Sunday, August 13, 2023

How a Rav determines abuse Allegations are False

While the Aguda had been very emphatic that a rabbi needs to be consulted before going to the police - the question is why? It isn't likely to be a determination of guilt or innocence since the rabbi typically will not be convening a beis din. An alternative justification is that there is a need for an objective voice to establish whether the evidence rises to a certain level of credibility known as "raglayim l'davar".   Most of you are aware that rabbinical training provides no special skills in investigation of crimes or evaluation of psychological states or crimes which are manifestations of a sick mind. In short, he has no forensic training and no psychological training. Thus there is a distinct possibility that the rabbi will not understand the seriousness of the matter. As a minimum a rabbi needs to have mental health and legal professionals available to consult in these types of cases.

An example of why a rabbi untrained in mental health or forensic issues is not the one to consult - no matter how knowledgeable in halacha -   is the following composite of incidents that I have heard directly or were reported to me by involved parties. There is no exaggeration for dramatic effect - this is typically how these cases are described.
I met a prominent rav at a bris. In the course of talking he mentioned that he was on his way to a meeting regarding a false accusation by a wife against her husband. She was claiming that her husband had been sexually abusing their 12 year old daughter for 2 years.  I asked the rav on what basis had he had already decided that the allegations were false and that the wife was lying? In general I told him I would like to know the criteria he used for evaluating these type of cases.

He answered in a slightly condescending tone that it was obvious that the allegations were not true. 1) First of all he said that he personally knew the man and he was very midakdek in mitzvos and a tremendous talmid chachom who had learned in kollel for 20 years.  It was inconceivable that such a tzadik would do something so clearly in violations of the Torah. 2) He said that the circumstances themselves were clearly a basis to question the validity of her claim. The wife said that this wasn't a new behavior but in fact she was aware of his abusing their daughter for two years and she said she had been trying to get him to stop by threatening to expose him. The Rabbi asked me, "What normal wife would wait two years to report such disgusting behavior if it were true?" 3) He said that recently the wife had requested a Get This is also proof that the charges are not valid because everyone knows that women make up abuse charges as leverage to obtain a get 4). The agreement of the daughter with the her mother that her father was abusing her - also proved that the charges were false. Everyone knows that the daughter has been acting strangely for the last two years and obviously suffers from depression or some other mental health problem. She obviously also is supporting these charges because her father has been very strict with her level of tznius now that she is getting more mature - and has embarrassed her a number of time regarding this in front of her friends. 5) Finally the rav said the biggest proof that the charges were false were the charges themselves. He said such a horrendous charge can not be accepted as valid. He said, "We all know that there are sick individuals who prey on strange kids. But in this case a normal father was being charged with raping his own daughter. That is just too incredible - there is just no way that a father who is a ben Torah could do such a thing to his own daughter!"


  1. Wow! Way to go, way to go!

    Did you tell him that his hypothesis and conclusions were wrong? What will you do to save this poor child?

  2. Oh, and here I thought that the reason the Agudah wants people to go to rabbis is so that the rabbis can continue to cover up the abuse by threatening the victim with mesirah. Silly me.

  3. "3) He said that recently the wife had requested a Get This is also proof that the charges are not valid because everyone knows that women make up abuse charges as leverage to obtain a get"

    That, really, is the most damning evidence of probable innocence of the husband and lies of the wife. She waited until she wanted a divorce to suddenly report the so-called abuse? Sure. She is simply attempting to use it as leverage in child custody and monetary separation and force him to give her a Get. A very typical, if not common, tactic in divorces.

    1. A person who is faced with the possibility of a child being abused by her father or that the mother is lying in order to get a divorce - should not simply dismiss the allegations as false based on conjecture that the mother is lying. By ignoring the mother we have a four possiblities in connection to two alternatives. 1) The mother is lying to obtain a get 2) The mother is telling the truth.
      1) If we dismiss the allegations when they are a false - we score big and save him from horrible embarrassment. 2) If we dismiss the allegations when they are true - we horribly hurt the child. 3) If we don't dismiss the allegations when they are false we embarrass the husband. 4) If we don't dismiss the allegations when they are true we save the child from a horrible fate.

      so you might be correct 50& of the time - maybe even 80%. Is it worth destroying the child in the other cases simply to avoid investing the time to properly investigate?

      thus it is the possible embarrassment of the husband versus the possible lifelong torment of the child.

