Friday, October 22, 2021

What Can Be Done?

Many years ago I became aware of a certain Terrible Situation being perpetrated by someone. I don't want to go into specifics at this point, but it was a form of severe emotional abuse and long-term life harm. The victims of this person, some of whom I knew personally, were badly hurt. Those who had managed to extract themselves from the situation just wanted to put it behind them and try to move on with their lives. I, on the other hand, was raised with a very strong message that you don't just stand by and allow terrible things to happen. But what could I do?

There was nothing actually illegal taking place, so there was no option of going to the police. At the time, I was in the charedi community, and I went to consult a prominent rabbinic authority and told him about the situation. Despairingly, he said that he doesn't think that anything can be done. He pointed out that even with sexual abuse, it took years for the rabbinic establishment to understand that it needed to be taken seriously; they just wouldn't understand the gravity of the situation that I was describing.

As the years went on, the situation kept getting worse. Every so often I would hear new and even more shocking stories. The perpetrator was now being further enabled by others (who ironically themselves were, in a way, victims).

I tried contacting journalists, to see if they were interested in writing an expose. One of them was interested, but nothing ever came of it. And the type of Anglo-Jewish journalists who do this kind of investigative work are generally in the US, whereas this situation is in Israel.

The only other route was to write an expose myself. But I was wary of doing so, for numerous reasons. One was that I was already fighting plenty of other battles, which were quite draining. Another was that the perpetrator himself was a victim of a different but even more terrible type of harm, and I couldn't help but feel sorry for him. Yet another was that the perpetrator had never harmed me personally; in fact, he had helped me in several ways, and so I felt guilty about blowing the whistle on him. Some people who were familiar with the situation told me that it was pointless; they said that those who need to know won't care what I have to say. In addition, I was simply afraid. When you start up with crazy people, you never know how they will respond. And I'm not even sure of the legality of publicly stating some very serious charges about people. Someone who cares about me keeps telling me that I'm not Batman and I should not engage in such crusades.

But I've been wrestling with this for about twenty years now. I keep thinking of Chazal's statement that במקום שאין אנשים השתדל להיות איש. And I just heard yet another story about this situation, this time involving financial exploitation.

What should I do? I'd appreciate advice (but not from people who are just gung-ho about my doing something and don't care about risks and concerns).


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36 comments:

  1. Talk to hi-level professional health-care workers in this field who will help you evaluate your options and maybe help your voice be heard by relevant authorities should it come to that.

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  2. Put out anonymous warnings. Ugly, but perhaps only available course.

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  3. Is there anyone that this person respects who could talk to him? Or perhaps sending him an anonymous threatening message that if he didn't cease and desist....

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  4. Maybe you should raise your concerns to this person - if this is somebody who you know and respect, you could give him the feedback directly, share that you've seen the effects of his/her behavior on others. If you have at heart the best interest for the person and if you clearly saw the consequences of his/her behavior, maybe you should reach out first?

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    Replies
    1. It would be like trying to convince Trump that he has serious personality flaws.

      Delete
  5. Are there any current high level people (professionals, Gedolim) who this person looks up to, and might respect their opinion?

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  6. Ask yourself what you would be criticising a Charedi Rebbe for not doing, and then do it yourself.

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  7. One serious problem you face, as I understand the situation, is that you have no direct evidence. You have only the statements of victims who do not want to come forward for whatever reason. Even if you found a receptive authority, that authority, if acting with integrity, will require hearing directly from the victims. So it seems to me the most you can honorably do is encourage those with direct evidence to change their minds and come forward.

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  8. did you know the nathan sifkin is not really a rabbi, he was denounced the most relious rabanim in the US

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    Replies
    1. My understanding is that Rabbi Dr. Slifkin has semichah. In that case, can you please define precisely what "not really a rabbi" means?

      Also, could you define "relious" for me?

      Thank you.

      Delete
    2. if you are really a maarava graduate, you should be ashamed for writing such a thing so ignorant, flippant and disparaging about a rabbi. it reflects back on the institution you claim to have graduated from. Go as Rabbi Chait what he thinks of your comment.

      Delete
    3. So what? Any prominent man is denounced by somebody.
      But, dear @maarava graduate, I am joining to the request above and looking forward to your definition of what is "not really a rabbi" and what is "relious" one.

      Delete
  9. How about writing the entire truth the way you did here? You can say that this person has good qualities too and that he is a victim of an even more terrible harm. Describe what harm that is. Hurt people hurt. Show how aveyra goreres aveyra to perpetuate the cycle of harm. Even if you were hurt that is not an excuse to hurt others and that the hurt must stop. You are a natural writer. You can put out 1 article on this blog. If it has an effect great! If not you tried and did it in the most sensitive way to the best of your abilities.

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  10. You need to be very careful before you say anything publicly,.as Israel's libel/defamation laws are pretty strict. Truth is.an.absolute defense, but you need to decide if you are ready to put yourself through.the court system if things shake out that way. You may want to consult with an attorney.

    Good luck - you may need it...

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  11. Is there a way to help protect the victim(s)?

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  12. It's tough. I personally know of a therapist that has abused many girls and women here in Borough Park, albeit legally. There isn't much to be done in a straightforward manner.

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  13. I think you should focus on the goal. It is not to villify the perpetrator, even if it is just.
    Presumably, the goal is to help the victims. I would focus on them. Connect with them however possible, either personally or through networking, and find them the support they will need now and in the future.

