A Tarnished Reputation Is Forever: The Importance Of Verifying Before Accusing

The news today includes an item on the appeals court’s reversal of the conviction of a Brooklyn man of child molestation. Scroll through the article for the all the sordid details, including possible witness bribery and extortion. Is he truly innocent or is this just a technical acquittal? I have no idea. But it does bring to the forefront facts that are undeniably true, facts that the extreme activists on this issue prefer to sweep under the rug: not every accused is guilty and not every accusation has merit.

The lesson of all this? Molesting a child is the worst kind of crime. It is ritzicha, it is murder of the soul and often of the body as well. Everyone knows this, no one disputes it. What the haters need to realize is that falsely accusing innocent people of crimes, especially of this nature, is equally reprehensible. It is horrendous character assassination which can (and does) lead to the destruction of the accused’s life and family in every way. That the charges may prove to be baseless and nothing but vile lies does little to dislodge the belief in people’s minds that “where’s there’s smoke there’s fire”. Good luck finding a  job or a shidduch for your kids when your name has been plastered all over the front page of the Daily News, while the truth, when it comes finally out, is buried in a three line story on page 47.

On the one hand predators need to be punished and removed from causing further harm. On the other hand, innocent people must have their rights and reputations guarded to the utmost. Which is why the Aguda, based on the Psak of Rav Elyashiv has encouraged principals and other mandatory reporters to go to the authorities, but only after a Rav has been consulted. This is not about circumventing the law or anything of the sort, this is about consulting with respected people, people who have their pulse on the community and may be able to see a situation clearer than one heavily immersed in it and potentially biased. This has nothing to do with “rabbinical power” or other nonsense spouted by anti-haredim; it is about making sure innocent people are not destroyed.

An objective reading of the NYS guidleines on mandatory reporters makes it clear that reporting is required when there is a reasonable belief that a crime has occurred. What is wrong with discussing with a Rabbi whether or not the situation under review meets that standard? Does the law require reporters to make decisions entirely on their own without consultation and advice to clarify matters? Of course not. This is just another stick used by those with ulterior, hateful motives to attack the Haredi community. And they do it on the backs of children. For shame.

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