‘I think that if the leadership at the time would have genuinely turned around and said we failed you, we did the wrong thing and we’ve learned from it … I just think that would have been so much healthier, for everybody involved. And I think that people would have respected it. But they’ve failed us again now by thinking that it’s us and them. And that’s wrong. It’s a continual offence to the victims and it allows the perpetrators to still feel like they have some level of protection …
‘To see the fact that he hasn’t resigned – the principal – he’s still in a position of authority, he’s still on a payroll and all the rest, to me is painful. I think that there has to be at some point an admission, an apology, a resignation and that will really allow things to move on.’
As a Grade 3 student Hevel was sexually abused by his teacher, Mr Blum, in the classroom and at the ritual bathhouse.
‘I remember Blum on the morning it all came out, still being in the school. He was in a classroom … I came into the room, he locked the door with me inside and he asked me if I’ve heard anything about what’s going on.
‘Then the next day he was shipped off overseas.’
Blum was later convicted of child sex offences overseas and served a jail sentence, which Hevel said helped the victims here.
‘Once he was incarcerated there, then what happened here became a lot more focused and a lot more into the light and the statements which were made really carried weight, whereas before that they didn’t.’
Hevel said that when news of child sexual abuse within the Jewish community came out, it was very confronting, even for him as a victim. He felt that media exposure had gone too far and long-term damage was being done to the reputation of the faith. He pleaded with some of the more vocal survivors to ‘turn down the volume’.
Hevel himself has decided not to talk about the abuse he experienced to other members of his community.
‘I still am part of it … There’s too much on the line, I’ve got my own family to worry about as well … I’m very careful who I speak to and I don’t really want to speak to anybody about it and everybody else is careful about it as well.’
He said the impact on him is profound and ongoing.
‘When it comes to sexual abuse, it’s not just like you steal a car. The level of impact, it’s tantamount to murder and it could be worse because the person is still living with the pain and still has to deal with it. It is a very sensitive issue and I commend the government and the police for doing the work they’re doing. You want to create a better world and a better environment for the next generations.’
He said it’s not enough that the school apologise for Blum’s actions; leaders of the community should also be held to account for what happened. He sees this as an opportunity for the community to heal itself.
‘If there is genuine reform, I could imagine that it would actually be a very dignified process and one that will actually bring honour to the Jewish community and to God, which is what we are trying to represent.
‘It’s very exciting. Because it means that we’ll move onto better times, we’ll move onto a cleaner world.’