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September 2, 2014 / 7 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘sexual abuse’

A Call To Action

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

Ten years ago, If you had asked a victim of sexual abuse what he or she wanted most, the answer would have been, “I want my abuser to apologize, to acknowledge that it was his fault and not mine.” Today, if asked that same question, the victim would speak of prosecution and justice.

Years ago, victims struggled in an uphill battle to be believed and validated. They were victimized and then felt re-victimized by the community. Victims felt that just as perpetrators had the upper hand when they abused, they maintained that upper hand even after victims disclosed. These many years later, victims remain frustrated by the continued lack of communal support.

Just recently, the attorney for former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky castigated his client’s victims, saying they were motivated by money. Make no mistake, while some of the victims at this point may be interested in money, all were motivated by justice. And justice they received.

There are countless ways our community has led by example – chesed, tzedakah, services to the disadvantaged – helping untold thousands lead a better life. These similar efforts must be expended to demonstrate support to victims of sexual abuse.

For every story we read in newspapers or see on television of an Orthodox Jewish victim or perpetrator, we can multiply that by the hundreds more we don’t hear about.

It is widely believed that one in four girls and one in seven boys in the general population are victims of some form of sexual abuse. These are not isolated incidents nor are they unique to any one neighborhood. In the absence of any conclusive comparative data in the Orthodox Jewish community, these are the figures that are often cited. It may be uncomfortable for us to think in such stark terms but, thankfully, of late there is growing awareness of the magnitude of this issue. This realization should translate into a greater collective response.

OHEL has been at the forefront in educating the Jewish community on prevention and response to sexual abuse by speaking out through seminars and consultations, articles and radio programs, the publication of books and informational DVD’s, training mental health professionals and educators, and participating in conferences throughout the United States and overseas. There are many others in our community who have similarly worked tirelessly in this mission.

To accomplish a systemic behavioral change in our community’s gestalt on sexual abuse, we must take action that goes far beyond any achievements to date.

1. All people should be mandated reporters as is the law in eighteen states. Mandated reporters in New York are limited to select professionals including physicians, nurses, psychologists, social workers and educators. The law should require all people to report to child welfare authorities or the police thus removing any ambiguity.

2. Eliminate the statute of limitations on sexual abuse. Victims of sexual abuse have described their experience as the killing of the soul. Just as there is no statute of limitations on the killing of the body, so too, there should be no statute of limitations on the killing of the soul. The scars that sexual abuse can leave on a person can be equally permanent. Many victims disclose their abuse years later, as such, there should be no restrictions for prosecutors to pursue such crimes.

3. We need to more actively support victims who disclose and report to police. As far back as October 1999, I wrote in The Jewish Press of the imperative to report abuse to police, to prosecute child molesters, and for the community to support the victim. How can our community justify organizing a high profile fund raising event for an alleged abuser but not yet come out in greater support of victims whose primary reason for not disclosing is their feelings of personal shame and the resulting stigma. Rabbi Yakov Horowitz has championed the need for an outpouring of support for victims. We must all add our voice to the cause.

4. We should require fingerprinting of all employees in yeshivas and private schools. This legislation has long been championed by attorney Elliot Pasik, president of Jewish Board of Advocates for Children. Admittedly, this may take years to yield significant results – until many more child molesters are reported, prosecuted, convicted and registered. But the longer we delay implementation, the more such people can unwittingly be hired.

Brooklyn DA Blames Israel for Mondrowitz Scandal

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

If there’s any story inside the Jewish community that closely parallels the sexual abuse cover-up inside the Catholic Church, it’s the story of Avrohom Mondrowitz. Posing as both a rabbi and a therapist, Mondrowitz was accused of molesting several boys in his Brooklyn neighborhood in the mid-1980’s. The listed victims were all non-Jewish, mostly because Mondrowitz’s alleged Jewish victims, estimated to be between 100-300 never came forward.

Mondrowitz was charged with eight counts of child abuse and five counts of sodomy. Hours before he was arrested he fled the country, first to Canada and then to Israel. He was rumored to have been tipped off about his pending arrests by local rabbis. He was not extradited since homosexual rape, strangely, was not an extraditable offense in Israel. When the extradition treaty was altered, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that too much time had elapsed for Mondrowitz to receive a fair trial.

The New York Times, in a series of articles on the Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes’ cozy relationship with the Haredi establishment in his district, last week published the results of a FOIL request by activist Michael Lesher. Lesher has been attempting to find out what happened in the intervening years and whether Hynes did everything in his power to bring Mondrowitz to justice. The answer, according to the Times, seems to be, No.

