Levi Moscowitz took a plea bargain and got a 1-day jail sentence for arranging to pay a father to allow him to have sex with his two children. The supposed father was a cop. After his conviction Jewish Community Watch (JCW) posted information about his crime including a police transcript of his arrangements for the rendezvous. Within a week he committed suicide, hanging himself in a park.
Now the recriminations have started. Some are blaming JCW for the suicide which they say was precipitated by the “Wall of Shame” posting. Others are talking about the fact that he wanted to rehabilitate himself and was just despairing over his ability to control his behavior and get help. Some are saying, “but he did not actually molest children. After all” they say, “he was arrested before he did anything.”
I think people are confusing the tragedy of a suicide with the question of how to properly respond when we discover people committing sex crimes. Yes, every suicide is a tragedy. Yes, it is quite possible that the public exposure pushed him over the edge. Yes, perhaps he was at the point where he was ready to enter treatment, stick with the treatment, and change his behavior.
However, I believe that Jewish Community Watch acted responsibly when they put him up on their Wall of Shame. All they knew when they put him up was that others needed to know about his history to protect themselves. They did not do it to hound him to his death. Most sex offenders do not commit suicide when exposed. Most don’t feel deep remorse. Most do not rehabilitate themselves.
As I think about the tragedy of Levi’s suicide I think of all the survivors of sex abuse who succumbed and committed suicide. Many more victims commit suicide than perpetrators.
Some people claim that most abusers were themselves abused. That is not what the research shows. In fact, Victor Vieth points out that convicted offenders often invent abuse to garner sympathy. If being abused leads to abusing we would expect females who are abused at much higher rates to themselves become the majority of abusers. But women abuse at much lower rates.
Yes, some who are abused become abusers. That is tragic, but we cannot end that cycle in the rare cases it occurs, by letting abusers off the hook. This is not about revenge. It is about justice to keep our children safe.
For the sake of justice his abuse should have been publicized. Those who were close to him should mourn this tragedy. But they should not expect a retreat to the old days when cases were covered up because of reputation or damage to the family of the victim, or even because of the risk of suicide.
The blood of abusers is not redder than the blood of their victims.
UPDATE- 1/15/15– Some people are saying that Levi Moscowitz committed suicide because he was exposed as a sex offender on JCW. They claim he was subsequently denied an aliyah for his birthday. But I have never known frum shuls to deny aliyot to sex offenders. I do know of Chabad in Melbourne denying aliyot to Zephaniah Waks because he dared to support his son in reporting his molester to the authorities.
If it is true that he was denied an aliyah, it is probably because he was exposed as a porn actor, a male escort and someone who frequented prostitutes by Luke Ford on December 26th. Sadly, the haredi community regards child molesting as an impulsive misdeed for which claims of regret are enough to allow rehabilitation. But openly embracing sex with men is unforgivable, especially when done publicly. Nothing can be more public than being a porn star. In fact, only with porn videos do you have actual proof of intercourse, a biblicly forbidden act.