JCCV and the Rabbinical Council of Victoria have made submissions to the Parliamentary Inquiry; they align themselves to The Taskforce as if all is just fine.

  • Vivien Resofsky says:

    Sorry I just noticed an error in my previous post. I omitted the word sexually in the following sentence.

    The correct version is:

    The vast majority of people who SEXUALLY abuse are not parents.

  • Dr Hugp Gold says:

    In response to Galus Australis 19 October 2012, “the problems with the JTAFV Inc and sexual assault-Vivien Resofsky”
    Self styled child protection and family violence expert, VR needs to overcome her JYAFV problem. Her recent Galus article, October 19, betrays a serious misunderstanding of the history and activities of the JTAFV. It is full of vague references to expert opinion and evidence based principles, demeaning references to Taskforce members and quotations taken out of context.
    The JTAFV was set up by a group of professional and lay women from all sections of the community. Its purpose was to provide a culturally sensitive support service to victims of domestic violence throughout the Jewish community and to raise community awareness as to the existence and extent of the problem. It very much mirrored and anticipated the emphasis on cultural and socio economic context contained in the PROTECTING OUR VULNERALBE CHILDREN report Feb 2012.
    Most child abuse is perpetrated within a family group, sometimes associated with spousal abuse and by perpetrators known to the child. It is exacerbated by alcohol and drug abuse, low socio economic status and mental illness.
    Institutional abuse, particularly of school age children, constitutes a separate sub group, currently the subject of a parliamentary inquiry. The JTAFV has never attempted to hide, defend or excuse institutional abuse in the Jewish community. However, it has no investigational function and no ability to comment on unsubstantiated allegations. Its programs and activities have, however, produced dramatic improvements in attitudes, practices and community education in institutions such as Yeshiva and Adass Israel where incidents of abuse are acknowledged to have occurred.
    Far from advocating the empowerment of children as the only or most important response to child sexual abuse, the TF has a wide ranging program of education and training aimed at Rabbis, orthodox and non orthodox, teachers, youth groups and parents.
    JTAFV has contracted experts to conduct its training programs both local and international.
    Recognising that the orthodox members of the community have particular and unique anxieties and inhibitions, TF brought the two foremost professionals endorsed and respected by internationally recognised rabbinic authorities. Ms Debbie Gross from Jerusalem has given training programs to schools, rabbis and parents on her 3 Australian tours. Prof David Pelcovitz from Yeshiva University in NY was acclaimed for his work whilst in Melbourne with the ultra orthodox community, youth leaders and the general public.
    Ongoing training programs are given by Ms Pauline Ryan of the Gatehouse Centre for Child Sexual Assault. This centre is part of the RCH ,Melbourne University and Murdoch Childrens Research Institute. Its programs are academically sound and evidence based.
    The TF phone line serves to connect callers with appropriate service providers. The list of partner agencies is comprehensive. It includes:- Domestic Violence resource centre Victoria, Women’s Legal Service Vic, WIRE, Men’s Responsibility program, Men’s referral service, child first, (DHS), Centres Against sexual assault, Gatehouse centre RCH, court network information support and referral centre.
    The JTAFV has close links with Victoria Police, the RCV, JCCV, Jewish Care Vic and the progressive movement.
    The TF provides a culturally safe gateway for women and children to access appropriate support services and provides valuable resources and training for teachers, rabbis, youth leaders and parents to recognise and respond to DV and sexual assault.
    The TF has much to be proud of. It has become a model for other ethnic groups such as the Indian community and the Islamic Community, and is recognised as a valuable resource by the Victorian government.
    None of its activities are contrary to Ms Resofsky’s aims. No doubt if Ms Resofsky actually has sound evidence based training programs these could become part of the community response to the distressing problem of child physical and sexual abuse.
    Ms Resofsky would do well to use her energies to combat child sexual and physical abuse rather than attacking the JTAFV.

