Abstract: To Split or to Integrate? Mandatory Reporting of Child Sexual Abuse within the Israeli Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Community (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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259P To Split or to Integrate? Mandatory Reporting of Child Sexual Abuse within the Israeli Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Community

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Ravit Alfandari, PhD, Social Worker, University of Haifa, Israel
Guy Enosh, PhD, Assoc. Prof., University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel
Chaim Rechnitzer, Ph.D., Adjunct, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel
Shay Tzafrir, PhD
Eli Buchbinder, PhD
Background and Purpose: With considerable emphasis in the literature on ascertaining whether mandatory reporting rules and guidelines are followed across distinctive professional groups, it is surprising how little gets investigated of reporting practices across socio-cultural groups. In the current study we question and analyze the applicability and aptness of the mandatory reporting laws to the social and cultural worlds where it is implemented. The focus here, is on a distinctive minority group in Israel that is suspected for failure to report child sexual abuse and yet, remains significantly under researched – the ultra-orthodox Jewish population. Although, there is a lively public debate in public media around "what should be done" with underreporting child sexual abuse among the ultra-orthodox Jewish community, a thorough review of the literature reveals limited empirical evidence to support such a "consensus". Thus, our aim in this study was to achieve in-depth understanding of community's members sense-making and responses, when faced with suspected child sexual-abuse that requires reporting.

Methods: The study was based on purposive sample of key communal leaders who were well-known figures for their involvement in the issue child sexual abuse. Overall, 30 leaders taking on educational, juridical, religious, social, or therapeutic functions in their community, participated in the study. Participants were 12 male rabbis; 6 male community activists; and 12 professionals: 7 females and 5 males. Professionals were social-workers or criminologists, who were qualified therapists in the field with ten or more years of experience and had leading roles in their organizations. Data was collected through semi-structured face-to-face interviews. It consisted of a few open questions on issues such as the nature and implications of CSA in the community and the ways is it handled, including reporting of the abuse. The process of data analysis followed Charmaz’s constructivist grounded theory approach.

Results: Participants' were clustered into one of two groups, according to their elementary worldviews and cardinal assumptions about human nature. We defined these groups as, inclusive vs. splitting approaches. With some exceptions, most professionals were classified to the splitting approach and most rabbis to the inclusive approach. We found that each approach had an ideological-moral position regarding human nature, with its own core underlaying logic, which effected participants' interpretations, views, and actions in relation to CSA. These theoretical conflicts elicited on the ground disputes about the ways CSA is, and should be, managed.

Conclusions and Implications: The key message from this study is that mandatory reporting legislation as public health policy to enhance reporting of suspected child maltreatment might not be "one solution fits all" situations, even in the same country. For the benefits of this policy to outweigh the harm, it should be negotiated and tolerated by the social and cultural worlds where it is implemented.