Monday, May 04, 2015

A Predator in Our Midst

Guest Post by Rabbi Yair Hoffman
I have been asked by Rabbi Yair Hoffman to post this warning to the Jewish community. In the interests of protecting the public, I am happy to accommodate him. His words follow:
The following is a grave warning to young women and their parents:
There is an individual loose in our community who presents himself as both a therapist and an activist fighting against the dangers of internet pornography addiction.  He gives public lectures and speeches in various venues presenting himself as an expert in the field.  He has spoken in shuls, Yeshivos, and Bais Yaakovs.  He warns young men and young women to stay clear of potential sites and predators.  This speaker is eloquent, articulate, and reassuring.  He cites facts and figures authoritatively.  Yet he has a pattern of eventually getting involved in Biblically forbidden ways with young ladies that reach out to him.  These young ladies may be single or even married.
When he speaks at a shul or school, someone in the audience who has struggled or struggles with the issue of this type of addiction may contact him or urge a friend or relative to contact him.  Indeed, the person contacting him may initiate the contact just having heard of the topic of the speech.  The contact between the two begins innocently enough, at times, he presents himself as a type of therapist or counselor and promises confidentiality. At first the confidentially is maintained.  When the young lady begins to delineate her problem, he explains that the problem is so severe that it must be either dealt with more directly or in person.
The patterns follow typical grooming techniques which are well-documented, of others who attempt to develop inappropriate relationships with unsuspecting victims.  They begin by complimenting them.  The relationship quickly becomes inappropriate and professional boundaries are not maintained. This individual has an office where he sees people, or he may meet them on a more casual basis.  He tells the individuals that they need to develop normal patterns of relationships, and then he models that "normal pattern of relationship" r"l.
This particular individual makes sure that he does not get involved on a physical level with anyone under the age of eighteen.  The individual treats his victims as "special" and may even say that this is the first time he has been so "taken" by a person.
The author of this article has met with a victim, and has examined evidence corroborating the victim's story.  The author has no doubt whatsoever as to the veracity of the story.
The author has also reached out to five separate Gedolei Torah - each Gadol has ruled that the information contained in this article must be disseminated to the public on the internet.  It was at the behest of Rav Aharon Feldman Shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Yisroel and Rav Dovid Harfenes Shlita, a renowned Posaik in Williamsburg that this community alert be issued. 
If you feel that you or a family member has been victimized by this individual please contact  Your identity will be kept private and this will help prevent others from being victimized.
In addition, Rav Harfenes is of the halachic opinion that all situations of a therapeutic nature should be strictly gender separated.  Women must see women and men must see men.   
Other Poskim have said that ideally genders should be separated and that the following warnings be followed. 
1] Anyone who is currently seeing a therapist or counselor should make sure that the therapist is truly licensed and undergoes regular supervision.  It goes without saying that this should be verified independently.
2] All yichud situations of a male therapist alone with a woman must be avoided, notwithstanding any assurances of permissions granted by Rabbis etc.
This specific matter is being researched for any possible illegalities involving misrepresentations of a therapeutic nature, and whether there are any illegalities involved in physical involvement with someone in a therapeutic context, even if the therapist is not a licensed New York State therapist.  At this point the individual in question is not being named in order to ensure that this warning be received in the widest number of venues possible.