Sunday, October 16, 2011

“This is about protecting children”


Pennsylvania is seeking to join California and Delaware as states that have created a window year or two for survivors of sexual abuse to come forward and sue their abusers. In the two states that have done so over 350 child predators have been identified through the outcome of the window. Similar legislation is being attempted in New York State but is being fought by the Catholic Church, the Satmar Chasidim and the Agudath Israel of America. They are natural allies in attempting to thwart the exposure of child molesters both because they do not want their schools and institutions to have to pay money even if they have knowingly covered up and protected abusers. They also continue to want to sweep the problem under the carpet, preferring to protect pedophiles rather than children.

Fortunately, while there are many, many Jewish children in Pennsylvania who are at risk for being abused, Agudah and Satmar are not very powerful there, so the molesters are not as powerful either. But, of course, as the Pope is being investigated by the Hague on charges of crimes against humanity for protecting molesters, the Catholic Church continues to brazenly fight the survivors every step of the way.

The benefit to the Jewish community if this will be passed is great. For example, serious allegations have emerged that Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetsky, the Rosh Yeshiva of the Philadelphia Yeshivah covered up that Moshe Eiseman molested boys in his yeshiva years ago. He instead of publicizing the danger, helped Eiseman to get a job at Ner Yisroel in Baltimore where he went on to abuse many boys over many years. Rabbi Kaminetsky also covered up for a child molester named Rabbis Zusha or Stanley Levitt who is only now being prosecuted in Massachusetts for molesting children in Boston.

While prosecutors are beginning to find ways to criminalize the cover up of child molestation, see the NY TIMES below -- about a Bishop in Kansas City being indicted for what appears to be less of an irresponsible action than Reb Shmuel's, it is already an actionable tort for survivors to sue both their molesters and those who have enabled and protected them putting children in harm's way. I believe that the only way for the rabbis and powerful people in our community to stop protecting molesters and start protecting children is to give the survivors the most options to hold the enablers accountable.

While Agudah has claimed that by allowing such a law and holding the yeshivas accountable for past negligence and tragic damages it will destroy the "financial integrity of the yeshivas", virtually all of the survivors of rabbinic/clergy and school-based abuse I know who want to sue their yeshivas, including those who are suing Torah Temima, are not out for money. Rather they have tried every other way to appeal to Rosh Yeshivas and have been stonewalled and dismissed without any changes in the way our community does business. There is still no acknowledgment of the cover ups, there has been no apology to the victims, no attempt to help them financially to get therapy or other treatments, and perhaps most importantly to the survivors the rabbis have still not begun to report molesters to the authorities, are fighting making rabbis mandated reporters, and do not teach the children in school about appropriate safety protocols.

While financial remuneration for damages suffered can be helpful, what most survivors find most healing in my experience is the validation that the community lead by its rabbis and gedolim understand the damage that was done, take responsibility for it, and take steps to prevent it from happening again. Unfortunately, until enough yeshivas are sued, it seems that it is unlikely for real change to occur.

In fact, it took the possibility of such legislative statute of limitations reform passing in New York to get the Gedolim to even admit that Jewish children were being molested despite the fact that they had been discussing the problem for years (according to an article in the Yated Ne'man and many other sources).

The two goals of helping survivors heal and protecting future vulnerable children go hand in hand. Let's help support this law and any others that create a safer community in which adults take responsibility for children's safety.


Bishop Indicted; Charge Is Failing to Report Abuse
Published: October 14, 2011

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A bishop in the Roman Catholic Church has been indicted for failure to report suspected child abuse, the first time in the 25-year history of the church’s sex abuse scandals that the leader of an American diocese has been held criminally liable for the behavior of a priest he supervised.

The indictment of the bishop, Robert W. Finn, and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph by a county grand jury was announced on Friday. Each was charged with one misdemeanor count involving a priest accused of taking pornographic photographs of girls as recently as this year. They pleaded not guilty.

The case caused an uproar among Catholics in Kansas City this year when Bishop Finn acknowledged that he knew of the photographs last December but did not turn them over to the police until May. During that time, the priest, the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, is said to have continued to attend church events with children, and took lewd photographs of another young girl.

A decade ago the American bishops pledged to report suspected abusers to law enforcement authorities — a policy also recommended last year by the Vatican. Bishop Finn himself had made such a promise three years ago as part of a $10 million legal settlement with abuse victims in Kansas City.

Though the charge is only a misdemeanor, victims’ advocates immediately hailed the indictment as a breakthrough, saying that until now American bishops have avoided prosecution despite documents showing that in some cases they were aware of abuse.

“This is huge for us,” said Michael Hunter, director of the Kansas City chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, and a victim of sexual abuse by a priest. “It’s something that I personally have been waiting for years to see, some real accountability. We’re very pleased with the prosecuting attorney here to have the guts to do it.” The bishop signaled he would fight the charges with all his strength. He said in a statement: “We will meet these announcements with a steady resolve and a vigorous defense.”

