Almost all of the significant efforts against child abuse in the Jewish community have come from the laity, not the rabbis.
Assistant Los Angeles District Attorney Benny Forer writes:
Dear Jewish Community Watch,
I am writing this letter to express my sincere and heartfelt thanks for your tireless work in protecting our community. As an individual, parent, community member and a District Attorney, I appreciate all your efforts and praise your work.
Having handled, examined, reviewed and prosecuted thousands of cases in my career, I am thoroughly familiar with the requirements and standards necessary to implicate someone. I recognize the distinction between mere allegation and proof necessary to prove someone’s guilt.
After becoming aware of the internal standards utilized by JCW, I am abundantly content that you have thoroughly investigated your cases and have an impeccable review process before exposing any predators.1 I am also aware that the Board of JCW has received allegations of abuse regarding nearly 200 as yet unnamed predators. That those assertions remain undisclosed because JCW is not yet satisfied that it has been able to substantiate those claims beyond question, is confirmation that the principles to which JCW is committed are honorable, upright and moral. I am satisfied that the investigative process at JCW is sweeping and rigorous before the Board is convinced to publicize the name of an abuser. It is such careful standards that both ensure an innocent person is not posted and that only a predator is.
Your organization fills a much needed service within our community. For far too many years, our so-called leaders covered-up sex abuse. I am personally familiar with many cases of Rabbis and Roshei Yeshivos not notifying theirs or other communities regarding a potential predator. Consequently, their actions have put many communities and their children at great risk because the predator was free to strike again.2 It is due to these profound failures that an organization like yours is important and necessary.
In every State of the United States, our Federal Government and many other countries3, there are sex offender registry laws. For example, the California Legislature, in enacting its registration laws, specifically provided reasons for its incorporation. They found that sex-offenders pose a potentially high risk of committing further sex offenses and that it is a compelling and necessary public interest to inform the public regarding these people and the risks they pose. Furthermore, in balancing the predators right to privacy (and potential rehabilitation) vs protecting a vulnerable population, the latter is much more important.4
JCW fulfills this role in our society. Its admirable goals are to notify the public of predators and to protect the innocent. It also has a further, and much needed secondary purpose: due to various reasons, including rabbinical cover-ups and community stigmatization, victims are frightened/wary/anxious of coming forward. Victims often do not come forward because of perceived stigmatization of potential harm towards themselves and their family. They are worried that going forward to the police or to law-enforcement would publicly reveal who they are and remove their layer of anonymity.5
It is also common for victims of sexual assault to wait some time before telling someone. When the person was assaulted as a child, he or she may wait years or decades. The reasons for this are numerous: victims may want to deny the fact that someone they trusted could do this to them; they may want to just put it behind them; they may believe the myth that they caused the assault by their own behavior; or they may fear how other people will react to the truth. As a result, the applicable Statute of Limitations has passed and going to the police will have no result at all.
JCW thus provides an outlet for a victim to reveal the truth about what happened, either to expose their harm, or to prevent their predator from effectuating this harm on others. They get to remain anonymous from the judgmental influences of our community, while achieving a much needed result. Moreover, in those situations where the victim courageously comes forward, but because of the statute of limitations he is prevented from prosecuting, the truth can still prevail regardless of the arcane laws preventing such prosecution.6
Our justice system imposes a legal duty on many (particularly those in leadership positions) to report sexual harm, regardless of how strong or how weak the evidence is. Teacher, Rabbis or doctors all have legal obligations to notify all appropriate agencies if they suspects sexual harm. In Halacha and as frum Jews, we have an even stronger obligation. The duty is on every individual to ensure that וְלִפְנֵי עִוֵּר לֹא תִתֵּן מִכְשֹׁל .
I applaud you for your efforts and I bless you that you may go from strength to strength and never waver in your commitment to this great cause. I also call on all Rabbonim and leaders from the various communities to A) join your organization, B) familiarize themselves with the issues, C) publically issue piski dinim relating to sex abuse and D) condemn any and all predator.
There are many in our community who are stationary and unaware or unwilling to act. This mentality is often based on misunderstood halachos such as mesirah, loshon horah, etc. and for too long we have allowed predators to roam freely amongst our children.7 I therefore thank you for your bold and important step in protecting our communities.
1 I am aware that in some cases JCW does not do their own investigation, instead, relying on the police and District Attorney charging the case. In such a situation, review is unnecessary and reliance on governmental agencies is sufficient to expose an arrest and/or conviction.
2 One example I am familiar with: An older bocher in a Yeshiva raped several younger bochurim. During farbrengens, he would ply the younger bochur with alcohol and then take him back to his dorm room. The older bochur would then rape the heavily-intoxicated younger bocher. Despite knowing this, the Rosh Yeshiva of that particular school did not object/notify any new school of this monster. The predator went on to teach in another high school.
3 The following relevant other countries have registration laws: Australia = ANCOR; Canada = NSOR; UK = ViSOR.
4 See the Legislative Counsel’s Digest for an amendment to Penal Code § 290.03, introduced as SB 396.
5 Children often do not tell of the harm for a variety of reasons including the offender’s threats to hurt or kill someone the victim loves, as well as shame, embarrassment, wanting to protect the offender, feelings for the offender, fear of being held responsible or being punished, fear of being disbelieved, and fear of losing the offender who may be very important to the child or the child’s family.
7 Many leading Rabbonim have ruled that there is no mesirah when informing on molesters and that molesters have the status of a rodef.
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