Balancing the Risk of False Accusations Against Child Safety

Barbara Blaine

Barbara Blaine

Barbara Blaine, the founder and president of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, spoke to Nefesh in Chicago in November, 2011. She addressed risks of false accusations of abuse:

We have to balance things. In our society, what’s more important: the vulnerability of our precious children or the reputation of a grown adult? When we are balancing it and trying to determine it, even if the allegations are true or not true, it is really important to recognize that when we choose the grown adult — think who is on the other side. I want to propose to you that as horrific as it would be to be falsely accused as an adult, I think it is easier for a grown adult to repair his or her reputation than it is for a child to repair their life if their innocence is shattered. So, when we are taking the risk, the risk has to be on the protection of the children.

Check out the video of the talk. The above quote comes from 19:56-21:03. To hear her moving story, start at 8:00.

In my experience, many valid accusations never reach the criminal justice system. Moreover, I am familiar with many cases where valid indictments were dropped because the victim was intimidated into not testifying. No sooner is the indictment dropped that the defenders of the pervert start screaming: look at this terrible problem of false accusations. Balderdash!

One man who was indicted in Australia committed suicide while he was awaiting trial. The same people who defended all the other convicted perverts from the Chabad run school in Melbourne now had their martyr and started blaming his suicide on “false accusations.” Given the record of Chabad in Melbourne, their defenders haven’t any credibility when they scream about false accusations. In fact, the more likely explanation for a suicide in this situation is that the young man could not deal with the shame of being exposed, especially with a trial coming up where all the dirty details might be aired. I feel any suicide is a tragedy. However, it is also a tragedy that his victims were denied a chance to finally get their moment of justice in the courts.

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22 thoughts on “Balancing the Risk of False Accusations Against Child Safety

    • Can anyone here name any false allegations of child sexual abuse in the Orthodox Jewish community that were proven to be false?

      I mean, specifically, that the alleged victim/survivor was charged and convicted of making false statements or similar offenses against an actual innocent party.

      The only case I’m aware of is the Judge Garson corruption case in NY which involved several cases that he fixed for compensation and where specifically false allegations of abuse were made. I cannot think of any other such case and I’ve researched hundreds.

  1. Thank you for posting this. I intend to link to this or disseminate it as far as possible. In black and white, encapsulates all the problems with the modern accusation industry. The writer blithely speaks of oh how simple it is to for an adult to repair his reputation. An adult, who may have sat behind bars for years (like the teachers in Massachusetts) who may be dead ( like the one in Australia) who may have lost his friends, his family. At the same time, we are supposed to take it as gospel that children cannot possibly recover from someone who groped them. Countless people who actually WENT THROUGH AUSCHWITZ went on to become millionaires and raise children and grandchildren, but this kid, at the coaching of shrinks and lawyers who make their money off these kids, is supposed to be scarred forever.

    To quote the (incredibly stupid) line tossed about so often by the accusation industry, how would you feel if your child was wrongly accused? According to this idiot woman, apparently nothing.
    Again, thank you for posting. More people need to see this.

    • What a ridiculous post and argument. Its shamefully stupid. Life is a balancing test. If you think that someones reputation is more important than preventing a child from being harmed, youre likely an idiot and probably part of the most under-educated community in Orthodoxy – Chabad. Enjoy your slow path toward implosion.

      • Anyone who thinks a false accusation of abuse is nothing more than a hurt reputation knows nothing. Do you not think it hurts children to be taken from loving parents and passed from stranger to stranger as they bounce around the foster system? Do you think it trivial when innocent people go to prison, lose their jobs, and then spend years and countless dollars to get the children they love back? And don’t you dare say that if they’re innocent, they aren’t found guilty. Doctors do not do a differential diagnosis if they think abuse might have occurred. There are no tests done to check for bone disorders or deficiencies, no proper medical histories taken on parents. To shrug off the destruction of innocent families because it helps “the greater good” is evil and horrifying. Until you know the darkness and heartache of having to fight to see your children everyday, you have no right to say it is better to hurt the innocent than risk letting someone slip through.

        • I did not say “it is better to hurt the innocent than risk letting someone slip through.” Nor do I endorse sloppy investigative work. I want protective services and police to use well established reliable methods of interviewing children and examining witnesses and medical evidence. I abhor false allegations.

          The question is whether to make or avoid accusations and reports of suspicions of abuse. Some say, don’t take the risk because there is a slight risk of a false accusation and the problems it creates for the accused even if exonerated. However, failing to report a credible accusation creates the terrible risk of a child being abused for years or with physical abuse even dying or being murdered. Sadly we still see more children dying or being murdered every year by neglectful and abusive parents then we see false accusations causing nearly that much harm.

