Wednesday, August 13, 2008

"Beyond Belief - Heart Breaking Stories I’ve Compiled On Molestation In Our Community, Its A Cancer, My Promise I Won’t Sit Silent."


Brooklyn, NY - Assemblyman Dov Hikind: Beyond Belief, Heart Breaking Stories I’ve Compiled On Molestation In Our Community, Its A Cancer, My Promise I Won’t Sit Silent

Brooklyn, NY - “It happened twice in the mikva…..I was nine…. I never told anyone…I can’t tell my wife….she will never understand…How can she?….She will divorce me and take my children from me….,” fraught with intense pain, Duvid struggled as he divulged the more than two-decade old secret that was eroding his emotional and physical health.

The avalanche of stories of molestation and sexual abuse is overwhelming, personally and professionally. The first-person accounts of abuse have shaken me to my core. I have looked into the faces of victims, of their parents, and there is a void where joy should be. There is a vacuum where love should exist. And there is a disconnect with life and living. Victims live between worlds, the past encroaching on the currency of a beautiful life unfulfilled. It is a rape of the soul.

For the last three weeks, I have been immersed in round-the-clock meetings, hearing details no one should hear, referring victims to therapists, and compiling data on the perpetrators who share the same air we breathe. When the victim is one of ours and the molester is one of ours, the suffering is more acute. When it is a neighbor, a friend, a family member, a rebbe, etc., from our community who visits this abomination on our children, and the individual is not isolated or contained, it is a cancer that our society has permitted to metastasize, to grow and flourish into a malignancy.

Has child molestation risen to pandemic proportion in our midst? There is no formal actuarial data to support that, but no doubt predators have been sheltered, secure in the knowledge that the victim’s family will be so shrouded in shame and self-loathing, that denial will rule. When we have more compassion for the pedophile than for the victim, then our communities are doomed to self-destruction. “He’s respected….He’s choshuv….You can’t shame his family. You can’t deprive him of his livelihood…It will be a chilul Hashem….” By our own design, have we perpetuated the pain with our silence, reinforcing the shame, and being complicit in the trauma?

The medical literature says that a pedophile’s sexual interest in children is a disease that can not be controlled, and there must be appropriate psychological intervention. It will not go away with wishful thinking or haphazard monitoring.

Elected officials assign staffers to specific issues. There may be a “legislative desk,” a “Medicare desk,” an “Israel desk,” an “anti-Semitism desk,” a “discrimination desk,” etc, to respond to the needs of constituents. And after 26 years in office in the NYS Assembly, I now have a “sexual abuse desk.” No elected official should have a sexual abuse desk; no one should need one. But we do, because the experts say that one pedophile will abuse hundreds of victims, and I am now dealing with the exponential reality of decades and decades of our institutions, our communities, providing sanctuary to the perpetrators.

On my radio show, Miriam bravely recounted the violation of her son when he was eight years old at the hands of the principal of one of the largest institutions in Williamsburg. Repeatedly molested, her son, now in his twenties, is a member of a heavy metal band. The pain is etched on her son’s face. They have tried everything as a family to respectfully address the institution and remove the rebbe from access to children, and they have become mired in institutional politics, because the yeshiva refuses to acknowledge what the perpetrator did, though more than one victim has come forward. The politics of pain will rule no more; not on my watch. No pedophile should find sanctuary in our yeshivas. The perpetrators will get help or they will go to jail; there will be no self-serving wave of the hand, “Eh, the child and his parents are making it up.”

Another victim, Chaim, was molested summer after summer in one of our finest sleep-away camps. The psychic trauma has lingered for decades and shattered his life. He cannot trust. He cannot enjoy. He cannot feel. Unimaginable, unendurable, inescapable, - what sexual abuse does to the mind, the heart, the soul is devastatingly complete. It seizes the soul in a death-grip of terror and revulsion. It may be a passing scent….of grass, of trees…that triggers flashes of memories and overwhelms with painful sensory imagery of the abuse. It may be the feel of a fabric….it’s everywhere and nowhere…..and he remembers what it is like to be a child at the mercy of a vile adult who used his body over and over again…

For every one pedophile/molester there are hundreds of victims, as long as the violations go unreported or unaddressed. The victims can be your son, son-in-law, grandson, nephew…if it is not dealt with….I heard tapes of Chaim’s perpetrator…I couldn’t handle it. It was too much to bear. I couldn’t hear it anymore, how a molester tried to defend and rationalize what he did to his “favorites” in a well-renowned camp. “They didn’t know anything was going on. It wasn’t like they were hurt by what I did.” I. Didn’t. Want. To. Hear. One. More. Defiled. Utterance. Delving into the mind of a pedophile was traumatic. And his rapid-fire clipped speech and articulate manner underscored the banality of his malevolent indulgences. He destroyed this child and others, now adults, and he spoke of it as if it was meaningless to the children. “They were too young. They didn’t know what was going on. It’s nothing. It happened a long time ago.”

From this point forward, the message will be clear from every rov and every community: Schools and parents have an obligation to come forward to deal with this. If they don’t, then they are complicit in the abuse and will have to answer to another higher desk, after 120 years. That desk, Hashem’s desk, knows the hearts of men, and the purity of conviction, and if you have shielded the guilty, that is the greatest chilul Hashem of all.

We are compiling information which will be presented to rabbonim, material which will be irrefutable, undeniable, inescapable, based upon which there will be a groundswell of support for victims, and an initiative to remove the perpetrators from any and all contact with children.

I can’t bear to hear one more story, but I will. I will hear hundreds if I have to. I’ll cry with as many victims as I have to. And my heart will break, and I will feel desperate to get away from the pain.…but I will get them help. I will listen and I will brush away more tears than I’ve seen in 26 years – my own….for another childhood lost. This will be eradicated from our midst…I’m not a crusader I’m a parent….a grandparent….a man whose mind can no longer process the horrific stories of violations…

If we don’t teach our children to protect themselves from molesters, the molesters will perversely teach them first and paralyze their lives and emotions…There is a part of me that is sorry that I started on this journey of misery and degradation, and there is a part of me which knows that someone has to speak for myriad victims. I haven’t slept well since I launched this mission. I don’t know if I will…again.

There are people who will say that this is a problem which has been around for decades and that it will be impossible to breach the walls that have been put up. But I have faith that with God’s help, we will be able to make a difference in many lives. Are we going to solve the problem entirely? Notoriously, pedophiles are likeable and they blend in well, and formulate a cover story for why they are so involved with your children. Finding every single one and rooting them out, is the province of God. But with God on our side, we have a chance to stanch the loss of our children.

It’s almost too much to bear, but then the phone rings again, and another victim who hasn’t told his narrative to anyone calls, and haltingly asks for a meeting…and I know I don’t have a choice. I’m at 718-853-9616…and I am waiting for your call.