    Dr Hugo Gold, clinical associate professor of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne,
    RCH Parkville
    Dr Gold is a consultant paediatrician, and clinical director of the Children’s Bioethics Centre of the RCH.He is married to Mrs Lorraine Gold a founding member of the JTAFV.

  • Vivien Resofsky says:

    Thank you Dr Gold, for suggesting that: “No doubt if Ms Resofsky actually has sound evidence based training programs these could become part of the community response to the distressing problem of child physical and sexual abuse.”
    That is great news and I believe that the public interest has been served by debating these issues in a public forum because for the last 6 years The Taskforce has not willing to implement great adult education programs as part of the community response to child sexual abuse.
    The programs don’t actually belong to me-but they are sound, evidence based and they were developed by highly respected international child protection organizations. Please see details of the programs in my article.
    It would also benefit our community if you clarified and amended the comments made by Ms Weiner in her recent AJN article. Weiner’s asserts programs that target children (such as The Say No! Run Away and Tell an Adult) prevent child sexual abuse.
    “It is about giving children the knowledge to recognize when a threatening situation might be occurring and the ability to deal with it.”
    ”One has to endeavour to find the tools to help the children from being abused when they are confronted with a dangerous situation. One has to try to remove the opportunity for abuse.

    Finally, the issue of experts. Much has been said about experts. You mention The Taskforce brought the two foremost professionals endorsed and respected by internationally recognized rabbinic authorities. Psychologist David Pelcovitz is one of these experts.

    Are you aware of the controversy surrounding Mr Pelcovitz?

    According to Vicki Polin, David Pelcovitz has been speaking at workshops in the United States and NOT providing parents with the most important information needed to protect their children from being abused i.e. information about mandatory reporting.*

    According to Ms Polin: “The ongoing issues of Pelcovitz and Mandel not talking about mandated reporting during workshops is partially due to the fact they continuously cave into political pressures from various rabbonim — who mandate that individuals get permission from rabbis prior to reporting suspicions of child abuse and or neglect to law enforcement officials or making hotline reports without the permission of local rabbis first..

    Vicki Polin CEO of The Awareness Centre
    *Mandated Reporting in NJ: Dr. Pelcovitz, what are you thinking? May 6, 2012 By: Vicki Polin

  • Suggestion says:

    Vivien, you seem to use all your energy for putting the Taskforce down, trying to discredit them, and turn the community off them.

    FAIL

    WON’T WORK

    My question is, why don’t you use all your energy to lead by example, and YOU take on the Jewish Community?? Surely if you are so wise, and you have all the answers, then you could achieve that with aplomb, rather then attacking an organisation which has too much integrity to disclose any statistics or defend their case to the likes of yourself.

    If you’re so smart, act it!

  • Emanuel Newgant says:

    “Suggestion”, you are trying to do what you do best, bully, then shoot the messenger. The secret is out to the general public now, so it’s too late. Might just have to fix the organisation…

  • Vivien Resofsky says:

    Thank you ‘suggestion’
    Please don’t misunderstand my actions. It was with great regret that I raised the issues about The Taskforce in a public forum.

    But I have raised the same issues with the Taskforce for the last 6 years – It has not provided parents with important information needed to protect their children from being abused.

    I sent an Email to a Taskforce member just prior to writing the article. This is a part of the Email that I sent.

    “I don’t want to embarrass you by pointing out in public that you are wrong. As I have said over the last 6 years. I don’t know you, and other executive members of The Taskforce personally. I don’t understand why would risk getting it wrong.

    Can I please help you? I would like the opportunity to at least explain to you where The Taskforce is going wrong.”

    In referene to my statement: “I don’t want to embarrass you by pointing out in public that you are wrong” This refers to the assertion of The Taskforce that children can fend off would be abusers.

  • Vivien Resofsky says:

    Thank you Emanuel

    I believe there is a power imbalace. This imbalance is a barrier to the implementation of ‘best practice’ progams to prevent child sexual abuse.

