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September 9th, 2013

Why Child Sex Abuse is Swept under the Rug in Church Communities like the Jewish Community

The Penn State sex abuse scandal and now the Jewish Orthodox sex abuse scandal engulfing Yeshiva University require us to take a step back and analyze the problem of child sex abuse within large institutions. Why does a child sex abuse allegation get swept under the rug? How is it possible that a school official does nothing after learning that a teacher or school employee has reportedly sexually assaulted a child?

Whether it’s the Jewish community, the Catholic Church or any other religious community, child sex abuse by a priest, rabbi, pastor, etc., may go unpunished and ignored because of the combination of two well-known psychological phenomenons: groupthink and self-preservation.

Self-preservation is a very strong instinct, especially for those within a community like a church or school. Negative media attention, law enforcement investigation, and subsequent lawsuits are strong enough to prevent a moral person from doing the right thing and reporting child sex abuse by a priest, rabbi or teacher. This explains why a school principal may do nothing after learning that a teacher sexually abused a student.

Groupthink occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an incorrect or deviant decision-making outcome.

In a small community like the Jewish Orthodox community, it is easy to see how the psychology of groupthink applies. A community which has historically been persecuted and is ultra conservative would be particularly susceptible to groupthink. This phenomenon explains why a Jewish Orthodox young woman who was brave enough to face her sexual abuser is booed out of a synagogue. It also explains how a private and well-known Jewish school might sweep child sex abuse under the rug.

Suggested: New York’s Yeshiva University Child Sex Abuse Scandal

Help if You Have Been the Victim of Child Sex Abuse

Firm founder, Guy D’Andrea, is a former sex crimes unit prosecutor who now represents victims of crime including victims of child sex abuse and molestation. Brian offers free consultations to all victims of child sex abuse. Click To Call