Educating one’s children against predators, pedophiles, and molesters

Educating one’s children against predators, pedophiles, and molesters:

Unfortunately, a known and growing epidemic, which has seen greater light in the recent years, is the plague of pedophilia, of which almost no Jewish community has come unscathed. One of the basic principles of Torah Judaism is Kedusha, keeping a holy environment of sexual morality. The Torah is well aware of the challenges people have in containing sexual lusts and hence provided a number of guidelines which are meant to prevent one from falling prey to his instincts and desires, or for that matter, to falling prey to the sexual gratification of another individual.[1] Accordingly, it is the responsibility of every parent and educator to educate his children or students in a clean and Kosher way of the very real dangers of predators and the guidelines they are to keep and matters to beware from, so they do not fall prey to such an individual, and so they stop it before it progresses.[2] Aside for the religious responsibility to prevent sinful activity and moral depravity from occurring, educating one’s children in the above is included in the basic responsibilities a parent has in keeping their child safe from physical dangers. Just as a parent must teach his child how to cross the street, and a school must rehearse fire drills, so too, children must be educated in the above for their own physical safety, aside for the religious reasons of morality. The enormous damage that child molestation can potentially cause the innocent soul of a child is indescribable, and the statistics of the potential affects speak for themselves without needing to give this matter any further proof.[3] Accordingly, educating one’s children to beware from predators is a Halachic responsibility both due to reasons of morality and safety. The reason for why educating children in this matter is, and has been, avoided is because it is viewed as a taboo subject that is more comfortable to ignore than to discuss, and due to the desire to keep children sheltered from knowledge of such depravities. Unfortunately, the spread of this epidemic and the spiritual and physical destruction that it has caused, and continues to cause, the innocent children who fall victim, do not allow us to remain silent any longer. By lifting the level of awareness to our children regarding this matter, we both stop our own children from falling prey to a predator, as well as put a deterrent against a predator attempting to lure victims. In the following paragraphs we will analyze a Halachic discussion regarding the need to beware from people due to worry of homophile behavior, thus lending the Halachic basis for the above said obligation of education:      

 

May a man have Yichud with another man?[4]

The Jewish people were not suspected of homophile relations [i.e. Mishkav Zachar], and therefore there is no prohibition [for a man or child] to be in a state of Yichud with another man. [This is in contrast to gentiles, who are suspected of homophile relations, and one is hence prohibited from sending his child to learn under a gentile teacher.[5]] Nonetheless, a man who distances himself from having Yichud even with another Jewish man [including male relatives[6]], is praised. [The above was relevant in previous times, however] in these later generations in which the number of [Jewish] individuals who are sexual deviants have increased, a man is [obligated[7]] to distance himself from having Yichud [even] with a [Jewish] male.[8] [Some Poskim[9], however, rule that this only applies in countries where homophile relations are common, while in countries in which this is an unaccepted and rare occurrence, there is no need even today for a man to distance himself from Yichud with another man, although it remains an act of piety to do so.]

From this Halacha we can derive two points vis a vis the proper attitude towards educating our children to beware from predators, pedophiles, and molesters:

  1. One must not only distance himself from situations which ignite him to act on his own lusts, but one must also distance himself from falling prey to the lust of another individual. Accordingly, children must be educated so they do not fall victim.
  2. The distances required are all dependent on the level of morality in one’s society. Thus, in a depraved society in which a certain immoral behavior has become abundant, one must distance himself in increased measures from this behavior, even though this distance was not necessary in previous generations. Accordingly, the level of pedophilia rampant today obligates one to take increased measures to make sure his children do not fall victim

 

Matters to beware and educate children in:

Various organizations have blossomed over the recent years who specialize in child education and awareness in the above matter. The following is some of the suggestive actions and guidelines which have been acclimated from leading child psychologists and educational experts. For further information, visit their website.[10] The education of a child in this topic is split to two parts, Prevention and Awareness, sometimes known as P&A:

  1. Prevention-Teach your child certain guidelines and precautions that prevent him from entering situations that make them vulnerable to a preying predator.
  2. Awareness– Teach your child to identify an attack and deter it from progressing.

