We have no right to stay silent for victims of sexual abuse - opinion

Amid the mass misguided pity for a serial child rapist, Shifra Horowitz was murdered. But it was all of our fault, because we did not scream loud enough.

 SHANA AARONSON from Magen drives with a group of brave abuse survivors (their faces blocked out) on their way to tell their stories to a prominent rabbi.  (photo credit: Shana Aaronson)
SHANA AARONSON from Magen drives with a group of brave abuse survivors (their faces blocked out) on their way to tell their stories to a prominent rabbi.
(photo credit: Shana Aaronson)

Please note: the following includes sensitive talk about child abuse and suicide. 

I’ve been getting nonstop comments and messages from people telling me to be quiet, to stop shaming a dead man. 

It started when the allegations of rape and sexual abuse against Rabbi Chaim Walder first broke out. I shared a photo of my trash bag, filled with Walder’s books. It wasn’t an easy choice, but I wanted my children to know that we stand with survivors, and we believe them. 

Some of the commments were: “You shouldn’t write this publicly, it’s lashon hara.”

“Who are you to judge if he’s guilty or not?”

 Chaim Walder (credit: Wikimedia Commons) Chaim Walder (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

“He did so much good, don’t talk about him like that!”

Then came his suicide. People were calling him a victim. I was scared for the survivors, I wanted to shout from my rooftop who the real victims were. Instead I wrote another post. I said  that I don’t pity him, there is nothing more evil than what he did. I wrote that I stood with the survivors. 

More comments came in: “His poor soul – leave him alone!”

“It’s a very thin line, be careful how you talk about people.”

“This is why he’s dead! Because people who have been so cruel. Stop it.”

So I wrote again, that it was an evil trap, his last stab at his victims, trying to gain the pity for himself and placing the blame on them. 

“You don’t have any right be so harsh! You’re embarrassing his family!”

“What about being kind? Stop talking so cruelly about him!”

“You really should stop this. It doesn’t look good.”

But I won’t. I can’t. Because amid the mass misguided pity for a serial child rapist, Shifra Horowitz was murdered. 

Shifra was a survivor of Walder’s alleged abuse. She was a child who hadn’t even found her own self yet, when he tore it away from her. A man who was supposed to be her hero pulled off a costume and dragged her into a world of monsters.

But she was a fighter. She pushed through, even when every moment was a battle with the cruel weight of the heaviest trauma pulling her down. Even when every moment of her life was spent fighting with a strength that no human should know; she pushed and pulled herself ahead. 

Then a massive crowd showed up to her alleged abuser’s funeral. Speeches were made in his honor. Obituaries were published, filled with praise for his books and works, and empty of thought for his victims. 

It was too much for Shifra. The last her friends heard from her, she said she “couldn’t bear the festival they made for him.” Then she went silent.

Walder murdered her again, but this time, with a crowd of support. 

I don’t know if the crowd was ignorant, misguided, complicit, or a mix of all in a confusing world. 

But it was all of our fault, because we did not scream loud enough. Because we do not have the right to remain silent. We can’t allow it any longer. 

There are too many Shifra Horowitzes. 

There are too many abuse survivors facing demons we will never know, pleading for the good of the world to shine through. Holding onto a hope that people really do mean well, that we really do believe their stories, and really do reject the abusers. That we really do want to create a safe world, for them and every child born into it. 

So I will continue to speak as loud and clearly as I can: I believe the survivors. I stand with the survivors. I stand firmly against predators. 

Shifra, we hear you, we love you. We’re sorry we didn’t do better.

If you’re looking for more ways to help, Magen is a wonderful organization that helps and supports survivors of sexual abuse in Israel. https://www.jgive.com/new/he/ils/charity-organizations/2613

The writer lives in the South with her husband and children. She is a proud follower of Chabad, a writer, and owner of Aleph to Zee digital marketing.