Reported instances of child abuse among ultra-Orthodox Jews in Beit Shemesh
is on the rise, according to a recent report by Magen, a local child protection
In the first six months of 2013, Magen received over 75 new
cases of suspected sexual child abuse – a dramatic increase compared to the 70
new cases they received during the whole of 2012.
According to David
Morris, director of Magen, the organization anticipates receiving up to 150 new
cases of suspected abuse during 2013.
Morris has previously decried what
he believes to be “a deepset culture of non-reporting and cover-up” among ultra-
Orthodox Jews. Haredim, he told The Jerusalem Post in January, prefer “dealing
with child abuse within the community,” via “parents, professionals and
community leaders” and “some community leaders implicitly discouraged victims
and their families from reporting sexual abuse allegations to the police and
The uptick in reports does not indicate an increase in
actual incidences of child abuse, Morris told the Post. Instead, he asserted, it
a sign that Magen’s education and awareness programs are working, and that Magen
is now well-established and trusted and more people are willing to come forward
with their stories.
“Magen has earned a reputation as being able and
willing to champion and promote the safety of children from abuse, even when
cases involve powerful parties in the community,” Morris said.
case that Magen handles compassionately and effectively, we win an ally. Some of
these [victims and their families] become active advocates for Magen within the
Magen released the statistic about the increase in cases of
suspected child abuse during a visit to Magen’s office by MK Rabbi Dov Lipman, a
Beit Shemesh resident, on July 28.
During their meeting, Morris presented
Lipman with a list of improvements to the existing child protection
These were recommended by The Israel Center for the
The list that Morris provided included getting rid of a section of
law stating that some age groups of children victims of sexual abuse are
required to prove that they didn’t consent to the alleged perpetrators – even
where the perpetrator is a family member. It also reformed a section of the law
that would enforce a child victim’s right to therapy – paid for and supervised
by social services – by holding the government accountable for providing the
Magen also calls for more rigorous enforcement of the
mandatory reporting laws – which require any adult who suspects a case of child
abuse to immediately report to the authorities, or face criminal charges and
potentially a three to six month prison term for failure to report.
is a strong law upholding the Torah principle of ‘You shall not stand by the
blood of your brother,’” Morris said. “However, this law has only been rarely
enforced in practice.”
He further explains that of the cases of sexual
abuse of children that are reported, only between five and 10% lead to a
“For a family to report an incident, they sometimes have to
go against their communities,” Morris said.
“These families expect
justice, but at the end of the day they may be let down by the justice system
they put their trust in.”
By pushing legislators like Lipman to tighten
child protection laws, Morris hopes that there can be a judicial system that
better serves and protects victims of abuse.
In response, Lipman stated
that he will use his influence in the Knesset to “do whatever I can to partner
with Magen to protect children in Beit Shemesh and throughout Israel.”
Sokol contributed to this report.