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Handing Child Molesters to Police

This is a sensitive question however it obviously has to be addressed. What is l’maseh now a days about reporting a frum person accused of molesting children to the police. Is there a reason in Halacha to *NOT* report him? Is there a reason in halacha to davka yes report him. This is an issue continually swept under the rug however needs to be discussed properly in as to what relevance there is in halacha and how this issue should be dealt according to halacha. I look forward to an insightful response. Thank you.

Answer:

Unfortunately, I cannot give a complete analysis of this complex question in this forum.

The reason to report such matters to the relevant authorities is of course to save children from the grave dangers of child molestation. There is a full obligation of “lo ta’amod al dam re’acha” in reporting cases to the authorities, where the only available option is to do so.

The reason not to report such matters is out of concern for the truth of the reports, where there is only suspicion and no concrete evidence, and out of concern that perhaps there are other, more effective and less damaging means (as we know, authorities can take very drastic measures) of doing so. Some also mention the concern of mesira (moser), though this involves a debate unto itself.

Depending of course on circumstances, both Shut Mishnah Halachos (16:18) and Shut Tzitz Eliezer (19:52) prefer the “community approach” to that of informing the authorities, and both agree that where the community approach is not applicable, the authorities should be informed.

Again, the practical approach depends very much on the circumstances. For a known problem, experiece demonstrates that the “community approach” is often innefective, and the child molester is able to get a transfer to some other place, where he remains a danger to children.

In general, the police or relevant authorities must be contacted.

Concerning issues of lashon hara in informing the authorities, please see here, where we outlined the issues involved, without getting into the specifics.

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9 Comments

  1. A sincere follow up question. If there was someone suspected of murdering someone else would the “community approach” even be considered?

    1. It’s just the same story again.
      What does “suspected” mean? If there are solid grounds for thinking he’s a murderer, and that lives are in danger, then of course the police must be contacted. The Torah doesn’t want people killed, chidren molested, or lives ruined.
      If it is mere suspicion, the police won’t do anything anyway, other than messing up his life, so what’s the point?

  2. Although the Mishneh Halachos wrote this (the “community approach”) many came out against this strongly as there is seemingly a very weak basis in halacha. B’frat that such an approach is usually protecting the accused rather than the victim. While such allegations are strong we must always keep in mind that going around the laws sent up in the medina is ultimately protecting the accuser and leaving the victim with no one to turn to. Perhaps one must have faith that the medina (let’s say in the US) would treat them appropriately and move them through the legal process in the right away (that way if the accusations are false something would be done to stop things from going further.) The community approach never works because no one in the community is equipped with the understanding and tools to deal with the situation. I understand the community approach to mean keeping the issue out of the media and public eye.

    One must think what would someone like the Chasam Sofer would have done in his time?

    We have Baruch HaShem in our generation Rabbonim that think straight in this. When they asked the present Belzer Rebbe Shlit”a how to handle a case his response was “9-1-1.”

    1. For somebody just “accused” of molestation. Again, you must be careful with your question. I know cases of a schoolteacher who lost his job, had his life ruined, only to be found totally innocent. Perhaps you meant a slightly different question, i.e. how to treat a *known* molester, and not only somebody *accused* of molestation. If he is a *known* molester, my opinion (and that of my rabbanim) is that the authorities should certainly be contacted, because this is the only way to protect children.

    2. “The community approach” means seding a bunch of Gerer Chasidim to his house, beating him to pulp, and telling him that if he touches anybody it will be the last day of his life.
      However, as noted in the answer, the authorities are usually the more effective method, and for a concrete problem they should be consulted.

  3. I dont understand this – kmaat all rabonnim hold that that molestation is major evil and they call it redifah. if there is even raglayim ldavar then there is no issue of mesira at all. rav elyashiv’s teshuva is in yeshrun vol. 15, page 641 – here is a link:- http://www.hebrewbooks.org/49101 – page 640 – 643

    its really 2 parts to teshuva – q from r feivel cohen (badei hashulchan), a from r elyashiv, q from r feivel – requesting clarity and another a from r elyashiv. there are more teshuvos from big rabbonim on the pages that follow – for about 38 pages.
    none advocate a “community approach”.

    1. The question addresses somebody who is “accused” of molesting. I didn’t see the teshuvos you sent yet, but can we immediately report to the police somebody who is only “accused” of doing something, without having solid evidence? This is a little hard to believe, but I will check the teshuvos of course.
      If claims are validated, of course molestation is redifah, and I mentioned that not taking effective action will constitute “lo ta’amod al dam re’acha.” I also noted that in general, the police or relevant authorities will be the only practical course.
      In any case, I will have a look at the teshuvos, and thanks for postim them.

  4. R’ Pfeffer your line of the Gerer Chassidim had my cracking up, thank you!!

    And you are absolutely correct I should have re-phased the question to mean “known” molester. But what’s the difference then between known and suspected. If a group of children (or even 2 or 1) come along and say “so and so” molested me/us is such a person considered “known”, “suspected”, etc. That’s the type of case I’m speaking about. A person that is “known” is already a level much further along in process and usually you want to stop the problem before he becomes so “known” (i.e. many victims)

  5. Yoeli –
    Thanks for posting this article in Yeshuran!

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