Tonight I had the honour to meet this courageous Charedi (ultra-Orthodox) family currently (literally) battling it out in court to bring the alleged perpetrator of their young boys to account (he is a prominent member of their community). The parents reached out to me in the hope that I will provide them and their children with the strength to continue their struggle for justice.
I am not sure what they gained from our encounter, which included my parents, but I certainly walked away both heartbroken and determined to continue my struggle on behalf of them and so many others.
Incredibly, the trial has been underway for around a year and a half - apparently, there's still another year to go, including another four months of periodic hearings for the defendant to bring witnesses, some as character references. Serious questions have again been raised regarding the Israeli judicial system.
Predictably, their community has turned against them. They are referred to as "massers" (collaborators), they've lost all of their friends, and have endured many other consequences based purely on their courageous decision to press charges against their alleged abuser.
The kids are suffering. The entire family is suffering. Immensely. They've endured this additional injustice for years. They feel helpless.
The rabbinic leadership must immediately and unequivocally take a public stand on this injustice. They must intervene in any way possible. Their silence to date has been deafening. Thankfully there are several individuals who have stood by them, including accompanying them to the many court hearings.
It was heartbreaking to hear the youngest victim describe when he saw his former spiritual mentor - a man he greatly admired and respected - attend the court in support of his alleged perpetrator. It had a profound detrimental impact on him.
I am not entirely sure what else there is to say or write. Sadly, this family is not the first to experience such callousness - especially from ostensibly righteous leaders and community members, and they won't be the last. So this is a reminder of what many prefer to ignore: Kids are being sexually abused in staggering numbers. And when they attempt to pursue justice, often they and their families are re-victimised - by their former friends, community and even the justice system.
This is happening. Today. The question is what are we going to do about it.