Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Rabbi Manis Friedman on Being Molested (Get Over It And Move On)

This is part of the reason why molestation is a big problem in our community. 

No, the man in the video is not a molester.  To my knowledge, he has never actively  tried to shield molesters either.  But his attitude towards molestation is simply horrific.

In the video, he sits and jokes -- JOKES -- about molestation. He apparently believes that being molested is no big deal.  At one point he compares it to having a case of diarrhea.  At another point, he claims that it's worse to miss saying Al HaMichya (the blessing said after eating grain-based products) than to be molested.

It would be bad enough if the person were just an ordinary person.  However, this isn't just anybody.  The man in the video is Rabbi Manis Friedman, a prominent figure in the Chabad-Lubavitch community.  This is a man who is a leader in one of our communities. 

Personally, I find it repugnant that anyone can take the issue of molestation so cavalierly that he can smile and make wise-cracks about it.  I find it doubly so when they do so in public.  I also find it repugnant how he seems to feel that molestation victims have no right to be upset about what was done to them, or that it's no worse than having a teacher who unfairly picks on you.

Personally, I find it amazing that Rabbi Friedman takes this position.  About six years ago, Rabbi Friedman wrote an article making the implication that children conceived through IVF or other similar methods are spiritually and emotionally deficient.  He took the position that if a child is conceived in other-than-ideal circumstances (i.e. parents who are angry with each other or drunk at the time of intercourse, or worse, when there is no sexual intercourse at all), then the child born under such circumstances can be negatively impacted.  He stated that such children can feel unloved or unwanted.  He even speculated that much of the unexplained dysfunction that we see with children has its roots in the circumstances of their conception. 

I find it mind-boggling that Rabbi Friedman believes that the circumstances of one's conception, which the person cannot possibly know, feel or remember in any way, should negatively impact a him or her, but molestation, which the victim certainly knows, feels and remembers, should simply be brushed off as a lesson learned about whom to not trust. 

How anyone can be so clueless about molestation is beyond me.  The fact that he believes that molestation victims should just forget it and move on shows him to be incredibly ignorant on the subject.  The fact that he smirks and jokes about it shows him to be uncaring and unfeeling.  The fact that the leaders of our community can be so clueless and callous about it as to sit and crack jokes about molestation and its victims, goes a long way to explaining why molestation is still a problem in our community.

The Wolf

UPDATE:  (2/1/13 10:45 EST)  Rabbi Friedman has apologized for his remarks.  The full text of his apology follows.

I want to apologize for my completely inappropriate use of language when discussing sexual abuse. I have always believed in the importance of empowering victims of all kinds to move forward in building their lives. In my zeal to reinforce that belief, I came across as being dismissive of one of the worst crimes imaginable.For that I am deeply sorry. 
Molestation is a devastating crime, violating the intimacy and innocence of the pure and defenseless. The victim is left feeling that there is something wrong with the world in which they live. Perpetrators of molestation should be reported to the police and prosecuted appropriately. Any person, organization or entity that stands by silently is abetting in the crime.
From now on, I will make sure to make those points absolutely clear. This is about more than regret. The subject can't be neglected.
I hope over time to earn the forgiveness of those who were hurt by my words.


tesyaa said...

Doesn't the gemara or another classical source suggest that the moment of conception can affect a person spiritually? Or other factors out of a person's control (such as if the mother was a niddah)?

ksil said...

i dont believe the torah speaks about molestation. so, l'maysah....its not assur. (i think a prominent posek once said that if there was no penetration during the molestation, then its fine)

are you mad at him? or at the religion?

G*3 said...

Not only is he dismissing any emotional damage the victim might have, it seems that he’s blaming the victim! He seems to feel that the only valid form of “damage” is spiritual damage, so that all the victim has to do is make up for the aveira of unsanctioned sexual contact. He says it’s not such a big averia, and if you feel it is, so do two mitzvos to make up for it.

He really doesn’t seem to understand the issue at all. Is it even possible he’s considered how he would feel if a person in a position of power over him stuck a hand down his pants?

Anonymous said...

So if you clam that that the jewish way than i gesss the jewish way is roung! ! It that simple

Anonymous said...

So if you claim what you're saying is the Jewish way then you can shove it where it came from !! But its not you got it all upside down

zach said...

What's doubly repugnant is that he is speaking in front of what sounds to be a number of young people, who are giggling and laughing along with him. He is simply poisoning their minds. (Is he a rodef? Guilty of lifnei iver?)

