They take advantage of people, especially children and teens, those who are young, or impressionable and easy prey. They also take advantage of adults – yes, they know how to play to adults too.
They are accomplished liars. They know how to draw victims in with a combination of charm and threat. They can be magically captivating. They do not hide; rather they interact openly with their victims and families.
They tend to be fearless and if caught they can be convincing in their denials. If caught on video molesting a child they can just as easily deny that it is they, despite the pictures, as they are to blame their victims. Very few are willing to acknowledge that they have a problem controlling their abusive tendencies, the first and most necessary step to address their problem.
They take advantage of the fact that the organizations they work for provide them with a pool of likely victims. And if someone reports them to their superiors at work, they believe that the desire to protect the school, camp, youth organization, whichever organization they work for, will act as cover for them – for that is the way it usually is.
They also know that if caught and confronted they can usually slip away and go to some other organization because traditionally no one is likely to warn anyone else.
Abusers are both so convincing and threatening that the idea of reporting to the authorities does not usually arise. No one can believe that such a nice person is so bad. Unfortunately, too many people are also lured in by the idea that they should not report to the police, telling rabbis instead. While rabbis may have the best of intentions, they are not trained investigators.
Abusers do such heinous things that most people simply cannot believe that this caring, sensitive teacher, counselor, therapist, rabbi or principal can be so evil. They rely on that image because they are accomplished actors who lure their audience in, grooming them to believe their inherent and well-rehearsed persona.
They threaten the people they victimize so that in most cases the offended are afraid to tell what was done to them.
They are child sexual abusers. They prey on children of all ages. Some abusers target young children. Some victimize adolescents, some target teens or older teens. Some select young adults. It has been estimated that these abusers usually harm as many as 100 people over the course of their predatory lives.
In spite of some very recent serious efforts to educate, we are still naïve about the plague of sexual abuse and how children are groomed. We still believe that we can send our children off to school, camp, seminary, or yeshiva without doing a serious investigation of the facility and teaching our children to properly protect themselves.
This is not a new phenomenon. In the last eight years, we have begun to hear more about it, not because CSA is a new trend but because some very brave individuals are finally coming forward and talking about what happened to them at the hands of their abusers. I have treated and spoken with individuals in their 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and older who were abused in a school, dormitory or camp setting.
I have written extensively about this issue and I am compelled to continue to do so. Parents are very trusting. “It won’t happen to my child,” they say. “What can happen to my daughter in seminary? She can take care of herself.” Summer camp has begun and hopefully there will not be any incidents but that is unlikely.
Soon all those students spending a gap year or more in Israel will be on their way to study and grow. If not well prepared these young adults, aged eighteen to twenty, even older, are all vulnerable. There is no doubt that some will fall into the hands of abusers.
There is talk about training vast number of educators. I have my suspicions about how effective that training may be, particularly if it is watered down to suit the needs of misplaced modesty.
We may not be able to stop all sex abusers but we can certainly do more to reduce their horrific impact. We must do a better job to train our children and ourselves with an awareness of the reality of CSA. We must do a better job of reporting to the proper, trained authorities as soon as we suspect. After all, that is the law, and it is the law for a very good reason. If we do not act swiftly and properly, we are assisting abusers to continue their offenses.
Finally, a language exists that allows us to begin to understand and tackle the problem of CSA. It barely existed 50 years ago. We should all learn the jargon; it is the minimum necessary to address this scourge.