    Please read the complaint I made recently to the JCCV plunum

    Complaint – JCCV Plenum, August 6, 2012
    In 2006 The Jewish Taskforce Against family Violence (The Taskforce) took the lead role in responding to child sexual abuse in the Melbourne Jewish Community. Their polices and subsequent response excluded vital elements.
    In 2008 and 2011 I complained formally to the JCCV. The JCCV did not take direct action as a result of my complaints.
    In 2008 I raised the issue of the missing gaps with Jewish Care. No action.
    In 2006 an executive member of the Taskforce asked The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) to withdraw from a community awareness and education initiative. At that time, The NCJW and Jewish Care worked collaboratively to deliver certain programs.
    The actions of the Taskforce had lead to virtual monopoly and final say in policy.
    There are several concerns about their work. However my complaint is in relation to our key organizations apparently following policies of another organization due to affiliations and connections with each other.
    What can be done to change this?

  • Emanuel Newgant says:

    “I believe there is a power imbalace.” A mild way of putting it.

    “In 2008 and 2011 I complained formally to the JCCV. The JCCV did not take direct action as a result of my complaints.” Surprising? It’s public knowledge where the recently resigned Executive Director sleeps.

    “The actions of the Taskforce had lead to virtual monopoly and final say in policy.” Very scary, since one of the leaders of the Taskforce is married to one of the leaders of Yeshivah Centre, whose enlightened views and actions haven’t been out of the press for the last year and a half, and on their current course of action this will continue indefinitely.

    “our key organizations apparently follow policies of another organization due to affiliations and connections with each other.” As long as musical chairs in the Jewish Community leadership continues, so will follow-the-leader in policy.

    As you ask Viv, “What can be done to change this?”. Well for starters, a few more people speaking out as you have. Good on you!

  • Vivien Resofsky says:

    Dr Gold what is the next step?
    I call for the establishment of an Advisory Committee to The Taskforce.
    Discussion about how we can better respond to child sexual abuse has created possibility for much needed improvement in the way that we protect our children.

    The issue I have raised is that The Taskforce is NOT providing parents with very important information they need to protect their children from being abused.

    You as a paediatrician and husband of a Taskforce member recently stated that if the programs I have asked The Taskforce to implement for the last six years are: “sound evidence based training programs these could become part of the community response.”* That is great news!

    What is the next step? I have not been contacted by The Taskforce about this. Should I contact them? Do you have the final say about what is or what is not part of the community response? Why is The Taskforce so vehemently opposed to these programs? What can we do to ensure that children are protected in the best ways possible way in the future?
    I believe there is a simple answer. I call for an Advisory Committee to The Taskforce to be established. This is why:
    The JCCV convened an educational forum in 2011 because parents at Yeshivah were afraid that their children would be harmed at school.
    It was a time of recurring shocking news about accusations of sexual abuse of young boys at Yeshivah College. It got increasing worse – there was more than one alleged offender, there were numerous claims, there were numerous boys who allegedly experienced these horrible acts. Then there were claims that Yeshivah College failed to respond responsibly o child to these allegations.

    Ms New executive member of The Taskforce spoke for a long time. She is an engaging speaker. Amongst other things, she spoke about the history of The Taskforce, the good work it has done to raise awareness about women experiencing violence and the amazing experts it uses including international experts. Dr Gold described USA based psychologist David Pelcovitz and Debbie Gross as two foremost professionals endorsed and respected by internationally recognized rabbinic authorities.”

    Most people who had come to learn what they can do to protect their children at school, left feeling confident that our “Jewish specific, culturally sensitive” child protection organisation is doing everything that can be done to protect children, with the help of foremost professionals who are endorsed and respected b internationally recognized rabbinic authorities.

    That all sounds fine to most people in the audience who accepted the rhetoric.

