This article is the most necessary one that I’ve ever written. It’s also the most painful and stomach upsetting. And we need to be upset and pained. If we’re not, and we can turn a blind eye to this, then we are not alive at all. To this end, I write of the plight of Daniel Granavetter.
What happened to him screams to be rectified. And it is a life lesson for everyone, one that they should never, G-d forbid, know personally.
This is the story of someone who was proven to be innocent beyond a shadow of a doubt, yet was still hounded and harassed. I’ve checked into his story with several community leaders and people with first hand knowledge and they all decry the inhumanity of the charge, with even greater gusto than the prosecutor who tossed out the case due to its clearly false nature. Yet this is the first time that a concerted effort is being made to spread the truth and you, the reader, are a part of it.
Yes, it is your duty to read this. And I’d never have the chutzpah/temerity, the stupidity or the insanity to say this of anything else I’ve ever written.
Daniel has written a book about his ordeal, available on Amazon and at www.danielinthelionsden.org. This article recaps the essence of his story and what society needs to learn from it.
The Story of Daniel Granavetter
Daniel is an unassuming person who works to serve Hashem and who is helpful to all. He has never harmed anyone in his life. Indeed, it seems precisely because he seems like the kind of fine person who you could walk all over without consequences. (Without consequences, that is, until someone decides to do what everyone should do and finally right a wrong that was worse than murder itself.)
Daniel started teaching. He wanted to make a difference in the lives of struggling students. He was given a profoundly disturbed teen with severely limited societal comprehension to work with. And that’s where his trouble began.
Defamation is Always Hard to Counter – Not in This Case
The nature of defamation, especially internet defamation, is that it’s hard to disprove. I can know someone for 50 of my 37 years, see their fine character upfront and then, of course, walk away for a second to drink a cup of coffee and not know what happened then.
Fortunately, in Daniel’s case, the defamation can and was proven false. The 18 year old who had accused him also accused 20 other people, including his own parents, of molestation.
More outrageously, even after the charge was dropped, the accuser still went over to Daniel. Daniel ignored him, which upset him more, so he accused him again (this time of molesting him in front of hundreds of people, in the large shul in which he approached Daniel – somehow with no corroborating witnesses). The parents of the child still phoned people in Daniel’s community about the new “allegation.”
Even before this, the 18 year old repeatedly and consistently changed his story, including key details. In fact, constant changes were the only consistent part of his testimony. It was clear that the allegation was coming from someone who was saying anything and everything against whoever he was upset with for whatever reason.
This did not stop police from engaging in the shameful standard operating procedure of arresting first, no matter how ludicrous the charge, and leaving it for the courts to sort out. The prosecutors themselves throw out the most ludicrous of cases, as they did with Daniel, but the shameful act of false arrest is something that harms society and an individual’s rights at its core.
Yet We Are Not Bozos
Human beings were created with functioning brains. If a story sounds strange or weird, chances are that it is. As Thomas Jefferson so valiantly proclaimed upon his hard fought victory at the Battle of Gettysburg, “not all internet claims are factual.”
In today’s decadent coastal society, one that is in the final throws of eating itself out of civilization, people are told to rip at each other apart for the fun of it. Third party miserable malcontents egg on every employer-employee, landlord-tenant, dentist-defanged dispute that comes their way. They thrive off of other people’s divorces and encourage them. While others may find relief in that fact that it says that such people forfeit their portion in heaven, their actions are as sad as they are harmful. These people need to be prayed for. Yet they need not, and must not, be taken seriously.
Such people also seem to be positively allergic to happiness and all that is good and decent in the world. The answer is to ignore them, but to still counter the damage that they inflict. And countering the harm they cause is an obligation that is incumbent upon us all.
Make No Mistake as to the Seriousness of This Threat
It is popular to blame various parties for not doing more during the Holocaust. To be able to do something to save a life or to save someone from immense harm is considered an obligation incumbent upon any decent person. To do nothing, is considered to be callous, reckless and cruel – complicit with Nazism itself.
Is the trauma of one any less serious, worthy or painful than the trauma of many? If we don’t start somewhere, are we blameless? Most Righteous Gentiles, who we praise with legitimate and deserving infinite gratitude, risked their lives to save one person, or at most, one family.
An increasing number have taken to internet bullying, blogging and bomb-throwing. Aside from making serious problems and warnings moot by their actions, they destroy countless innocent lives in the process. The perpetrators are righteously indignant and with cause. Their methods, however, destroy themselves and their own noble cause far more than they harm anyone else.