          The issue is this, when faced with suspicions but no certainty, should we remain silent or report the case and let the investigation follow. While a false accusation is terrible for the accused, I still maintain an adult still should not be privileged over a vulnerable child.

          the hallmark of a civilized society is protecting those who are most vulnerable. Our Jewish prophets made it clear that all religious piety falls flat when widows, orphans, and geirim, the most vulnerable of there era, are oppressed.

  2. “I think it is easier for a grown adult to repair his or her reputation than it is for a child to repair their life if their innocence is shattered.”

    Here she tries to address and diffuse the main reasoning that prevents frum people from reporting upon the word of a child. ‘What if it isn’t true?’

    Had she answered that it is most like to be true, so we have to weigh the tiny chance of a false allegation against the most likely probability of damage to a victim, then she would be making a point that would merit the consideration of those afraid to report. Because it’s a true argument.

    But when she says that the reputation of adult can more easily be repaired etc., it accomplishes nothing, because it’s not true. The reputation is permanently destroyed, or seriously marred at best.. Maybe the marriage too. And the children’s chances in life with shidduchim etc. Totally beyond repair.

    • I gave you a short quote from a long speech. The reality is that false accusations are rare, and modern forensic training of police investigators is quite good. Even if a false allegation arises (most commonly in the context of rancorous divorce-related custody battles) they are screened out before people are indicted.

      Your comment reflects a dangerous bias in the orthodox world: the belief that that pain of adults matters more than the pain of children. You ignore the fact that sex abuse also destroys lives through suicide and overdoses, shidduchim through apparent dysfunction by victims, and marriages by mental health and intimacy difficulties.

      I abhor the thought of anyone being falsely accused. However, I am not convinced that I know of a single case where this happened in the orthodox Jewish world in N. America. I chose this scope for my statement because that is what I most actively monitor and I know a lot about cases that is never reported in public. I know of many cases where the charges are legitimate but the abuser and his backers falsely cried “not true.” Moreover, I am aware of many cases where respected rabbis making these claims knew for a fact that they were lying in defending an abuser.

      If you, the person who made this last comment, pay too much attention to those sources, you might have a grossly exaggerated estimate of the problem.

      Everyone knows the frum world has absurd standards of perfection for shidduchim which leads to a lot of lying and concealment of things like physical and mental illness, OTD, at-risk, divorces, etc, etc, etc. But why should children be pressured and coerced not to report valid charges, and when they report them why should people attack them as liars and whores? Why should we sacrifice them on the altar of the reputations of others, especially when most of those accused are not only guilty, but are usually accused of way less than they actually committed?

      I sense a nasty propaganda strategy by those who want to stop sex abuse prosecutions. First you grossly exaggerate the number of false allegations, making them sound common when they barely, barely ever occur. then you go a step further, as you did, and actually say, the pain of the kid is a petty thing compared to the shidduch damage to the grown-up.

      As R. Moshe Soloveitchik of Chicago said, ‘Shidduchim have become the new moloch on whose alter we sacrifice our children.’ Judaism abolished sacrifices to Moloch. The Akeidah of Issac was the last time a Jew was asked to be willing to sacrifice his child. Yet the modern molester protectors, all with honeyed words, keep trying to revive Moloch sacrifice.

      Enough, ENOUGH!

  3. A person commits suicide when he or she feels trapped, having no control over ones life, no one believing you, being accused of something he or she might not have done wrong.

    • In the Melbourne case, this alleged molester could count on the support of the Chabad Yeshivah Centre leadership, just as they faithfully supported all others accused including several who were convicted.

      In theory it is possible it was desperation over a false allegation. But why despair, Australia, like most civilized countries forces the prosecution to prove its case and he would have had generous support for very competent legal defense. It is far more likely he was desperate because he knew the charges were true and he faced both shame and incarceration.

  4. Yerachmiel – I respect your views. And I take your point about perfect being an unreasonable standard. But you still miss the essential issue.

    “Abuse” is an incredibly elastic term. In the Five Towns case you’ve chronicled, no one has even heard any of the details of the so-called abuse. We are supposed to accept on faith alone, b/c rabbis said it – a standard you would accept no where else – that abuse occurred. But what, exactly, transpired? Was it abuse? Was it simply inappropriate comments? Is every touch to be considered “abuse”? We have no standards for this. And yet men are being locked away for 15 years or more on these slenderest of reeds.