 

Prevention guidelines:

  1. Yichud-Not to be alone: Children must be educated from a young age against Yichud. Halachically, it is forbidden for a three year old girl to remain alone with a man above the age of Bar Mitzvah, and it is forbidden for a boy who is nine years of age or older to be alone with a girl who is above the age of Bas Mitzvah.[11] Furthermore, in light of the above ruling in A, regarding even a man distancing himself from Yichud with another man, children and adolescents should be educated that it is Halachically proper and necessary to distance themselves from being alone with another person even of the same gender, and even if they are relatives, unless under parental consent. If a man or woman asks or lures a child to a private area without parental consent, the child should be educated to say that it is not allowed for them to be alone, or at the very least to have the intuition to inform his or her parents. Certainly, in light of the above Halacha, teachers or tutors should not be having one on one sessions with a child in a closed or locked room, and the room should always remain accessible to the public. Likewise, parents are to supervise that siblings of opposite genders stop sharing rooms after a certain age, and even when same gender children share rooms, clear modesty guidelines must be given. This especially applies during the pubescent years of a child, in which raging hormones search for outlets that can cause another family member to fall victim. Parents must be cautious and know that statistically a large percentage of abuse actually occurs within the family, and hence they must educate their children and pay attention as to how they act when they are together. While this suggestion of avoiding Yichud is unpopular and may sound exaggerated and unrealistic to some, this is the Torah’s suggestion and obligation in how to distance oneself from falling prey to a predator-Avoid Yichud. It is certainly obligatory of a Torah institution to follow the laws in Shulchan Aruch which state that in communities suffering from homophile epidemics, it is an obligation for boys to distance themselves from Yichud with other men, and vice versa. This suggestion and obligation is unique to the Torah world and has yet to enlighten the secular populace of its powerful deterrence, who come up with various other suggestions. 
  2. Mikveh: The Mikveh is by no exaggeration one of the main centers where child molestation occurs in the Jewish community. We tend to think that since it is a public area, and one is never in a state of Yichud with another man while there, that it is therefore a safe haven for our children. Nonetheless, experience shows that the Mikveh is in fact a safe haven not for the children, but for the predators, and they use it as one of their primary basis of opportunity to launch attacks. Accordingly, together with a parent’s desire to educate their child in a Chassidishe Hanhaga of purity of soul, in going to Mikveh, they must be realistic and take precautions with their child. Practically, what this means is as follows: a) Young children have no business ever going to a Mikveh alone. A young child who is not near the age of Bar Mitzvah has no Chinuch obligation to go to Mikveh, and if he can’t go under supervision, it is better that he not go at all. b) Even when fathers accompany a child to the Mikveh, they must have four pairs of eyes on the child. Never think that since I am in the same building as him, he is safe, as experience proves otherwise. c) Children who are near, or over Bar Mitzvah, and are accustomed to go to Mikveh daily before Davening, must be educated by their parents in how to act in a mikveh and be told of the Awareness guidelines, explained in length below. Following the above steps will help keep a Mikveh that which it is supposed to be-A place to enhance a person’s holiness and purity and not its opposite.
  3. Be aware of known community offenders: The United States Department of Justice contains a list of convicted sex offenders within one’s area. Likewise, local organizations [i.e. JCW] and community Rabbi’s and leaders periodically release information of suspected or convicted predators. Parents should make themselves aware of who these people are and make sure to keep their children a safe distance from them. On this note, it is every community’s obligation to warn the public of the said individuals and to say something if they see something, and not ignore red flags which allow predators to continue their victim list for years on end.

 

Awareness guidelines:

