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Stand with the Survivors -- Our Children are not Hefker (Part II)
by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

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5/30/12

Stand With the Survivors

Our Children are not Hefker (Part II)

By: Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

Sixteen months ago, Project YES conducted a "Stand with the Victim" campaign to give support and chizuk to the family of a young child who was allegedly molested by Meir Dascalowitz. Dascalowitz was charged with nearly 100 felony charges of sexual abuse, and the family of the victim, which courageously stepped forward to press charges, was being subjected to brutal pressure and threats from community members in an attempt to silence them.

By all accounts, efforts to offer emotional support for the survivor’s family were most productive. The hearing room was packed with many dozens of us – so much so that Dascalowitz’s hearing was moved to the first on the docket in order to clear the courtroom. We presented the family members with over 300 printed emails and blog posts from our readers worldwide, which clearly provided them with an enormous boost of chizuk.

We are once again asking our readers to display a similar show of support for the brave family of the young woman who was allegedly abused by Nechemya Weberman (Kings County Supreme Court Case # 01589-2011) in light of the pressure being directed at them from certain community members who would want the charges dropped.

The hearing will take place in the Kings County Supreme Court, 320 Jay Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201 on Thursday, June 14th at 9:00 a.m.

Weberman is entitled to the presumption of innocence and we must reserve judgment until the conclusion of the judicial process. Nonetheless, research indicates that the overwhelming majority of children who come forward with abuse allegations are telling the truth. Think about it. Why would anyone in their right mind make a claim of being abused if it didn't happen? All the more so because there is unfortunately a stigma attached to the individuals and the families of victims of abuse. Going public and helping to get the perpetrator apprehended in order to protect the lives of other innocent children, often comes at great personal cost to the survivors and their families. With all this in mind, we must stand with them until this is sorted out.

Moreover, in this particular case, there are very troubling facts on the ground clearly challenging to the most unbiased observer. Weberman was acting as a child therapist with no training or degree. By his own admission, having secluded himself with this young lady on numerous occasions over a period of years, he was in clear violation of basic Hilchos Yichud .

Whether this particular individual is innocent or guilty is for the court to decide. We must as a community deal with the very real problem of intimidation and the banning and shunning of the victim. This, in effect, abuses the victim a second time. A prime example of this happened five years ago. A childhood friend asked Project YES to assist a young man in our community who was in terrible shape and addicted to hard drugs. It was immediately evident to me that he had been molested as a young child, and we encouraged him and later his parents to report this to the authorities. During the initial meeting with his parents, they expressed genuine concern and even fear of pursuing this matter, as they were warned that friends of this well-connected perpetrator will harm them or worse. (The warning had been issued to them earlier through back channels.)

During our initial meeting with the Queens District Attorney, I mentioned the “intimidation factor” and explained to them how these things work – the 3:00 a.m. anonymous phone calls, pizza deliveries in the middle of the night, on and on. We were assured that we would have the full resources and protection of the DA’s office and the police department, and they most certainly “walked the walk” by supporting the family every step of the way. The man was arrested, and during his first appearance in court, the judge practically yelled at the molester in court and warned him that the slightest act of intimidation against the victim’s family would be assumed to have come from him. He was told by the judge in no uncertain terms that his bail will be revoked and charges would be added if there were any acts of bullying or threats directed at the victim’s family. (For more details, click here and here.)We ought to be advocating that this level of support and protection be offered to these Brooklyn victims who are coming forward as well.

With all this in mind, we respectfully ask our readers to:

1) Post a comment of support below in the thread following this column or send an email to yhprojectyes@gmail.com. Please list your real name and the city where you live, to send a clear message to those conducting the terror campaign against the victim’s family that we are not intimidated by them. These comments will be printed and presented to the family at the hearing.

2) Please try and attend the hearing in person if at all possible. It is extraordinarily important that we have a huge turnout supporting the victim and her family. We need hundreds of people there, to send a loud and clear message to all parties that Our Children are not Hefker.

3) Respectfully email the Brooklyn DA’s office (SCHMETJ@brooklynda.org is the email address of Jerry Schmetterer, Director of Public Information at the DA’s office) and express your support for 24/7 protection of the victim’s family and the robust investigation and prosecution of the folks who are intimidating them. Additionally, express your support for a swift resolution of the criminal charges, as the stalling and delay just allow those pressuring the victims more time for intimidation. (Nechemya Weberman was arrested on February 23, 2011.)

Kindly take a moment to review the lines of last year’s post here for a more detailed explanation regarding the moral and practical need to stand with the victim.

Thank you for your assistance and support of our efforts on behalf of abuse survivors.

Yakov Horowitz

P.S. Over the past few years, as a public service, Project YES has been conducting teleconference calls in the month of June designed to help parents effectively speak to their children about personal space and safety before sending them off to summer camp. This year’s teleconference call will take place Thursday, June 7th at 9:30 p.m. EDT. To join, kindly call in to (209) 647-1600 Participant Code: 827269

(Here is a link to a child safety teleconference call we ran in 2011, and a recording of this 2012 session will be available on our website www.kosherjewishparenting.com or by dialing (209) 647-1699 Participant Code: 827269 after the call is concluded. )



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