Community harassed abuse claimant: court

9news.com.au
May 7,2015

Members of an orthodox Jewish community threatened a Melbourne woman with ostracism if her sister didn't drop a civil sex abuse claim against a headmistress, the Victorian Supreme Court has heard.

The woman, whose two sisters made a complaint to police about alleged sexual assault at the Adass Israel School in Elsternwick Melbourne, was harassed and pressured shortly before her death from a heart attack at age 39, the court heard.

"They threatened her with her job, and her reputation and her children's marriage prospects," the woman's sister, and the claimant in the civil matter, told the court on Thursday.

The Adass Israel School in Elsternwick Melbourne and its former headmistress Malka Leifer are being sued by an ex-student who says she was sexually abused up to several times a week from age 15.

Last August Ms Leifer was arrested in Israel, where she fled in 2008 when sex abuse allegations emerged, and is facing extradition to Australia.

Another sister, who also alleges sex abuse, told the court it was impossible for people to speak out against authority figures in the insular, orthodox community.

"You wouldn't dare try because you would be ostracised," she told the court on Thursday.

"I tried and it didn't get me anywhere."

The first sister earlier told the court she was shielded from the outside world as a child, prevented from watching television or accessing the internet and was only allowed to read censored books.

Her first contact with the "outside" world was in 2011 when she was admitted to a clinic after she became suicidal, she told the court.

The woman suffered depression, post-traumatic stress, and had flashbacks that made it difficult to bond with her daughter, born in 2010, but was refused support or money for counselling from the school, she said.

The trial continues before Justice John Rush.