Mar 10, 2011
Who's Most Vulnerable to Abuse

At a lecture at Bais Rivkah in Crown Heights, experts told parents that children raised without proper knowledge are "more vulnerable to abuse."

By Eliyahu Federman

Over 100 individuals convened March 8, at Bais Rivkah in Crown Heights to discuss and address adolescent abuse in the Jewish community.

Noted lecturer and columnist Bronya Shaffer organized the event as part of a series of lectures on protecting children.

Professor Gavriel Fagin discussed his challenges working with offenders. He explained that abusers were often abused themselves but the claim that the abused are more likely to victimize is not supported by any statistics.

Psychologist Dr. David Pelcovitz talked about how the nature of teens is conducive to secrecy recounting the joke how teens tell their parents to bud out of their lives but to first take them to the mall.

He said parents need to be hyper vigilant for any sudden unexpected changes in behavior and let their children know that they love them no matter what.

"Emphasizing to teens that nothing will lead to loss of that love will make it more likely that teens will feel empowered to speak out," he said. "Make them feel comfortable and unashamed speaking to you."

Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney Henna White started by saying that "if you know someone is in trouble you have a place to go to," referring to Project Kol Tzedek.

Project Kol Tzedek (Hebrew for 'Voices of Justice') is a program offering culturally sensitive support, assistance and advocacy for victims of abuse. The phone number for Kol Tzedek is 718.250.300 and the caller can remain completely anonymous. Any potential incidents of abuse should be immediately reported to the police and District Attorney's office.

White emphasized how the District Attorneys office maintains complete confidentiality of the victim/survivor. If the survivor chooses to remain anonymous the DA office will respect that and according to Civil Rights Laws is not permitted to go forward with a potential prosecution unless they have the consent of the survivor.

She declined to comment on the number of schools in Brooklyn that have turned over potential perpetrators to the authorities and that have cooperated with an investigation of an alleged offender, but she did tell me that there were over fifty current pending cases of offenders in Brooklyn being prosecuted through project Kol Tzedek.

Hillel Sternstien, Coordinator Project RESPECT of Ohel Children's Home and Family Services, spoke about how youth who were abused are far more likely to become disillusioned with their Jewish identity because the abuser is often a teacher, therapist or family member who represents the religious worldview of the adolescent.

The adolescent will associate their negative experiences with the Jewish culture they were raised in and can end up resenting Judaism as a result, he said.

One of Sternstien's most striking points was that children who are raised without knowledge of their bodies or intimacy issue are "more vulnerable to abuse" and less likely to speak about it because of the shame and stigma associated with the subject.

Sternstien explained that lack of discussion around the human body and intimacy, in essence, robs youth of the ability to speak because they are not provided with the proper language.

Dr. Pelcovitz recounted a study that showed when individuals were alone in front of a mountain they were statistically more likely to perceive traversing it as challenging. When individuals were with others in front of the mountain, they were more likely to perceive climbing the mountain less challenging.

When the language center is shut down the survivor is less likely to speak and living in secrecy is painful and damaging to the survivor, he warned.

* Eliyahu Federman currently serves as Vice President to an e-Commerce Conglomerate. He studied at the Mayanot Institute of Jewish Learning and graduated from City University of New York School of Law where he served as an Executive Editor of the law review.

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Opinions and Comments
what a showing!
wow look at those thousands of caring parents coming out for such a important topic, what a caring community we have! Just in the pictures alone i can count at least 40.
(3/10/2011 5:39:44 PM)
to #1
did you go?
(3/10/2011 5:59:01 PM)
2 hundred!
Where are we???
(3/10/2011 6:09:10 PM)
I'm sorry #1
First, there was just a lecture on the same exact topic in December.

Second, not attending a lecture does not mean not caring the same as not coming to shul does not mean not believing in hashem.

As a mother, this topic concerns me very much. I constantly read about it and seek the advice from the people whose opinion i respect.

Sitting through lectures is not the only way to prevent travesty, just another method to raise awareness.

Please don't judge us.

A Crown Heights mother
(3/10/2011 6:16:55 PM)
What a showing!
(3/10/2011 6:27:02 PM)
Rabbi Sternberg
What happened to Rabbi Shlomo Sternberg? Wasn't he on the list of speakers?
(3/10/2011 6:29:05 PM)
i was there
i counted 65 women and 35 men in attendance. it is a large room and i thought it would be packed to capacity. there was a very similar event held in december. mothers are busy with their kids at night so i understand the small crowd, there are many other ways of informing yourself in this area. i do hope that small crowd doesnt mean a lack of intrest.
(3/10/2011 7:02:55 PM)
Thank you Mr. Federman
Thank you Mr. Federman for the report.
The video will soon be made available, if you would like to receive the link, please send your email information to:, and we will send you a link as soon as it is ready.
(3/10/2011 7:05:47 PM)
oy vay
What adds insult to injury is the stigma, i'm a single male, years ago I dated a girl that was abused, for other reasons I did not work out.. but im still very much shocked and hurt at the way others treat this.

I see no reason why people would make this a barrier to marriage.

And women, please be careful, I beg my 5 sisters to carry mace and they scoff at me and tell me im paranoid :(.
(3/10/2011 7:23:01 PM)
yasher koach eli.this issue is of utmost importance.
(3/10/2011 7:31:56 PM)
Friendly fire
There is a digit missing in the Kol Tzedek phone number, can you please add it!

