Family, Victims Shunned for Reporting Sexual Abuse


Anyone who has been victimized by sexual abuse is all too familiar with the pain that accompanies it. But what makes the ordeal even worse is when the community around us – the friends and family members who have been trusted for years – turn their backs on victims and their family.

Last week, The New York Times published a shocking story about child sexual abuse in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. What was most shocking about the story was not just that children are being sexually abused by adults they know and trust – but the reaction of the community to the adults who speak out against it. 

"Abuse victims and their families have been expelled from religious schools and synagogues, shunned by fellow ultra-Orthodox Jews and targeted for harassment intended to destroy their businesses," reported the story, which was written by Sharon Otterman and Ray Rivera. "Some victims’ families have been offered money, ostensibly to help pay for therapy for the victims, but also to stop pursuing charges, victims and victims’ advocates said."

In short, children are being victimized twice: first by a predatory adult, then by the system that is supposed to protect them. They are being victimized by an entire community that seems, inexplicably, committed to protecting the abusers. And along with their shunned families, they suffer the disgrace of being cut off from their community at a time when they need that community most.

It’s the same M.O. that we’ve seen within the Catholic Church for years; a mindset that allows the community to protect the perpetrators and re-victimize the innocent. It’s the brotherhood of silence that allowed incidents to continue for years at Penn State. This commitment to protecting the perpetrators not only damages the existing victims, but sends a strong message to future victims not to speak out.

Whether it’s the Catholic Church, Penn State, the Hasidic community or another entity, you’ll hear that they want to protect the reputation of the community. But all they are really doing is giving child molesters the go-ahead while giving them access to more children. And once again, it’s the innocent who suffer. 

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