By Charles Hynes (NY Daily News)
January 20, 2012
When Nechemya Weberman is sentenced this week, an investigation and trial that divided a Brooklyn community for almost three years will come to an end.
The victim in this case showed extraordinary courage during her four days of testimony. This wasn’t just one victim or a case of her word against his. She was speaking for all who have suffered abuse but have been intimidated and forced into silence by scare tactics that support the abuser and discard the victim.
Certainly, it would have made for a better case if more victims were willing to press charges — but she was one of the finest witnesses a prosecutor can have.
Few people are as confident and as intelligent and as clear-thinking as this heroic, young woman. She said it very forcefully: “He was like a God.”
Someone like that shouldn’t be treated with the kind of absolute respect Weberman received. He didn’t deserve it. He was an unlicensed therapist masquerading as someone who cared, someone who wanted to help. In actuality, he was a predator.
Many victims are fearful that factions within these communities will ostracize, will terrorize, will do things that are just not acceptable; things that I just think are shameless. I compare it to the Mafia, but at least in Mafia cases we can offer victims witness protection. That does not work in these insular communities, where it is more difficult to leave behind friends and family and go into hiding.
In the case of this victim, some in her community did not try to kill her body, but they tried to kill her soul. This child was brutalized for years. I hope the verdict and sentence sends a very clear and unmistakable message to people in certain parts of the Orthodox community — it is time to start protecting victims rather than defendants.
One of the consequences of his conviction — if it’s a long prison sentence — would be to put on notice people who feel totally without fear when they brutalize kids. If they see you run the risk of going to jail, perhaps for the rest of your life, it would be a real deterrent.
This case can mark the beginning of a sea change. As I have urged, the Bais Din (Rabbinical Court) of the Lubavitch sect in Crown Heights decreed last year that sexual abuse accusations must be brought to the authorities without any prior screening. I can only hope the Satmar leadership will recognize there’s an obligation not to ignore secular authorities. When they learn of a child being abused they must report it immediately. There is no halfway measure. Report it.
The victim showed extraordinary courage. It is my hope she can find some closure, so she can move forward to enjoy the rewarding future she so richly deserves.