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  14. “Many years ago I became aware of a certain Terrible Situation being perpetrated by someone. I don't want to go into specifics at this point, but it was a form of severe emotional abuse and long-term life harm...”

    Rav Slifkin.
    You and many other concerned folks are part of the problem. When relating instances of abuse, present or past, whether sexual, physical or emotional, the abuser, his age, location and abuse history is rarely detailed. What was that “Terrible Situation? When did it occur? Why are you afraid to go into specifics? By failing to identify the outrage and those that should be responsible for protecting the victim - gedolim, noteworthy Rabbeim, legislators etc. , you compound the evildoing.

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  15. Rabbi Slifkin, I think your best bet is to be as supportive as possible to the victims. Make sure that they feel empowered. Find resources for them like counseling, financial support, safe environments. Whatever they need. If this is not a legal matter, obviously the courts can’t help. But empowering the victims, pulling them out of their codependency, will allow them to eventually undermine the perpetrator. You can’t necessarily bring this person down, but the victims can. They just need the strength to do so. And that is where you come in.
    This is like any system built on secrets. Each individual has a motivation for maintaining the secret. In a Mafia, the secret is protected by collective guilt. Sometimes the secret is protected by the perceived humiliation that would come from the revelation. Whatever the motivation, if there are enough victims, one of them will eventually realize that the secret is not worth carrying anymore and that no one else deserves to go through this. Once one victim steps forward, others will feel more empowered, and the perpetrator’s illusion of power will collapse.
    In short, Give the victims power.

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  16. I'm not quite sure what point precisely you're asking advice on, perhaps you can clarify.

    You say that you were fighting a lot of battles implying that you no longer are. So that's out.

    Regarding not taking on every crusade, you don't appear to think this way at all... Also, if you believe it's important and it will save people than surely it's a crusade worth fighting. You went up against the full might and power of Charedi society and came out the other side...

    Regarding the legality, I can't comment on and you would need to speak to a lawyer however surely you can couch your allegations in legalese to avoid liability, I mean Isreali journalists surely do expose about people.

    Do you feel more sorry for him or for the people that he has taken advantage of.

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  17. This is a bit of a catch-22 situation. You are not ready to reveal the details, but it's hard for your readers to give advice on whether you should expose this person without us knowing the details, but if you told us, you'd be exposing him.

    So my only advice is that this is the wrong forum for soliciting advice on this question. Instead, privately ask for advice from personal friends who you trust to keep the details secret.

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  18. is there another way to minimize or prevent this harm?

    like privately informing those around him? perhaps a place where people can tell their stories about him (assuming it a him) so you can direct would be victims there?

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  19. you should make an effort to have victims report these abuses without getting involved yourself, except to warn prospective dupes of danger of association with the individual, so as not to "place a stumbling block" in the way of unsuspecting future victims- as long as you are certain of the historic facts

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  20. Definitely talk to expert therapists, psychiatrists, AND attorneys who can guide you regarding the legal implications of whatever you do. If you can help then you will be doing a mitzvah and if not then there's nothing you can do. Either way, you will be rewarded for your good intentions and your caring attitude.

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  21. True, your not batman, but the moral thing to do would be to help the victims and stop the perpetrator, if, what you believe s/he is doing is wrong. Compliance is no answer. This is my personal opinion. Again, only if what you feel the perpetrator is doing to the "victims" is wrong. But the choose of course is yours to make.

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  22. We are kinda missing some details 😂. Depends on how serious and the ramifications of that type of abuse. Only then can we do a CBA.

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  23. I you truly believe it needs to be done but can't do it yourself whisper the situation quietly to an angry nut who is looking for an axe to grind then stand back and watch stuff happen.

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  24. There was nothing actually illegal taking place, so there was no option of going to the police.
    ===============================
    So no civil issues but yes halachic issues? or just bad midot but no technical violation?
    KT

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  25. Dear RNS,
    If you are personally aware about the case, you are obliged by mitzva הוכח תוכיח את עמיתך.
    According to Gemara, one is free from it only after the perpetrator warned to kill him or went to battery. I hope that is not realistic here.
    Later poskim understand it much more broadly and leniently and permit to avoid the mitzva for any danger. But what is the really danger here? I think those who hate you will not hate you even more whatever you will do, and those who love you will hardly love you less.
    As for libel/defamation laws, it should be addressed to a lawer.
    Finally, you can leverage Internet capabilities: write out the story avoiding real names of people and explaining details that make the story clear for involved and potentially involved people, then publish it under some pseudonim. It may work.

    I have a personal problem of another kind. Some vroup of perpetrators caused grave damage to me, my family and many friends of mine. Theoretically I should go to reproach then. In practice it's too nasty for me to even see them. I still didn't find a solution to this problem.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Forum Takana - http://takana.org.il/english/

    They are supposed to be an address for this sort of thing. I have dealt with them a couple of times, and they are incredibly cautious, but if they do decide to get involved, it will have the force of big names behind it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 1) They only deal with sexual abuse. 2) They only operate in the dati-leumi sector.

      Delete
    2. My assumption was that those are both pertinent to this case. I guess with more details, there might be a better address.

      Delete
  27. “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants” (Louis Brandeis)

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  28. Are you aware of anyone else who knows about this Terrible Situation that might be in a better position to act?

    ReplyDelete

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