We’ve all been attacked in our lives. Each and every person has felt pain, usually inflicted by others. The question is whether the wronged person becomes a monster themselves, or whether they take proper steps to alleviate such pain among others and eventually from society as a whole.
Advocacy must be cautious and methodical. It must not be cautious in offering preventative solutions. But when it comes to making examples out of people, the wrong “example” backfires and has the ability to destroy the entire mission. There are laws against vigilantism for a reason. Effective societal change is brought about methodically and with rightness of spirit.
Bomb dropping is the work of skilled military people. Bomb throwing is the work of amateurs. The difference between the two is the difference between D-Day and the Baltimore Riots.
Make No Mistake Either as to the Seriousness of Not Responding
Fires spread. Societal fires spread even faster. The Torah is replete with this theme over and over again. And to those who were never able to study our precious heritage, the words of Pastor Martin Niemoller of Holocaust fame are still well known.
Yet we fail to heed Torah. We fail to heed basic morality. We fail to heed the so oft quoted words of Niemoller. Must we always fail to heed each other?
The Bais HaMikdash (Holy Temple in Jerusalem) was destroyed for one main reason – baseless hatred. It is promised that all we have to do to rebuild it is to care for each other. We can no longer turn a blind eye to the Holocaust of an individual or to their destruction. And with that, I begin the most painful interview of my life, my interview with Daniel Granavetter.
Interviewer: You’ve written a book about your experiences. I’ve spoken with your friends and rabbis. They all scream and yell that you were unfairly targeted, that you were so clearly falsely accused. Why hasn’t more been done about this?
DG: I believe little has been done due to the current political climate. Unfortunately, there have been real perpetrators in our community who have in fact committed acts of sexual abuse. For a long time these acts were “brushed under the rug.” This has happened not only in the Jewish world, but in the secular world as well. Now, many people are angry, and are on a hunt to catch offenders. And because, unfortunately, many people are acting out of emotion rather than intellect, terrible mistakes are happening, as they did to me.
Both well-meaning and not well-meaning individuals have tried to hush me, saying that I should let the hunt run its course, because it’s for the greater good. And that I shouldn’t take what happened to me so “personally.”
Interviewer: Why does this interview bother me so much? Why is this so upsetting? Especially hearing about people telling you not to defend yourself?
DG: I would think that it’s due to the fact that what’s going on here is a direct violation of the Torah – and basic human values altogether. We’re talking here about publicly shaming others, which the Torah equates to murder, and for good reason.
Interviewer: Let me be specific then. I’ve done an advocacy piece for Michael Behenna, a heroic US soldier who was imprisoned for years for the simple act of saving his life while being attacked by a captured terrorist/Al Qaeda operative. I care about the Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin case, in which most former US Attorney Generals have publicly decried the unfair and draconian sentence. I went through my own ordeal centered around a divorce and saw how every insane thing in the world can be said. But nothing has shaken me as much as your story, how an innocent special needs instructor who made it his mission to help teens and gone after with no mercy, no fact checking, no care and thrown to the wolves – or to the lions as you put it.
DG: When it comes to sullying the name of an innocent person, in many cases the individual can clear his name and move on. But the usual rules do not seem to apply to accusations of child sexual abuse. Once you accuse and publicly shame someone, even if he is proven innocent, the stigma will never go away. Obviously, I’m one to know this from personal experience. For the most part, I have put my life back together and moved on.
But here’s the big problem: There are crazy and dangerous people out there. When they hear an allegation of this nature, they sink their teeth into it and don’t let go. There are certain sickos out there who cannot leave me alone. Any chance they get, they harass me. And many of them are cowards, who don’t reveal their identities. Furthermore, not a day goes by when I don’t think of individuals who I thought were friends – but turned out to be fakers and turned on me. Fortunately, almost all my friends were faithful. But the interesting thing about the traitors is that they in particular were those who I had helped a lot. All I would like from them is an apology; which I’m not expecting at all.
Interviewer: This is a serious problem. What steps do you recommend to solving it?
DG: First of all, we as a community have to resolve not to brush anything under the rug. We must not brush sex abuse crimes under the rug. And we must also not brush crimes of false accusations and defamation under the rug. There are many who say the following: “If there are ten individuals accused of child sexual abuse, and nine are guilty and one is innocent, it’s better to put the innocent part in jail together with the nine guilty parties.” This is what is known as a non sequitur fallacy – a conclusion or statement that does not logically follow from the previous argument or statement.
