- Torah and Jewish Thought
- Lashon Hara
Lashon Hara and a Molesting Boy
My daughter was grabbed inappropriately by a boy in the neighborhood. It turns out that the boy has some sort of problem and has been doing this to many of the girls in the community. Every time the boy’s parents are made aware of his behavior, they go into "denial mode" and begin questioning anyone that accuses him of his actions. Because my daughter had been molested at a day school many years ago, she’s particularly uncomfortable with being groped inappropriately by boys and so she is, understandably, upset. After making the boy’s father aware of the circumstances, he begins questioning me and makes no effort to apologize on behalf of his son. I demand an apology and an apology from his son and the father relents and apologizes for the harm his son has caused. Later that day, I see the mother outside speaking with another woman who is a wife of my friend. As soon as she sees me, she runs and hides inside her house. The wife of the friend is confused. Why would this woman run and hide from me? I’m left with a lashon hara dilemma. I can explain what happened to the woman who has witnessed this odd behavior or I can tell her that it was a "matter between our kids" or I can say nothing at all. There is a very real possibility that the friend’s wife will think less of me if for no other reason than she sees a woman running and hiding from me without any context at all. What should I do?
The boy definitely needs help and the police and/or social authorities should be notified of his behavior. We have learned well over the last several years that such issues should not be "covered up". There's totally no problem here of Lashon HaRa, for it's actually a mitzva (!) to publicize the boy's behavior in order that other parents should explain to their daughters to avoid this boy. The Torah says explicitly in the same verse where it forbids slander, "You shall not go around as a gossiper amidst your people, you shall not stand by [the shedding of] your fellow's blood" (Vayikra 19, 16), to teach that the prohibition of gossip doesn't apply when a victim (or how much more so a community) is being harmed (Or HaChaim, Rav Ovadia Yosef). The mitzva to publicize is not just to protect the victims and the community, but also in order to deter the boy, which is actually also doing him a favor for his future (Rambam, Guide, 3, 35). I strongly suggest also speaking with the local rabbi that he should intervene and speak with the boy's parents and the boy. He needs to be deterred, and if his parents are not doing so, so the community must fill the void, also for his sake!