« Chief Rabbinate Allegedly Stonewalls, Blocks Women From Working As Kosher Inspectors | Main | 5,600 Join Organization For Orthodox And Haredi Homosexuals »

November 13, 2012

A Moral Panic In Great Neck

Arline EpsteinA series of mistakes by parents and therapists along with police procedural errors may have led to the wrongful convictions of a father and so more than two decades ago. Now the mother of one of the duo's "victims" is working to right the wrong.

Arline Epstein
Arline Epstein

Hella Winston writes in The Jewish Week:

A self-described introvert, Arline Epstein has never thought of herself as an activist, but more like someone who tries to do the right thing. And that’s just what she thought she was doing 24 years ago when she put her 10-year-old son Mike in therapy after police and other parents convinced her — over Mike’s initial insistence to the contrary — that he had been molested by a popular retired schoolteacher named Arnold Friedman and his son Jesse during after-school computer classes in their Great Neck home.

The local therapists working closely with parents and law enforcement at the time argued, Arline recalls, that denials of abuse like Mike’s — particularly in the face of a detailed confession by Arnold and, later, Jesse and another defendant, Ross Goldstein — were caused by shame and/or an inability to remember the traumatic events. Healing, they believed, could come only through the children “opening up” about what had happened to them.

The only problem was that Mike was, in fact, never abused, though he did at some point decide to tell his therapist, Dr. David Pelcovitz, that he had been, hoping that such a disclosure would put an end to the unpleasant therapy sessions and get him back to his normal childhood life. It worked.

Though a number of other children agreed to press charges against the Friedmans, Mike never did, and the whole episode became a part of his past — until recently, when he decided to tell first the Nassau County district attorney and then his parents about his childhood lie.

And now, once again, Arline Epstein is trying to do the right thing.…

[Her notes show that a] detective’s statement to parents that during the first weeks of the investigation they had found that “no child out of 30-plus interviewed had been sodomized, and most said nothing happened” now raised a red flag…

Her notes also indicate that one of the complaining witnesses — a 9-year-old boy— was interviewed for 5 hours [straight] before he produced a 10-page statement to police and that another mother was told by the detective who came to question her son that he had just been with another kid for seven hours and he wouldn’t open up; the boy finally told the police that he had dreamed about some incidents, which the police interpreted as evidence of abuse.…

Behind some of what was wrong with the original investigation was Dr. David Pelcovitz, who many of you know for his affiliations with Yeshiva University and Ohel. Pelcovitz has been a defender of Ohel in cases where Ohel would seem to deserve no such defense. My understanding is that Pelcovitz refuses to comment on the Friedman case.

Thankfully, major and almost all minor police departments haven't conducted child sexual abuse investigations like what what was done in Great Neck for more than two decades.

The vast majority of American courts won't accept the kind of "evidence" gathered in Great Neck. Israel's courts are quickly catching up to that standard.

The Friedman case was essentially a moral panic egged on by well meaning parents, therapists (most of whom, perhaps all of whom, were also well meaning), and incompetent police. A similar situation exists in the Nachlaot neighborhood of Jerusalem.

For those interested, a “new evidence reel” on the Friedman case will be presented on Nov. 18 at 4 p.m. at The Inn at Great Neck.

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Fantastic documentary.

http://www.snagfilms.com/films/title/capturing_the_friedmans

Posted by: S. | November 13, 2012 at 09:03 PM

They made the evidence reel that's being shown Sunday, I think.

How can you right the wrong when Arnold Friedman committed suicide and a kid lived out what should have been his golden years in jail? Going in as a young fresh leibedike spirit and coming out bald and fat?

Did this case occur before or after the Kelly Ann Michaels case in New Jeresey?

new jersey seems squalid with all that is read here. how very sad.

Seems Pelcovitz can't win with Shmarya the thug and bully. Twenty years ago he relied on the then conventional wisdom and did what he tight right to protect a child. Shmarya's take? Post hoc ergo Propter hoc. But it makes for good screed and bullying.


"But it makes for good screed and bullying."

Posted by: DBSesq

Similar to the way YOU bully the East Ramapo parents and tell them to "move out of the district" if they don't like the way the board is conducting business?

Pelvocitz, to my knowledge, has never addressed this, either to stand by what he did or to apologize for his role in what was almost certainly a wrongful conviction. If I am wrong, I would be glad to be corrected.

