Hynes Singles out Haredi Community as Harassers of Sexual Assault Victims

JTA
May 24, 2012

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes reportedly said that the haredi Orthodox community is the only one in his jurisdiction in which sexual assault victims are harassed and intimidated.

In an interview that appeared Thursday in Andrea Peyser's New York Post column, Hynes cited the insularity of Brooklyn's haredi community and the need to protect sex-abuse victims from intimidation for his refusal to release the names of accused molesters from the community.

"I departed from the policy of identifying defendants,'' he told Peyser. "The reason is that within days, people within this relentless community would identify the victims. Then the intimidation would start.''

Hynes has been under attack for refusing to divulge the names. He has been criticized for trying to curry favor with the haredi Orthodox constituency, which has supported him in past elections.

The district attorney said that victims of sexual assault in the haredi community, especially children, "would be thrown out of summer camp, arranged marriages would be stopped. Kicked out of the yeshivas. It's the only community that has this kind of problem."

Peyser called alleged haredi Orthodox sex offenders "a group of unparalleled perverts that's wrapped in Teflon — more resistent to charges of sexual exploitation than John Travolta." She also asked: "So mothers — are your babies at risk from men wearing yarmulkes and side curls?

Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America, the haredi Orthodox umbrella group, disparaged the column.

The Peyser column, he told JTA, "is a good example of how repressed animus, when provided an outlet by irresponsible reportage, can burst forth in all its wild ugliness and spew itself into the public square. Ms. Peyser impugns both the Orthodox community and the district attorney on the basis of news stories that were incomplete and unfair -- and the words of people unconcerned with truth and a conveniently unnamed 'source in the Jewish community.' "

Hynes' handling of the issue has been the subject of investigations by several media outlets, including The New York Jewish Week and the Forward.