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August 30, 2014 / 4 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘sexual abuse’

Weberman’s Sentence: Justice Has Been Served

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

There has been a lot of discussion about the length of convicted pedophile Nechemya Weberman’s 103 year prison sentence. According to an article in the Forward comparisons are being made to the sentence given to Leiby Kletzky’s brutal murderer, Levi Aron, of 40 years in prison.

A lot of people are asking where is the justice in that?

I am not one of those people. In essence Weberman got a life sentence. At age 54, 40 years would have pretty much meant the same thing. I have also heard that the appeals court will often reduce the sentence by half.

It should also be noted that the deranged Levi Aron’s sentence was the result of a plea deal, that spared Leiby’s parents and relatives the ordeal of a trial where they would have had to relive every painful moment of that terrible tragedy. And a plea deal saved the state the expense of a trial.

Weberman, on the other hand continues to proclaim his innocence. Pedophiles are gifted liars that can convince their peers, friends and family of their complete innocence. Fortunately his lies did not convince the jury or the judge. But – his community still believes him.

His trial forced the victim to relive all the painful sexual abuse she endured for over four years at the hands of this monster. And the fact is that she too has a life sentence of untold pain from those memories.

So, no I am not particularly bothered by this harsh sentence. He can still say Tehilim in prison, just as he did during the trial. He will not be having nightmares. Unless they put him together with the general population of those prisons. Prisoners have standards too and they don’t take kindly to pedophiles. Weberman may get a taste of his own medicine there. He can still say Tehilim though.

For me – justice has been served for his victim and hopefully all future victims. Pedophiles ought to take a hard look at what happened here. And victims will now know that if they press charges – sometimes good things happen.

Unfortunately this is not the way certain segments of Orthodoxy will see this. This accomplished liar – with his ‘explanation’ of why his accuser brought these ‘false’ charges against him is still believed. He has convinced most of his peers including their leader that these charges are the result of a vendetta by the accuser who is herself immoral and “Off the Derech.” She should therefore not be believed.

They also fully believe that a Chasid cannot get a fair trial in America anymore. And they have some pretty prominent people saying that – pointing to the 27 year prison term Shalom Rubashkin received for a white collar crime they saw as undeserving of such a harsh sentence. A view corroborated by many distinguished Americans.

This is how they see what happened with Weberman. An innocent man has been convicted because of his beard and peyos. They will point to what they will say is an over the top sentence of 103 years to prove their point. Of course if the sentence were only 27 years (like Rubashkin’s sentence) he would still be in prison until he was in his eighties.

I can’t wait to see how Ami Magazine treats this verdict. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if they saw it in the way I just described.

The bottom line for me is that no one should see this sentence as excessively harsh. Instead they should see this as a victory for the abused.

What Is Sexual Abuse?

Monday, January 14th, 2013

I have to admit that the sex abuse issue is one of the most difficult issues for me to deal with in all of Judaism. Like many others, I used to think this kind of thing is unthinkable in the world of Orthodox Jewry. When in the past I heard rumors about people like that, I simply did not believe them. I have of course since come to believe that not only does it happen in the Orthodox world , it seems to happen about as frequently as it does in the rest of the world.

What is sexual abuse? And what is it not? Is all physical contact between two people wrong? Are there gradations of abuse? Do all people react the same way when they are abused Should we treat different forms of abuse the same way?

There are many things one must consider before making judgments about any given situation. In my view some types of abuse is worse than others.

There are also collateral damage issues, like who gets hurt in the process of seeking justice for the victim… or those rare cases (and they do exist although they are all but ignored these days) where innocent people get accused and are tainted for life even when accusations are proven false.

This is not about whether all reasonable suspicions of abuse should be reported to the police. They should. And in my view they need not be vetted by rabbis. But I think it is still fair to look at the whole picture.

What is justice in cases of abuse?

Although justice might include financial compensation to victims by abusers and their enablers, it is very possible that good institutions long after any abuse took place – and long after the abusers, faculty, administration, and board of directors have left to be replaced by an entirely new generation of same – could be ruined by overly generous punitive damages awarded by a jury or judge. The Agudah claim that old lawsuits brought against such institutions is unfair in those cases is a legitimate concern . The new people there may not even be aware that abuse ever took place there by a one time employee decades ago.

I’m not saying they shouldn’t be sued. Perhaps they should as the Markey Bill would have allowed. But the facts remain the same. What is fair to one person may be unfair to another. And the collateral damage could be huge. That is why I had a difficult time deciding to favor that bill – ultimately siding with justice for the victim. But it was not an easy decision for me.