      I'll tell you a secret - an intelligent person isn't so quick to dismiss the allegations when there is so much that the child might lose. A not so intellilgent person says - that if we don't have two witnesses that the child is being abused - then we don't take any chances of hurting the husbands reputation - even if it means destroying the child.

      Safeguards need to be put in place in case the allegations are true - while a thorough investigation needs to be done by professionals - not by rabbis.

    2. So you're saying that if the allegations were true, the wife would merely report that her husband had been abusing her daughter for years and would not ask for a get???

  4. Abe,

    That's not evidence -- it's a theory. What you need is evidence to support the theory.

    In any event, the point is clear -- most (all?) Rabbis are not trained in this field and do not have the requisite knowledge to know how to handle cases such as this. On the other hand, there *are* trained professionals who (unfortunately) deal with these sorts of allegations every day and would probably be able to spot a trumped up charge very quickly. *Those* are the people we have to allow to investigate, not Rabbis who do not have the knowledge and training to discern a true accusation from a false one.

    The Wolf

  5. Great post. Comments on the grounds the rabbi(s) gave:

    1) This personal prejudice in favor of the man should disqualify the rabbi from judging this case (even informally). Regardless, experience shows that molesters are often well-respected people in the community known as all-around good people. It is only surprising the first time you see it.

    2) Dead Wrong. People are often abused for years before doing anything -- this is common knowledge among lawyers, psychologists, etc. She probably thought she convince him to stop.

    3) Ridiculous. This could only be true if women are never actually abused. What about the cases in which women or children are abused and then she asks for a get? Unless this never happens -- which is pure fantasy -- the get doesn't prove anything.

    4) Ridiculous. If the daughter says it's true, this obviously is evidence *for,* not *against,* the truth of the allegations. Other motives are possible but cannnot be proven by intuition alone.

    5) Dead wrong. Horrible abuse happens in every community. The perpetrators are often seen as "normal."

    1. 3) This one also seems to contradict the principle, articulated by Rema when discussing wife abuse, that when evidence is lacking we assume Jewish women are acting properly. Under this principle there is no basis for assuming that a woman must be fabricating accusations. In fact it turns the principle on its head.

  6. I don't know if this Rov realized it, but his reasons 1) and 5) contradict reason 2). For the same reason this Rov does not believe it of this man (because he is such a tsaddik and the allegations are so horrendous) the wife may not have believed it at first, or may have thought she could get him to stop.

  7. That's why the reasonable proposal being discussed is a panel of trained and authorized Rabbis in every community/region. Not any Rabbi.

    1. This is what was promised a year ago by Rabbi Zwiebel in order to implement that rabbi as gatekeeper program. However due to the uproar concerning the Brooklyn D.A. and the declaration that this would be a violation of the law - it has been officially abandoned.

      Likewise Lakewood had a beis din to deal with abuse issues - it was abandoned when an alleged abuser who was told to stop teaching - threatened the beis din with a $10 million dollar lawsuit.

      Bottom line - while it is an interesting idea - it doesn't exist and it is not likely to happen. So what alternative do you have?

    2. I dont think that is a reasonable proposal. Nonetheless, that WAS the proposal. Recently, the Agudah decided NOT to create such a panel.

  8. (Daas Torah, please correct me if I'm wrong -- I'm just a layman.)

    In a case in which a woman's "husband [is alleged to have] been sexually abusing their 12 year old daughter for 2 years", wouldn't one of the gravest *initial* concerns be the daughter's possible suicidality? How many rabbis have *even* the book-knowledge, on this subject, of a social worker, let alone the supervised clinical training?

    1. suicide might be an issue later in life. many abuse victims are traumatized and repress the memories - but it destroys their ability to relate to others and to trust and love others.

      But you are right - there are many factors that someone who is not familiar with the field would miss - aside from the point here that they would not even be able to accurately determined whether abuse was happening.

      It is a cruel thing when a father who should be protecting and nuturing is taking advantage. There of course is also the problem of why the mother doesn't intervene or even becomes a rival for the father's attentions.