    American child advocate Vicki Polin raises concerns about David Pelcovitz. According to Ms Polin: “David Pelcovitz has been speaking at workshops in the United States and NOT providing parents with the most important information needed to protect their children from being abused i.e. information about mandatory reporting”*

    Actually Ms New did the same. She did not mention mandatory reporting or many more measures that schools should use be protect children at school. She did not talk about child protection policies. .Ms New did not tell the audience of measures that schools should take to minimize risk. Ms New did not mention guidelines for monitoring after measures to minimize risk have been implemented. Ms New did not mention a code of conduct. Ms New did not tell parents how they can assess whether child protection policies are of a high standard.
    According to Ms Polin: “The ongoing issues of Pelcovitz and Mandel not talking about mandated reporting during workshops is partially due to the fact they continuously cave into political pressures from various rabbonim — who mandate that individuals get permission from rabbis prior to reporting suspicions of child abuse and or neglect to law enforcement officials or making hotline reports without the permission of local rabbis first.”
    Manny Waks highlights a possible conflict of interests between The Taskforce and Yeshivah leaders. He states: ‘Ms New is married to a member of the [Yeshivah Centre] Committee [of Management]’. This Taskforce has been silent in relation to the allegations of sexual abuse at the Yeshivah Centre. Moreover, Sheini New has been aware of the abuse for many years but has not addressed it in any public way—including apparently not assisting Police with their current investigation.’

    The Taskforce invited USA expert David Pelcovitz to speak in Australia. According to Ms New he delivered the message that children are resilient and they will be just fine with the right support and therapy.

    I agree. For the I in 10 children who tell anyone, and if they are believed, if they receive specialist services, and a whole lot of other factors – they have a good chance of being just fine.
    The problems arises that the vast majority of child sexual abuse is not reported, thus the vast majority of children who are abused don’t get support and therapy. It is the silence of victims and the ignorance of adults who care for children that allows the crime to take place and continue (sometimes over years). The longer the secret is kept the harder it is to overcome the impacts of abuse.
    It will take commitment and expertise to change this deeply rooted dynamic of child sexual abuse. In any event, wouldn’t any child want to avoid the experience of sexual abuse even if he or she could be cured of negative impacts?
    Surely we would all prefer to spare children from experiencing horrible acts. Especially if a child who has been abused will be affected negatively in their future marriage prospects due to the shiduch system (as Ms New tells us occurs in Ultra Orthodox communities).
    I call for an Advisory Committee to The Taskforce to be established.
    Sound evidence based training programs these could become part of the community response should not take 6 years to implement.
    Yeshivah College would not want to be thought of as NOT providing parents with the most important information needed to protect their children from being abused.
    I believe an Advisory Committee to The Taskforce would eliminate:
    • The implementation of Ineffecitve, outdated policies.
    • The barriers to the implementation of effective evidence based programs.
    • Incorrect assertions about programs
    • The question of possible conflicts of interest between The Taskforce and school Boards.
    • Imprecise language that is currently used to describe ‘experts’ and the success of programs.
    • The manner in which imprecise language is used to paint a different picture.
    • Not placing the care of children as the highest priority.

  • Emanuel Newgant says:

    Dr Gold, as Vivien points out: “You as a paediatrician and husband of a Taskforce member”. It’s true that in your comment above, you did note that fact, right at the end. You may be highly qualified, an excellent clinician in your field etc. But do you understand that some of us in the wider Jewish Community may perceive a possible conflict of interest in your statements in relation to this subject?

    Vivien, as you point out, only a small percentage of kids report abuse. I know of a very recent case where a victim, a student in Yeshivah Centre, is in complete denial. The types of actions on the part of the leadership of the Taskforce, which you describe, and on the part of YC, which is well-known and documented, provide a fertile environment for the continuation of serious non-reporting. They can at best be described as extreme foolishness, and at worst as criminal behaviour.

  • Vivien Resofsky says:

    Thank you Emanuel.

    We can ask that our organisations adopt transparent and up-to-date processes.

