Brooklyn’s District Attorney Charles Hynes is facing added pressure in the Orthodox Jewish child sex abuse scandal as new critics accuse him of allowing victims of the abuse to be intimidated.
According to a report from UK’s The Guardian newspaper, Hynes has recently heard from former New York City judge and Mayor Ed Koch regarding the intimidation of those claiming to be abused by clergy or other church officials. The pair have been discussing the lack of full disclosure of the names of the alleged perpetrators of sexual abuse against children, especially among the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community living in the borough of Brooklyn. Hynes is under intense pressure to begin bringing those accused abusers to justice but many believe the D.A. is too lenient and allowing the rabbis in the church to select which cases should be taken to Hynes for prosecution.
Sexual abuse in the church has been a silent problem for decades and only recently have enough victims come forward with their tales of abuse that it’s gotten national and local attention. Hynes has established a hotline for alleged victims to contact his office confidentially so their cases can be investigated but that hotline has been criticized for not fully investigating the claims and for protecting the names of the accused. So far, Hynes has credited the Kol Tzedek hotline he created for victims to report the crimes against them for 97 arrests of alleged perpetrators, though that number has also been criticized for being too high and including cases established prior to its creation or for cases not involving children or the church in any way.
Koch, according to the report, believes the establishment of Kol Tzedek has not stopped the intimidation of those making accusations and that Hynes must do more to prevent this and allow the victims to step forward and feel confident in making their claims. The former mayor said if Hynes is unwilling to combat the intimidation, he’ll ask New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to intervene in the matter. Koch believes the names of those arrested or accused of sexual abuse, especially those crimes against children, should be released to the public. Hynes has refused to release these names and the former mayor thinks the D.A. is bowing to rabbinical and church pressures to protect the abusers while allowing the victims to be intimidated by other church leaders.
Hynes and Koch have reportedly recently discussed establishing a task force to prevent intimidation of those victims of sexual abuse. Hynes told local TV’s NY1 channel last week that intimidation of sexual abuse victims in the ultra-Orthodox community rivals that from organized crime syndicates. He defended his office’s ability to bring the perpetrators to justice and said he’s not allowing rabbis “to decide which cases should be reported to authorities.”
However, Freedom of Information Act requests to Hynes’ office from various media sources have been repeatedly denied, leading those outside the office to believe that the D.A. is being coerced to not release names of those convicted or accused of abusing children.
In this tightly knit religious community, sexual abuse of children is a taboo subject, not openly discussed. Followers are urged to bring their concerns of possible abuse to church officials so they can investigate the claims before they go to authorities with the charges. This pattern of protecting the abusers has been seen in other organizations and has only typically resulted in more children being abused.