When sexual abuse victims' parents turn their backs

Triumphing over societal taboos: Fighting sexual abuse in the haredi sector.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Amudim staff with local police
Amudim staff with local police
“When everyone else, and even my parents, turned their backs on me, Amudim was there,” says Malky, 18, of Brooklyn who was victimized by her elder brother in her early childhood.

Meet Rabbi Zvi Gluck and the devoted staff of Amudim, an association that provides assistance and enduring support for Jews in crisis by fostering community-wide change, raising awareness of societal dangers, and implementing vital educational programs within the Orthodox community.

Based in Manhattan, the grassroots association and crisis center that has recently launched a brand-new division in Israel.

Amudim was formed to ensure that any Jew facing crisis is provided with the assistance and guidance he needs in a professional, knowledgeable and caring manner.

Hebrew for ‘pillars,’ Amudim prides itself on serving as a pillar of support to others, and empowering others to become pillars of support.

“We operate with the broad-based approval of [haredi] rabbis and community leaders who acknowledge that without a clear address for victims of addiction and abuse, we’re facing community-wide disaster. With Amudim, we’ve accomplished something unprecedented in our community. Today, there’s an address and place for every Jew in crisis,” explains Gluck.

Growing up in the home of his father, the illustrious Rabbi Edgar Gluck, young Zvi absorbed the paramount value of supporting those in crisis and guiding them to success. But perhaps the greatest lesson gained was the famous dictum in Ethics of the Fathers: “In a place where there is no leader, strive to be a leader.” By establishing Amudim, Gluck took initiative and chose to be a leader. Since then, his cell number has been on the speed dial of community leaders, rabbis and politicians. His phone rings 24/7 with reports and request for help regarding arrests, overdoses, suicide, and sexual abuse, to name just a few.

One recent case was that of Malky*, a seemingly carefree teen growing up in the heart of Boro Park right off of bustling 13th Avenue, the hub of Brooklyn’s haredi and hassidic society. Like many of her peers, she was born into a large family, attended a private Bais Yaakov (haredi girls’ school) and teacher’s seminary, walking the walk and talking the talk of a typical haredi adolescent.

Until, one day, everything exploded.

After suffering a seemingly minor emotional crisis, Malky began seeing a therapist. One day, Malky’s brother Zev* received an anxious call from the therapist who confided that Malky had been experiencing pedophilic urges. Thankfully, she had never acted on her impulses, admitted the therapist, yet the latter felt ill-equipped to deal with an issue of this magnitude and recommended that the family contact Amudim in order to identify a professional therapist who could handle the issue competently and simultaneously arrange case management for the entire family.

One call to Amudim was sufficient to get the ball rolling. Gluck and his team found Malky a qualified therapist, and since she has several younger siblings who were labeled at risk, a family was found to host her while she underwent treatment. Malky’s original therapist had reported her to Child Protective Services, yet there was no case to pursue since no crime had been committed.

Malky commenced therapy, and achieved a major breakthrough when she confessed to her new therapist that she herself had been sexually abused as a youngster and had recently suffered a major crash. Throughout the ordeal, Malky’s parents and siblings showered her with unqualified, exemplary support and strength, rays of sunshine and hope during a deeply painful period of her life. One factor complicating the story was that the girl stubbornly refused to reveal her molester’s identity. It was clear that the abuser was a very significant figure in her life, yet she seemed determined to shield him, or perhaps, as would soon be revealed, she intuitively knew that she was shielding herself.

One day, the ugly truth was exposed, and the true monsters in Malky’s life and society emerged from their dark caves.

Making great strides in therapy, Malky finally admitted that the abuser was none other than her eldest brother Menachem*, who is now married with several children of his own. Although the cat is out of the bag, she refuses to report her brother to the authorities, a request that must be accommodated since she is legally an adult.

This time, the family’s reaction was shocking and unexpected, although perhaps not to Malky who had buried the truth in her heart for so long. Rather than endeavor to deal with the painful issue on a family level, Malky’s parents and siblings rejected and alienated completely, terrified that exposing the truth would destroy Menachem’s life along with the family’s upstanding reputation in their close-knit community. Malky’s parents thus went from being her rock and support to utter strangers.

When asked to describe her experience with Amudim, Malky wipes tears from her eyes. “When everyone else turned their backs on me, Amudim was there. I thought I was on my own and that there was no one left to help me, but Amudim took over. They became my parents, my only family, my support system.”

Malky’s story stops here, but her saga is far from over. She is in the midst of undergoing therapy, which from now, will be funded by Amudim since her parents refuse to have anything to do with her. Sadly, while Malky’s case may seem extreme, it is not really. Time and again, making heartbreaking choices that are beyond human comprehension, parents sacrifice one child over the other, siding with the abuser instead of the victim.

“One of the messages we are trying to spread via Amudim is that the time has come for us to put victims and their emotional health first,” Gluck says. “We need to stop spending so much time worrying about how reports of abuse will affect the abuser’s family and instead spend more time thinking about how we can help the person whose life has been irrevocably and horribly altered.”

“Protecting sexual abuse victims, and not their abusers, must be our first priority so we can help Malky and so many others like her get the help they need and the support they deserve.”