Sunday, March 22, 2009

Please Mr. Hikind - Do the Right Thing

Imagine living in a community where there are 65 toxic waste dumps in unidentified locations. No one knows exactly where they are but it is known that they are mostly in places where children are found. This is the situation in Boro Park. Only it isn’t the kind toxic waste one normally thinks of. It is the toxic waste of 65 child molesters who roam the streets of Boro Park with impunity.

I’ve been doing some thinking about this over the past few days. I have spoken to a victim of multiple instances of child sex abuse by different abusers. And I have spoken to a Rav who deals with this issue on a full time basis.

I have come to the conclusion that the dichotomy of victim versus community welfare is false.

I first want to reiterate that my primary concern is for the victim - even over potential future victims. But serving both past and future victims is not a mutually exclusive enterprise.

My initial misgivings about the welfare of the victim are unwarranted. That’s because a victim’s welfare will not be compromised at all by revealing his abuser’s name. The victim’s identity will be kept private if he so wishes. I have been informed that the law in the state of New York protects the identity of minors from being revealed in such cases. Even if they must testify in court - they may do so privately.

I have further been reminded of the following very important detail that is essential and common to all victims. They want justice. That means they want the abuser punished. And that cannot begin to happen until their abusers are identified.

I have therefore come to the conclusion that a parent whose child comes to them with a credible story of abuse must report it to the police immediately. Only that can stop the abuser from hurting other victims and begin the process of bringing them to justice.

A word about innocent people who may be accused.

That is possible and tragic if it happens. But looking at the available information, it is far less likely that there will be false accusations than it is that children will be exposed to abuse because of the fear of accusing an innocent man. It seems that the overwhelming evidence is that the vast majority of abuse reports are true.

With that in mind the public welfare should take precedence. Although there have been incidents of police ineptitude in these kinds of investigations, they are still the most qualified to do so. They have been trained in proper investigative procedures and they will more often than not come to the right conclusions.

If, on the other hand we leave it to those within our own communities to do the investigation we leave it in the hands of the untrained. That will make for much greater chances for error - especially since we are so reluctant to believe such things about religious people.

So even though there is risk that an innocent man will be accused, there is a greater probability of danger to potential victims if nothing is done. This demands that we do the right thing and report any information we have about an accused abuser - no matter who he is.

If an innocent man is accused, it is very sad and tragic - for him and his family, but the truth will come out in the end with proper investigation and he will be exonerated and the probability of future child molestations will be greatly reduced.

Which brings me to Assemblyman Dov Hikind. I do not now understand his reluctance to report to the police the names of the abusers he has accumulated. If his goal is to protect his community then he must release those names to the police immediately. I know him to be an honorable man with good intentions and a good heart. That is probably why he took up this cause in such a determined and public way.

His reluctance to release those names is therefore inexplicable to me. I have been told that he has in his possession approximately 65 names of people identified by their victims as sex abusers. I know that he truly cares about his stated goal of protecting his constituents. There is no reason for him to hold back. And yet he has said he would sooner go to prison than release those names. I just don't get it.

By not doing so these child molesters are free to continue sexually abusing countless numbers of present and future victims with complete impunity. And that means that he is in part enabling them to continue wrecking the lives of their victims and families.

I therefore ask him to do the right thing for the Jewish people and report these abusers to the police - right now!

Updated: 3/21/09 - 10:17 AM CST