Predators and Zealots
I have personally known two rabbis that were later exposed as sexual predators. In one case, I was flabbergasted. I just couldn't believe it (and I still have a hard time believing it). His personality was exactly the opposite of what you would expect such a person to be. He was quiet, pleasant, modest, a mensch.
In the second case, on the other hand, while I was naturally surprised, I could totally grasp it. He himself had proudly told me that he was a mechutzaf, and it fit with his domineering personality. Like the rabbi in the first case, he also worked with seminary girls.
When the accounts about Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro being a serial predator came to light (and there are constantly more people coming forward, hopefully some of whom will go public), I was completely unsurprised. It made perfect sense, for two reasons.
One reason was the nature of the work that Rabbi Shapiro had done over the years. He ran a website called Frumteens for teenagers struggling with difficulties, including those regarding religious identity and sexuality, and he had personal counseling sessions with them. Now, there are certainly many very fine, idealistic people in such lines of work. However, there are also, I believe, a disproportionately high number of predators in roles that put them in contact with vulnerable females - counselors, to'anim, etc. - because they recognize that these lines of work are likely to provide many opportunities. And so you have to be particularly suspicious of any signs of inappropriate behavior. The fact that Shapiro would drive around in a red Camaro, picking up teenage girls for counseling sessions, might not have set alarm bells ringing when he was doing it 20 years ago, but with our heightened awareness today, it is certainly a red flag. And in an excellent article about abuse by Shayna Goldberg, she warns about "Teachers who deliberately try to alienate their students from everything they come from — their parents, families, homes, previous schools, communities, shuls, and even shul rabbis." This is exactly what Shapiro did with FrumTeens, trying to convince teenagers to turn against their families and schools and shuls and to place their trust solely in him.
The second reason why it made sense that Yaakov Shapiro was a predator was his obsession with delegitimizing everyone who didn't fit his very narrow view of Judaism. He would constantly condemn Religious Zionism, Modern Orthodoxy, and rationalist approaches to Torah/science as heresy. He even said that they are worse than child molestation! So he was an obsessive zealot, and that was very significant. When my books were banned, I learned about a number of zealots who were involved. In every case, there was some kind of major personal shortcoming in their lives:
The rabbi who initiated the campaign, Leib Pinter, spent time in prison decades ago for fraud, and went back to prison for another offense shortly after launching the campaign against my books.
Rabbi Leib Tropper, who was involved in rallying support for the ban and who emailed me at the time to tell me that everyone is appalled at my "nefarious" behavior, turned out to be involved in the most disgusting abuses of power involving women, going back for years. At the same time, he had authored a book on Hilchos Yichud, and set himself up as a crusader for the purity of religious conversion, delegitimizing all kinds of other people.
The rabbi who called me from Bnei Brak to deliver the ultimatum that I must retract my books or "face scandal and humiliation," had to flee Bnei Brak and go into hiding as a result of his involvement with a financial scandal. A Rosh Yeshivah in Bnei Brak, Naftali Elzas, who was also involved in engineering the campaign, had some of his talmidim renounce him in disgust as a result of his involvement with the same financial scandal.
And so on, and so forth. The psychoanalysis seems obvious. Nobody likes to feel that they are a terrible person. People who know that they are committing major wrongs have to feel good about themselves. So they become crusaders for a cause, usually one that attempts to show that it is actually others who are bad people.
The combination of the two - working with vulnerable females, and being a zealot - is kal v'chomer a warning of danger, as per Leib Tropper. A rabbinic hero of mine, who took a strong stand against Nechemya Weberman, told me that people had challenged him, saying that Weberman surely couldn't be guilty of such things, because he was the head of the Vaad HaTzniyus! My friend replied that he considered this to be further evidence that he was an abuser.