In a shocking episode of Channel 4’ Dispatches programme, a victim of child sex abuse in the Haredim (ultra-orthodox Jewish) community in Stamford Hill, London, goes undercover to expose the way his community has for decades been dealing with paedophilia.
In a year-long investigation, other victims of child abuse from this closed community express their anger about the lack of justice caused by their leaders’ misguided approach to dealing with the issue.
In some cases those brave enough to complain to the police about their abusers have even been harassed, spat at and ostracised by other community members.
This Channel 4 Dispatches special report also reveals that an alleged child abuser was allowed to continue working with children, despite complaints from his victim.
And other victims, frustrated by their inability to bring child abusers to justice, tell Dispatches they’ve threatened and attacked those they believe to be paedophiles.
While investigating the community, Dispatches received 19 allegations of sexual abuse from young members of the community, all of which have been hidden from the public by the community’s leaders.
In the documentary, a Haredi rabbi speaks out against the way child sexual abuse allegations are handled by the community leader, which often leads to the alleged victim and their families being harassed and shunned by the whole community if they ignore the leader’s advice.
The head of the community in Stamford Hill is Rabbi Ephraim Padwa, who (during the secret filming) told the undercover reporter not to go to the police or social services. Padwa said that it was forbidden to inform on a fellow Jew to non-Jewish authorities.
Another leader of the community was interviewed for the programme and told the reporter that the community considers that all allegations must be dealt with from within, and that ‘outside authorities’ would cause more problems.
A group of young people who became disillusioned when their allegations were not addressed by the community leaders, and when they were forbidden to go to the authorities, took matters into their own hands.
The group of eight vigilantes visited known abusers and administered their own form of justice though violent means.
In New York, which has the largest Haredim community outside of Israel, a rabbi recently received a sentence of 110 years for a catalogue of 59 instances of abuse against a young girl who he started to abuse at age twelve.
When the rabbi was charged, the Haredim community rallied together and raised $500,000 for his legal costs, while at the same time shunning the victim.
Within the New York community, victims are afraid to approach authorities for fear of their friends and families being punished by other members of the community.
There are about 50 cases of child sexual abuse within the Haredim community awaiting trial in New York, mainly as a result of a small group of young people supporting each other in speaking out.
ALL communities must abide by the laws of whichever state they reside in whether they like them or not. From the revelations of the documentary, it is obvious that the Haredi consider their communities above the law of the land, and will do everything they can to prevent any outside criticism, and protect their communities from scandal.
Of course, this means that those who suffer abuse within closed communities have little chance of justice as the community closes ranks.
Although the justice system may not be perfect, it does go some way to protecting the rights of those who have been manipulated for the gratification of others, and should be available to every citizen of the state.
Far too many communities are permitted to shut themselves off from mainstream society, and we see the formation of small groups who remain a law unto themselves. The only outcome of this is the further division of society in which it’s members become trapped and feel unable to reach out in times of need.
The Channel 4 Dispatches documentary is available on the Channel 4 website.
It is also available on Youtube