In a major departure from previous policy, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes has made public the names of those convicted of sexual assaults in the Orthodox Jewish community.
The DA’s office has convicted 45 men and one woman in sex-attack cases in the Orthodox Jewish community in the past four years, and the names of the offenders, except for juveniles, have been given to the New York Post, the Jewish Voice reports. Previously, Hynes had asserted that publicizing sex offender’s names could expose victims to intimidation or deter others from coming forward. A spokesperson from Hynes’s office said, “We feel now it’s good for the community to know those who have been convicted.”
Under a program called Kol Tzedek, Hebrew for “voice of justice,” 118 cases have been brought and 25 sex offenders have received jail time. The longest sentence went to Nechemya Weberman, an unlicensed therapist who was sentenced to 103 years for abusing a girl he was counseling starting when she was 12, according to the Jewish Voice.
Officials in the district attorney’s office say many victims from the Orthodox community still fear being ostracized for reporting a rapist or child molester from within their religious community, according to the Jewish Voice. A number of cases have been dismissed or charges downgraded because victims backed out or parents refused to let their children testify. Religious authorities in the ultra-Orthodox community strongly discourage members of their community from taking physical and sexual abuse complaints to secular authorities. Prosecution of such allegations has sometimes been hampered by witness intimidation. Before the Weberman trial began, Hynes brought charges against four men who allegedly attempted to interfere with the case through bribery and threats, according to the Huffington Post.
Prosecutors believe victims have gained courage since offenders like Weberman have been put in prison.