Over the past 20 years, the Catholic church has become known as the poster child of hiding abusers and blaming victims. They are the largest due to their vast worldwide organization, but they most certainly not the only ones. Patriarchal organizations in general tend to take a dim view of complaints against leaders.
Yesterday, a court in New York delivered a guilty verdict against a member of the Satmar Hasidic community of Williamsburg for repeatedly sexually abusing a young girl from the community. The victim had been referred to Nechemya Weberman who, acting as an unlicensed therapist, treated the girl for referred to him because she wore supposedly indecent clothing, read People magazine and questioned God’s authority in a religious school class. The rules are enforced by the modesty police and parents are subject to high fees for treatment. Apparently Weberman’s treatments for these offences included fondling and oral sex.
Weberman was also supported by members of his sect, some of whom were charged for interfering with witnesses.
Mr. Hynes’s office brought charges against four men for allegedly trying to interfere with the case, through bribery and threats. Then, during the trial, four other men were charged with criminal contempt in the second degree for taking cellphone pictures of the victim, in violation of court rules.
Support for Weberman was also indicated by a fundraising efforts for his defence that was attended by hundreds of people.
Following the guilty verdict, Satmer leaders made a statement that they had decided to make changes in their practices. Instead of sending violators of the conduct code these local unlicensed therapists,
“This was a wakeup call; nobody denies that,” said Gary Schlesinger, who heads a nonprofit tied to Satmar leader Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum.
“Maybe we will send them to an Israeli program or a European program, and the kid will come back a different person.”
“A Jewish daughter has descended so low,” said Teitelbaum, according to a translation published by the Jewish blog, FailedMessiah.com. “There hasn’t been such a disgusting saga in (the history of religious) Jewry.”
The support for Weberman comes not just from teh Rabbi.
“Weberman was trying to help her,” said Joel Weinstock, 31, a private tutor. “The rules are set forth by the rabbis. There is no reason to change.”
Not all members of the community feel the same.
“It’s an embarrassment for the community that some are standing up for the abuser,” said Raizy Pollak, 19, who dropped out of the accuser’s yeshiva to protest the strict rules. “We need to stand up for the victim instead of pushing her down,” she added.
Supporters of the victim rallied last week, holding signs in Yiddish blasting perverts and molesters.
Weberman was convicted on 59 counts, and after the verdict, a number of other women came forward with similar stories, but refused to testify. Much like the catholic church, this is an entire religious organization that denies abuse and protects the abusers.
It seems to me that a truly moral leader would stand up and say “I broke the law, punish me according to the law”. somehow, that never seem to happen.