      One case I was told of a father and brothers who would take turns with a teenager in bed Friday night. When her younger sister reached the age of 13 - they abandoned her for her sister. she was devastated by the loss of attention.

      A young lady shouldn't be faced with the horrible distortion from getting special love and attention which a molester father provides. Of course there is the flip side concerning a child who is not seduced but is simply raped.

      All of this perversity is not imaginable to the laymen - especially when men molesters are not only nice people but are often outstanding and charismatic.

  9. This may be a good example of a misguided Rabbi who has no shrewd worldly skills. You should provide a similar example of a young out for blood social worker with a fresh degree from Yoknahapta University who bungles by accusing anything that moves of molestation.

    There are all types of Rabbis. It is known that Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky was known for his deep perception of human nature and understanding of real life situations. He was once told by some askonim about a man who was jailed for abusing his family that something must be done to free him. He investigated a little bit and said "loz em zitzen", let him sit in jail while his family enjoys a respite from his tyranny.

    If Aguda were to do its job right, they should have people who are aware of the wiles of people who would not be taken in do the screening. Such pikchim would certainly seek out abuse professionals and obtain guidelines for judging cases. These talmidei chachomim would certainly be better than any run of the mill college yokel to determine what the best steps were to deal with a particular situation.

    1. Rabbi Zwiebel has characterized any attempt to take the rabbis out of the picture as a power grab. The Aguda has not said that only rabbis who are expert in abuse should be consulted. The only absolute requirement is that they be rabbis. Despite the nod in the direction of secular involvement - he has consistently insisted that rabbis have to be the gatekeeps in the process.

      New York Times (October 14, 2009 Orthodox Jews Rely More on Sex Abuse Prosecution By Paul Vitello):
      David Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, a group representing many chareidi factions, offered the moderate view. “A broad consensus has emerged in the last few years,” he said, “that many of these issues are beyond the ability of the community to handle internally.”
      But he added that prosecutors should recognize “religious sensitivities” by seeking alternatives to prison, to avoid depriving a family of its breadwinner, or by finding appropriate Orthodox homes for children removed from abusive families.
      “The district attorney should be careful not to be seen as making a power grab from rabbinic authority,” Mr. Zwiebel said.

      Furthermore rabbis not only err by dismissing charges which in fact are true - but they accept assertion which are later found to be false.

      There was a case in Lakewood about ten years ago where the wife accused her husband of child abuse. The Rabbis of Lakewood took her side and totally destroyed the reputation of the husband. About 2 years ago - she acknowledged that she had lied on the advice of her lawyer to ensure child custody. When the rabbis tried to apologize to the husband for destroying his life and parnossa he told them...

    2. Reb Doniel said

      "Furthermore rabbis not only err by dismissing charges which in fact are true - but they accept assertion which are later found to be false."

      What makes Rabbis more subject to being tricked than some social worker? Are social workers so well trained that they are never fooled. Who were these Rabbonim and what was the basis of their believing the woman's side?

    3. The following is another example of the assumption that finely tuned talmudic and halachic minds are capable of solving any and all problems without special training.

    4. to answer more directly - I assume you have never heard a talmid chachom express contempt for a psychotherapist. You can see an example in Rav Dessler scathing attack which I published

    5. All the horror stories in the world showcasing Rabbinical incompetence won't change the reality that professionals can be just as biased and arbitrary in their decision making process. Not to mention the "small" issue of professionals often ignoring Halachic guidelines in defining "abuse" etc.

      Tzoorba is right!

    6. If you are a perpetrator than it is best to have the Rabbis defend you.

      But realistically if you are a victim - I would recommend the secular authorities.

      There is no question that secular forces make mistakes - but the process is much more transparent and there are mechanisms for appeal. Rabbis not only don't have the competence to investigate properly they also don't have the authority to force people to testify. They also have limited means of doing anything to the perpetrator. It is fairly common that the main point of rabbinical investigation is to force the person to quit the school or neighborhood he is in and move someplace else.

      If you want to talk about violence - then yes there are groups that will give beatings or worse to those that they are convince have abused - but they are not consistent. Depends also on who you are related to or how impress your public status is.

