Yesterday in New York, a jury convicted a prominent member of the Satmar Hasidic community for sexually abusing a girl who had been sent to him for counseling. The convicted man is a powerful, well-connected man within the Satmar community. I’m not sure how prosecutors won a conviction, given that there was no physical evidence, and one young woman’s word against this man’s. But they did. The trial reportedly exposed the systemic way Satmar society permits sexual abuse to occur, and to go unpunished, in part because victims are intimidated into silence:
Prosecution of sexual abuse allegations in the ultra-Orthodox community has been hampered in the past by the intimidation of witnesses. In this case, Mr. Hynes’s office brought charges against four men for allegedly trying to interfere with the case, through bribery and threats. Then, during the trial, four other men were charged with criminal contempt in the second degree for taking cellphone pictures of the victim, in violation of court rules.
In the wake of the verdict, Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg, who spoke out for abuse victims, has himself been victimized:
An outspoken advocate for child sexual abuse victims in the Satmar Hasidic community was injured by a chemical he believed to be bleach that was thrown in his face as he walked down the street in his Williamsburg, Brooklyn, neighborhood on Tuesday.
The advocate, Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg, who runs a Web site and telephone call-in line that publicizes claims of sexual abuse in the ultra-Orthodox community, said in an interview at the hospital where he was treated that he was walking on Roebling Street about noon when a man came up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder.
“He has a cup of bleach,” Rabbi Rosenberg said, adding that he recognized the man. “And then he says ‘whoops’ and throws it in my face and walks off.”
A Police Department spokeswoman said on Tuesday evening that there had been an “ongoing dispute” between Rabbi Rosenberg and the man who threw the unidentified substance, but that no arrest had yet been made. Rabbi Rosenberg was taken to Woodhull Medical Center with burns to his face. According to a relative who was at the hospital, he had a corneal abrasion to his left eye and chemical burns around his eye. He was released after treatment and is expected to fully recover, his relative said.
G-d bless and protect that courageous rabbi. May his example give others the strength they need to do the right thing.