A stunning 85 alleged child molesters have been arrested in the past three years during an investigation of child sexual abuse in Brooklyn, New York‘s Orthodox Jewish community, according to a report in The New York Post. The initiative, known as Kol Tzedek, Hebrew for “voice of justice,” was launched by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office in 2009, and aims to coax child sexual abuse victims to come forward, despite pressure exerted by the Orthodox Jewish community that makes many reluctant to do so.
In the three years since Kol Tzedek was launched by Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes, 117 alleged child sexual abuse victims have come forward, according to the Post. Almost all of the victims are male, while all but two accused perpetrators are men. So far, 38 cases have been closed; 14 abusers were sentenced to jail time for crimes that include sex abuse, attempted kidnapping, and sodomy. Sentences have ranged from a month in jail to 10-to-20 years, the Post said.
The rest of those arrested have been put on probation, pleaded to minor charges, or saw their cases dismissed. Sadly, the dismissals often came after victims and their parents bowed to immense community pressure to stop cooperating with law enforcement.
According to the Post, convincing victims of child sexual abuse to come forward is difficult in the Ultra-orthodox community because rabbis enforce a rule against reporting fellow Jews to secular authorities. Defying the rabbis can result in families becoming outcasts, ruining prospects for marriage or running businesses.
“It spreads through the community, and the whole family gets ostracized,” Henna White, the Orthodox Jewish liaison for the Brooklyn DA’s office, told the Post.
White is Orthodox herself, and knows the community well. It is her job to coax victims to press charges once they contact Kol Tzedek.
“The first thing they say almost every time is, ‘Please don’t tell anybody. I don’t want to go public. Make sure this never goes to the press,’ ” she said. “I can’t begin to tell you how important that is.”
In order to protect victims’ identities, the DA’s office takes the unusual step of keeping the names of those arrested from the press.
White told the Post that one of the most frustrating aspects of her job is the fact that cases sometimes collapse due to pressure levied on victims by the insular Orthodox community.
“We have victims who back out. Somebody who was very interested in going ahead and working with us, suddenly they stop calling back — we can’t reach them. What we believe is they’re getting pressured,’’ she said.