Kol Hakovod!

The small attendance shows that there is a long way to go
and awareness needs to be raised

The fact that less then 30% of the neighborhood did not attend is witness that most parents have no clue to what is happening to their children
(3/10/2011 8:07:28 PM)
the ONLY way to help your kids - since you cant lock them up- is to INFORM them.

In an appropriate way you need to talk to them about these issues so that if G-d forbid something happens they can tell you and you can prevent a one-off incident from turning into weeks, months or even years of torture!!
(3/10/2011 8:10:11 PM)
Yasher Koach
Well done to the organizers. It's a shame there was a small turnout.
This is a message that everyone must heed. it is a serious crime taking place right under our noses.
(3/10/2011 8:45:50 PM)
Dr Feldman
Why no mention of him in the article, I see pictures.
(3/10/2011 8:49:32 PM)
Mothers are indeed busy. Not showing up on a weeknight is not the same as not caring. It makes sense that those who are kh directly affected wd be more likely to show up. Geez, how much more are mothers supposed to do. Hows about being too tired. Does that mean you dont care. lighten up. I onlt go out at night if I cant get out of the obligation. I am pooped!
(3/10/2011 9:30:32 PM)
To #14
Dr. Feldman was not one of the panelists. He attended and was invited to say a few words...That's probably why he wasn't mentioned.. the pics must have been taken during those few minutes...
(3/10/2011 9:34:39 PM)
I was not even aware that there would be a lecture on this topic. That is why I wasn't there, so I guess others didn't know either.
(3/10/2011 10:13:30 PM)
To # 5
I hope you told your parents or someone who can help you.
Be brave, you are not alone.
(3/10/2011 11:19:07 PM)
and therefore...
So where do we go from here? How about a few sessions on how to "inform" our teenage children about these topics in a tzniyus forum...advertising sites for help, hotlines is a constant need....
(3/11/2011 1:08:28 AM)
To All The Naysayers
At least something is being done. I think you shouldn't mistake the lack of attendance with apathy. BTW, what are YOU doing? Don't complain. You have better way? Do it! Or perhaps nothing should be done?
(3/11/2011 1:41:52 AM)
chana israel
hi i no it was not packed with people but if this lecture helps even 1 less child then it was worth it keep doing these lectures we could do wiith children have talks in school with professinal teachers on this subject looking forward to hearing the video as i dont live in crown heights thanks
(3/11/2011 2:00:10 AM)
Add on
Parents need to be able to discuss and educate their kids about the dangers that are there. (in our homes as well as outside!) But some parents don't have the comfort level or language to be able to give over this to their kids, so there needs to be parental education how to give over this vital topic.
(3/11/2011 6:25:28 AM)
Web broadcasting
Perhaps these important events can be broadcast over the internet. I'm sure COL live would love to contribute to the awareness of these issues. I'm in Florida and so wasn't able to go, but I work with teenagers and would have been very interested to see this lecture. Broadcasting over the web would allow all those who couldn't come in person to participate.

Kol Hakavod, yasher koach
(3/11/2011 6:56:34 AM)
to #5
firstly, you dont have to be a mother to go. im not and i was going to go but i forgot this event was taking place. they should post signs up. secondly, i promise things will get better. and yes, people do care! you'll heal. im sure you will
(3/11/2011 9:39:20 AM)
To #19
If you contact Bronya Shaffer you can arrange a parents' workshop on what/how/when/where to speak to your young children or teenagers.
(3/11/2011 10:37:22 AM)
Yasher Koach to Mrs. Shaffer who is working hard to do this agains many odds
A HUGE Yyasher Koach to Mrs. Shaffer.
There are so many in our community (including mechanchim) who want this taken care of, but don't want it to be 'publicized'. Everyone should let our mosdos know that they want these lectures.
For those who missed the lecture.
1. I'm sure she will have more lectures. She posts it on facebook as well as sending info to the various CH sites.
2. There will be a link posted on facebook when the lecture is ready on video (shafferstudios does a great job putting these videos together in a very 'watchable' way).
(3/12/2011 9:20:10 PM)
to # 5
to all those who have been abused,get help! no one should have to go through something like this alone.get profesional help, dont regret not takeing help when u need it.
(3/12/2011 11:34:20 PM)
To # 5
There are many, many, many people who would care if you would tell them! you just have to know who to tell!

poeple who don't care may be unaware of what you are trying to say, or just plain...well.."untactful".

I know many people who were abused, and you'd probly be surprised to find out how many people that you know have been abused as well...R"L...It happens everywhere, and often. H"Y...

Once it happened, we can only pray that Hashem will heal us and turn to someone who can help. (a real live person!)
Hashem is he heals broken hearts and wounds, and gives us back our Neshama everyday for a reason. He believes we can heal, we can move on, we can start anew, and most importantly, once we're healed we can literally light up our surroundings and BE THAT PERSON that we were looking for for so long to listen to us.
As a person who's gone through a lot, i can tell you, that one gift that pain brings is that because we've gone through it, we can understad others who'v gone through it and are looking for empathy and support.. We can understand them and be that person who does care. And if we really do care, and listen, we can change a lives!
That's the way i see it. I hope this helps. Hatzlacha.
(7/13/2011 9:33:21 AM)
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