Batya Ungar-Sargon is the only writer in the secular English language press who came out swinging in defense of convicted pervert Nechemya Weberman. I found hints of her attitudes toward sex abuse in her April, 2011 review of Hush, the path-breaking young adult novel about sex abuse in the Hasidic world
by Eishes Chayil (Judy Brown).
Here are some of the things she wrote.
Dear World. A little helpful hint: do not tell me a story about rape that includes as one of its literary features any element of suspense
…one cannot simply avoid such books, as they often get rave reviews.
The narrator, who finds the dead little body, spends the rest of the book guilt ridden, though also accusatory, blaming the community for her guilt and thus somewhat lessening her own culpability. She gives herself a big break this way, and perhaps this is why she wrote the book.
Another thing that makes it hard for me to give these authors what they are trying to wheedle out of me is the obsession with catching the culprit.
The story of the criminal jumping out of the bushes and having sex with someone against their will is not a good story, which is why it doesn’t get told so much. But authors seem to expect us to drum up the same moral outrage for a domestic situation, when really, it’s so much more complicated.
It’s sort of obvious that by the end of the book, we’re supposed to be thinking that Eishes Chayil HERSELF is the true victim. Hm.
It is possible to dismiss all this as insensitive, mediocre literary criticism by a graduate student in English literature at the University of California. In fact, perhaps this is the best we can expect from a woman of her limited talents. But flash forward twenty months and she is writing about the Weberman trial for the The Jewish Daily Forward and reaching a 28,000 print subscribers. The subtitle of that article was, Brooklyn Prosecutors Took Aim at Hasidic Group’s Way of Life. Batya is bizarrely protective of Hasidic sex abuse though she disguises it in one case as literary criticism and in another as a critique of prosecutorial tactics.
Ungar-Sargon herself is of no consequence, though her insensitivity is quite shocking. But when she graduates from an obscure blog to a major newspaper you have to wonder what was going on at the Forward?
Update 2-3-14: for some counterpoint check out this review by the “Curious Jew” with some illustrative quotes.