The only problem I see with this proposed bill is the politics behind it.
Ohel, which has a very checkered track record of mishandling pedophilia cases and other abuse cases, and Dov Hikind, who worked to block the Child Victims Act and who is sitting on more than 100 names of alleged haredi pedophiles gathered in a public push two years ago, have teamed up with the Patty Hearst of haredi abuse survivors, Pinny Taub.
Taub specializes in attacking the people who helped him when his rabbis and community leaders would not, and in doing his best to make sure that current victims and their families are kept away from the people who helped him and who have made eradicating child sex abuse in the haredi community their life work. They are the activists who got the media coverage, who helped victims go to the police, who got victims counseling and healthcare and food when they needed it. They got pedohiles off the streets, they saved victims' lives, and Taub is spitting on them.
Taub admitted earlier this week that he does this because haredi community activists attack victims who have sought help from these anti-child-sex-abuse activists. He made that admission without criticizing those haredi activists or the rabbis who enable their crimes, including witness tampering.
What Taub and his friends are doing is simple. They're relegating past abuse case to the past, locking them away to make sure they don't surface and embarass the haredi community. At the same time, they're making small changes that will only marginally reduce future child sex abuse.
By doing this Taub and his friends seek to protect haredi yeshivot, camps and schools from suffering serious financial liability caused by years of covering up for pedophiles, and they also seek to protect leading haredi rabbis who covered up child sex abuse and who would be civilly (and perhaps even criminally) liable if legislation backed by long time child protection activists passes. These rabbis allegedly include the current head of Agudath Israel of America's Council of Torah Sages and the Council's vice president, along with leading Satmar rabbis and several hasidic rebbes, as well.
The Child Victims Act almost passed the last time it was up for a vote and now, after Penn State, odds are that it will pass – the old haredi and Catholic Church arguments against the CVA won't stand now that Penn State happened.
But the bill Taub is backing has none of the advantages of the CVA.
If the Taub/Hikind/Mandel bill provides money for public service announcements and newspaper ads explaining what needs to be reported, how to make a report, and the possible criminal and civil liability for failing to report, along with mandatory education in all grade schools, middle schools, high school and religious schools teaching that information to kids, the law will do some good.
Lacking that education campaign, it will change very little.
The primary reason mandatory reporting laws covering medical professionals, social workers, etc., work is because they receive training that tells them what to report, how to report and the possible civil and criminal penalties for failing to report. And the professional associations and boards these people belong to add their own sanctions for for failing to report, as well.
Here's what Hikind, Mandel and Taub aren't telling you.
Far more child sex abuse is discovered when victims themselves report it than when a mandatory reporter or concerned citizen reports.
Pedophiles are very good at covering up their crimes. They almost always choose their victims carefully, groom them extensively, and train them not to tell anyone about the abuse.
Because of this, and because of the psychological damage the abuse causes victims, most victims do not come forward until years after their abuse has ended. Some of the most common triggers causing these victims reporting abuse are marriage and seeing a child reach the age they were when they were sexually abused.
Do the math.
In many cases, these victims are in their early thirties when they first report their abuse.
But those victims are out of luck because the statute of limitations has passed and their abusers cannot be sued or criminally prosecuted.
The Child Victims Act sought to change that by extending the statute of limitations and by providing a brief window where any victim could file a civil suit against his abuser and/or the institution, like a school, yeshiva or church, the abuser committed his crimes in.
Dov Hikind briefly supported the CVA but then aligned himself with Vito Lopez, a notorious politician who has been closely linked to some very shady real estate deals, and Lopez's patron the Catholic Church. Lopez's propsed a bill that had no window and which extended the statute of limitations by such a tiny amount and that would have done little to help.
Neither Lopez's bill or the CVA passed – which was just fne with Lopez, the Church and haredi leadership.
Currently, the best chance for stopping pedophiles occurs when victims tell an adult in close proximity to the crime taking place and the adult immediately calls police and then allows police to do a proper forensic child sex abuse investigation.
In closed communities like many hasidic sects, or in communities with a large power imbalance similar to them like Penn State, victims' reports are often ignored.
So when a child tells his father that his rebbe molested him (or when he tells his rebbe that his father molested him) instead of calling police, the parent (or the rebbe) often approaches a beit din (religious court) or rabbinic leader. And as we have seen so many times, those rabbis and community leaders quite often find reasons to forbid or strongly discourage reporting to police.
In theory, the Taub/Mandel/Hikind bill would help stop this from happening.
But many times – perhaps most of the time – it won't.
If the parent (or other adult the child told) does not defy the rabbis and call police, the child will most likely not tell anyone else for quite some time. This is even more true if the adult tells the child that he does not believe his story.
If the victim follows the pattern common to child sex abuse survivors mentioned above – the pattern Taub himself followed – he won't tell anyone else about the abuse until the statute of limitations has already run out for both the child sex abuse and the failure to report it.
So in most cases no one will be criminally prosecuted or held civilly liable for these crimes, and the ppedophile will go on to abuse many more victims.
And what about those cases that are reported?
The Brooklyn DA claimed that 89 pedophiles were arrested between October 2009 and November 2011. Advocates and survivors immediately pointed out that there were nowhere near that number of reported cases.
Saturday night, Tzvi Gluck, a haredi community activist and fixer who has bucked the haredi establishment on this issue and who advocates for survivors and against child sex abuse, told a national radio audience that haredi fixers pressured the Brooklyn DA to make those cases go away. In response, the DA allegedly allowed many of the 89 to plead to lesser charges that did not involve prison time and sex offender registration.
Because there is no way to search court decisions by the charges filed or the plea entered or by the county the case was tried in, we can't find these pedophiles names. And the DA has refused to release any of those names, even though by law they are supposed to be public information.
So where are those pedophiles now?
They're sitting next to you in shul. They're using the mikva with your son. They may even be teaching children.
In other words, the law is only as good as its enforcement. In Brooklyn, that enforcement is weak, just as it was weak in Penn State.
On the other hand, the Child Victims Act doesn't depend on enforcement from the Brooklyn DA. It allows survivors to sue their abusers and the organizations that enabled them. That liability forces those organizations to stop covering up child sex abuse. The civil cases also out pedophiles, which helps protect children. And the civil cases also often give victims still within the criminal statute of limitations the courage to come forward and press criminal charges against their abusers.
Making everyone a mandatory reporter is a good thing, but it is only a very small piece of what needs to be done legislatively to deal with the crime of pedophilia, and by itself – especially in Brooklyn – it won't do very much good.
But what I fear the Hikind/Mandel/Taub bill will do is compete with the more important Child Victims Act – which is just what I believe Hikind and Mandel want.
That competition may end up killing both bills. Or it may kill only one of them, most likely the CVA, which is far more dangerous to institutions that have enabled or covered up pedophilia and pedophiles themselves than the Hikind/Mandel/Taub bill could ever be, and has strong opposition from the Church, Agudath Israel of America, Satmar and other similar organizations as a result.
The Hikind/Mandel/Taub bill provides needed political cover for assemblypeople and senators who want to oppose the CVA because of loyalty to those organizations.
And since it is very difficult to oppose a bill that on its surface seeks to do nothing other than make everyone responsible to report child sex abuse, it puts supporters of the CVA in very bad position – which is what I believe Hikind and Mandel want.
It's just too bad Pinny Taub doesn't understand that.