    You think false accusations are rare. I tell you have not lived in the real world. One of your commenters, a rebbi, spoke of a child threatening to claim he was molested if the child didn’t get what he wanted. The Duke lacrosse players were not the only individuals accused of rape, only the most well known. It happens way more often that you know. Ever read about the Massachusetts abuse witch hunts – of the 1980s?

    You say your commenter’s comment reflects a bias; I say the woman you quote reflects an estrangement from reality. You CANNOT simply repair your life after a false accusation. People will always be there to whisper “well, there must have been SOMETHING.” And how do you recover the lost years, the life savings lost in legal fees, the lost careers, the lost family?

    You did not respond to my point, that we are told to believe every bout of abuse is so terrible, and yet HOLOCAUST survivors by the thousands somehow never had this problem. Never forget that a lot of people – including lawyers, the psychiatric profession, and even PAID lobbyists such as, I think [could be wrong on her] the woman you quoted – make their money off the abuse industry. These people would like to stifle all criticism by invoking children; I’m not buying that. Millions and millions of children have “survived” far more than inappropriate groping. By contrast, no one ever goes back to normal after being accused of a crime.

    I would agree that legitimate abuse was swept under the rug for too long. But every reaction begets a reaction. In this case, the pendulum has swung too far, and now we hear claims of “abuse, abuse!” on a weekly basis. To quote yourself, “Enough, enough!” Let the pendulum swing back a bit, till we find the right balance. Before you ruin someone’s life or throw someone into prison, put some definition on “abuse”. And think back to how the Torah punishes false witnesses: “do unto them as they plotted to do against the other.” False accusations have to be made into a crime punishable no less than the crime the perpetrator accused of.

    • Two answers to your Holocaust question: First, most of us would not survive a day in Auschwitz. Second, there is no question that many Holocaust survivors did not come out unscathed, but had serious emotional scars.

  5. There is a lot of data with regard to accusations of sexual abuse. In one very large a false accusation was demonstrated in way less than 1 in 10,000 . In a recent series of which I am aware, in one case in 175 an accusation was considered false, based on the circumstances.
    After decades as a medical and mental health professional, I can say that I have never experienced a case wherein the accuser was shown to be false.

    In many cases, after one accuser comes forward, several others tell of their own experiences. For example, in a case I learned about today, after one brave soul pressed charges, 3 other young women came forward and are pressing charges.

    In the Weberman case, Rabbi Horowitz claimed that several young ladies contacted him to say they too had been molested, but were afraid to come forward.

    This is often the case.

    From what I have learned, there were multiple women seduced in this case, at least one of which will never come forward because it may ruin what remains of her marriage. There apparently is at least one teen who was victimized, although she apparently was of ‘legal age.’

    A recording reportedly exists and that was sufficient to convince numerous rabbonim that this person had to go, a person who apparently had rumors persist about such activities for years upon years.

    Is it even remotely possible that numerous teens and adults would claim sexual involvement with a rabbi, in our community?

    Whether those who had strong reason to believe moral crimes were going on should have spoken up sooner is arguable. Should the rabbonim have allowed him to go quietly is also arguable, although to my mind the evidence was such that notification of the public was very important.

    [Fortunately, the actions of those who supported this person and apparently his own actions resulted in widespread publication of the allegations, lessening the chance that there will be further viciims.]

    The specifics of the alleged sexual acts are not crucial, although they go beyond phone sex, reportedly.

    All of the above is based on allegations, none of which have been proven in a court of law, but the safety of our daughters and women seeking counsel (ranging from those going to the mikvah–guess who was the posek–to those in his shul seeking his help, to those he taught, to those who were captivated by his lectures–should be of concern to all of us.

    Does anyone think that some 20 rabbonim of the caliber of our rabbnonim, across the orthodox spectrum, are stupid enough, uncaring enough, or malicious enough, to ruin the career of a colleague based on anything less than a mountain of evidence?

    It is sad that when rabbonim finally decide do the right thing they become subject to criticism.

    • 5tresident – you “prove” that the allegations are true, by talking about people more people who have made allegations? That makes no sense.

      And what do the numbers prove? There are 20 million Mormons today. All their founding fathers claimed to see the golden plates the angel Moroni gave them. So you believe the Mormons?