Sounds like the thinking was: If the kid wasn't molested, the kid will deny it. If the kid was molested, the kid will deny it due to shame. Therefore a denial means it happened.

Paging Franz Kafka....
(or at least the TV SVU squad)

Those who want Pelcovitz to apologize need to identify what he did wrong. All he did was rely on and operate hbased upon the accepted wisdom of the day. That there were tragic consequences as a result of imperfect knowledge about the nature of reporting abuse, is not a bad act on his part. What wrong act did he do?

As much as I HATE agreeing with DBSesq (like many others, when I find out he and I agree on anything I carefully reconsider my opinion), he is correct this time.

Pelcovitz might be Satan himself for all I know (I never met him and wish I could say the same about DBSesq.) but we'll never know because once Scottie gets a bug up his crack about any person or group he cannot do anything but HATE.

HATE and ANGER are what drives the loser who runs FM and his devoted fans. The rest of us manage to deal with the fact that in all groups and in all people (with the exception of totally evil sadistic people like dictators and dentists) there is good and bad, although there are those who are more good than evil and those who are more evil than good.

And the rest of us have lives, so even if we are let down by a cult leader who disregards the plight of Ethiopians, we are not at liberty to make hating everyone and anything that may have anything to do with said cult leader or wears a hat the same shape and color similar to the deceased cult leader's hat.

Those who want Pelcovitz to apologize need to identify what he did wrong. All he did was rely on and operate hbased upon the accepted wisdom of the day. That there were tragic consequences as a result of imperfect knowledge about the nature of reporting abuse, is not a bad act on his part. What wrong act did he do?

Posted by: DBSesq | November 14, 2012 at 10:09 AM

No, Danny, you're wrong.

What Pelcovitz did was outside the norm for that time.

Pelcovitz had a responsibility to try to free the people helped wrongly convict. He didn't do that.

In what way did Pelcovitz depart from the generally accepted standard of care at the time of his involvement in this mater? Was he asked to help reverse the conviction when it was clear the past standard of care was incorrect, and did he refuse to do so? If he did refuse, what was his reason? As to his not commenting, did his patient ever sign a waiver of the privilege? These are some of the questions that need to be answered before beginning to address what, if any culpability lies with Pelcovitz. And until these questions are answered here, with evidence proferred, I think it's wrong to issue a blanket blame on anyone for this tragedy.

Pelcovitz had a responsibility to try to free the people helped wrongly convict. He didn't do that.

Posted by: Shmarya | November 14, 2012 at 10:24 AM

You say that as if it were axiomatic. But the system does not work that way. What type of responsibility is meant in the statement? Certainly Pelcovitz had/has no legal obligation. If he was a therapist, his duty of care was to his patient and no one else. Even if the patient wants Pelcovitz to help exonerate this wrongly convicted man, Pelcovitz might not have any legal obligation to do so, as he is fully allowed to refuse to provide a service to anyone. If Pelcovitz was a neutral expert, or even a partisan expert his obligations to do anything in this case ended with his testimony. He has no obligation, legally, to rethink his positions or conclusions, unless called upon to do so in some proceeding.

As to a moral obligation, there is a difficult and delicate balance between correcting errors by asserting later learned truths and maintaining the authority of the social system; which in this case is the judiciary. If this person was wrongly convicted there is a systemic device to address that, albeit we must recognize that justice delayed is justice denied. Pelcovitz is part of that system, by dint of his past involvement in this matter. Were he to act unilaterally, he might upset that precarious balance.

This is a tough case with devastating outcomes. Trite aphorisms, while very attractive, are not the path to an ethical conclusion.

Posted by: DBSesq | November 14, 2012 at 10:37 AM

Please.

He knew what he did was wrong yet he has never done anything to help Friedman.

And Pelcovitz has years of other questionable behavior, especially linked to Ohel.

He is not some random guy who made a mistake.

Please.

He knew what he did was wrong yet he has never done anything to help Friedman.

And Pelcovitz has years of other questionable behavior, especially linked to Ohel.

He is not some random guy who made a mistake.

Posted by: Shmarya | November 14, 2012 at 11:21 AM

Sorry. You made a statement that Pelcovitz departed from the then normal standard of care. I asked you in what way did he do that? Do you know? If you do, tell us. If you don't then what was the basis for your statement?

