Klafter, Impact of Sexual Abuse
3There is one thing which is abundantly clear: Even if it could be clearly demonstrated that theincidence of sexual abuse among Orthodox Jews is significantly lower than the incidence in thegeneral population (and, again, this has never been demonstrated), Orthodox Jews are notimmune to sexual abuse. The recognition by Orthodox religious leaders of the existence sexualabuse in the Orthodox Jewish communities has led to creation in several communities of special
(religious courts) which are charged with adjudicating cases of sexual abuse. Theircharge is to hear allegations of sexual abuse, and to censure perpetrators and prevent them fromvictimizing additional children in the future.There are, at present, several highly publicized scandals in Israel and North America involvingOrthodox Jewish educational institutions which failed to report educators who were alleged tohave perpetrated sexual abuse against students, thus enabling them to continue to work withchildren for many additional years, or in some cases decades. Because modesty in sexualmatters is such a prominent religious value in Judaism, it is difficult for many to imagine thatsuch a scenario is possible. In reality, however, mishandling of sexual abuse allegations hasbeen the rule rather than the exception in every society and socio-economic demographic. It isnaive to think that Jewish schools, without training and special procedures, would be any moresophisticated at handling sexual abuse allegations than the rest of the world.
Physical trauma caused by sexual abuse
There may be immediate physical consequences of sexual abuse, which cause suffering for thesurvivor and require medical attention. When sexual abuse involves vaginal or anal penetration,there can be physical trauma for girls or boy which causes significant physical discomfort andpain, and which puts children at risk for bleeding or infection. Problems or pain with urinationor defecation are common consequences of this physical trauma. Children who have beensexually assaulted are also at increased risk for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIVinfection. Medical evaluation is therefore indicated in such cases as the child may requiremedical or surgical treatments, and prompt medical treatment may prevent the child fromcontracting a sexually transmitted disease. Sedation or anesthesia for young children issometimes advisable during these examinations. Such evaluations are also an occasion for thecollection of evidence for eventual criminal prosecution of the perpetrator. In recent years, manyemergency departments have developed specialized evaluation teams so that the evaluation andtreatment of abused children can be integrated with assessments by forensic mental healthprofessionals. The advent of such resources enables children to receive appropriate evaluationand care without being traumatized further, and enables law enforcement officials to obtainphysical evidence and testimony which will be admissible in court. This was not always thecase, as survivors of sexual abuse prior to the 1990's can attest.
Short Term Psychological Consequences
Children who have been sexually abused often show immediate symptoms of the psychologicalimpact of this trauma. Recognition by parents, teachers or other responsible adults of an abruptchange in a child's behavior can lead to a discovery of molestation or sexual assault. Somechildren immediately show signs of psychiatric disorders: depressed mood, anxiety, obsessions,panic attacks, fear of certain locations or people, social withdrawal, severe nightmares,