By JERUSALEM POST STAFF
The case of the Bnei Ayish twins, suspected of pedophilia and the murder of seven-year-old Leon Kalantarov, was no inscrutable whodunit. As juveniles, they already were in custody for sexual offenses, their neighborhood bristled with innuendo about them, children reported abuse by the brothers, they were violent, a complaint was filed to the police and the welfare authorities were aware of their problematic status. Only their immediate family seemed in extraordinary denial.
Nevertheless, the police passed the buck to the welfare services, who adroitly tossed it right back to the police.
This typifies how many instances of suspected pedophilia end up. In fact, the Bnei Ayish case, its tragic culmination notwithstanding, was hardly the most baffling with which authorities have had contend. The twins were peculiar and regarded with extreme leeriness. More often, pedophiles don't stand out and there is no clue to tip anyone off.
There are no visual or behavioral external characteristics. Pedophiles can be normative and respectable. Numerous offenses might never be revealed. Odds are that official statistics, such as they exist, don't reflect the true extent of the phenomenon. In Israel, data is restricted only to pedophiles arrested and convicted. That, likely, barely scratches the surface.
But the most insufferable difficulties are the ones that could be resolved. Our society fails to implement the few available laws and fails, even more miserably and inexplicably, to enact new legislation.
FOR INSTANCE, a 2003 law obliges any employee with even indirect contact with minors to supply his employer with a police affidavit confirming that his record is unsullied by any manner of sexual offenses. This, however, is rarely required by employers. We don't know who drives our children to school, who coaches them in athletics, who cleans their classrooms. Few even know which authority is responsible for the law's implementation.
Children aren't to be interrogated by ordinary cops, yet there are no budgets for trained professionals and profilers who can step into the breach.
Punishment meted out to pedophiles is often ludicrously lenient. They are eventually released without supervision, although pedophile recidivism is particularly high. Treatment is voluntary, including psychotherapy and so-called chemical castration, which in any case is of limited effectiveness. Yet a bill compelling convicted sex offenders to undergo some form of rehabilitation while incarcerated has been stalemated in Knesset committees for years.
A 2008 law requires imprisoned pedophiles, as well as other sex offenders, to undergo danger-assessment probes pre-release, register their addresses and report periodically to probation officers. Yet it's inadequately implemented, if at all, mostly because it necessitates hiring trained experts who can competently assess danger and determine how to supervise each individual ex-con.
The catch - again - is that no budgets exist to pay for professional overseers. Provisionally, nonprofessionals from the Prisons Service are deployed as stopgap monitors. To make matters worse, there aren't enough substitutes. Each must therefore keep tabs on an inordinate number of pedophiles who have done their time.
Moreover, new legislation pertinent to pedophiles is deadlocked in the Knesset. This includes a bill that would oblige the authorities to inform child sex-crime victims when their imprisoned attackers are due to go on furlough or be released. Another bill attempting to mandate tougher sentences for pedophiles is logjammed due to Justice Ministry quibbling. Even a bill that would order the state to directly remit financial damages due to an attacked child is foiled by legislative red tape. Its object is to lift the onus of chasing after offenders from aggrieved families by transferring it to empowered officials.
There are no easy antidotes to the little-understood aberration that is pedophilia. Even the best legal defenses are bound to come up short. But to neglect erecting and vigilantly maintaining those defenses that are feasible is unforgivable.
There can be no excuse for the ongoing failure to shore up those defenses via indispensable legislation held up for no plausible reason in Knesset committees. There is even less justification not to efficiently resort to those defenses for which the law already allows. Our collective failures can cost children their innocence, if not their very lives.
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