“There isn’t a single e-mail, a single letter, a single memo, either originating from the D.A.’s office or addressed to it, that so much as mentions any attempt by the D.A. to seek a change in the extradition treaty,” Lesher told the Times. “It’s just inconceivable that such important negotiation on such a detailed issue could have taken place and not left a trace in the documentary record.”

Jerry Schmetterer, a spokesperson for the Brooklyn DA, told the Jewish Press: “Over all these years, we worked tirelessly with the US Department of Justice and the Israeli Ministry of Justice to get Mondrowitz extradited back to Brooklyn. We were prepared to prosecute him and it was only a decision by the Israeli Supreme Court which ordered that he would not be extradited.”

Rhonnie Jaus, chief of the DA’s sex crime unit, claims that there are more documents that show the DA’s efforts, though the Times says that those were “mainly internal agency documents.”

Schmetterer also acknowledged the 300 documents that were not turned over to Lesher. “It was always in the front of our minds and we made many many phone calls to the State Department about it,” he told the Jewish Press. “A local prosecutor does not have the power to get a treaty changed.”

It is clear by now that Mondrowitz will not be brought to justice in the U.S. . In the last few years he was even involved in teaching children-at-risk. He lives in the Nachlaot neighborhood in Jerusalem and davens in a posh shul. Reportedly, his neighbors like him and are unaware or deny the allegations about his past.

Despite some up-coming high profile cases inside the Haredi community, such as the arrest of four Haredi menfor allegedly offering a $500,000 bribe to a sexually abused teenager to get her to drop charges against a popular community counselor, or the case of Nechemya Weberman, a Haredi rabbi charged with molesting a 12-year old girl over three years, the legacy of the 77-year-old Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes will be one of enabling the tendency of some Haredim to blame the victim in sexual abuse cases, and failing, in the end, to bring Avrohom Mondrowitz to justice.

Keeping Our Children Safe

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

How do we teach our children to keep themselves safe from the adult predators in our midst? Are our schools teaching them what they need to know? Are parents teaching our youth what they need to know? Does your child feel safe enough to approach you if their personal space is being invaded? How do you know?

Parents and Educators:
How do you teach the skills needed?

Most abusers are not what we picture in our minds. In other words they are not the repulsive dirty man sitting on a park bench. In fact, most abusers are youths themselves.

More parents and schools need to teach children these basics. Teach your children to say, NO, GO, and TELL you or another parent/parental figure when other children or an adult does something that they know is wrong – or even just feels not right. Unfortunately, most parents admit to not speaking to their children about these issues. I know it is uncomfortable for some, but there are ways parents can speak to their children about staying safe from abuse, without compromising their morality.

The secondary – and more devastating – trauma that children (and later adults) have with sexual abuse is that they feel that they cannot tell anyone, or if they do tell someone, their reports will be discounted. If more children would have the courage and self esteem to speak out, and more parents and educators would have the ability to trust and listen to children when they talk, our world, their world, would be a safer one.

Remember: Children with one or more of the following attributes have an increased risk of being abused:

* Good at keeping secrets. * Often not believed by adults. * Children with poor social skills. * Children with few friends. * Children who crave adult attention.

Some basic tips on how to teach your children to be safe:

* Invite your children to speak to you about anything they would like. You do not have to force a child to speak to you; the invitation is the most important part of the message. Children need to know that they can come to you if they need to. A child who feels comfortable sharing uncomfortable conversations with his or her parents has a much lower risk of suffering the trauma of abuse and the secondary trauma of feeling as if he or she is at fault and/or cannot share experiences with others.

* Ensure that your children know that they can inform you if something or someone makes them feel uncomfortable.

* Teach them that they can share this with you even if the person is a brother, uncle, aunt, cousin, teacher, babysitters, stranger, or family friend.

* Children need to be taught this at a young age (4-8).

* Do not tell children that if anything ever happens something bad will happen to the person who did it. First, you cannot guarantee that. Second, very often, it is someone with who they have a close relationship and may want to protect.

* Model themes related to safety so that your children can become aware if others are violating their rights. These include modeling healthy respect of physical and emotional boundaries; modeling the respect of privacy amongst family members within the home; and modeling the ability to talk about sensitive feelings in an appropriate manner.

* If you know of a child who often seeks close relationships with adults, find him/her a mentor, before he finds his own (or the adult finds him).