No innocent parties should be accused in the first place. And if nine individuals are guilty and one is innocent, then the nine guilty parties should be brought to task and the innocent party should be exonerated. (Is that not plain common sense?) If an accusation is made and it turns out to be false, then the accusers need to own up to it and face the consequences, not walk away Scot-free.
There is another mindset that needs to change. I find a very disturbing thing when I read online articles about sex offenders. Many of these articles state that sex offenders are known to do kindnesses for children. Here we have the fallacy of “the sky is blue, therefore everything that’s blue must be the sky.” What do these articles want? Apparently, they want nobody to ever do kind things for children.
In my book, “In the Lion’s Den,” I tell about how this fallacy is what led to my getting falsely accused. The accuser, who is autistic, was used as a puppet by his mother and the therapist who interviewed him after he was caught inappropriately touching younger children. I was suspected because I had done a lot of kindnesses for him. The fact about the accuser, and many others who have made such accusations, is that if you ask him leading questions, he will answer in order to please you. (If you don’t know what a “leading question” is, I’d suggest looking it up.)
If there is someone reading this interview who is from my community and happens to know the accuser, and doubts my story, then I offer the following challenge: Go to the accuser and give him any name; ask if he was ever abused by X. No matter who X is, he will say yes. There are those who will always think I’m guilty because they saw that I did a lot of kind things for the accuser and his family – and then I was accused. To them, that is conclusive proof. Doesn’t matter that the accuser himself admitted, of his own accord, that there was no truth to his accusation and he had been coerced into making it. No need to do any investigation whatsoever. That would require too much use of intellect.
Interviewer: It would seem that the absolute first thing that must be done is to teach all kids, in a modest way, what molestation is and that they must defend themselves and tell their parents. They should be read the beginning of the Frierdiker (Lubavitcher) Rebbe’s Zichronos (the Memoirs of the 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rebbe Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn) in which a girl fights, screams, kicks and bites to defend her Jewish Purity. There also needs to be advocacy to install monitors in classrooms, all areas of a school and camps. Do you agree?
DG: I absolutely agree. When I was little my parents taught me about child molesters and how to avoid them. All parents should do the same. Monitors in schools and camps would certainly be a helping hand, both to prevent abuse from taking place, and to protect teachers and counselors from false allegations.
Interviewer: What should people do about internet defamation? What were your experiences?
DG: It’s a very big problem, very difficult to deal with. One big problem is search engines. During the time I was accused, I wasn’t able to get a decent job, because all you had to do to find out about my case was google my name, and voila. I’ve seen that this problem not only affects those who are accused, but also people and organizations they’ve been associated with. I recently googled the name of the Chabad House, and the first autosuggestion is “*insert Chabad House name* molestation.” This is disgusting. A beautiful Chabad House, in which none of the staff were accused of impropriety, that has benefited so many people has now been publicly disgraced. And for what?
Interviewer: Please let readers know how this hurt you.
DG: As I mentioned above, there will always be some stigma associated with my name, thanks to the handful of sickos out there who will never stop looking for an opportunity to harass me. Furthermore, I am forever paranoid when it comes to doing a kindness for a child. Right now, I do not see myself offering to work with children again.
Right before I was accused, I was near to completing my degree in education. Now here I am, having thrown in the towel, paying back student debt. This whole court case has not helped me find a spouse.
I used to have a side job as a professional juggler. But now that I no longer live in New York, where all the show business is, I’m essentially “retired,” at least for now. Right before I was accused, I was beginning a huge project which I planned for many years, writing and publishing a series of young adult adventure novels: “Chassidic Adventure Classics.” Due to what happened to me, I was severely delayed in this endeavor. Baruch Hashem (Thank G-d), once my case was officially closed, I launched a marketing campaign and my books have been successful.
Interviewer: What would you like to see done?
DG: I would like real child abusers to face justice. And I would like false accusers to face justice as well. Even when a perpetrator is accused, I do not believe in the need to create all the noise which drives everyone into hysteria and creates a witch hunt atmosphere. It is possible for a community to prosecute perpetrators without becoming a mob. I would like to see more kindness being done to children, especially those who are not succeeding in the system and are falling between the cracks.
Thank you Daniel. May Hashem bless you and protect you and may know no more pain and have only blessings.
Daniel’s book is available at www.danielinthelionsden.org.