Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Sexual Predator Gets Arrested

Surveillance image of the accused (Yeshiva World News)
I saw the headline this morning as I was scouring the news online.  It reads: NYPD Arrests Suspect Who Inappropriately Touched Two Girls On 66th St And 16 Ave. When I went over to the Charedi website YWN which carried that headline I read about a non Jewish sexual predator being caught and jailed.

Now maybe I’m wrong. Maybe YWN does report on all sex abuse cases equally. I wonder though how reports of an Orthodox Jew doing something like this would have been handled by them? My guess is that at best, they would not have reported on it at all. Or worse, perhaps they may have even defended the accused with words like ‘impossible!’ A religious Jew would never have done something like that. Or that accuser is a known trouble maker with a troubled childhood and cannot be believed or trusted. What about being caught on a surveillance camera? Can’t be, they might say... it must be a case of mistaken identity.

The truth is I don’t really know how they would report on it – if at all. I do not read all their articles. But cases like the one they reported about today are far less likely to happen than being abused or molested by one of our own. As I understand it - the people most likely to sexually abuse someone are people that are known to the victim. They can and often are family members. The idea of ‘stranger danger’ being the biggest worry is a mistake. While it does happen – as it did yesterday in Boro park it’s far more likely that a sexual predator will seek his victims among people that know him and trust him.

That being the case, I’m sure that, unfortunately,  there have probably been more than a few cases where religious Jews were credibly accused of sex abuse or molestation. But I do not recall any mention of it news media like YWN or Matzav.

Now as I said above - maybe I’m wrong.  In fact I hope I’m wrong. Maybe there has not been any cases of ‘religious’ sex abuse. But I tend to doubt it. The statistics argue against it. The incidence of sex abuse seems to be approximately the same percentage among Orthodox Jewry as it is in the general population. So being a religious Jew does not preclude one from being a pedophile and sexual predator.

Assuming I’m right, then I have to ask whether anything has really changed. There has been a lot of discussion in the Orthodox world about sex abuse and cover-ups in recent years. From everything  I have read we are making progress in this area. But we have a long way to go and we are trudging our way toward some sort of equitable way of dealing with sex abuse. We seem to be doing better at prevention. But when it comes to justice for survivors I think we are still lagging far behind where we should be. Survivors of abuse are still not getting the justice they deserve.

And our communities, although much better better about it today than they ever have been, are still somewhat in a state of denial about religious Jews being capable of sexual abuse. Especially if they are prominent members of that community.

One of the ways that will help eliminate sexual predators and in the process offer some justice to their victims  is publicizing who they are… letting people know who they should be wary of and in the process shaming them in public. One might say that such a shaming them as part of their punishment is too severe. In one case a few months ago, a 25 year old pedophile who was caught in a police sting operation was identified in the media and committed suicide shortly after pleading down his case in court. His reputation was ruined and he apparently could no longer face life.

That’s where Charedi media like YWN and Matzav come in. If someone is caught and arrested for a sex crime, they ought to make it public. Just like they did today with a non Jewish perpetrator. Lest they argue ‘innocent until proven guilty in a court of law’ …well that didn’t bother them today! They want the public to know who that predator was and that he was put away. That should be their motive in all cases, not just the non Jewish ones.

I can only guess what is behind their motivation not to report about religious predators. But it would be an educated guess. They are afraid to ruin reputations. The accused is usually a well established and respected member of the community, often married and with children. Looking at that in the face of a young accuser that comes out of the woodwork… How can they side with them against such an icon?! So they don’t say a word. As though it never happened. They hope the accused will be vindicated.

But I doubt there has been too many cases of that – if at all. Statistics show that the vast majority of accusations of sex abuse are true.

And yet, even after a conviction, they will sometimes be sympathetic to the plight of the convicted pedophile.

I recall at least one occasion reported in the Charedi media where a convicted sex abuser was visited by an entourage of rabbis who offered him solace and comfort… as though an innocent man was put away.

There is a double standard in the Charedi media. One that has no sympathy for a non Jewish sexual predator that reports about him immediately. And another for religious predators that are treated with kid gloves... which of course negatively impacts on the victim/survivors.

Let me repeat what I have said many times. Religious Jews that commit a crime – especially one as heinous as a sex crime – should be treated no better than if they were not religious. In fact that they are religious just adds to their crime making it a Chilul HaShem too. What about the shame their family feels? The abuser should have thought of that before he abused anyone.

I would ask instead, ‘What about the shame of victim?’‘...and the life of hardship and stress this will cause him (or her)? ‘What about the difficulty in getting Shidduchim?’ ‘What about the cases of depression, going OTD and resorting to self destructive behavior sometimes  ending in suicide?’

It’s nice to see the Charedi media report about a sexual predator that was identified, caught, and put away so quickly. Wouldn’t it be nice to see reports like that about every sexual predator? Not just the non religious non Jewish ones?  That would in my view let survivors of abuse know that we are no longer sweeping sex abuse under the rug at all and instead  are actually doing something about it.