And then there are issues about judging behavior of the past by today’s standards. Is it fair to judge what was a common practice of yesterday by the standards of our day?

One might answer that it is. After all someone was hurt and mistreated by those practices – innocent though they may have been see in that day. That everyone was not wise about it then doesn’t matter to the victim. He was hurt and deserves to have justice.

Here too innocent people suffer collateral damage only because they were guided by the conventional wisdom of their day. What today is seen as a cover-up was in those days considered to be standard operating procedure.

And how do we judge the reactions of differing communities? Should we judge one community by a higher standard than another?

And what about differing acts? Is all inappropriate contact the same?

I once asked this of a psychologist who treats sexually abused children. He answered my question with a question. I asked him if a Rebbe would innocently playfully pat a fully clothed child on rear end – sort of the way a football coach might be seen doing from time to time to his players – is that considered sex abuse? His answer was the following: If someone came up to me and offered me money to pat my fully clothed child on the rear, would I take it and allow him to do it?

Well, put that way, of course not. The offer to pay me would show that his entire purpose was to get sexual gratification for it. But if a teacher did it in the same playful way that a football coach might – without any sexual intent, it would not bother me at all. Nor do I think a child would suffer traumatically from it in that way. But this educated professional did not make any distinction.

An Existential Analysis

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

There were 4488 page views (‘hits’) on my blog yesterday. Of those 1429 were unique visitors. Unique visitors are the actual number of people who accessed my blog during Monday’s 24 hour period. Of those, 307 voted on my poll. Which asked to choose the biggest existential threat to Judaism from a list of 7 possible choices. The results were: Chilul HaShem 78 (25%) Education 127 (41%) Feminism 11 (3%) Internet 13 (4%) Poverty 22 (7%) Sex Abuse 14 (4%) Tuition 42 (13%)

Not surprisingly the largest number of votes by far – 127 (41%) went to educational concerns. A full 25% of the votes went to concerns about Chilul HaShem. The third biggest concern was the Tuition crisis. The rest of the respondents were in single digit percentages poverty being the biggest concern among those.

The bottom three concerns were about the impact of sex abuse, the internet, and feminism.

First let me address the fact that a lot of factors were not included. Among them were: going OTD, divorce rates, dysfunctional families, sexism, the move to the right, the move to the left, the Shiddach crisis, assimilationist influences, isolationist influences, the State of Israel, increased divisiveness between Hashkafos… all serious challenges to Judaism. I could not list them all. That would have made the poll almost meaningless dividing the vote into small and insignificant numbers. I chose these because I believe that although they are not all inclusive – they do represent a wide variety of issues often cited as existential threats.

Not that these results are all that significant. The sample was relatively small and not random. It was also heavily biased in that respondents were people who read my blog. And only a small fraction of those actually voted. So for these and many other reasons, this poll cannot be taken as representing what the actual percentages of all Jews believe regarding any of these issues.

That said, I like to think that my readership consists mostly of Orthodox Jews that are intelligent, well educated, care greatly and have strong feelings about issues affecting the Jewish world. Although this blog’s demographic skews heavily in favor of Modern Orthodox Jews, there are many Charedim among my readers too. As well as non Orthodox Jews and even a few non Jews. I strongly feel that the majority of those (at least of those who comment) are fair minded, keen observers of the Jewish world whose opinions should be valued. So even though this is not a random sample of all Jews, it is a sample of thinking and caring Jews.

It was a little surprising to see how few people there were who thought that sex abuse was the most important issue of the day. Considering the fact that this issue is the most hotly debated issue in our day… and that the fact that the slightest taint of it in any institution will cause a tremendous outcry… and considering the damage that it causes to victims – sometimes permanent psychological damage… and the damage it causes to the victim’s families, and even the abuser’s family… and considering revelations about the far greater number of victims than anyone ever suspected… and the fact that so many of the victims go OTD… I would have thought sex abuse would have gotten a much bigger vote than 14 people.

I guess the reason for that is that as bad as sex abuse is… and as great the damage it does to so many people – even beyond the actual victim, that issue alone is not seen as an existential threat to Judaism itself. But still, the way religious leadership across the board has dealt with it in the past – and even now cannot but have a deleterious effect upon our existence. Many iconic names – religious leaders across the spectrum of Orthodoxy have – by word , deed, or lack of action – have disappointed victims and their advocates. This disillusions people about Orthodox Judaism. Sex abuse is a serious problem in need of our immediate attention. It should have ranked a lot higher than 5th out of 7 – totaling only 4% of the vote.

