Religious communities are often protective of their own. Sharing the same beliefs, customs and traditions makes the bond between members of religious communities even stronger than your average community. Looking up to the same religious leaders generation after generation can help form tight-knit communities. While it is beneficial in most cases, certain situations can work against bringing people together.
When authority figures cross the line and commit unthinkable acts of sexual abuse, coming forward to report them can divide a community. Some will support the alleged suspect and accuse the victim of lying. Others will back the victim and push to get the leader removed from the community. Some will not voice their opinion at all.
An article from Newsweek about a Hasidic Rabbi’s alleged long-term child sexual abuse spanning multiple states delves into the broader issue of the “widespread belief that reporting abuse to secular authorities constitutes heresy.” Out of fear for tarnishing their family name and causing havoc for their children who might attend the same schools, victims of childhood sexual abuse sometimes refuse to speak out. In certain cases, member of a tight-knit religious community may be reluctant to come forward out of fear of retaliation or causing harm to the community. Without acting in a timely manner, however, the statute of limitations could pass, resulting in suspects walking free or additional children be subjected to abuse.
Incidents such as this are a reminder that sexual abuse occurs in all communities regardless of religious faith and we must be vigilant in the supervision and protection of our children at all times. Furthermore, protecting the reputation of a community should never be a higher priority than protecting the safety of a child.
Farmer Jaffe attorney Adam Horowitz is experienced in filing lawsuits nationwide on behalf of victims of sex assault in orthodox Jewish communities. You can reach Adam Horowitz at [email protected] or call our law firm at (954) 603-8394.