(Rabbi Horowitz's thoughts appear first, in regular font, and Mr. Pasik's follow in italics.)
There is an important "take-away" lesson to be learned from the case of a frum storeowner in Queens who pleaded guilty in Criminal Court to molesting a young boy several years ago - namely, that the legal system works.
My involvement began a few months ago, when a young man told me he'd been molested by the part-owner of a bakery in the Kew Gardens area. His story was credible and I introduced him and his parents to attorney Elliot Pasik. Together, we accompanied the victim and his parents to the police and the Queens DA's office.
The system worked.
The molester was arrested and retained counsel. Not long after, he admitted in open court to the crime of which he was accused. The Va'ad (Board of Rabbis) of Queens was magnificent, fully supporting the efforts of the victim and his parents - on many levels. They attended court when the molester pleaded guilty, and immediately acted thereafter to remove him from ownership and employment in the store.
At the victim's request, I was present in court at the sentencing when he spoke softly but firmly, telling the court and his molester how terribly the abuse had affected him.
The molester is now under the very strict watchful eye of the DA's office and his treatments will be carefully supervised. He was also informed that he will face immediate jail time and have the benefits of his plea removed should he not fully comply with every part of his treatment and supervision, or if he makes any attempt to contact the victim or his family.
Why did I encourage the victim to present his claim to the DA? Because an active molester presents a clear and present danger to children and I do not have the capacity to protect future victims - nor does anyone else other than the authorities. Over the past few decades, many well-intentioned people thought they could "Keep an eye on," or "really warn" predators and stop them from harming future victims. Sadly, we know this does not work.
Was I worried that an innocent man would have his life ruined if it turned out the entire story was fabricated? Of course I was. But due process was followed and there was no publicity at all until the perpetrator admitted his guilt. Additionally, there are reliable, well-established psychological tests the accused individual could have taken to prove his innocence. Rather, he chose to plead guilty and take a reduced sentence.
By now, having worked with and done my best to comfort countless abuse victims, I can often pick out the haunted eyes of a molested child among a roomful of people. In fact, the first time I met this victim, I had not been informed that he had been abused. It was only when I looked in his eyes that I had that sense.
Well, those eyes were clear and bright when I met him a week after the court hearing. He spoke about his future and the things he would like to do to get back on track. When I remarked to him that he looked so good, he told me he felt like an enormous weight had been lifted off his shoulders the moment he finished his statement in court and realized the molester has been punished and would be entering treatment.
"Rabbi," he said, "I thought the pain would never go away."
It did - but only because the system worked. And now our children are safer as a result.
In the past few weeks, three members of our community have been convicted of crimes against children. The Queens case, in which I worked with Rabbi Horowitz in assisting the victim, resulted in a plea of guilty. There were also two cases in Brooklyn. One involved a man who attempted to abduct a young Hispanic-American girl; he was convicted by a jury. The other involved a bar-mitzvah tutor who opted for a judge-only trial; he was convicted of abusing two students.
Meanwhile, I tuned in to Assemblyman Dov Hikind's radio show and learned that a registered sex offender in Boro Park had been re-arrested on charges of molesting a child in a synagogue.
Rabbi Horowitz writes, "The system worked." To this I add - the system will continue to work in the future.
In these and similar cases, the convicted defendants will be left with a permanent, indelible criminal record. For as long as these men live, that record will follow them around in every endeavor - employment, housing, education, etc. With a few simple keystrokes in our age of Google, our government's criminal record system will keep not thousands but millions of children much safer.
Neither we nor any other American religious community can remotely lay claim to such a system. As Israelis say when referring to the wars they've fought, "ein breira" - there is no other choice. The Queens bakery case is but another example of the system working and our community turning the corner. The case highlights the essential lesson that predators need to be reported to the authorities for the benefit of those victimized and for our community at large.
Yasher koach to all of the "former" victims. You're no longer victims. You're empowered, and you persevered - for yourselves and all of us. Your future is bright and glorious, and may Hashem bless you all.
Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, whose parsha and parenting columns appear regularly in The Jewish Press, is founder and dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam and founder and director of Agudath Israel's Project Y.E.S.
Elliot Pasik is a lawyer in private practice and president of the Jewish Board of Advocates for Children (www.jewishadvocates.org). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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