The indictment announced on Friday by the Jackson County prosecutor, Jean Peters Baker, had been under seal since Oct. 6 because the bishop was out of the country. He returned on Thursday night.

In a news conference, Ms. Baker said the case was not religiously motivated, but was about the obligation under state law to report child abuse.

“This is about protecting children,” she said.

If convicted Bishop Finn would face a possible fine of up to $1,000 and a jail sentence of up to a year. The diocese faces a possible fine of up to $5,000.

Ms. Baker said that secrecy rules for grand jury proceedings prohibited her from discussing whether other charges were considered, such as child endangerment, a felony. But she said the fact that the bishop faces a single misdemeanor count should not diminish the seriousness.

“To my knowledge a charge like this has not been leveled before,” she said.

It also may not mark the end of the legal troubles facing the diocese in the case, which includes civil and criminal cases in federal court. Last month Bishop Finn and Msgr. Robert Murphy testified before another grand jury in neighboring Clay County. A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office there declined to comment.

The priest accused of taking the lewd photos, Father Ratigan, was a frequent presence in a Catholic elementary school next to his parish. The principal there sent a letter to the diocese in May 2010 complaining about Father Ratigan’s behavior with children. Then, last December, a computer technician discovered the photos on the priest’s laptop and turned the computer in to the diocese. A day later Father Ratigan tried to kill himself. The diocese said that Monsignor Murphy described — but did not share — a single photo of a young girl, nude from the waist down, to a police officer who served on an independent sexual abuse review board for the diocese. The officer said that based on the description it might meet the definition of child pornography, but he did not think it would, the diocese said.

Bishop Finn sent Father Ratigan to live in a convent and told him to avoid contact with minors. But until May the priest attended children’s parties, spent weekends in the homes of parish families, hosted an Easter egg hunt and presided, with the bishop’s permission, at a girl’s First Communion, according to interviews with parishioners and a civil lawsuit filed by a victim’s family.

Parents in the school and parishioners — told only that Father Ratigan had fallen sick from carbon monoxide poisoning — were stunned when he was arrested in May after the diocese called the police. He was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of taking indecent photographs of young girls.

The new indictment released on Friday said that Bishop Finn and the diocese had reason to suspect that Father Ratigan might subject a child to abuse.

It cited “previous knowledge of concerns regarding Father Ratigan and children; the discovery of hundreds of photographs of children on Father Ratigan’s laptop, including a child’s naked vagina, upskirt images and images focused on the crotch; and violations of restrictions placed on Father Ratigan.”

Bishop Finn said in his statement on Friday that he and the diocese had given “complete cooperation” to law enforcement. He also pointed to steps he had taken since the scandal first became public, including commissioning a report to look into the case, and reinforcing procedures for handling allegations of abuse.

That report found that the diocese did not follow its own procedures. It also found that Bishop Finn was “too willing to trust” Father Ratigan.

The case has generated fury at the bishop, a staunch theological conservative who was already a polarizing figure in his diocese. Since the Ratigan case came to light, there have been widespread calls for him to resign.

Contributing to the sense of betrayal is the fact that only three years ago, Bishop Finn settled lawsuits with 47 plaintiffs in sexual abuse cases for $10 million and agreed to a list of 19 preventive measures, among them to immediately report anyone suspected of being a pedophile to the law enforcement authorities.

France may be the only country where a bishop has been convicted for his failure to supervise a priest accused of abuse, said Terrence McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org, a victims’ advocacy group that tracks abuse cases.

A grand jury in Philadelphia indicted a top official in the archdiocese there, Msgr. William Lynn, for mishandling cases of abuse. The former archbishop, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, was not indicted, but he has been called to testify.


Social Workers speak up about Occupy Wall Street said...

"10 Things Social Workers Have In Common With The Occupy Wall Street Protests

October 11, 2011 by NASW


1. The country has been experiencing the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression in the 1930s, caused in part by extraordinarily risky investment practices that put major financial institutions at risk of collapse, with world-wide impact.

2. The federal government has been far more willing to bail out the financial sector than to help low income people and a vulnerable middle class. Attempts to tighten regulations on risky investments are being resisted by the financial sector and by many in Congress.

3. The United States has engaged in two enormously costly wars in the Middle East without raising revenues to pay for them. The total cost over the past 10 years has been estimated at $2.5 trillion.

4. The President and Congress agreed to cut $2.5 trillion in programs over the next 10 years, with more cuts being considered. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other important social programs are being targeted.

5. We now have the highest poverty level in US since 1993, with 46.2 million people living in poverty in 2010, or 15% of the population. This is up from 11.7% in 2000. In New York City the poverty rate is 20%.

6. Unemployment in the US is over 9%, and this number is much higher when those who have given up looking for a job is considered. Joblessness wreaks havoc on individuals and families, both economically and in terms of mental health, including the experience of sustained stress and depression.

