Thursday, May 02, 2013

When Will Justice Really Be Served?

Victim's mother -  Photo credit: James Keivom/N.Y. Daily News
"What this monster of an animal did to our precious diamond is unforgivable," she said. "How many children's life will be ruined?"

So said the mother of a victim of sex abuse (at age 12 for about a year’s duration) after his abuser, Meir Descalawitz, was sentenced to a five year prison term. That was the result of a plea agreement. This means that he will likely be released in 2 and a half years.

I don’t know whether justice has really been served here.  A child’s life has been ruined. And his family who brought Descalawitz to whatever justice he received has paid a high price for it. In a very short 2 and a half years this man will be out on the streets again, free to abuse other children.

Although I’m sure he will have to register as a sex offender - that does not likely prevent a pedophile from trying to seek new prey to satisfy his urges. Where there is a will – there is a way. 

Descalawitz is a Pupa Chasid. It always gets  me when I see how Chasidic communities like Pupa treat these situations. I know nothing about Pupa Chasidus. But is is obvious to me that their reaction to the victim was very similar to Satmar’s reaction to sex abuse victims in their community. Here is the victim impact statement – read right before the sentencing:
"I will never forgive to you for the things you did to me," the now 17-year-old boy wrote in a letter read in Brooklyn Supreme Court. "You ruined my life."
"I have been hurt and this hurt will continue throughout my life," the victim continued, revealing that he had been kicked out of school and lost friends after reporting the abuse to authorities.
The victim is not the only one suffering the repercussions of this. As I said his family has suffered too. From the New York Daily News:
Mordechai Jungreis was shunned by his ultra-Orthodox Hasidic community for reporting his son’s sexual abuse…  A Brooklyn father who's been ostracized from his Hasidic community because he reported his son's sexual abuse claimed victory Thursday after the man who violated the teenage boy pleaded guilty...

The dad described enormous pressure from his insular ultra-Orthodox community: He was kicked out of his apartment, his kids were expelled from private school, and the family was shunned, all because he filed a police report on a fellow Jew.
"What we went through is unbelievable… the torture," he said. "But I didn't give up."
He didn’t give up. And he felt justice had been served. I guess a small victory is still a victory. The question is, will anyone in his community ever have the courage to do this again? This community is so opposed to Mesirah ( I assume that was at least part of the reason they reacted this way) that they destroy lives over it. They seem to feel that the reputation of the community is paramount.

Sex abuse exists in every community. The religious affiliation or fervor of any given group does not seem to affect their percentages of victims and victimizers. Based on media coverage of this very sad phenomenon, it is evident that when any community is confronted with accusations of abuse – self preservation kicks into gear. Where accusations of abuse are made - the primary focus of its officials is on how to protect their own interests.

The first inclination is to deny and/or cover-up. If that doesn’t work they try and put a positive spin on how they are handling it. It doesn’t seem to matter if it is the Catholic Church,  a major secular university, a Modern Orthodox University, a Kiruv group, a Charedi Yeshiva, or a Chasidic enclave. The reactions of all these groups tend to follow the same pattern of self preservation at the expense of the victim.  

Although there has been improvement to one degree or another in almost all these institutions they still have a long way to go. I say almost, because I cannot include Chasidic communities like Satmar, Ger, and now Pupa. This can be seen by how this victim and his father were treated by their Pupa community. Not to mention how Satmar treated Weberman’s victims. Or how Ger has protected Mondrowitz.

I don’t see how this can be explained in any other way. The reputation of the group supersedes the welfare of the individual. These Chasidic communities seem to take this attitude to the max. They are ready to destroy lives over it. Going to almost any length to preserve their reputations. This approach is probably also a function of disbelief and religious convictions:  

Respectable people can’t possibly be doing this. A victim who has goes OTD (off the Derech) lacks credibility. How can they now believe someone who has gone OTD and thereby harbors resentment toward the community they now reject?  They accuse OTD victims of lying because of an anti religious agenda out to destroy them.

It never occurs to them that the cause of someone going OTD is the very fact that they were abused and the way the community reacts to them. As in dismissing the pain of victims (like telling them to just get over it!) and sweeping it all under the rug.

Their isolationism probably means they have no clue about the high incidence of depression and suicide attempts by victims of abuse. They never heard of Motty Borger who jumped to his death on the morning following his wedding night. Or if they did hear of him - deny that sex abuse had anything to do with that.

They certainly don’t trust what any secular experts has to say on the subject. And if someone goes to the police??? Well, that’s Mesirah - the biggest crime of all!

Based on this kind of thinking one can understand their reactions. But one cannot justify them. The repercussions of that are too great.  Communities like Satmar, Ger, and Pupa cling to the notions that sex abuse is best handled internally. Which usually means that in far too many cases abusers will be allowed to live their lives with impunity; victims will continue to be sacrificed for the greater good of the community; and the number of victims will surely increase.

The approach to sex abuse in communities like this ought not be swept under the rug. It must not be hidden from the public eye. It ought to be exposed and condemned every time it happens until such time that public pressure will have an impact on them… and they are finally brought into the 21st  century. At least on the subject of sex abuse. I think we have enough victims already.