This study examined Israeli public perceptions of institutional child sexual abuse (CSA) in the Malka Leifer case. Leifer is a Jewish ultra-Orthodox former Melbourne school principal who is wanted in Australia on CSA charges, after fleeing to Israel. Based on a qualitative analysis of 2,451 reader comments retrieved from four Israeli news websites and six public Facebook pages, the findings indicated diverse attitudes toward the alleged perpetrator, the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, state authorities, and victims. All parties involved were criticized, but less so the victims. Criticisms included sociopolitical and gender stereotypes, and demonic attributions. Positive comments were directed at all involved, even the alleged perpetrator, and especially the victims. The results demonstrate the need to better understand CSA portrayals in cyberspace, as they affect both public and policymaker attitudes, and the importance of fighting prejudicial discourse about the ultra-Orthodox community, especially in light of its changing attitudes regarding CSA.
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We would like to express our great appreciation to Prof. Philip Mendes and Marcia Pinskier for their valuable and constructive suggestions during the planning and development of the study. We also want to thank them and their colleague Dr. Samone Mccurdy whose “How do Jewish communities respond to manifestations of institutional child sexual abuse? A case study of Malka Leifer and Adass Israel in Melbourne, Australia” (2019) was the inspiration for this research. The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
© The Author(s) 2021.
- female perpetrator
- institutional child sexual abuse (CSA)
- online media
- ultra-Orthodox Jews
- Public Opinion
- Child Abuse, Sexual