    7. "You should provide a similar example of a young out for blood social worker with a fresh degree from Yoknahapta University who bungles by accusing anything that moves of molestation."

      You're 100% correct. If there is such a risk for overreaction, then, how is that the secular authorities rely on the judgment of these social workers to make authentic conclusions about what's really happening?

      There are two ways that these problems can be mitigated. One is the social worker's education. We rely on the fact that the social worker has been adequately and appropriately trained by their education institution and employer, and that the training is based on empirical, documented experience in the field with similar cases.

      The other way is through a transparent appeal process with penalties for misconduct. If a wife or social worker errs, or acts maliciously in their accusations, we try to make sure that the appeal process catches these problems.

      How, exactly, is the wise Rabbi supposed to be an adequate substitute? Based on his extensive education and experience in social work or psychology? Based on his intimate knowledge of the (often distasteful) medical and forensic evidence?

      What can be done to help the poor victim who has their accusation summarily dismissed by a (hopefully only) misguided talmid chochom? Who is permitted to tell such an esteemed Rabbi? (A rhetorical question, of course.)

      Unfortunately, the Agudah's position doesn't allow for any sort of help in this area. In fact, the story only illustrates the obviously circular nature of such an approach. It boils down to one view: that those who spend any time on Torah study must be held immune to any sort of accusation or reproach - whether we are referring to the accused party or to the Rabbi investigating the matter.

      There's no interest by anyone involved to find out the objective truth; rather, they are simply interested in saying, "It isn't possible!" and walking away.

    8. I think that quite a few unbiased readers with a healthy appreciation for truth and honesty will remain unconvinced that professionals are indeed the lesser of the two evils.

      Yes, "the process is much more transparent and there are mechanisms for appeal", but 1) the definition of abuse is open to the whims of society at any given time period, and 2) The right to appeal is of limited value to those lacking the financial resources, and 3) the right to appeal will have come too late in the process, as the character assassination wrought by the court of public opinion will have taken its toll by then.

      The sad reality is that bias is the fabric of our lives. Those trusting professionals will dwell on the shortcomings of Rabbinical authority and see the shortcomings of the professional establishment as an exception. Those trusting Rabbinic authority will dwell on the professional establishment's shortcomings.

      I think that as things stand now NEITHER is offering satisfactory solutions.

  10. you speak about the Rabbi not being trained to investigate these matters correctly. Yet my question is, if one goes to the police, what happens next? is the alledged victim immediately imprisoned, and then the court, i.e. the jury decides if he is innocent or guilty? or is their some system in place where these proffesionals who are trained to filter out the lies get called in and make their assesments before this man is arrested and facing trail?

  11. One of the biggest underlying problems here is the black and white thinking people hold about others. If someone is a ben torah- then they believe its not possible he could rape/ molest another!Bottom line- and it seems this is prevalent in all sexual abuse trials (Sandusky included) is that we need to teach/ raise awareness that PEOPLE ARE COMPLEX. They can have parts of them that are kind- that give tzedaka and learn torah and they can ALSO be raping a child. This is a difficult concept for a lot of people to absorb b/c there is so much about "good and bad" in our religion that there is very little room for grey. Sadly.

    I believe it also forces people to have to reevaluate their own behaviors if they accept that someone has good and BAD traits... it threatens their need to preserve their own image of "I'm a good person.. I'm a baal tzedaka AND sometimes I am cruel to others and need to look at this..." We are all human but if we deny our own humanity- we will also fail to see it in others. Very disturbing that rabbeim are still saying "but he's a good guy" based upon externals though there is such an emphasis in our community on reputation- it's difficult to dismantle it (which is also why people fear being reported!). We need a change in the psychology of perception!

  12. You don't determine the credibility of a sex abuse allegation by thinking really hard about it and being mefalpel.

  13. Because frum Jews don't act this way!

  14. It is essential that any system that needs to determine fact and arrive at judgement -- scientific, medical, civil/criminal justice -- must have a method for detecting and correcting error.
    The rav in your example exemplifies an approach which guarantees that error will not be found or corrected.

  15. that poor child who is always featured in these posts. Is it a real photo, or AI?


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