Brooklyn DA Pushes for Rabbis to Report Abuse

By WNYC Newsroom
May 24, 2012

The Brooklyn District attorney is pushing for legislation that would add religious leaders to those required to report allegations of sex abuse to authorities in the wake of criticism over his handling of such cases in the Orthodox Jewish community, according to the New York Times.

Critics of Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes say he allows the community a free pass – not objecting when a group representing Hasidic and Orthodox Jews instructed followers to first get permission from a rabbi before reporting alleged sexual abuse and refusing to make public the more than 95 recently indicted.

But Paul Berger, staff writer for the Jewish Daily Forward, told the Brian Lehrer Show earlier this month that it is more nuanced than that.

"He still expects that those cases are still brought to him," he said. "If you want to get somebody's advice ... then it would make sense that they should seek the guidance of a rabbi first."

Many in the community believe sex abuse should be dealt with by religious authorities. Reporting sexual abuse can often lead to being kicked out of the community, booted from school or shunned from synagogues.

In 2009, Hynes was under fire for not bringing cases against the Orthodox community. He has since launched a program known as Kol Tzedek that targets victims in the community and tries to get them to come forward.

A Queens legislator has introduced a bill that would make it easier to prosecute or sue alleged sex offenders by extending the statute of limitations from five to 10 years. As WNYC reported earlier this month:

"This legislation is to identify pedophiles and hold them accountable, and to identify those who have protected them," Markey told WNYC earlier this month, "And only by doing that can we protect children." But Markey's bill has been stalled for years. It has passed the Assembly four times since 2005, but has always died in the state Senate.