Some of the worst sex abuse scandals in the orthodox Jewish world involved rabbis in kiruv (outreach), gittin (religious divorce) and geirus (conversion). Think of Leib Tropper, Baruch Lanner, Barry Freundel, Nechemya Weberman, Ephraim Bryks, Mordechai Tendler, Shlomo Carlebach, Emanuel Yegutkin, and Moshe Eisemann. A number of others involved educational work with at-risk or special-ed kids. There are two common denominators that make this more likely.
The community is less likely to believe victims over the rabbi because of the lower status and respect accorded these groups. This makes it easier for the rabbi to parry the allegation by lying and defaming the complainant. Over and over we have heard stories of victims being taunted with “Who is going to believe you?” Additionally, these victims are very dependent on the very rabbi who abused them. That rabbi may be their only source of information about Judaism. Additionally, that rabbi often controls things they need. Tropper was caught on tape saying ‘you need a conversion and I am the one who can give it to you.’ In other cases, the rabbi is their gateway to admission into schools or financial support.
These patterns also appear with rabbis serving the populations of the former Soviet Union and former E. European communist countries. Eisemann and Bryks, among others, gravitated to work with this population after they lost more mainline positions. Similar issues are true for some of the rabbis who have gone to those countries to occupy various rabbinical positions. Most of those who succeed are good at raising funds in the US, Israel, and other countries to fund their work. This puts them in a position to have carrots to dangle along with their other sources of power over potential victims. These rabbis can also facilitate visas to the US or admission to Israel under the Law of Return by furnishing certificates of Jewishness.
The Torah continually reminds us of the particular obligations to the widow and orphan precisely because they were vulnerable to exploitation. In our days, those similarly vulnerable are kiruv, geirus and gittin candidates. If anything, those who work with these populations need to be of even higher ethical caliber to self control any potential abuses of power. Unfortunately, those primed to exploit the weak often gravitate to these roles. Until the system better vets and monitors such people, the best we can do is to expose the abusers and make them pay the consequences. Each of us also has to get better at listening to their complaints about abuse, or even their hesitant, subtle suggestions. If you hear anything, as it says in the Hagaddah, you have to help them open up. You should give their allegations the same hearing you would give to a high status community insider. Encourage them to contact the police or an anti-abuse advocate who can help them confront the problem. I will always respond to such private messages.