Will 'Sex Abuse Ring' Yield Vigilante Justice?

Having a child fall victim to sexual assault is every parent’s worst nightmare.

In the picturesque Jerusalem neighborhood of Nachlaot, a network of alleged pedophiles has been exposed in recent months.The difficulties of relying on children’s testimony, and the initial reluctance of the ultra-Orthodox community to cooperate with officials has made the justice process difficult and painfully slow. If all of the allegations are to be believed, there are more than 20 perpetrators guilty of horrific crimes against more than 100 children, some of them young toddlers. And many of the alleged molesters are still freely walking the streets, in full view of their accusers and their parents.

Parents in Nachlaot — a mixed neighborhood with residents who range from secular to ultra-Orthodox are losing patience with the police and the justice system. Some worry that if the process does not move faster, vigilante-style action will be taken against the alleged perpetrators. With the police keeping a tight lid on the identities of key suspects, with gag orders imposed on the media, several bloggers have stepped into the breach to try to warn their neighbors, and report on the atmosphere in the neighborhood.

One blogger, Ima2seven, wrote a widely-circulated post called Terrorists Have Destroyed Nachlaot describing how the traumatized children face a shortage of Haredi therapists trained in coping with sexual abuse. Another blogger, JewishMom, lives in the neighborhood and has been writing about the affair for months. During Hanukkah, she offered a vivid description of how the scandal has shaken the neighborhood to its core:

The graphic details of the alleged affair are only surfacing now. According to press reports, the ultra-Orthodox community at first tried to deal with it on its own but, failing to stop it, ultimately went to the police last summer. The affair went public when arrests were made in September, as the Jerusalem Post recounted:

The Post said that four of the men were Haredi. The non-Haredi suspect was described by the newspaper as “a well-known pillar of the community who had built a whimsical community garden in the courtyard, said neighbors. After hearing of the arrests, the neighbors destroyed the garden in anger.”

The case was quiet until this month, when as reported in the Jerusalem Post three new suspects were arrested: In a Knesset committee hearing on the inaction, families of victims expressed outrage that many of the suspects were still at large and coming into daily contact with their victims. Although the hearing was closed to the media, reports of the anguished testimony of parents of the victims leaked into the press. The Jerusalem Post reported:

If the parents of Nachlaot feel the way I do when I imagine anything like that happening to my kids, the threat of vigilante justice are very real. Jerusalem police had better pick up the pace.

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Will 'Sex Abuse Ring' Yield Vigilante Justice?

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