7. New York’s lawmakers passed a budget in the Spring that includes $10 billion in cuts that fall disproportionately on low income communities, including a $2.85 billion reduction in Medicaid. Proposals to raise significant revenues through taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers were rejected.

8. Nationally, health insurance premiums rose 9% in the past year in spite of passing a national health reform law, a law that assures higher profits for insurance companies. The number of uninsured is now 49.9 million.

9. The principles of democracy are undermined by the influence of corporate wealth in the political arena, resulting in both major parties being dependent on their contributions, making the possibility of significant change less likely to come from electoral politics (as important as this is). That the US Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of unlimited corporate spending on campaigns is further evidence of the threat to electoral democracy.

10. The social work profession itself is at risk as services and social work jobs are cutback for communities that are suffering from the current economic conditions. Given the current state of politics today, with a focus on cutbacks with no new revenue, the social work profession will be significantly challenged while the need for services increases.


Ben N Jerrys and Occupy Wall Street said...

"To those who Occupy: We stand with you

We, the Ben & Jerry’s Board of Directors, compelled by our personal convictions and our Company’s mission and values, wish to express our deepest admiration to all of you who have initiated the non-violent Occupy Wall Street Movement and to those around the country who have joined in solidarity. The issues raised are of fundamental importance to all of us. These include:

The inequity that exists between classes in our country is simply immoral.

We are in an unemployment crisis. Almost 14 million people are unemployed. Nearly 20% of African American men are unemployed. Over 25% of our nation’s youth are unemployed.

Many workers who have jobs have to work 2 or 3 of them just to scrape by.

Higher education is almost impossible to obtain without going deeply in debt.

Corporations are permitted to spend unlimited resources to influence elections while stockpiling a trillion dollars rather than hiring people

We know the media will either ignore you or frame the issue as to who may be getting pepper sprayed rather than addressing the despair and hardships borne by so many, or accurately conveying what this movement is about. All this goes on while corporate profits continue to soar and millionaires whine about paying a bit more in taxes. And we have not even mentioned the environment.

We know that words are relatively easy but we wanted to act quickly to demonstrate our support. As a board and as a company we have actively been involved with these issues for years but your efforts have put them out front in a way we have not been able to do. We have provided support to citizens’ efforts to rein in corporate money in politics, we pay a livable wage to our employees, we directly support family farms and we are working to source fairly traded ingredients for all our products. But we realize that Occupy Wall Street is calling for systemic change. We support this call to action and are honored to join you in this call to take back our nation and democracy.

— Ben & Jerry’s Board of Directors


Does Ben & Jerry’s spend money on lobbying in the United States?
Ben & Jerry’s has launched numerous activist campaigns over the years that are considered lobbying activities according to federal and state laws.

In the past four years, the positions we have taken in these activist campaigns are:

1. Support for a Constitutional amendment that would limit corporate spending in elections.

2. Support for stronger social and environmental protections in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

3. Support for the Youth PROMISE Act, which funds proven youth violence prevention programs.

4. Support for continued funding for the United States Institute of Peace.

5. Support for continued funding for the Complex Crises Fund which supports State Department emergency efforts to defuse volatile conflicts around the globe.

6. Support for aggressive federal legislation to limit and reduce carbon emissions to respond to the challenge of climate change.

7. Opposition to FDA approval of foods from cloned animals.

8. Support for a USDA program to require mandatory tracking of cloned animals in the food supply to support consumer choice.

9. Opposition to FDA approval of genetically engineered animals in the food supply.

10. Support for the right of dairy companies to label their products as being ‘rBGH-free.’

11. Support for the United Nations Millennium Development goals to eradicate extreme poverty and inequality.

Ben & Jerry’s has reported all expenditures on these grassroots campaign activities as required by federal and Vermont state law."

Anonymous said...

New lows - even for Pinny Lipschutz.

The Yated sees fit to reprint every rant that Rubashkin writes from prison, the latest one is that the big bad (read between the lines: anti-Semitic) government sucks the ruchniyus out of a Yid's neshomo when incarcerating him. Maybe it would have served Sholom Mordechai well to think about that before committing crimes.

Lipschutz is also pleased to tell the oylam Hatoyrah in the Yated Succos edition that Rubashkin was shaliach tzibur for Yomim Noyroim of the all the heimishe crooks like treif sandwich macher Leib Pinter at Otisville prison. Just like the OU and Rav Weissmandl, Lipschutz is not fazed at all that Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin is openly Meshichist.

The Yated Succos edition was also full of pictures and articles promoting the myth that former Torah Vodaas bus driver - the major enabler of child molesters named Lipa Margulies - is somehow a real rosh yeshiva.

Philly Willy said...

Would a Penn. law allow for victims in Baltimore MD to sue the yeshiva in Philly for sending them the molester?

Whatever R' Shmuel holds of molesters he certainly doesn't want them around. A bochur in the mesivta was molesting other bochurim in the dorm 28 years ago. R' Shmuel expelled him as soon as he learned of it.