Frequently Asked Questions About ZA’AKAH
What does ZA’AKAH do?
ZA'AKAH is dedicated to raising awareness about child sexual abuse in the Orthodox Jewish community, supporting survivors of child sexual abuse, participating in educational events in the community and around New York State, and helping pass legislative reforms concerning child sexual abuse, like Erin’s Law the Child Victims Act.
Please note: ZA’AKAH does not directly provide any victim services. We partner with other organizations whom we can refer you to based on your needs.
How did ZA'AKAH get started?
ZA'AKAH was originally founded in early 2012 to organize the Anti Internet Asifa Protest. A few days before the protest, however, the Satmar community in Williamsburg held a fundraiser for now convicted child rapist, Nechemia Weberman, at the Continental hall. In response to this shocking show of support for an unlicensed therapist who raped his client over several years, ZA'AKAH organized a protest outside the event, which garnered a lot of media attention for the case in particular, and the issue of child sexual abuse coverups in the Orthodox Jewish community in general.
Who currently runs ZA'AKAH?
Our current director of community organizing is Asher Lovy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Asher has been our director of community Organizing since late 2016.
Why does ZA'AKAH focus on the Orthodox Jewish community? Doesn't abuse happen everywhere?
While abuse does happen everywhere, there are issues particular to the Orthodox Jewish community that prevent victims from reporting, and often protect abusers. Our current director of community organizing is himself an Orthodox Jewish survivor of abuse, born and raised in Boro Park.
What issues in particular make it difficult for victims in Orthodox Jewish communities to report abuse and get support?
There are a number of leverage points that can be used against Orthodox Jewish victims of Child sexual abuse. But first it should be acknowledged that many communities, particularly Charedi communities, have institutional policies requiring that victims ask rabbis for permission before reporting child sexual abusers to secular authorities.
The other leverage points often involve pressuring victims or their families into silence by threatening them with unemployment, eviction, expulsion of their children from yeshiva, the prospect of their children and extended families being ineligible for shidduchim, or general ostracism from the community.
How does ZA'AKAH hope to change the community?
We hope that by raising awareness of the prevalence, and devastating effects of child sexual abuse, and by educating parents how to spot, report, and keep their children safe from child sexual abuse, we can not only reduce the incidence of child sexual abuse on the Orthodox Jewish community, but empower parents, family members, educators, clergy, and survivors to stand up to communal pressures against reporting. It's going to be a very long uphill battle, but we'll be here fighting for change.
A large part of what ZA'AKAH does seems to be related to the Child Victims Act. What is it?
The Child Victims Act is a bill that passed nearly unanimously on January 28th 2019, was signed February 14th 2019, and went into effect on August 14th 2019 that extends the criminal statute of limitations for child sexual abuse going forward, extends the civil statute of limitations, and opens a one year lookback window during which old civil cases, whose statutes of limitation have passed, could be revived and brought in court.
Ok, but why is it so important for the Orthodox Jewish community?
Given the issues mentioned above, and the intense communal pressures brought to bear against survivors of sexual abuse, the former statute of limitations acted almost as a perverse incentive to cover up abuse in the Orthodox community. It said to abusive and negligent individuals and institutions perpetuating coverup that all you had to do in New York State was set a timer until a survivor's 23rd birthday, and that if until that day you used every pressure point you can to force a victim into silence, you could get away with sexually abusing children. The Child Victims Act would eliminated their ability to do that because while they may be able to silence a victim of child sexual abuse for a while, they're far less likely to be able to silence them for the rest of their lives. The day will come when those survivors feel safe enough to talk, and we want them on that day to have access to our justice system. In short, the Child Victims Act removed the incentive. It removed that timer.