Last week, serial ultra-Orthodox Jewish Australian pedophile David Samuel Cyprys, was released from prison in Victoria, Australia, after serving almost six years of an eight-year sentence for the rape and sexual assault of nine boys. Unfortunately, I was one of those boys.
There are additional Cyprys victims who have gone to the police, and there are many others who have not, and who will never provide formal police statements, for various reasons. We estimate that Cyprys has dozens of victims and that the extent of his offending will never truly be known.
Simply put, Cyprys is one of Australia’s most prolific and violent pedophiles.
Now that he is on parole, Cyprys will be able to live within the broader community with some conditions, including restrictions around his mobility. Once his parole is lifted, some of these conditions will be lifted.
Cyprys’s criminal convictions were a watershed moment for the Australian Jewish community. In some ways, so is his release.
How should the local community respond? We must first and foremost consider the impact of his release on those he sexually abused.
Since the announcement of Cyprys’s release — a couple of weeks before the October 16 scheduled date — the trauma of some, if not all, of his victims has been re-triggered. It was a challenging enough confrontation for us to pursue justice through the courts; we now face the very real possibility of running into the man who sexually abused us, and whom we held to account in a court of law.
It makes little difference that we may not directly see Cyprys — whether now or some time in the future. It is the mere possibility of such an encounter that can have a detrimental impact on us.
Then there are his many secondary victims. These include family members of his primary victims — our parents, siblings, partners, children, and anyone else closely associated with us. It also includes Cyprys’s own family — his parents, siblings, children and others.
It is critical to ensure that all decisions that are made, are in the best interests of his (primary) victims.
Responsibility now falls on Jewish communal institutions, in particular synagogues, to ensure that they have robust policies and procedures in place to guarantee they are adequately equipped to respond to Cyprys’s presence, should he decide to attend. Consideration should also be given to his victims and his conduct in deciding whether or not to afford him religious honours. Time and again in synagogues around the world, we have seen convicted criminals afforded honours upon their release, causing much additional distress to victims.
The early signs seem positive. Institutions have reached out — to me and others — to ensure that they are adequately prepared. This current sense of urgency and vigilance must be maintained, both in terms of looking after the interests of Cyprys’s victims and to protect others from him.
I should note that I (and others) do not necessarily object to Cyprys being welcomed in a communal institution such as a synagogue. A blanket “deny entry” approach is not necessarily the solution. Alternatively, there should be clear guidelines around his attendance, and under no circumstances should any institution risk him coming into unsupervised contact with children.
Attendees who may see Cyprys should ask those in charge about the policies and procedures that are in place and ensure they are complied with.
Moreover, if a victim of his happens to attend the institution that Cyprys would like to attend, obviously the interests of his victim must take precedence over those of Cyprys. Under no circumstances should his victims be forced to encounter him at an institution they regularly attend.
Having said all of this, it is also important to me to highlight that Cyprys is a human being.
He is a father, a stepfather, a brother, a husband, and someone’s child.
He was convicted of heinous crimes and has served his sentence. While we do not currently have a perfect system in place, he has paid his dues to society at this time and that needs to be acknowledged.
Moreover, some research shows that reintegrating perpetrators back into society — as opposed to shunning them — actually reduces the risk of them re-offending.
Of course, as and when more of his victims go to the police, Cyprys will need to be held to full account for those crimes as well. Those who have been affected by Cyprys and wish to make a police statement are encouraged to do so. They are welcome to contact me if they wish and should avail themselves of support services.
Until such time, we must respect the legal process — while remaining vigilant.
My message to all of Cyprys’s primary and secondary victims — in particular the countless victims he sexually abused, as well as to his two children — is this: none of this was our fault. Cyprys made the decision to sexually abuse and he alone is the one who bears full responsibility for his sickening crimes.
To those victims for whose offense he was convicted, please remember the courage it took to pursue justice, and that justice prevailed. Moreover, Cyprys had his liberty removed for several years and during that time, he was not able to continue abusing other children.
To those victims who were unable to pursue justice for whatever reason, I am truly sorry. I hope that you will take comfort from the fact that he was sentenced for his other crimes.
To Cyprys’s family, especially his two children, you are not to blame for David’s crimes. Having closely followed the impact this has had on you all — from the early days during the court hearings until this very day — my heart goes out to you as well. I will continue to speak out on your behalf, as I believe this is an important aspect of justice.
To the community members and leaders, while the initial response by many to my public advocacy in this area was appalling, I am thankful that most have finally seen the light. We still have a long way to go, but today we are much better situated to deal with this issue.
While until now we have dealt with holding perpetrators to account, we now must also deal with the challenge of the release of this convicted serial sex offender against innocent children to our community — and the potential risk that poses to our community and broader society.