Since everyone's been chiming in on the latest scandal in the frum community regarding the sexual abuse allegations, I figure I have to say something too, even if only to keep up (and also to clarify being quoted out of context). I have just a few thoughts on the subject, and nothing very innovative.
Firstly, despite my well known feelings of antagonism towards the frum world, I don't for a second think that this problem is something which any normal and decent frum person is not incredibly disturbed by. Any implication that decent frum people, regardless of their affiliation, don't consider such behavior troubling is such a gross distortion of the reality that it's not worth dwelling on. I'd also like to clearly state that I don't recall ever being sexually abused in any manner at any point in my life.
However, despite that acknowledgement, I think that this issue brings to light one more manifestation of the denial and coverup that is so rampant in the frum world. The fact is that there are sexual perverts in the frum community. Whether or not they are more or less common than in general society is uncertain, but I don't see why it really matters for the purpose of this discussion. They exist. But like every other aspect of reality that clashes with their perfect Torah World fantasy, the frum world is (or rather, has been up until recently) in denial about their existence and their effects.
Like spousal abuse. And alcoholism. And drug use. And disaffected youth. Until these problems hit so hard that they can no longer be denied, the frum community continues to react to such disturbing facts by either burying its collective head in the sand, downplaying the severity of the matter, or focusing its efforts on keeping the matter hushed up.
In my opinion, this recent scandal is not and should not be only about the actual abuse that was perpetrated against innocent people. That is a horrific tragedy which can not be minimized and should not be ignored, but there is another problem here, one which is far more prevalent than the aberrant perverts in the frum world.
I don't have any evidence to go on to conclude that abuse of any kind is common in the frum world. I would tend to think that it's quite rare, but I admit that that's probably just a result of my ignorance on the issue. However, aside from my possibly mistaken view about actual abuse, I am very confident that the coverup of such incidents is rife throughout the community. People don't want to hear about it. They deny it. They think it can't be true. They're ashamed about it. And they come up with every excuse in the book not to face the issue. They think it's a Chillul Hashem. They think it's all lies. They think it's lashon hara. They think it's inappropriate to speak of sexual matters. They think it'll ruin the shidduch prospects of their family. Of course, if no one is seriously acknowledging a problem, nothing real is ever going to be done about it. So the problem doesn't go away, and the criminals capitalize on that fact, continuing their atrocities unabated.
The characters in this recent incident have had allegations about them going back decades! I have no doubt that hundreds of students were affected by this person. Certainly, many were shamed into silence, but there were also some who spoke to people about the matter. Either rabbis, family members, therapists, whomever. And yet these people were never removed from their positions of power. How is it possible that so many people's complaints and accusations went unheard? We know how. It's because the frum world would rather bury its head in the sand than acknowledge that their precious Torah communities, their respected Torah rabbis, their prestigious Torah institutions, have such a serious blemish in their midst. Doesn't the Torah say, "U'biarta HaRA Mi'Kirbecha?" Expunge the evil in your midst! Don't cover it up!!!
Gil writes about how he knows of many schools and institutions which are making serious efforts to combat this problem, and I acknowledge that such efforts should be encouraged. But as far as I can tell these efforts are not widely publicized. They are deliberately kept under the radar. And until this attitude of keeping things hush-hush is changed, the problems will not be able to be addressed properly.
As long as the community continues to delude itself into believing that its society is such a wonderful and idyllic place which couldn't ever harbor such despicable monsters, these terrible atrocities will continue to occur, and of course, when inevitably the tragedy they were unwittingly complicit in is brought to light, they will shake their heads in shock and sorrow, asking how such a thing could ever have happened in their holy community.