Assemblyman Dov Hikind says he has selected a new leader for his task force to combat sexual abuse in the orthodox Jewish community.While Hikind said the name would only be available later this week, he elaborated that the new leader’s responsibilities will consist of gathering and organizing the information about sexual abuse that Hikind intends to present to the national Rabbinical leaders.
The new leader’s role seems different from that of Rabbi BentzionTwerski, the task force’s high profile initial leader, who resigned after a week because of family pressure.
On his radio program last Saturday night, Hikind gave a deadline of January for the end of “Phase 1” of his campaign, which consists of creating a dossier of information about sexual abuse in the OrthodoxJewish community, in particular the Chareidi community, culled from interviews with abuse victims, therapists and even accused pedophiles.Hikind is convinced that once he presents the information to the Rabbinical leadership, they will act.
“People are skeptical about the Rabbis,” Hikind said. “I prefer not to believe that, but we’ll find out soon enough. I’m committed to this.The more I listen, [the more] I can’t imagine anyone not being committed.”
Hikind intends to create multi-faceted approach to the sexual abuse problem including prevention aspects for schools and parents as well as the creation of a network so other schools would know when a teacher was fired for sexual misconduct.
Hikind said that he spoke to the Agudath Israel of America, to take up the issue, but was declined. Rabbi David Zweibel, Agudath Israel’s Executive Vice President for Government and Public Affairs, said thatthe characterization was not correct, but did confirm a preliminary discussion with Hikind.
Hikind also stressed that his office has been covertly dealing with the sexual abuse problem, by meeting with accused pedophiles and getting them into therapy.
“I have one pedophile that calls me every single day to say ‘am I okay?’ ‘Have you heard anything?’” Hikind said
The issue of sexual abuse has always been a difficult topic in the Chassidic community. High social pressure to conform, social stigmatization and a fear of secular authorities has made identifying and stopping sexual abuse difficult. While all information about sexual abuse in the Orthodox community is anecdotal, Hikind called the issue“a disaster”.Hikind also said that nearly everyone who comes to his office is not willing to press charges. [...]