Dov Hikind called me just before 5 pm EDT today to answer some questions I emailed his staff on Friday. What follows are the main points of that interview.
Why do you support both the Markey Bill, the bill championed by survivors and advocates, and the Lopez Bill, a much weaker bill that is strongly opposed by survivors and advocates? Aren't these bills at loggerheads with each other?
“I much prefer the Markey Bill," Dov said, but noted Markey barely made it out of committee this year while last year it passed easily.
“I want us to get something,” Dov said, explaining his support for Lopez. The Lopez Bill, Dov said, “is our second best option.”
Additionally, Dov also said he has “reservations” about aspects of Markey, and noted that he has discussed Markey with several Democratic State Senators he thought would readily support Markey and found they, too, have "reservations."
Dov refused to discuss those reservations or get into the specifics of them in any way.
However, last week, Dov told an audience of survivors and advocates last week that he objected to the window in the Markey Bill.
“It’s the one time I agree with the American Civil Liberties Union,” Dov told survivors.
You've been accused by activists, including Mark Mayer Appel, of not supporting Markey as it struggled to leave committee.
"I support Markey and intend to continue to support it."
How many victims or cases have you been told of? We've heard 1000, and you just told the Forward 100?
I've never really counted…I don't have the exact number…my focus is on dealing with the problem.
What happens when a case is reported to your office? Someone comes in and says, “Dov, my rabbi…”
“Most of the cases I hear about aren't rabbis. I think people with an agenda focus on the rabbis…”
Statistically, most cases will be inside the family — brothers, fathers — because most sexual abuse occurs inside the family.
So, what happens when you're told about an alleged case of child sexual abuse and there is a chance the alleged pedophile is still active? What do you do? What do you do if the victim will not call police?
"We've even had cases where the victim refused to speak with the DA off the record."
I'm not surprised. So what do you do?
"Every case we get is referred to the DA." (1)
Do you do that immediately? Or is there an intermediate step that is taken? Do you ask a rabbi or rabbis first?
"We've never done that, ask a rabbi first."
Dov also spoke enthusiastically and optimistically about the child sexual abuse curriculum for haredi schools his office, in conjunction with outside experts, is developing, noting the funding seems to be coming through, noting that even Satmar was, at least at this stage, cooperating.
"Ask me in six months [if it's worked and Satmar and other hasidic communities are still on board]."
It's especially hard to to develop a curriculum like this when Yiddish doesn't even have words to properly describe sexual abuse and specific body parts, etc.
"That's why we're using experts."
(1) Update 8 PM CDT – A friend points out this seemingly contradictory information from the November 12, 2008 NY Jewish Week:
…Hikind also faced new pressure this week over his effort — publicized on a recent edition of his radio show — to work with a chasidic man who has come to him acknowledging he has repeatedly molested children, and confesses to one incident as recently as two months ago. Hikind says he has gotten the man into therapy with a “top person in the field” and has declined to disclose his name or tell law enforcement authorities about what he knows.…