When I saw how all my legal efforts were thwarted – every single application I made (over 10 in the past year, including repeated requests for improved visiting rights and urgent independent assessments of the children) was ignored by the judge, I was left with no choice but to publicize this gross injustice. I did so reluctantly and apprehensively, not wanting to ´air my dirty laundry´ in public, finding it humiliating and painful for myself and the children. After many months of (deliberate?) legal standstill, I finally dared to speak out.
This has upset people in the Viennese Jewish community who, instead of being outraged at what is happening to Samuel and Benjamin are instead, illogically, directing their anger at me.
The recent channel 4 documentary:
revealed some of the shocking attitudes people hold when it comes to dealing with child abuse in the Charedi community. Instead of calling for the police to intervene and bring the perpetrators to justice, abuse is all too often hushed up and strictly contained within the Orthodox community. To expose the truth and disgrace the abuser is anathema to many people´s worldview. Paradoxically, the person who speaks out publicly is deemed the guilty party and targeted, not the perpetrator of the crime.
I have experienced the same perverse attitudes here in Vienna. There are people who clearly wish I would just shut up and disappear. They do not want the details of this ugly scandal exposed, unhappy about tarnishing the public image.
I faced opprobrium from one disgruntled local last week who told me in no uncertain terms, “The community had sympathy when it first appeared in the press because they saw that an injustice had clearly taken place but it´s enough now. You have to stop. You are bringing down the ´good name’ of our community.” The perceived communal ‘good name’ takes precedence over the lives of two suffering at-risk children.
A leading figure within the community advised me before I went public to “just give up. You will never win. Go back to England and start a new life.” To my horror, he thought it would console me to hear, “You will re-marry and have more children.” As if children are replaceable, like household items after a fire.
This week, I was strongly advised by another prominent figure to “direct my energies in the court, not in the press.” Many in the Vienna community maintain this is not a Rabbinical matter, they therefore do not wish as a community to get involved. “Everything must go through the courts,” they insist, even though it is apparent to all that the legal process has been far from fair.
The Chief Rabbi of Vienna has experienced the injustice first hand. When I was denied contact to the children for 7 weeks, he wrote and signed a letter to the judge offering to supervise the handovers personally. The judge totally ignored his generous offer of assistance. She didn’t even acknowledge it.
This week my computer was hacked and infected with viruses. First I was sent an email by an impostor using a known Rabbi´s name under a fake email address. The Rabbi confirmed it was not sent by him. My email account was then hijacked and I was unable to access it.
My response to all these people is that I will not be silenced nor will I go away until justice is done. Neither will the 7,000 plus supporters around the world who are also enraged by the ongoing, needless suffering of two innocent children. Terrorism tactics will not win. On the contrary: the more they try to silence us, the louder we will protest.