That’s what we always tell ourselves. Whether it is with illness, war, fire, or sexual abuse.
I grew up in suburbia; my hometown Fair Lawn has a little over 30,000 people. There is maybe one murder a decade, a couple of robberies and one rape per year. Nearly all of my friends’ parents are married, and have been married for decades. To summarize, I didn’t grow up around crime and thankfully was left innocent to many of the atrocities that are perpetrated by men in power positions.
This isn’t to say that I wasn’t aware of what could happen. My mom made sure I didn’t accept rides from strangers. And I certainly saw the news reports about the Clergy. There was even the one case of Baruch Lanner, who abused children for many years, but he was the exception to the rule.
Then, a few years ago, a story broke about Adam Melzer, who was the basketball coach at my elementary school and was accused of convincing teenage boys to take naked pictures of themselves and their female family members. The story hit close to home, but the administration took immediate action to rectify the situation. Yes, it was scary to think that this could happen, but at least the leaders understood that they needed to take these charges seriously.
Yesterday though, the Forward reported an even more damning scenario; one that I never imagined would happen. After reports of sexual abuse in the 1970s and 80s at YUHSB (my former high school), teachers were quietly dismissed without any formal investigation or police notification. As I said earlier, we can’t stop every abuser from gaining access to children. But what we can do is take these charges seriously and protect the children instead of protecting the institution.
I always feared that it could happen, but I had confidence that those in charge would take action, act seriously, and rectify the situation as best as possible.
I was wrong, and that makes me realize that there is no community immune from horror.
Sadly, it can happen anywhere.