Standing in Two Worlds-Episode 57-Cleaning up Walderworld- Responding to New Rabbinic Guidelines for Preventing Molestation and Abuse
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The preventative prescriptions recently promoted by Rabbi Ron Eisenman (Passaic NJ) and Rabbi Moshe Meiselman (Jerusalem) in reaction to recent revelations of profound abuse and examined and analyzed. The list ranges from limitations on interactions with babysitters -- to referring clients to psychotherapists of the other sex – to giving parents open access to the children’s therapy sessions – to advising parents how to counsel children about abuse. These recommendations are evaluated and critiqued in detail by the panel. An overall problem with all of them is that they clearly have no scientific basis and are apparently cobbled together from the personal experiences of these Rabbis and anecdotal data which passes as evidence. Moreover, the panel took exception to various aspects, scenarios, and potential perpetrators of abuse which these prescriptions are apparently unaware of – including some which are more common than the narrow therapy and babysitting focus.
Rabbi Skaist and Prof. Juni point out that the lack of credentialing and proper training of clergy, so-called “therapists” and teachers – and the unwarranted granting of the professional mantle to Rabbis, teachers, coaches, and advisors of all sorts – is the major source of the outrageous abuse torrent of late. Expounding on the crucial need for supervision of those who wield interpersonal power, two distinct causes of malpractice are elaborated. One entails countertransference; simply defined, this is a very common unconscious interpersonal tendency among us all to imbue interactions with personal motifs and to distort relationships based on their own frustrated needs in their personal life (or history). Generally unknown to the potential perpetrator, these motifs are likely to be discovered in supervision which would then prompt the well-intentioned therapist to avoid his/her interference in the helping relationship. The other source of malpractice is the powerful individual who is consciously bent on inappropriate behavior, albeit with some (tenuous) rationale. In such cases, supervision is certain to expose the inappropriateness head on. Rabbi Skaist goes beyond the advantages of supervision, stressing that therapists, who are themselves therapy clients as well, are least likely to interact with their clients in any manner which is not designed to be helpful.
The blanket lack of recognition of the importance of confidentiality in therapeutic and counseling relationships in the proposed guidelines is critiqued by the panel in detail. Non-confidentiality is sure to render helping interactions effete and useless.
The discussants are very critical of the notion of setting up parents as “the” gatekeepers against abuse. Besides the lack of training of most parents and the prevalent lack of basic parenting skills across the board, many parents are described as actually enabling and abetting abuse – albeit often unknowingly. The lack of making professional advice and referral a key aspect of abuse prevention is seen as a glaring absence in the Rabbinic guidelines.
Rabbi Skaist argues that the degree of abuse which is assumed to exist in psychotherapy situations(in the above-noted proclamations) is incorrect and not at all data-based. Taking off from Dr. Juni’s summary of the recommendations as “throwing out the baby with the bathwater,” Rabbi Kivelevitz argues that the knee-jerk reaction to impose limitations on therapeutic and household interactions may well be fostered by the current covid-powered and negative-media-based zeitgeist of mistrust which has pervaded society as a whole.
Prof. Juni is one of the foremost research psychologists in the world today. He has published ground-breaking original research in seventy different peer reviewed journals and is cited continuously with respect by colleagues and experts in the field who have built on his theories and observations.
He studied in Yeshivas Chaim Berlin under Rav Yitzchack Hutner, and in Yeshiva University as a Talmid of Rav Joseph Dov Soloveitchick. Dr. Juni is a board member of the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists and has regularly presented addresses to captivated audiences. Associated with NYU since 1979, Juni has served as Director of MA and PhD programs, all the while heading teams engaged in cutting-edge research. Professor Juni's scholarship on aberrant behavior across the cultural, ethnic, and religious spectrum is founded on psychometric methodology and based on a psychodynamic psychopathology perspective. He is arguably the preeminent expert in Differential Diagnostics, with each of his myriad studies entailing parallel efforts in theory construction and empirical data collection from normative and clinical populations.
Professor Juni created and directed the NYU Graduate Program in Tel Aviv titled Cross-Cultural Group Dynamics in Stressful Environments. Based in Yerushalayim, he collaborates with Israeli academic and mental health specialists in the study of dissonant factors and tensions in the Arab-Israeli conflict and those within the Orthodox Jewish community, while exploring personality challenges of second-generation Holocaust survivors.
Below is a partial list of the journals to which Professor Juni has contributed over 120 article (many are available online): Journal of Forensic Psychology; Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment, and Trauma; International Review of Victimology; The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease; International Forum of Psychoanalysis; Journal of Personality Assessment; Journal of Abnormal Psychology; Journal of Psychoanalytic Anthropology; Psychophysiology; Psychology and Human Development; Journal of Sex Research; Journal of Psychology and Judaism; Contemporary Family Therapy; American Journal on Addictions; Journal of Criminal Psychology; Mental Health, Religion, and Culture.
As Rosh Beis Medrash, Rabbi Avraham Kivelevitz serves as Rav and Posek for the morning minyan at IDT. Hundreds of listeners around the globe look forward to his weekly Shiur in Tshuvos and Poskim.
Rav Kivelevitz is a Maggid Shiur for Dirshu International in Talmud and Halacha as well as a Dayan with the Beth Din of America.
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