As to your invocation of Pelcovitz at OHEL, it smacks of more "post hoc ergo propter hoc." It's also irrelevant to this case. Why did you raise it?

Posted by: DBSesq | November 14, 2012 at 11:31 AM

Oh please.

Read the damn story again. Try to get your addled mind to process the facts.

NEVER was it "normal" or "state of the art" to treat children that way.

And Pelcovitz and rest of the shrinks have a moral obligation to clean up the mess they made and help Friedman.

But I suspect most of them lawyered up and did nothing to help Friedman as a result.

There is morality, Danny Boy, even though you often don't understand that, and there is halakha.

Wrongs like this have to righted.

Posted by: Shmarya | November 14, 2012 at 11:40 AM

Careful Shamraya, you're treading close to your typical bullishness. In fact the story says that mental health professionals at the time of this case acted in precisely the way you now decry. If Pelcovitz did likewise, he did not wrong. I've already addressed the moral issue in a prior post.

More importantly, just because you yell, doesn't make you right. Call me "Danny Boy" all you want. It will not disguise your mistake in this story.

>Those who want Pelcovitz to apologize need to identify what he did wrong.

I think everyone who was involved in getting a young kid put away in jail for that many years on what were almost certainly false charges should say *something*. It is the least they can do. Same rule for me, if I ever help get someone wrongfully sent to prison. No one is saying "Kill Pelcovitz." But the man should feel some regret, remorse, something - and if he does then he should say so. Or if he does not feel this way then he should not, but he should not ignore it as if it never happened. It is not crazy for people to expect some kind of sign that he knows that he was partly responsible for this and has some sort of feeling about it.

The police *also* were acting the way they did at the time, and maybe still do. When a great injustice occurs you can't just say "tough noogies."

The police *also* were acting the way they did at the time, and maybe still do. When a great injustice occurs you can't just say "tough noogies."

Posted by: S. | November 14, 2012 at 12:59 PM

I don't think anyone is being at all cavalier. No one certainly not anyone sane would tack this up to "tough noogies." But as I explained earlier, any sort of "mea culpa" has ramifications. And thus far it's not clear that Pelcovitz did anything wrong. Until we know what his role was and what he did or did not do at the time, there is no basis upon which to analyze his conduct. What we do know, in this forum, is that Shmarya does not like Pelcovitz. But that's a very very very far cry from anything relevant to the Friedman case.

I am not basing my comments on Shmarya.

DB, you seem to be talking about medical malpractice in terms of 'standard of care' in the community. Before we speak to what other mental health care practitioners in that community who were specialists or experienced in therapy involving child sexual abuse were doing, we would have to establish that Pelcovitz was indeed experienced in that specialization. Currently I think the APA mandates that the psychologist practice in an area where he is trained and experienced. If that APA rule, or something similar were in force, then it would indeed be medical malpractice, negligence per se where I'm from, to even commence working with these children if he did not have the requisite experience. I really don't know anything about him.

If he did have the requisites and he was reasonably doing what his professional colleagues in that community/organizational structure in that area of practice were doing, then yeah, probably not malpractice with the children.

But if we are speaking to when that organizational duty of care and professional responsibility ended we are really talking about two or more things. Right and wrong, morality and immorality, depending on the target population i.e. the children with whom he engaged and/or the Friedmans.

Rules can be promulgated. They are rarely on point enough to fit every situation. That's how those despicable lawyer types make a living. Regarding going back to those children to help them with the fallout of what he did with (or to) them is probably arguably in the rules, do no harm, separation etc. But moral duty is within each separate individual. He can still abide by differing interpretations of rules and professional responsibility and be immoral.

As to rules and the Friedmans, though lawyers, such as yourself, may have a duty to present this new data to the court in the interest of justice, I doubt psychologists have that mandate in code or by professional rules. The moral principles by which that psychologist lives will steer him.

To me, he may be well within his professional rights and rules (still, "do no harm") to do and say nothing. But I find nothing moral about that.

And don't screw around with issues like "consent" about which you clearly know nothing or bullying Shmarya because your statements are far too superficial to show anything but intent to disrupt and name call. This isn't your blog. Go away.

And don't screw around with issues like "consent" about which you clearly know nothing or bullying Shmarya because your statements are far too superficial to show anything but intent to disrupt and name call. This isn't your blog. Go away.