That Chilul HaShem ranked number 2 is no surprise. If anything can disillusion people, it is when prominent Jews get caught in wrong doing like fraud, tax evasion, and money laundering. Whether it is Rubashkin, the Spinka Rebbe, an elderly Sephardic Rabbi in New Jersey, or of late, Rabbi Yehoshua Pinto – it does not inspire a love of Judaism when such high profile rabbis who are supposed to be role models and teachers end up being crooks.

What Is the Biggest Problem Facing Judaism?

Monday, December 17th, 2012

This week Mishpacha Magazine had an article that asked what may be the most important question one could ask about Judaism. What is the biggest existential issue plaguing the Jewish world in our day?

They asked a number of prominent respondents from a wide spectrum of Hashkafos. From Rabbi David Neiderman, a prominent leader of Satmar that heads many of their organizations on one end – to Rabbi Steven Weil, Executive Vice President of the OU and Rabbi Dr. Aharon Hersh Fried, Associate Professor of Psychology at YU’s Stern College for Women.

Mishpacha received a wide variety of answers. Interestingly none of them said it was the move to the right.

More importantly, no one said that sex abuse is that issue. I tend to agree. Of course to the increasing numbers of victims and their families – that is the biggest issue plaguing Judaism today – a Holocaust in fact. While I agree that this is a major problem and the one in most need of immediate action, I do not see this by itself to be the biggest issue. Although I do believe it is a major contributor to it.

The respondents each stated what they thought. I will briefly list what each one of them said.

Jonathan Rosenblum thought it was the idea that too many of us do not think about honoring God. In a nutshell he says that this leads to not thinking about which of our actions constitute a Kiddush HaShem or Chilul HaShem. In many cases we tend to think only about ourselves and our own limited communities and never give a thought to how those outside of our word see our actions and how our behavior impacts on their perceptions of Judaism as a whole. I think he’s right.

Rabbi Niederman (without saying so directly) spoke about the dire poverty he must constantly encounter in his Kehilla in Williamsburg. His point being that without a means of sustenance, spirituality doesn’t even begin. Ein Kemach Ein Torah. To him, poverty is the primary existential threat to Judaism.

Rabbi Weil spoke of the spiritual holocaust of assimilation. A holocaust that he says causes more Jews to be lost from Judaism than the actual Holocaust. 56 percent of all Jews are intermarrying. The great boon to Jews in America is its biggest bane. Because of our broad acceptance – it is easier than ever to become completely assimilated. The largest bloc of Jews under 40 are choosing not to live as Jews. The American ideal of freedom and our widespread acceptance is in fact the double edged sword that is both helping us and skewering us. On the one hand observant Jews have been so accepted that we are invited to serve at the highest echelons of government. But at the same time the freedom this country offers allows us to shed any semblance of our Judaism.

Rabbi Zecharya Greenwald, a published ArtScroll author and head of a Jerusalem based women’s seminary, says that our educational system is failing us in the self esteem department. Our students are being brought up to believe that if one does not attain the ideal state of a Jew as defined by the particular Hashkafa of their schools, they are not worthy of God’s love. The push to perfection has created an entire population of young people who feel themselves unworthy, no matter how accomplished they are, they feel they fall short of the ideal expected of them. Thus feeling worthless!

And finally there is Rabbi Dr. Aharon Hersh Fried. He takes a typically academic approach rejecting all anecdotal information that often inspires various media to become experts about what is or isn’t important. He says we ought not try and isolate issues. Instead he says that all issues need to be studied by professionals which include the entire spectrum of the Frum world – rabbis and lay leaders. Such studies ought to include an interdisciplinary team of professionals – along with ‘a social scientist or two’. After clearly studying and defining those issues – we can develop solutions to them.

Of all the approaches mentioned, it’s hard to argue with Dr. Fried. What better method can there be for determining that than a scientifically designed study that will be objectively conducted and analyzed by the widest variety of people and professionals available to us.

Weberman Found Guilty

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Satmar Rabbi Nechemya Weberman was found guilty of 59 counts of sexual abuse in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn on Monday.

Sentencing is set to begin January 9. Weberman faces up to 25 years in prison for one of the charges and may face even more by the time the sentencing hearings are completed.

The trial hinged on the testimony of an 18-year old girl who said Weberman was abusing her for years while she received counseling from him, starting from when she was 12.

The NY Daily News reported that she testified that “she was forced to perform oral sex and reenact porn scenes during closed-door counseling sessions that started in 2007.”

Weberman was not a licensed counselor.

The two-week trial was said to highlight how the Satmar community enforced its modesty and sexuality requirements.

The victim said she was referred to Weberman for counseling by her yeshiva because she broke modesty rules and asked critical theological questions.

