By: Rabbi Yakov Horowitz
We are all busy before Yom Tov, so let's get right to the point.
If you haven't done so already, please see to it that you speak to your children about child safety before Pesach, and give them a refresher talk if you already have.
It is literally a matter of life and death that you do so.
Year after year, we get a significant spike in abuse-related calls right before, during, and after the Pesach and Succos Yomim Tovim. Why? Because our kids are in a less structured environment at home, in Shul and at play, and are exposed to a wide range of children, teenagers, and adults who they don't have contact with all year round. If you need convincing -- just tally the number of people your kids interact during with during a regular school week, and then do the same for the week of Pesach.
Thankfully, there is now an unprecedented awareness of the importance of child safety in our community and we have come to the painful understanding that our community is not immune to the ravages of abuse and molestation.
But, to be perfectly frank, the average person in the street (that's probably you) has no idea of how bad things really are. Estimates of the number of frum people convicted of child abuse currently in the criminal justice system in New York State, range from 40 to 90 perpetrators. Depending on whose statistics you read, the average child molester abuses 50-200 children in his lifetime. Mind you, that is in the general population, where adults have a fraction of the access to children, than our community members have.
Taking the two lowball numbers above and doing the simple math reveals that there are 2,000 frum victims of child abuse in NY State alone - and that is only counting victims of predators who were caught, prosecuted, and convicted of the crime. So the real number is, shall we say, much much higher than that.
Untreated abuse victims are far more likely to go on and eventually abuse others, so there will continue to be an exponential rise in the number of children molested, until all our children are educated to help protect themselves, and until all predators are reported to the authorities and locked up.
I plead with you to take this matter seriously and do everything in your power to keep your kids safe. There are two steps you need to take to accomplish this:
1) Have safety talks with your children - using effective, research-based techniques that will educate and empower your children without frightening them.
2) See to it that they are properly supervised over Yom Tov.
There are four basic messages that children need to internalize in order for any abuse prevention program to be truly effective:
Your body belongs to you
No one has the right to make you feel uncomfortable
No secrets from parents
Good touching/bad touching
Please educate yourself before speaking to your children so that your discussions generate light and not heat. Additionally, it is important for you to know - and to share with your children - that although "stranger danger" is a genuine concern, the vast majority of molesters are family members or people well-known to the children.
As Teaneck Police Chief Michael Bruno brilliantly said during a talk he gave on child safety, "We need to train our children to consider the "it" (the inappropriate action being done to them) not the "whom" (regardless of the relationship or stature of the individual who may be doing it).
There are free resources available on our website http://www.kosherjewishparenting.com/
at the Los Angeles-based Aleinu Safety Kid Program website: http://www.aleinu.net/AleinuChildSafetyInstitute/safetykid.aspx
Here are links to two videos released to educate you, and help you have these discussions with your children:
Video: Speaking to your Kids about Personal Safety: http://www.blogger.com/goog_1596520739
Video: InYiddish - Speaking to your Kids about Personal Safety: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFFHI0NZmns
Thanks for reading these lines, and kindly take a minute to forward this to others - for the only way our children and grandchildren will be safe, is when each and every one of us is well educated about child safety.
Best wishes for a Chag Kosher V'samayach and much Nachas from your family.