Should You Go To A Rabbi Before Secular Authorities When Reporting Abuse?

Once again, lay Jews are way ahead of the rabbis in fighting sexual abuse (a point I heard made by Rabbi Marc Shapiro).


These two arguments for going to rabbis before secular authorities don’t hold up.

The first one, which has been used by Agudah’s David Zwiebe, says that because of a minority of cases of wrongful accusations all cases must be vetted by a rabbi. However, what makes rabbis more qualified to vet minors for their truthfulness than police investigators? David Zwiebel himself admitted last year that there is no list of rabbis that are trained to perform such assessments. Furthermore, according to this logic, people should have to ask a rav for permission before taking someone to Beis Din for any grievance. There are cases of wrongful accusations and innocent parties being vindicated only after lengthy proceedings over other matters yet, we don’t hear from Agudah that we must do that.

The second argument – or rather, proposition – holds no water either. Rabbi Behrman “believes” that only a small minority of rabbis advise against reporting to the police. Evidence shows otherwise. I am not aware of any evidence to support Rabbi Behrman’s belief and he is welcome to share any evidence he has access to that backs up his claim.

In both of these arguments Rabbi Behrman shows his support for the Agudah policy that says all abuse cases must first go to a rabbi for vetting. Yet if his own feeling is that victims or their parents are not required under Jewish law to ask for rabbininc permission before going to the authorities, why doesn’t he come right out and advise that people skip the middleman and go directly to the authorities instead of arguing in favor of Agudah’s policy? And why doesn’t he say that victims and their families should be supported, not shunned or intimidated? That they will be supported throughout the trial, that communities should embrace them and not make it hard for them to find a shidduch?

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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