Posted by: dh | November 14, 2012 at 03:05 PM

Shmarya made a statement; that Pelcovitz departed from the standard of care applicable at the time. This is what he said: "No, Danny, you're wrong. What Pelcovitz did was outside the norm for that time." I asked him to explain what the wrongdoing specifically was. Rather than do that, he resorted to his typical insults and grandstanding. Right now, it looks like the emperor has no clothes. And since no one here knows exactly what Pelcovitz's role was, it's presumptuous, at the very least, to talk about his moral obligations to the Friedmans

No, he did not make that statement. You made that statement. "Norm" and "standard of care" are two different things. You are going legal, he's going layman. Sheeesh, read what I wrote.

He can hardly be said to be grandstanding since this is his blog. You are grandstanding. There is a reason why his insults are typical. He is responding to a typicality of content of certain typical posters.

Unless you are a huge donor to FM, you are wasting the time of us who are supporters (notice I didn't say 'huge' lol) and diluting our investment, wasting our time by clogging (or being assigned to clog) this blog for the sole purpose of typically picking on him to get the typical response. I mean, DB, you know what you are doing. I know what you are doing. We both know unequivocally what the response to you will be. It's like watching Barney over and over again. Their is some comfort in repetition but enough is enough.

Post a substantive comment, silly joke or go away. Certainly you are needed elsewhere.

Well, DB, I have an engagement and need to take off. I was hoping before I departed I could hear you say it one more time.... deletia.....

"I mean, DB, you know what you are doing. I know what you are doing. We both know unequivocally what the response to you will be"

Who knows the guy could surprise us all and morph into a mensch. Hope springs ever eternal.

Careful Shamraya, you're treading close to your typical bullishness. In fact the story says that mental health professionals at the time of this case acted in precisely the way you now decry. If Pelcovitz did likewise, he did not wrong. I've already addressed the moral issue in a prior post.

More importantly, just because you yell, doesn't make you right. Call me "Danny Boy" all you want. It will not disguise your mistake in this story.

Posted by: DBSesq | November 14, 2012 at 11:57 AM

Hammering children over and over and over again, badgering them, telling them about the alleged abuse hundreds of times and saying, "Didi Mr. X do this to you?", was not normal even then – and it certainly was not the standard of care.

And even if it had been, Pelcovitz has known better for a long time already.

He knows the evidence was corrupted and manufactured by police and by psychologists – including himself.

An honest moral person tries to correct a wrong like that.

Pelcovitz hasn't done that.

As is often the case, morality escapes you.

Posted by: Shmarya | November 14, 2012 at 06:20 PM

How do you know what was the applicable standard of psycho-therapy in suspected abuse cases 24 years ago? All of a sudden you're an expert? How many sex abuse cases have you tried? How abused kids have you treated? Just what credentials do you have to render any cognizable opinion? What real experience do you have which might give you any real judgment in such a case? If you read the Kelly Ann Michaels case, it becomes readily apparent that the techniques you described were in fact the CW of the time. Ultimately over time, it became apparent that such therapies are in fact wrong and potentially harmful. And in fact, it is still very difficult to establish abuse in the absence of physical evidence. Kids are unreliable reporters, and therapists often bring their biases with them when evaluating such cases (I'm not saying they mean to. I'm saying they are human). I've seen cases where abuse was alleged many times, and unfounded after investigations, only to learn that in fact the child was abused. I've seen cases go the other way as well. I can only imagine how much of a "stab in the dark" such evaluations were 24 years ago. But if you have some sort of evidence that I'm wrong, beyond your own prognostications (which are based on nothing of any clinical or academic substance) and ex cathedra pronouncements, show it. What Pelcovitz may have learned subsequent to this case, does not create liability in this case. (You seem to have a hard time with the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy). As I've stated before, your trite aphorisms on "morality" fly in the face of systemic norms. That the system may suck, does not indict those who toil within it. I'll ignore your last statement, except to say that it says volumes more about you than it does about me.

Posted by: DBSesq | November 14, 2012 at 09:37 PM

Please.

The vast majority of therapists never used those tactics.

And, as I've pointed out several times, even if they had their responsibility now would be to right the wrongs they helped create.

But Pelcovitz hasn't done that.