  1. Your body is only yours: Explain to the child the concept of privacy for his/her body and that their body is only theirs and is not allowed to be touched or even seen by others, unless the person is a doctor, parent or caretaker who needs to do so in the position of their job, and is doing so under other adult supervision. Explain to your child the existence of the private areas and how they must be kept clothed and out of contact of others. Practice this at home, teaching the child modesty and privacy with their body, such as locking the door when they take a shower or use the bathroom [age dependent] and educating them how to act with other siblings. Some suggest teaching the child the traffic light system regarding touch. Label innocent and clean touches as green light [i.e. shaking hands, holding your hand to cross the street, tapping your shoulder]. Touches that make a child feel slightly uncomfortable as yellow light [i.e. a hug, or kiss from an unwanted individual, touches that occur under clothing]. Touches that reach under the bathing suit area is a red light. Yellow and red-light touches must always be informed to the parents or other legal guardian. Emphasis must be made that anyone, including siblings, cousins, friends, and teachers, must be informed on if a yellow or red-light touch has been made. Explain to the child that often body touches may even feel good, although this is not a sign that such touches are ok. An inappropriate touch [i.e. red light] is never ok, no matter how it feels.
  2. Another person’s body is only theirs: We cannot forget that many children are not the victims, but are themselves the innocent perpetrators who experience with the body of other children. Likewise, often the predators do not touch the child’s body, but ask the child to touch their body. Accordingly, children must also be educated that just as their body is private to themselves, so too other peoples, and children’s, bodies is not theirs to look at or touch. Furthermore, this applies even if the other person consents or asks them to touch their body, nonetheless, it is an immoral [unTzenius] thing to do.
  3. Saying NO: Often, children are intimidated of telling off another individual, especially if they are an adult figure. Train your child to say NO if an inappropriate touch is made or attempted. Teach them to escape the situation.
  4. Not to keep secrets: Teach your child that there is no such thing as keeping a secret from their parents, from Mommy and Tatty. Anyone who tells them not to tell their parents is a sign that they right away must tell their parents. Even if a person tells them that they will get hurt or punished if they tell the parents, the child is to be told that such a person is lying. Parents must ensure their children that they will not get into trouble for telling their parents, and on the contrary will be believed and cherished for sharing it with them.
  5. Even very nice and friendly people, relatives, or other children can do bad things: According to the US Department of Justice (nsopw.org) only 10% of perpetrators were strangers to the child and 23% of the perpetrators were children themselves! Accordingly, all the above guidelines of touch and secrets must be clearly spelled out to the child that they apply even to very nice people, people they know, and even very close relatives, friends or siblings. They apply even if the person shows much love to them and spends time with them and buys them treats.
  6. Occasional review of the guidelines: It is imperative for parents to review these guidelines with their children periodically. One can preschedule on a reminder/calendar to review the guidelines a couple of times per year, such as before the school year begins, and after Pesach vacation and the like.

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[1] See Shulchan Aruch Even Haezer chapters 21-24

[2] See Rambam Issurei Biyah 22:5 [brought in A]

[3] Effects of child sexual abuse include shame and self-blame, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, self-esteem issues, sexual dysfunction, chronic pelvic pain, addiction, self-injury, suicidal ideation, borderline personality disorder, and propensity to re-victimization in adulthood. Child sexual abuse is a risk factor for attempting suicide. Much of the harm caused to victims becomes apparent years after the abuse happens. [See https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19733950 for scholarly articles on the subject]

[4] Michaber E.H. 24:1; Tur 24:1; Rosh 4:24; Rambam Issurei Biyah 22:2; Chachamim in Kiddushin 82a

[5] Implication of Michaber ibid; Beis Yosef E.H 24; Tur 24 “The nations are suspected on everything and hence one may not give them a child to be taught by them, even a male to a male”; Rambam Issurei Biyah 22:5; Avoda Zara 15b and 36b; Shabbos 17b; However, see Rama Y.D. 153:2 and Tur 153 that the reason is due to that the gentile will teach the child heresy. See Rashi Avoda Zara 15b who mentions both reasons; See Derisha E.H. 24:1, Vetzaruch Iyun!

[6] Tur 24 “Even with one’s father”; See Bach 24 who states the novelty here is that even though the person is a Jewish male and one’s father, nevertheless it is praiseworthy to distance oneself from Yichud. The Bach, however, concludes that he is unsure of the source of the Tur’s ruling; This ruling of the Tur is omitted in Michaber ibid

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule that it is not necessary to distance oneself from Yichud with his father and the above statement in the Tur is a misprint. [Yad Ahron 1 24:1; Implication of Michaber ibid]

[7] Implication of Michaber ibid and Bach 24, as brought in Chelkas Mechokeik and Beis Shmuel 24:1

[8] Michaber ibid

[9] Bach E.H. 24, as brought in Chelkas Mechokeik and Beis Shmuel 24:1

[10] See http://www.jewishcommunitywatch.org/education-center/ ; https://childmind.org/article/10-ways-to-teach-your-child-the-skills-to-prevent-sexual-abuse/ ; https://ourkidscenter.com/learn/how-to-educate-children-about-abuse/

[11] Michaber 22:11

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