Kol Tzedek: A Proven Tool In Prosecuting Abuse Cases

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Prior to the creation of the Kol Tzedek program, only a handful of sexual abuse allegations from the Orthodox community were reported to my office each year. Our information was that victims of sexual assault in the community were afraid to come forward and report to secular authorities due to enormous community disapproval and pressure. In an effort to overcome these obstacles and encourage reporting of these heinous crimes, and to ensure the continued cooperation of the victim with the prosecution, my office launched Project Kol Tzedek.

Kol Tzedek was put in place to dispel the Orthodox community’s fears and misconceptions about the criminal justice system. It was also established to institute measures to make the criminal justice system more responsive to the needs of this community. Some of these measures include a culturally sensitive social worker to work with the victims and refer them for services to the appropriate agencies; intensive community outreach efforts to educate the community; a hotline for reporting; and, because many victims fear being seen entering a police precinct in their neighborhood, the opportunity to bring their case directly to the Sex Crimes Bureau of my office.

It was hoped that this would facilitate more people coming forward with their sexual assault allegations. It should also be noted that although Kol Tzedek was formally announced to the public in 2009, we had actually begun to focus our efforts to encourage reporting in this community in 2008, through community outreach and other services for victims.

Project Kol Tzedek has been extremely successful. Since its creation, my office has prosecuted 99 cases within the Orthodox community. These cases involve approximately 130 victims, as a number of cases involve multiple victims. We have also investigated at least 40 additional allegations that could not be prosecuted because, among other reasons, they were either beyond the statute of limitations or victims were not willing to go forward.

The program has created an environment for the community where victims are now more comfortable coming forward and maintaining their cooperation with the prosecution. The overwhelming number of these cases involves people who are known to each other – family members, teachers, tutors, neighbors, community members, etc. These cases come to my office in numerous ways, from the hotline that was established for Kol Tzedek as well as through direct referrals to the police and to members of my Kol Tzedek staff.

Coming forward, however, is only the first step. Once the victim makes that commitment, the second prong of Kol Tzedek begins. What makes prosecutions viable is developing the evidence and maintaining the cooperation of the victim. That is the essence of Kol Tzedek. My Sex Crimes Bureau, with its specially trained assistant district attorneys, works tirelessly to develop the prosecution of these cases. These efforts include developing all forensic evidence and attempting to secure any additional victims and other corroborative evidence to make each case as strong as possible.

A key component of the success of Kol Tzedek is, as mentioned above, the availability of a culturally sensitive social worker who works with each victim. This relationship is most significant, since criminal cases can be pending for well over a year.

Sexual assault allegations are difficult to report and even more difficult to sustain in any community. That is why such cases are historically underreported. The attention the Orthodox sexual abuse cases have generated in the press and on Internet blogs is not welcome by the victims. In fact, the majority of the victims whose cases have been publicized tell me they have felt violated and exposed. Many have also experienced relentless pressure from the community to drop the charges. Victims often fear that if they continue with the prosecution they risk being unable to arrange marriages for their children or to sustain membership in their synagogue.

Many victims who have had the courage to press charges have been ostracized by their community, shunned by their synagogue, had their children expelled from schools and been prevented from attending summer camps. In fact, it is not uncommon to see widespread support for the offenders, in the form of fundraisers and other events and public condemnation of the victims. This support often carries over into the courtroom, where supporters of the defendant turn out to further intimidate the victim who may be on the witness stand.

NY Times: Brooklyn D.A. Inflated Success of Program Against Haredi Sex Abuse

Saturday, May 12th, 2012

Brooklyn’s district attorney has inflated the results of a program for combating child sexual abuse in the Haredi Orthodox community, a New York Times investigation concluded.

The Kol Tzedek program was launched in 2009 by the district attorney’s office in order to combat sexual abuse in Brooklyn’s large Haredi community and encourage reporting of such crimes. The office has faced criticism over its refusal to publicly identify abusers prosecuted as a result of Kol Tzedek, but claimed that the program has led to 95 arrests.

The Times reported that using public records it was able to identify the names of suspects and other details related to 47 of the 95 cases. “More than half of the 47 seemed to have little to do with the program, according to the court records and interviews,” the paper reported.

“Some did not involve ultra-Orthodox victims, which the program is specifically intended to help. More than one-third involved arrests before the program began, as early as 2007,” the article continued. “Many came in through standard reporting channels, like calls to the police.”

The article noted that one of the cases involved a café owner convicted of molesting a Hispanic female employee and that three others involved Orthodox defendants accused of groping women on public transportation.

Hynes declined to be interviewed for the article.

