By Amy S. Choi (Salon.com)
December 5, 2012
Nechemya Weberman, accused of orally raping and sexually abusing a teenage girl from 2007 to 2010, is expected to take the stand in the New York State Supreme Court in Brooklyn this week. His accuser, now 17 years old, testified last week against Weberman, a pillar and renowned “counselor” in the Satmar Hasidic community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Weberman is accused of 88 accounts of sexual abuse of a minor from the time the girl was 12 until she was 15.
If you haven’t followed this case, one of the few sexual abuse cases in the ultra-orthodox community to be exposed to secular justice, here is a brief timeline. (Allison Yarrow has a thorough run-down of the case at The Daily Beast.)
2007: The accuser, a 12-year-old at the time, begins questioning authority at United Talmudical Academy, her ultra-religious school. Her parents are forced to send her to counseling for her “heretic” behavior.
2007-2010: During years of locked-door “therapy” sessions, Weberman (who doesn’t have any kind of psychotherapy or social work license) allegedly abuses the girl. In addition to oral sex and touching, he forces her to watch pornography and then mimic the acts, often while his own children and wife are in the next room.
2009: The girl breaks religious law when she begins dating Jeremy Solomon. She confides in Weberman about the relationship.
2010: Solomon is arrested and charged with statutory rape after a sex tape is discovered, revealing him and the girl. The charges are eventually dropped, but the girl testifies that she believes her father and Weberman conspired to secretly film the couple and file charges.
2011: The girl files abuse charges against Weberman. Going public with the abuse to secular authorities, rather than rabbinical ones, creates a massive rift in the community.
And fast forward to this year…
May 2012: The Satmar community organizes a huge fundraiser to benefit Weberman. Hershy Deutsch, the accuser’s boyfriend at the time, and now husband, organizes a counter-rally.
June 2012: Four Williamsburg men are arrested and charged with intimidation after offering the accuser $500,000 to drop the case.
November 26, 2012: Trial starts, and the girl completes 15 hours of testimony. Four men are arrested and charged with criminal contempt in the second degree for taking cell phone pictures of the accuser and distributing her image over email and Twitter. The girl’s court room security and privacy is increased after court officers find Weberman staring at her threateningly through a window in the court room.
And now, we wait to see what Weberman has to say for himself. He has somewhat surprisingly not had many supporters in the court room, while many religious Jews have come forward to support the accuser. Those supporters, however, are mostly from outside the Williamsburg Satmar community. So far, his attorneys’ primary defense seems to be that the accuser is a “free spirit” and that she was acting in revenge over the sex tape (read: teenage accuser is a vengeful slut).
And we wait to see how the press continues to cover the trial. While the media has mostly been restrained, veiled misogyny and anti-Semitism wouldn’t be unanticipated. If anything, coverage has been perhaps too restrained. The New York Times, which has done a decent job of covering the case (squeamishness over using the word “rape” aside), made a point to note that the trial would include “sexually explicit and culturally intricate testimony.”
Let’s call a spade a spade. Culturally intricate = misogynistic. Sexually explicit = sexual abuse. This case is about exposing the abuse of power. Let’s not have it expose our timidity, too.