NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The handling of sexual abuse cases in the ultra-Orothodox Hasidic Jewish community has drawn increased criticism.
The criticism focuses on a special program that the Brooklyn District Attorney has established to deal with such cases because of religious considerations.
CBS 2’s Chris Wragge examined the program to find out whose needs are being served.
District Attorney Charles Hynes told CBS 2 that in recent years there have been nearly 100 sexual abuse-related arrests in the community. Unlike other district attorneys, Hynes has not released the names of the accused.
“It’s a civil rights statute that precludes us from identifying the people,” Hynes said.
Hynes said that releasing the names of alleged abusers could result in the accidental identification of the victims inside of a tight-knit community. Some members of that community said that Hynes is being influenced by politically powerful rabbis.
“I think that he is behaving very badly in the name of keeping his job,” Ben Hirsh said.
In 2009 Hynes formed a program called “Kol Tzedek,” which is Hebrew for “Voice Of Justice,” to deal with Orthodox Jewish abuse cases. The program included a hotline manned by social workers.
CBS 2 called the hotline over a period of several days, at different times of the day. Out of a total of 25 calls, only two were answered. The rest went straight to a recording.
Assemblyman Dov Hikind told CBS 2 that this type of inconsistency could mean that victims are not getting help.
“We might be losing people who finally have the courage to make the phone call, and they’re not gonna call back,” Hikind said.
A spokesman for Hynes said that the hotline is operated “24 hours” and is manned during some of those hours by a licensed social worker. The spokesman could not explain why earlier calls from CBS 2 went unanswered.
Hynes said that the hotline has resulted in 95 cases being brought to his office’s attention, but some of those cases were actually brought by advocates or police.
“We were alone, looking for a therapist, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, everything on our own. No help from the DA,” he said.
In response to Jungries’ comments, the spokesman for Hynes said that, “It’s really our decision what is part of Kol Tzedek.”
CBS 2 plans to appeal the district attorney’s refusal to release the names of alleged abusers.
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