Cited from the Five Towns Herald.
If a child says, “My brother wouldn’t let me sleep last night,” “The rabbi wears funny underwear” or “I know somebody who’s being touched in a bad way,” he or she is describing an incident of sexual abuse.
Prompted by a June 20 incident at the Chabad of the Five Towns in Cedarhurst, in which Yan Kossa, 39, of Far Rockaway, allegedly lured a 7-year-old girl out of the Maple Avenue center and into his car, the Chabad invited Beth Israel social worker Cheryl Friedman to speak on Monday about “keeping kids safe in an unsafe world.”
Kossa had told the girl he was a friend of her father’s, police said, but he was not. Chabad officials called the police, and Kossa was arrested and charged with unlawful imprisonment and endangering the welfare of a child.
“We need a reminder from the professionals to keep our children safe — any child in today’s society,” Chabad Executive Director Rabbi Zalman Wolowik told the audience. “Call the authorities, not the rabbi. He is not equipped to handle that. It is every parent’s responsibility to watch their own children.”
Friedman said that one out of every five girls and one out of every seven boys in this country are abused before they turn 18, and 90 percent of the abuse is done by someone they know, based on statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate of sibling incest is five times higher than parent-child incest, she added, and 70 percent of abused people who do not receive therapy become abusers. Those numbers are based on research conducted by sociologist David Finkelhor.
“Of all the sexual abuse cases that are reported, only 1 to 3 percent is a false report, and most of those involve divorce cases,” Friedman said, citing New York City Police Department figures.
One huge problem, especially in the Jewish community, she said, is that perpetrators often benefit from more protection than victims. She described an incident in which a family reported abuse and they, not the accused, ended up being ostracized. “Just because it’s someone we know doesn’t mean [children] are safe,” Friedman said, adding that a “creep factor” meter should be turned on. “If someone makes [a child] feel uncomfortable, stay away from them. We have to believe what children tell us. Children cannot make up what they don’t know.”
Parents should beware of someone who pays more attention than usual to a child, giving him or her more candy than other kids, offering gifts and spending time alone with him or her, Friedman said. If a child begins wetting the bed, is not eating regularly, avoids a particular person and has problems sleeping and/or declining performance in school, these are warning signs that abuse is most likely occurring, she said.
“When a child discloses [abuse], believe what they tell you, listen and support them. Tell them, ‘It isn’t your fault,’” she said. “It is not our job to decide that a crime was committed — that is the job of the police.”
To help keep their children safe, Nassau County Police Detective Vincent Garcia said, parents should teach them what to do if approached by someone they don’t know.
“They need to understand the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ strangers,” Garcia said. The good strangers include police, security guards and teachers. “If they are approached by a bad stranger who tries to lure or physically pull them away, the thing they can do is get the attention of other adults — running to the nearest home or making enough noise to be heard by someone.”
Woodsburgh resident and Chabad member Brandon Margolis said that sexual abuse is a complicated issue, but boiled it down to two simple thoughts. “You take the practical steps to keep the children safe and you watch your own kids,” he said. “You can’t depend on other people.”