The victim further testified that while she was under Weberman’s supervision, “I wanted to die,” the Daily News reported.

Weberman’s attorney Stacey Richman said the girl was a liar and that he would appeal.

The Satmar community also came under scrutiny throughout the ordeal because community fundraisers were held in support of Weberman and members of the community allegedly approached the victim seeking to pay her off to drop the claims.

Ex-Principal of Brooklyn Jewish School Convicted on Sex Abuse

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

The former principal of a Jewish high school in Brooklyn was convicted on 75 counts of sexual abuse against three boys.

Emanuel Yegutkin, 33, was convicted Monday on all charges of sexual abuse stemming from his relationship with three boys between 1996 and 2005, including one who was 7 years old at the time.

Yegutkin faces up to 25 years in prison for the top charge of sexual conduct against a child in the first degree. He will be sentenced on Dec. 17.

Until his arrest in early 2009, Yegutkin served as the principal of Elite High School, a private school in the Bensonhurst neighborhood comprised largely of Russian-American students. Two of the victims were brothers; none were students at the school.

“This violent sexual predator faces the remainder of his life behind bars,” Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said. “This should serve as a clear message that those who would sexually abuse children in this county will be punished severely.”

Earlier this year, Hynes came under fire for his handling of prosecuting sex offenders in the haredi Orthodox community.

Prior to his arrest, Yegutkin also worked as a lifeguard at Oorah summer camp in upstate New York and as a volunteer paramedic for the Flatbush Hatzoloh ambulance service.

Dealing with Adult who Sexually Abuses Children

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

A sexual abuser is someone with visceral urges who often spirals down into an abyss from which he usually cannot fully recover. Research shows that sex offenders are among of the most difficult to treat, as their behavior is caused by such powerful forces.

There are clear mental dysfunction and depravity that go along with being an adult who sexually abuses children. This is an explanation, not an excuse. Perpetrators deserve our empathy – possibly – but need to be dealt with justly and in methods that ensure our children’s safety, without any compromises. It is a sad fact that for each perpetrator there isn’t only one victim, but more likely there are sometimes scores and even hundreds of victims. That sounds hard to believe, but simple math tells us that stopping just one perpetrator may protect hundreds of potential victims.

Most abusers have at one time themselves been abused and now prey on others. For many of us this is difficult to fathom; how could someone so acutely aware of the pain and suffering abuse entails now mete out those same feelings onto another?

Let us try to understand this psychological phenomenon from a theoretical perspective. When people are sexually abused, much of the inherent power and control they once had over their bodies and minds becomes either severely compromised or downright damaged. When the abuse takes place repeatedly, the power and control we speak of can become a distant memory, and victims often develop serious trauma.

The question for the victim now becomes, how can I regain that elusive power and control? Unfortunately, the form of power and control he knows best is sexual abuse – and to regain it he perpetrates what happened to him onto another. It is important to note that the former victim, now abuser, is most likely unaware of the trajectory and evolution of his own thoughts; he is merely desperate to recover what has been missing from his life all these years. This absolves none of his personal responsibility; he remains fully culpable for his actions, but it is important to examine his motivations.

Now that we understand why abuse occurs, the question becomes, what can we do about it? There are many ways, and addressing only one aspect or having one direction won’t fully incorporate what is necessary to eliminate abuse from our midst (although, complete eradication is most likely impossible).

I believe an increase in education as to the effects of sexual abuse on victims – rather than dry statistics of abuse prevalence – may help. Too often I hear, “It happened so long ago, can’t the person just get over it?” Many fail to comprehend the association between abuse and long-term trauma, and don’t understand why there is a significantly increased risk of serious mental issues in victims, such as depression, anxiety, addiction and suicide.

In addition, as described above, abuse becomes repeated and multigenerational. The facts are out there, they merely need to be disseminated. An increase in knowledge invariably causes an increase in sensitivity and understanding. Sadly, almost ninety percent of abuse never gets reported – in all communities. But the courageous few who do come forward, need our full backing and support.

As to our own community, it has been copiously documented by the media how we responded in the past to cases of abuse – everything from, “this doesn’t happen in our communities,” to “it’s a chillul Hashem to allow this to get out.” By increasing our understanding of what abuse causes, rather than merely stating that abuse exists (which at this point is difficult for anyone to deny, though some inevitably try), we might discourage cowardly individuals from within from attempting to prevent deserved justice. While this may be only a small step towards eradicating wrong from the world, it can, hopefully, be a start.

 

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/dealing-with-adult-who-sexually-abuses-children/2012/11/14/

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