I don’t want to go too much into the particulars of the latest Israeli case. The accused, however, has admitted in court papers: “What I wrote was wrong. I take responsibility for it. But I am not some dangerous monster who is out there hurting women and I won’t be engaging in any ‘friendly’ communication with any women other than my wife.” Let me just say that no one claimed that sex offenders must impress as monsters. Also, the law doesn’t demand any plaintive to prove that the accused was sub-human.
Rather, I want to write generally, how to take these stalemates. Ignore the accusations? Ignore the defense? Stay torn or suspend one’s judgment?
First of all, Jewish Law doesn’t have a lot of trust in the moral compass of men when it comes to sexuality. There are very strict rules about being secluded with someone of the opposite sex. If one keeps these guidelines, it’s very hard to go wrong or get accused of sexual harassment. So, if an Orthodox Jew is accused, he has most likely violated Jewish Law.
Typical serial abusers pick on the socially weak individuals while cultivating an excellent name with the strong persons. People with few or no close supporting family, with a history of mental health problems, poor — who’s going to believe them over him, the big shot?! So, all the supportive testimonies of successful women/children/men mean nothing.
My rabbi says: “I only see women for counseling when my wife is home and I keep the door open. One complaint by one woman can destroy your good name forever, even if you did nothing wrong.”
There are not a lot of false claims of abuse except by abusers. Abusers also abuse the law — what a surprise?! So, someone who sues people who claim he abused them is not doing his good name any favor. This especially when there are multiple accusations. Yet, in the case of celebrities or famous people, you can’t just know for sure that the accusers are right. Though generally, they are. Even if it would take decades to be confirmed.
But, I once had an employer who was not only a total fake and hypocrite, but also a bully. Soon enough, he claimed I was not doing my work well and he wanted to fire me. I was still in my naive phase, so I thought to win this dispute because he was lying and I spoke the truth. He then claimed that if I wouldn’t quit, his secretary would file a complaint (that obviously he had written) that I sexually harassed her. I was so stupid to start laughing very loudly. He then changed the claim that she had felt intimidated by my height. (I never talked to her.) That was the moment I realized I needed to quit. So I know that false accusations happen.
I mentioned before that every denial of abuse, once the denier is found guilty, should add to the sentence. Because, currently, when an accuser is wealthy, he can play all kinds of legal games without any risks.
There are three reasons why I’d give accusers some benefit of the doubt.
2. It takes enormous courage to admit having been victimized. It takes a lot of emotional work to turn a loss into a victory, to blame the culprit only.
2. Fans of famous ones and other cruel people, at accusations often start trashing and even threatening the accusers.
3. The abuser often looks good, strong, collected, dignified. The accusers often look confused, emotional. It’s way too easy to disbelieve the latter.
Also, no one would falsely make accusations without a motive. Accusing or suing accusers, though, would hand them a motive were they lacking one.
I think that suspending one’s judgment is too wishy-washy. With sexual complaints, I would say: guilty until proven innocent, and even then not. Not to condemn the accused but rather, but to honor the accusers.