    In the case of The Taskforce I believe that an Advisory Committe would solve many of the issues I have raised.

  • Isaac Balbin says:

    Dear Ms Resofsky,

    Have you read Dr Pelcovitz’s book? Have you listened to his on-line lectures?
    I have. No doubt Ms Polin has some concerns that you mention, however, the educated reader may want to make up their own mind by doing what I did (well before this came on the horizon).

    Have you personally engaged Dr Pelcovitz with your concerns? I would suggest that a modicum of academic respect behooves you to do so. I would further suggest that you do this on the record so that Dr Pelcovitz can respond in kind on the record and isn’t interpreted or misunderstood.

    In respect of your comments regarding Ms New (I know her as Sheiny, and she is a personal friend), let me say that you need to have a coffee with her. Your assessment based on a talk(s) that you attended simply doesn’t capture the approach that she has, which most definitely does include those aspects you believe she elides (out of supposed ignorance).

    Having said that, the taskforce isn’t Sheiny, and Sheiny isn’t the task force. It is much bigger than that. I interact with them when I seek an opinion (in an informal way) and they have never pretended to be something they are not. They are a very determined group of people who seek to do much good, and have done much good, and will continue to do so. That being said, I have no doubt that they would welcome (and I don’t speak for them in anyway) volunteers—both professional like you and Talya, and others who are well meaning (and may have suffered directly or indirectly) to help them refine and progress what they are all about.

    Perhaps you can let us know whether you have ever sought to meet with the group without the public/blogosphere headlights and passed on your thoughts? Have they rejected your ideas? Were they aware of what you were professing?

    As to those who continue to denigrate the Task Force/and or Sheiny through simply because Sheiny is married to a member of the YC Board of Management, I find that beneath contempt. These women work hard and tirelessly for the community. By all means try and improve and enrich their approach and support their work, but this public castigation leaves me with a very sour taste.

    I noticed that Ms Resofsky gives five points to prevent child sexual abuse:

    1) Learn about it – you need knowledge about abuse before you can protect your children

    2) Minimise risk – Know the adults and teens in your children’s lives.

    3) Talk about it – Talk to your kids about personal safety rules.

    4) Teach your children that these safety rules apply to everyone.

    5) Start early with your children, in an age appropriate way.

    Nobody can argue with these five points, however, it is important to note that (especially in certain groups which are secularly insular and/or ignorant) that the School and the Synagogue (via Rabbis) can be great contributors in fostering points 1 through 5.

    I am reminded of an interesting question raised by Professor Marc Shapiro (who is certainly not an ultra-orthodox apologist, for those who are aware of his scholarly output). Marc asked why there seemed to be more abuse in ultra-orthodox circles. Why was it that a child who ate Treyf or broke the Shabbos was given more “attention” than a child who came home and accused their teacher of fondling? He answered, and I believe he is right, that these communities understand Treyf and they understand Shabbos. They simply have no understanding, let alone a sophisticated understanding, of what the effect of such abuse can be and why it ought to be considered with at least the same level of abhorrence as transgressions between Man and God. They (wrongly) think that this is something that will “go away” with time. They have not understood that this is a pattern, and that the perpetrator rarely if ever has just “one” victim.

    The answer to that needs to start (especially in such communities) with those who are charged with imbuing education: the Rabbis and the Teachers. They must be educated. In such communities, you simply can’t call a meeting of parents as a first step, and “educate” them with seminars. They won’t come! They will think it has nothing to do with them, or their kids. Of course, they are wrong. But the one key, doesn’t fit every lock. Ms Resofsky certainly is correct to hone in on parental education, but I’d suggest (from a lay perspective) that the science of this approach needs to be implemented in a different manner for each group. Is anyone seriously suggesting that the awareness and understanding of a group of say Yavneh or Mt Scopus parents is at a similar level to that of Adass parents (who we know are, by choice cut off from the external world)?

    Let’s be positive. I don’t like it when we “attack” those who are actually on the same side.

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