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US: Blame the victim! (and pay the perpetrator)

December 8, 2012

For more than a week, spectators and members of the press have been packing the Brooklyn courtroom where a prominent chasidic man is on trial for sexually abusing a girl from the Satmar community who was sent to him for counseling. The case is noteworthy for a number of reasons, chief among them the fact that the young woman pressed charges in the first place.

Indeed, ever since she reported the abuse, the alleged victim of Nechemya Weberman — an unlicensed “therapist” to whom, testimony has indicated, Satmar schools referred “wayward” girls for “help” — has been subjected to intense pressure to withdraw her claim, including intimidation, harassment, social ostracism of her family and even a reported $500,000 bribe. Last spring, members of the Satmar community held a lavish fundraiser for Weberman’s defense. Not long after, four men were arrested and charged with witness tampering in connection with the case. And last Thursday, four chasidic men were arrested for taking the young woman’s picture — which was then posted online — as she testified in the courtroom…

However, many people with ties to the chasidic community believe there is something even more important about the Weberman case — namely, what it exposes about the larger communal role played by chasidic “modesty committees” in communities like Williamsburg, Borough Park and Kiryas Joel. These groups — to which, sources say, Weberman was connected — originated years ago to guard the “purity” of the community by enforcing strict dress and behavior codes that characterize the insular chasidic lifestyle. But, insiders say, the tactics of these self-appointed, freelance modesty patrols have evolved from public shaming to extortion and threats.

The narrative to emerge from the trial testimony so far is that a chasidic girl, perceived as “acting out” by the standards of her chasidic school and family — defying the community’s dress code, communicating with boys, asking questions about the existence of God — was sent to Weberman for therapy. She was 12 at the time, and the move apparently came at her school’s insistence and under threat of expulsion.

Both the girl’s mother and a principal at the school, Benzion Feuerwerger, testified that the school, United Talmudical Academy at one point required the family to pay $12,800 in advance for Weberman’s “therapeutic” services before they would accept her into their summer camp and back into the school the following year. According to her testimony, the mother challenged the propriety of Weberman taking the girl, alone, on a long drive in his car, a clear violation of the chasidic prohibition against a man and a woman who are not married to each other being alone. The mother claimed that Weberman demanded an apology from her and that the school ordered the family to go along with it, according to the mother’s testimony.

The young woman, now 17, alleges that Weberman, who often “treated” her in a locked room with a bed, began touching her sexually during their sessions, which also came to include forced oral sex. The alleged abuse went on for years and was reported to the authorities only after the young woman disclosed it to a counselor at a new school she was attending….

According to Yerachmiel Lopin, who blogs at FrumFollies and has been reporting on the case for two years, “UTA was in effect, extorting money for Weberman. I strongly suspect they kept some of it. Given widespread rumors about his sexual misconduct, Satmar was in effect pimping its girls to Weberman, adding insult to injury by making the victim pay to be victimized.”

Getting paid $150 per hour to commit rape on a 12-year-old girl. Not a bad gig, if you can keep out of jail.

The Jewish Week

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One Comment
  1. Reblogged this on Women.. The second sex and commented:
    East or West, violence against women continues. Stop child sexual abuse. Media should protect victim’s privacy by sensitive reporting.

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