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Statement: ‘We are obliged to protect our children’

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Further to his statement on The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia, the Chief Rabbi makes clear that such crimes must also be challenged in the UK. He reiterates the long-standing position of his Office on this issue, reminding readers of their obligation to protect our community’s children, and assuring victims that their voices will be heard. 

“In light of the disturbing revelations in The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia, I would like to reiterate the longstanding position of my Office together with the London Beth Din regarding Child Sexual Abuse in the UK, as was publicised by the Office of the Chief Rabbi in 2013:

We have an obligation to safeguard the children of our community and we have to accept that, even within our own communities, there are those who steal the innocence of our children through criminal activity.

We are acutely aware that sexual abuse can, (apart from being inherently abhorrent), destroy lives and cause a breakdown in relationships. At its worst it can be the cause of suicide, death from drug overdose and mental illness.

‘We have an obligation to safeguard the children of our community’

It is therefore essential that when abuse has occurred, the police must be informed without delay. Local communities should not attempt to deal with the situation internally. Delays in reporting abuse can cause vital evidence to be lost, allowing the abusers to continue violating our children. We must all ensure that the children of our communities will be protected by reporting abuse to the authorities wherever it takes place.

As you have previously been informed, the United Synagogue’s Child Protection Officer is David Frei. Should you encounter or be informed about any situations which raise concerns, please refer to him in the first instance for advice.”

The Royal Commission in Australia, together with the forthcoming Westminster inquiry to be led by Judge Lowell Goddard, provide us with crucial reminders of our constant responsibility to the victims of child abuse, together with an important opportunity to redouble our efforts to spread awareness and education about this terrible evil.

As events have shown over the past few years, there will be few institutions in the UK that have not at least partially historically failed in their acknowledgement and handling of child abuse. Any victim of child abuse must understand that, these days, they will be listened to and every one of us has a duty to do what we can to eradicate all forms of abuse from our society.

The police and the Criminal Justice System now acknowledge that their treatment of victims in the past has not been sufficient. However, across society, there has been a change in understanding and attitudes and therefore victims of abuse should not fear coming forward and should be encouraged to do so.”