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Abuse Survivor Calls on Orthodox Jews for Support with Law Reform

Jun 9, 2016

Chaim Levin grew up in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn in an ultraconservative Orthodox Jewish community. He was sexually abused by his cousin beginning at age six until the age of ten. When he confided in his rabbi, he was told to tell his parents, but to not reveal the identity of the abuser to avoid a family war. For the next six years, the abuser was welcome in his family home. Levin, however, was shunned by the community and abandoned by his own family, the Daily News reports.

Now, at age 27, he has, founded a 103-member support group, LGBTQ Chabad, and is a leader in the struggle for legal reform of the statute of limitations currently in existence in order to seek justice for victims of child sex-abuse. Levin tells the Daily News, that none of his past struggles will stop him from seeking justice.

The current law bans victims from pursuing civil litigation or criminal charges after they have reached their 23rd birthday. Legislation is pending in New York State, but the legislative session ends June 16. "My message to my abuser is this: I will never stop until you take responsibility for what you did to me," Levin told the Daily News. "I'm not going away. I'm getting stronger and stronger."

The Jewish Week community newspaper named Levin one of "36 under 36," a group that supports those who wish to leave the Orthodox community. "Chaim is a man of great principle," said executive director of Footsteps, Lani Santo. "He can't let injustice sit there."

In a recent article in Newsweek that profiled child sex-abuse in the Hasidic community, many people interviewed were adults who had been molested as children. Along with recordings, documents, public filings and personal e-mails, former students, advocates, sociologists, social workers and survivors were given a voice about their experiences. Their reluctance to speak out in the past can be understood by a "confluence of factors: widespread sexual repression, a strong resistance to the secular world, and most important, a power structure designed to keep people from speaking up about abuse."

An alleged abuser sheltered and victims unwilling to talk for fear of losing the only way of life they know, is a common thread running in the Hasidic school system. Chaim Levin is working for change through the passage of the Child Victim's Act to help bring justice and healing for himself as well as his fellow survivors.

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