About a month ago, I put out my story of the nightmare that I went through, of being falsely accused, and how in the end, through great hashgachah pratis, the true story came out, and the malicious fabrication against me was exposed for what it was. With the conclusive proof of my innocence, the case was dismissed, and expunged from record.
Those to blame for what happened to me, in addition to the individual who made the false accusation against me, were those who were involved in prosecuting me, who did not bother to do a proper investigation.
Then there was the damage that was done to my name.
This leads to the subject of the issue of publicizing those who are accused, and/or arrested.
There has been an ongoing problem in our community: Abuse has gone on for far too long, being covered up and dismissed, instead of being properly dealt with.
The issue of child sexual abuse is always a sensitive issue, as it should be. In a religious community, we would like to believe that it isn't prevalent. But we are in a dark age of galus – where the fact that an individual may sport a hat and a jacket, and even a beard, may turn out to be a fraud, committing an unspeakable act of evil.
Following the article I put out, I spoke with a number of educated and knowledgeable individuals on the issue of websites and organizations that publicize those who have been accused. The tough moral question, as we see from my case, and those of others who this has happened to, is as follows: If an individual is arrested, based on an accusation of childabuse, should it be publicized?
We all know that according to the law, an individual arrested of any crime is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. Ironically, there are two crimes, of which mainstream society tends to presume the opposite: That the accused is guilty, until proven innocent. These two crimes are rape, and child abuse.
Why is this ironic? Because the usual laws don't apply to accusations of these two crimes; generally when you accuse someone of a crime, there has to be some kind of evidence, or witnesses. But when it comes to accusations of rape or child sexual abuse, no evidence is needed. No witnesses are needed. Any and every accusation made of this crime is believed right away, no questions asked. The reason this is the case, is because, throughout the years many victims of rape and child sexual abuse cried out for help... and the authorities turned a deaf ear.
The issue now is, where the process for a victim to accuse his or her abuser is made easy – automatically, the process for false accusations, and fabrications is also made easy.
Nevertheless, after all is said and done, statistics show us that the vast majority of accusations are true. False accusations – despite the fact that they happen a lot more than we would like to believe – are far less frequent.
The question thus remains: When an individual in the Jewish community is arrested, should he be publicized?
I have experienced the situation in our community from a most infrequent angle. I would not wish what happened to me on anyone. There is no greater shattering of the heart, no greater burning pain to the soul, when you're accused of something horrible and unthinkable, that you did not do!
But at the same time – we are in the midst of an awakening and a crucial upheaval in our community. Cases of horrible and devastating abuse of innocent children have been swept under the rug. There is a lot of cleaning up to do, with this situation of our community.
In the article that I wrote last month, I professed my opposition to the sullying of the name of another in public, when we don't know yet whether the accused party is guilty or innocent. When you have a shattered reputation, it's like wearing a ball and chain.
Still in all – I have also seen the other side of the issue, the serious measures that need to be undertaken in our community at this time to protect children.
Imagine, if an individual is arrested, and he is, in fact, a offender; what if JCW decided not to put a post on the individual until his conviction? And what if C"V in the meantime, that offender perpetuated another offense?
In addition to another innocent life being destroyed, R"L, JCW, the organization of Crown Heights that protects children, would be blamed for not giving the community a heads up.
An organization such as JCW faces tough moral decisions on a daily basis. But the priority has to be, taking the measures that it will take to protect our children.
When it comes to preventing false arrests from happening, those who deal with catching perpetrators have to be skilled and careful with the way they question alleged victims – especially in instances when we are dealing with individuals with developmental disabilities. Entire books have been written on this crucial subject alone.
It's right there in the Torah: "Then you shall inquire, investigate, and ask thoroughly, and, behold, it is true, the matter is certain, that such abomination has been committed in your midst." – D'varim 13:15.
Due to the article I put out last month, there have been those who are using me as an example, to decry JCW as a whole, that everyone on there is falsely accused.
This is a form of irrational logic that is most unfortunately often used: "The sky is blue; therefore, everything that's blue must be the sky!"
"An individual who was accused was proven innocent; therefore, everyone accused of this crime must be innocent!"
I deeply appreciate the support I have been given, both throughout the nightmare I went through, and until today. But I want to make it clear – that my name certainly should not be used to decry those who run organizations to protect our children. Furthermore, we must appreciate the victims who have bravely come forward to expose their abusers – and we must show them our support. The victims have not come forward with an agenda of revenge and punishment; that's Hashem's job. They have come forward in order to prevent others from being hurt.
I want to conclude this article, talking about the new program JCW has initiated – Project EMES.
When parents send their children to summer camp, they deserve nothing less than to be ensured, beyond the shadow of doubt, that they are sending their children to a safe environment.
Everything is a matter of education. When there is proper education of the matter of child safety, it has a tremendous impact on the cause of protecting our children.
Counselors who work with children are also well-advised to be learned of these matters. In the same way that we want to ensure our children's safety, we want to ensure the safety of those who work with our children, from the possibility of a false accusation, C"V.
It is the fundamental aspect of maris ayin, that must be taken into account here. Counselors need to be careful about these things that in nature are completely innocent, but could result in maris ayin; for instance, giving unusual attention to an individual camper without having been instructed to (even if there's a natural inclination to, e.g., the camper is a family friend), buying a camper extra candy or nosh, or even merely being alone in the same room with a camper.
Needless to say, the same goes too, in regard to the teacher-student relationship – and all other relationships between a child and an adult who is not his parent or close family member.
When important safety rules are taken into account, everybody gains, and everybody benefits.
I highly recommend an op-ed on JCW: "Don't Get a Traffic Ticket"
– which goes further in depth on the matter of maris ayin.
May it be Hashem's will, that, thanks to organizations in our community that help protect our children, the perpetrators will meet their downfall – both those who abuse children, and those who make false accusations. And may we soon merit the times, when we will not need to worry about these tragic matters ever again – when all evil will be removed from the earth, with the coming of the true and complete Geulah, speedily in our days.Disclaimer: This Op-Ed reflects only the opinion of it's author, and does not nescessarily represent the views of the Chabadinfo.com editorial board.