The chief of his office’s sex crimes division, Rhonnie Jaus, told the paper that Kol Tzedek has been “an incredible success,” increasing the number of cases that the office has been able to address.

“Our numbers are not inflated,” she said. “If anything, they are conservative.”

Hynes’ critics say his office has not been aggressive in prosecuting sexual abusers in the Haredi community.

The article also reported that Hynes has not publicly challenged the position of the leading haredi advocacy group Agudath Israel of America, which instructs followers to confer with rabbis before reporting allegations of sexual abuse to police.

Toronto Man Arrested for Sexually Assaulting Jewish Toddler

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Shalom Toronto reports that Toronto police announced on Sunday the arrest of a suspect in the kidnapping and  sexual assault of a minor near Bathurst and Wilson streets, where many of the residents are Jewish.

The incident took place on December 28, 2011, at 3:30 in the morning. The baby’s parents noticed that she wasn’t in bed, went outside and found  her in the backyard, and saw a man running away. Medical examination showed that the baby experienced sexual abuse.

The parents and their infant are residents of Connecticut and were guests of a local family in Toronto. Due to the sensitivity of  the investigation Toronto police gave no further information about the investigation.

Sexual Abuse: Prevent, Police, Prosecute

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

We play the odds all the time, don’t we? We may not consciously think about it as such, but in effect we do. Hashem rules the world and controls the odds; we have to do our hishtadlus. We get behind the wheel of a car, board a plane, or cross the street knowing there are risks such as car accidents, plane crashes and pedestrian injuries.

This is not meant to be morose; it is just a fact. Still, the laws of probability work in our favor. We go about our daily lives and while we are not oblivious to these statistics, we do not obsess over them. We feel bad that people inevitably will be hurt or, God forbid, die, but anonymity and distance enables us to continue our normal patterns of behavior and routine.

But would you play the same odds with your son or daughter? Do their safety and well being follow the same set of rules?

Tens of thousands of children attend yeshivas and day schools. They are taught by thousands of self-sacrificing rebbeim and teachers. We rely on the schools to recruit and hire the most talented, motivated people to teach and lead our children. Advertisement

Typically a school administrator or principal will complete an extensive reference check prior to hiring. This is all good. But there is one important missing piece of information – a criminal background check on the potential employee.

In every large group there may be a very small number of individuals who engage or might engage in unacceptable behavior. So the question becomes, how do we identify such individuals and prevent them from entering our schools?

Social service organizations have for many years been required to fingerprint and complete a criminal background check on all employees. It can take from several days to a week to get results of a fingerprint check. Every now and then a hit comes back on a prospective new hire showing a criminal record. The system also sends information to employers of any new criminal proceedings against a person already in their employ.

Which brings us to the point of Prevent, Police, Prosecute.

There are several ways we can work to prevent the sexual abuse of our children. Parents must speak to their children at several different stages in the child’s life, while schools must adopt a strong program to educate students, faculty and parents as well as monitor and adhere to mandated reporting protocols.

Another important factor whose time has come is the fingerprinting of all people employed in yeshivas and day schools, as is currently required in public schools. A detailed proposal by Elliot Pasik, Esq., and other advocates is a sound template urging the state legislature to enact laws requiring fingerprinting in private schools.

Why is this important? It comes down to playing the odds. It’s only a matter of time before a hit will come back on an employee of some yeshiva or day school who has a criminal record and possibly a history of sexual abuse.

There are very few individuals in our community who have been convicted of crimes related to child sexual abuse, and even fewer on Megan’s List. It may be a long shot, but we always want the odds to be in favor of our children.

Years ago in an article for The Jewish Press, I urged parents who had reason to believe their child had been or was being sexually abused to report it to the police. “The concept of protecting one child (from shame and stigma) by not reporting this to the police,” I wrote, “virtually assures that other children will be hurt in shul, in yeshiva or in the neighborhood park.”

In a dozen subsequent articles in newspapers and magazines I emphasized the importance of working with police and district attorney staff to prosecute child molesters. Only by pushing abusers into the criminal justice system can we prevent them from harming other children. Moreover, once child molesters are prosecuted and have a criminal record, we will know who they are, and through fingerprint checks can keep them from jobs that provide access to children.

In Breaking the Silence: Sexual Abuse in the Jewish Community, a book I edited with Dr. David Pelcovitz, Rav Dovid Cohen, Ohel’s mara d’asra for 41 years, describes the imperative of adhering to mandated reporting laws including contacting the police when sexual abuse takes place.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/sexual-abuse-prevent-police-prosecute/2011/08/24/

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