Subscribe to our Newsletter


click to dowload our latest edition

Letters/Discussion Forums

It’s a sin to remain silent – report abuse

Published

on

I recently came across a poster on an Orthodox Jewish website that said something like, “Don’t do anything that you don’t want others to find out about.” Its message is simple: be respectful. Behave morally. Don’t hurt. Be kind.

I mention this in response to Rebbetzin Wendy Hendler’s recent article in the SA Jewish Report titled ‘Men also face gender-based violence’, specifically in relation to her reference to the barriers that we Jews put up in our community regarding lashon hara or mesirah (one Jew handing over another Jew to secular authorities).

If these laws are preventing our Jewish community from calling out abusers, it indicates that most people don’t fully understand them, and have taken laws regarding speech too far and in the wrong direction.

They were meant to create atmospheres of shalom, and guide us regarding speech, what is acceptable to talk about and what’s not. It’s better to discuss the words of the Torah than talk disparagingly about the Rebbetzin’s new sheitel. Use speech to elevate the world.

The laws of speech were never meant to protect abusers, nor to pressurise victims into remaining silent. To think that we cannot speak out against an abuser is distorted. Abusers have shattered and poisoned any atmosphere of shalom that speech laws were meant to facilitate.

Getting back to the website message, I want to say firstly: it’s true. If your actions embarrass you it’s often an indication you did something wrong. The remedy for that is to not do wrong things.

Secondly, seeing this message on an Orthodox Jewish website was a breath of fresh air, because we Orthodox Jews are so used to emphasising the laws of lashon hara that some people may be too scared to talk about anyone or anything at all, even abuse. This idea is out of control. We have extended the umbrella of lashon hara too far, and included things it wasn’t meant to include.

To the contrary, there are certain harmful aspects of individual behaviour that we must expose. It is a sin to remain silent. It is pikuach nefesh – the mitzvah of ‘saving a life’ – which Rebbetzin Hendler also echoes when she says, “For victims, child sexual abuse is akin to being a living murder victim.”

The bottom line is: report abuse. And teach your children to report abuse too.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.