(JTA) — While Jews are no more likely to be sexually abused than other Americans, individuals who have left the Orthodox community are more than four times as likely to have been molested as children than the general population, a new study has found.
The study, by two Orthodox Jewish researchers, surveyed more than 300 participants over a three-year period. Its authors — Dr. David Rosmarin of Harvard and Dr. David Pelcovitz of Yeshiva University — said their report was an attempt to address a lack of research on the prevalence of sexual abuse in the Jewish community.
While the rate of abuse was higher among formerly Orthodox individuals, Rosmarin and Pelcovitz also found that abuse was “associated with significantly lower levels of intrinsic religiosity and lower levels of religious observance” among victims who chose to remain part of the Orthodox community.
“This report supports the anecdotal evidence I’ve seen that indicates a close link between abuse in a religious context and the subsequent rejection of that community, its practices, values and often everything it stands for,” said Manny Waks, the founder of Tzedek, an Australian advocacy group for victims of sexual abuse. “This is proof for what he already knew. I’ve met many people who were religious, especially within the ultra-Orthodox community, who left because of sexual abuse.”