After Moshe was sexually abused while attending private sporting activities, his mother and other concerned parents approached his school principal.
Moshe recalls that she was told inquiries had been made and that ‘the perpetrator had been chemically castrated’, and that the matter was being dealt with ‘and we were not to go to the police’.
The perpetrator was later convicted of child sex offences, but the impact on Moshe was immediate. He had digestive problems, did not eat well and felt shame and embarrassment.
As an adult Moshe disclosed the abuse to his wife, Aviva, early in their marriage, but she was not aware of the detail until years later. Aviva accompanied him to his private session and she said, ‘He was totally convinced that I was going to get up and leave and that was it for our home life’.
Aviva has been ‘a big part’ of his resilience. ‘I used to drink a lot more’, Moshe said. He now takes frequent medication. For more than 15 years he has seen a psychiatrist, to whom he disclosed ‘the broad details’, and he has seen a psychologist. These visits have been prohibitively expensive and will continue to be, probably for the rest of his life.
While Moshe doesn’t believe his abuse was as severe as others he’s heard about, the ‘gross dereliction of duty’ of the principal and the school, and ‘the cult of the religion’ has compounded his trauma. This continues as he sees the response of Jewish institutions to cases of child sexual abuse.
‘Had it been dealt with at the time, I wouldn’t have gone through – in those formative years with a sense of guilt and shame, and now having to go through that again and wondering why things haven’t quite turned out, you know, the way I would have liked them to.’
Any institution, he said, ‘really needs to deal with these things properly and, most importantly, not by themselves’.
Any recent resignations from Jewish institutions, he said, are only ‘nominal’ due to the background influence the leaders retain from inter-related family connections.
‘These people can’t be trusted … They see this as something that will just wash over and they’ll get on with the business of doing whatever they do.’
Moshe believed that legislative options, even court action, should ‘forcibly’ remove those currently in positions of management and authority at a corporate level. He wants ‘independent managers and trustees appointed’ – just like when an organisation goes bankrupt and another entity is brought in to take over.
‘I’m strongly of the view that there should be personal liability imposed on staff members, committees and management. I think that lifting the corporate veil here is something that’s not just appropriate but mandatory, because I think a lot of people treat this as their own little business to deal with as they see fit ... where the structure is being used, in a way, to perpetuate a criminal act or to continue the cover up of it, that there should be no protection afforded by a legitimate corporate mechanism because they’re not engaging in a risky commercial enterprise – but in something far more perverse.’
With accountability the issue, Moshe thought that in cases where a complete failure of duty of care had been established, individuals in charge should be personally liable for damages, in addition to the institution.
Aviva said the culture of ‘we know best for ourselves’ is very strong in the community where the abuse occurred and many people cannot ‘make that emotional step to actually see that these people [in authority] have failed in a very big way’, despite any other ‘good works’ they may do.
She said that only the Royal Commission had the power to reveal that child sexual abuse had been covered up. Recently, when victims’ advocates had gone public, there had been no support from the community, and people were forced to sneak around to contact the police.
Moshe currently experiences chronic anxiety, acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as fear and paranoia.
‘It was something to be dealt with, to be pushed aside, and bugger the consequences’, Aviva said. ‘These are the consequences. There are people at the end of these consequences, there are lives. There are rippling effects that they [sections of the Jewish community] don’t get, and they don’t get that that is traumatic. That’s the trauma ... they actually don’t see that.’
Moshe added, ‘The institution survives and it does do good things as well, but there needs to be some apportionment and appropriation of liability or culpability or fault with the rights part of it …
‘The fact they weren’t aware of their own requirement to mandatorily report is astounding.’
Moshe’s parting message to the Commission was to ‘keep going’ with its important work.
A significant public policy issue was at stake, he said, while adding, ‘Some heads on spikes would be good at some point’.