How do you know what the vast majority of therapists did 24 years ago? What's your evidence? I've supplied clear indicia that shows your wrong, the Kelly Ann Michaels case. As to your ex cathdra assertions about "moral responsibility," You're hardly one to talk. With this post, on not even the flimsiest of evidence, you tried to besmirch Dr. Pelcovitz. You're goig to lecture anyone on "moral responsibility?' PSHAW!!!

You're truly a dolt, Danny.

What was done in the Friedman case is by all accounts I've seen way beyond the norm even for those days, and the only people who seem to argue against this idea are people who did the wrongs and their attorneys.

Let me guess. Is Pelcovitz or another one of these characters is your client or your former or current partners' client?

Or is your interest here avocational, kind of like your interest in bullying and insulting the parents of the kids in the school district you are so inartfully heading?

Well, it certainly didn't take long for you to revert back to you usual way of doing things. I'm done here. Once again you have proven yourself incapable of serious conversation. Feel free to have the last word. See ya next time.

So?

Do you rep Pelcovitz or are any of the other conflict of interest scenarios I laid out as possibilities true?

Or will you just run away and not answer?

None of your stupid fantasies above are true.

That's good, because if memory serves, JWB caught you in a similar "fantasy" a couple years ago.

I hate to see you repeat your errors.

"What Pelcovitz may have learned subsequent to this case, does not create liability in this case. (You seem to have a hard time with the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy)."
Posted by: DBSesq | November 14, 2012 at 09:37 PM

As dh already pointed out, you're the only one here staking out a technical defense as to why Pelcovitz may not be legally liable today for his role in these tragedies. Fine. Maybe, or maybe not. If he gets sued, he can asset those defenses. In the meantime, others who can take off the courtroom hats, look at this situation and say, ack, what awful things happened, and what's being done to right the terrible wrongs.

It's like saying, yes you can find ways to legally pilfer from public schools to fund yeshivas and leave kids without their kindergarten or school activities, but just being able to get away with it doesn't make it right.

There was case similar to the Friedmans' in Bakersfield, California in the 1980s. There was documentary film "Witch Hunt" which told the story of what happened there. I recommend it highly.

This was nothing more than old-world style antisemitic witchunt. And the scapegoat was none other than a rather effeminate Jewish man. Where have we heard this story before?

You people forgot what I am about to explain, so listen up. The post-Reagan death rattle alarmed the failing Moral Majority political movement. To revive their cult of morality and move into the political mainstream, they staged a desperate and cynical campaign against child molesters. Scrubbed of its religious association, the subject received widespread and sensationalized media attention. In the late 1980s lurid tales of sexual molestations were standard TV newstime fare, reports that got great ratings and viewers relished with Victorian enthusiasm.

My parents are in prison for the rest of their lives for a murder they committed as revenge for such a tale of imaginary molestation. Their crime was the exact opposite of the Friedman case, where the accused was exonerated but the angry in-laws murdered him extrajudicially. They have been in prison for 20 years.

So after piecing together what happened to my own family I have a pretty good idea of the social circumstances leading up to their crime. People need to remember as history the pervasive child molester hysteria of the late '80s, but it is period of history time forgot.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

----------------------

FailedMessiah.com is a reader supported website.

Thank you for your generous support!

----------------------

----------------------

----------------------

Please Scroll Down Toward The Bottom Of This Page For More Search Options, For A List Of Recent Posts, And For Comments Rules

----------------------

----------------------

Recent Posts

----------------------

Tip Jar

Gelt Is Good!

Tip Jar

FailedMessiah.com is a reader supported website. Please click the Donate button now to contribute.

Thank you for your generous support!

Tip Jar

Gelt Is Good!

Tip Jar

-------------------------

Comment Rules

  • 1. No anonymous comments.

    2. Use only one name or alias and stick with that.

    3. Do not use anyone else's name or alias.

    4. Do not sockpuppet.

    5. Try to argue using facts and logic.

    6. Do not lie.

    7. No name-calling, please.

    8. Do not post entire articles or long article excerpts.

    ***Violation of these rules may lead to the violator's comments being edited or his future comments being banned.***

Older Posts Complete Archives

Search FailedMessiah

Lijit Search

----------------------

FailedMessiah.com is a reader supported website.

Thank you for your generous support!

----------------------

----------------------

----------------------

FailedMessiah.com in the Media

RSS Feed

Blog Widget by LinkWithin