The mind boggles.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if he knows someone, someone he is personally close to, who has been abused. A former girlfriend (who is still a good friend) was sexually abused when she was a child, and I could see the pain and damage in her that resulted from the abuse, even 20 years later. Would the rabbi want his daughter or granddaughter thinking that she does not have the right to say "no" to anything a man tells her? That all men have sinister motivations? To feel so disgusted and helpless about what has happened in her life that suicide seems a better option? Because these are things that happen to survivors of abuse.

SubWife said...

The problem of watching only a bit of the whole shiur is that we are missing the context. What was the shiur about? Why and how did the question of abuse come up? Knowing and hearing the whole thing might show some of the answers in a slightly different light. For example, missing Al Hamichya being worse than abuse - is he talking in terms of aveira for the victim?

That being said, I do find the tone of this conversation off. It reminds me of another famous lecturer who poo pooed depression as something one just needs to get over. Yes, there are people who go through terrible things and remain pretty much intact and there are those who fall apart under much less stressful circumstances. It doesn't mean that the feelings of the latter should be dismissed as nonsense. Pretty insensitive.

Fille said...

"The problem of watching only a bit of the whole shiur is that we are missing the context."

The bit that comes before it is even worse.

It seems to takle sexual abuse from the point of view that the victim did an aveira (he argues it is not an aveira), and dismisses completely the damage that is done by the abuse. He said he told a Russian woman who was abused at 9 years of age "What, do you think your mother, your grandmother made it through adolescence without being abused? They go on with their lives, they don't refuse to marry!"

the bit before, only audio, can be found here:


Anonymous said...

More on Rabbi Manis's talk: http://collive.com/show_news.rtx?id=23795&alias=whats-rabbi-manis-thinking

Pesky Settler said...

To the anonymous poster above me, not everyone is drinking the "Rabbi Manis is great" Kool-Aid... http://gottagivemhope.blogspot.co.il/2013/01/brief-statement-by-former-student-of.html
And to the first commentor, Tesyaa, you ARE aware that actual conception takes place hours after intercourse, right? That it's just as likely to happen while I'm having my morning pee or taking out the garbage or pooper-scooping my dog's business...

tesyaa said...

Pesky Settler, I'm just stating what chazal said (not what I actually believe).

SubWife said...

Wow, i'm speechless. While the message that one shouldn't allow molestation to run their life might not be all that wrong, the attitude with which it is delivered is mind boggling.

mlevin said...

Let's look from his point of view. How else could he see it if he was raised with the following: separation from females from birth, having been taught via morning brochos and talmudic discussions that women are are inferior to men, that a proper punishment for a rapist is to marry his victim, hearing that among goyim casual sex is a norm without any emotional repercussions...

At the same time in that community girls are forced to get married at a very young age to total strangers. (Yes, I am aware that they date, but 6 dates before marriage, especially the ones with a very strict code of what is and what is not allowed to be discussed on those dates do not qualify as enough). Many girls do feel violated on their wedding night, hence a very common occurrence of a bride crying on the morning after.

Yoel B said...

I wonder if he knows someone, someone he is personally close to, who has been abused.

Maybe, but he almost certainly knows someone who is an abuser:

The relevant passage from the link:

... a few pedophiles from [the haredi and hasidic communities] have been reported to police and prosecuted.

One of those pedophiles is Rabbi Yaakov Weiss who is the son-in-law of Friedman's close friend Sholom Rubashkin and the brother of another friend of Friedman and some of Friedman's children, Rabbi Moshe Weiss. And Moshe Weiss is married to a daughter of Chabad of Minnesota's chief financial backer.

Anonymous said...

True Judaism is "love your neighbor as yourself" or "what is hateful to you do not do to another". So unless you fancy being pinned down by someone twice or three times your size to be molested over many months or even years, should at best hold their tongue.

Furthermore: we have the saying: "do not judge another until you have stood in his shoes". Thus, it is not for anyone to tell an abuse survivor how to respond to the abuse. Abuse happens in different contexts, with different levels of severity and frequency. Thus, one person who suffered a "minor" incident and who was emotionally supported in the aftermath may indeed recover to the extent that it is no longer an issue. However, many, many abuse victims were severely abused over long periods of time, with no support from anyone. After years of being told or treated as less than nothing, they are finally entitled to their own feelings. They and only they may determine what those feelings are. It is not appropriate for anyone else to say or intimate that they should "just get over it". And if an abuse victim did "just get over it", it is not for that person to hold up their "victory" in the face of other victims to imply some kind of deficiency in them.

Joseph said...

Unbelievable of Rabbi Friedman to take such a position. I see he has apologized. Somone probably 'hit him where it hurts' (ie his wallet). The fact that he is entrusted to mentor many young women and is an 'authority' on tznius is simply mind-boggling!