OpEd: Closure for victims of deceased abusers

By Shana Aaronson, COO, JCW – Israel
JCW has a longstanding policy not to expose predators who are already dead, and to remove individuals from the wall once they have passed away. The reasoning for this is quite simply that an offender poses no risk to children in the community after he is dead, and the WOS is first and foremost a resource to protect the children of our community from those that pose a potential danger to them.
But many situations can cause us to take pause and rethink this policy, taking into account how much victims deserve validation even after their abuser has passed away, and perhaps even more so then.
A few weeks ago, a survivor reached out to us about the abuse she experienced at the hands of a rabbi in Israel who had died a few years ago. He was a well-known individual, a “cool” and “with it” rabbi, and extremely popular among young teens. The victim was just seeking a referral for therapy. She shared the name of her abuser, simply as an afterthought. The case manager responded with understanding and sympathy. More significantly, she responded with no surprise whatsoever and recognition in her voice, because this was far from our first time hearing this man’s name.
And the victim was stunned. She had carried this secret alone for years while she read the articles written about her abuser, all by young people describing how he changed their lives. And each time she was left with that deep, scarring belief that she was the only one to have been hurt by him. That it was her fault, as he had told her, for “seducing him”.
If you a survivor whose abuser died, you deserve validation. You deserve to know that you are not alone, and more importantly that it was not your fault. It may be hard to expose a dead person for many reasons, but that doesn’t mean you should not find your closure and validation in other ways. Reach out, tell your story in whatever forum is right for you. Find the support that is right for you. Know that no matter what your abuser told you and how many people try to glorify your abuser in his/her death, the abuse was never your fault. A predator is a predator, and death does not change that.
Posted in media, news-articles, op-eds, survivors-letters.