      • Although my understanding is that most allegations of abuse (on all ends of the spectrum) are true (it’s very embarrassing to be an abuse victim, so people don’t tend to make such things up), I agree that we need to proceed cautiously if only one person alleges that someone abused them. The situation is very different, however, when a pattern emerges over time, i.e. where allegations have been made separately by a number of people. It seems obvious that, with each person who comes forward and alleges abuse, the credibility of the alleged abuser goes down, no matter how strongly he denies it. Otherwise, a person who molests hundreds of people (but never with any witnesses or recordings) can never be found guilty, absent a confession.

  6. If the accusations weren’t so frequently true the frumma wouldn’t devote as much effort as they do to maintaining omertå among their adherents and destroying the lives of those who do step forth. Despicable people.

  7. Unfortunately, the opposite is true as well. I was recently involved in the case of a 65 year old woman who had taught pre K in our community for 40 years, who was accused by the parents of a 3 year old child ( who rigorously read the new Art Scroll book about child safety to their child every night as a bed time story) As people who have known her for years, we were astonished that a 3 year old can besmirch a woman who had been a devoted teacher for two generations of children. The school had no option but report her to the police. The ensuing investigation, which cleared her, was so grueling and humiliating that the poor woman is now a basket case and undergoing therapy.

    • I keep on hearing about cases like this that are stereotypically similar, and yet I cannot find any such cases on my own, not in recent years. There were some attrocious incompetent investigations a few decades ago. The scenario with a 3-year old is especially improbable. Even if a parent would coach a child this way, the child would not work as a plausible witness for even one day. I agree, that even one day of allegations that are false is distressing. But get real, very few people would be destroyed in one day. However, I highly doubt David’s version.

      It reminds me of the urban legend about why Doctors dont stop for injured people on the street. Supposedly they are terrified of being sued. So states began passing needless “Good Samaritan” laws which immunize doctors who voluntarily help injured people outside their usual setting for free. Trouble is that no one has ever found a single case of a doctor being sued for offering help in that situation.

      See: http://biotech.law.lsu.edu/map/GoodSamaritanLaws.html

      the false accusation risk and most of the anecdotes are invented nonsense, or the claims of real abusers who beat the rap and claim they were innocent rather than what is more common in the frum world, they intimidated the victim or the victim did not have the strength to be retraumatized at trial.

      • You write ” I can’t find any cases like this”
        Well, if you don’t believe the people who tell you they’ve personally seen the damage of unfounded accusations, you will of course never encounter it

        • The problem of false accusations is exceptionally rare. How many molesters are you willing to protect to exclude the miniscule chance of one person falsely accused and then exonerated? Is it OK with you if a hundred molesters roam to prevent one false accusation (which will then be dismissed). Just remember that on the average, each molester will probably rack up a hundred or so victims over his career. Also remember that some of his victims will then go on to molest themselves.

          I cannot speak for you since you are anonymous and I don’t know how you got your facts. However, in most cases where people talk to me about false accusations I know for a fact that they are flimsy attempts to protect true molesters. All human action is imperfect. Even the best doctors occasionally make mistakes and kill patients. However, that does not mean we avoid doctors when confronted with heart attacks or cancer. Molesting is a cancer on our children. We have to act, using the best available tools. Right now, that is the criminal justice system.

        • >Well, if you don’t believe the people who tell you they’ve personally seen the damage of
          >unfounded accusations, you will of course never encounter it

          More likely you don’t have the experience, background or knowledge to accurately evaluate the bare allegation of false accusations.that you are making. Perhaps you can name some of the experts that were involved in the case you are claiming? Perhaps you can get them to make a public statement asserting what you claim? I suspect you can’t and won’t. I’ve researched hundreds of cases. That’s why I do not hesitate in my above challenge which I will repeat (8 days and counting without response to my challenge):

          Can anyone here name any false allegations of child sexual abuse in the Orthodox Jewish community that were proven to be false?

          I mean, specifically, that the alleged victim/survivor was charged and convicted of making false statements or similar offenses against an actual innocent party.

          The only case I’m aware of is the Judge Garson corruption case in NY which involved several cases that he fixed for compensation and where specifically false allegations of abuse were made. I cannot think of any other such case and I’ve researched hundreds.

  8. >Can anyone here name any false allegations of child sexual abuse in the Orthodox Jewish
    >community that were proven to be false?

    I forgot one clearly documented false allegation. The false allegation made by Rabbi Yisroel Belsky against the father of the brave survivor of convicted pedophile Lakewood Yosef Kolko.

    see: http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/failed_messiahcom/2013/05/rabbi-yosef-kolko-pleads-guilty-234.html

    “And the truth is that the allegations they make against others are crimes they themselves are in fact guilty of and they seek to cleanse their reputations by blaming an innocent man for their own deeds.”

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