Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Baltimore, MD - State Sen. Presents Award To Nuchem Rosenberg Over His Crusade On Abuse Issues

Vos Iz Neias? - December 2, 2008

Baltimore, MD - The Awareness Center, Inc. presented last week Rabbi Nochum Rosenberg with the first annual “Rape Victim Advocate Of The Year Award”—in recognition of his dedication, determination and also for risking his life in hopes of helping those who have been sexually abused in orthodox Jewish communities around the globe.
Presenting the 2008 award was Maryalnd’s Senator, James Brochin and Vicki Polin, Founder/Director of The Awareness Center, Inc.
In an exclusive interview with VIN News before this award was given to Mr. Rosneberg, Maryland State Sen. James Brochin, an outspoken lawmaker on sexual abuse issues, said, “I don’t know much about Rabbi Rosenberg, but the issues that he has raised should definitely be receiving of more support in the Orthodox community. 
At the same time I’d like to send a wake-up call for the Baltimore Jewish Council and the Orthodox community to please support my efforts to pass the statute of limitation extension law.  I am quite disappointed that the community of Baltimore, who know full well they have abuse issues, did not to come out and help me on sex abuse issues.”

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Rabbi Nuchum Rosenberg Named the 2008 Award Recipient -The Awareness Center, Inc.

November 26, 2008 - Pikesville, MD

The Awareness Center, Inc. presented Rabbi Nochum Rosenberg with the first annual "RAPE VICTIM ADVOCATE OF THE YEAR AWARD" -- in recognition of his dedication, determination and also for risking his life in hopes of helping those who have been sexually abused in orthodox Jewish communities around the globe .

Presenting the 2008 award was Maryland's Senator, James Brochin and Vicki Polin, Founder/Director of The Awareness Center, Inc.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What do when your rabbi or cantor is accuse of abuse

By Vicki Polin
The Awareness Centers Daily Newsletter - September 24, 2008

1) Remain open-minded.
The natural human instinct is to recoil from alleged horror, and to immediately assume that the allegations are false. But the overwhelming majority of abuse disclosures prove to be true.

In every case, the proper and Jewish response is to remain open-minded.

2) Daven (pray) for all parties involved.
Every person involved deserves and needs prayerful support.

3) Let yourself feel whatever emotions arise.
You may feel angry, betrayed, confused, hurt, worried and sad. These are all natural, "typical" responses to an allegation of sexual abuse. None of these feelings are inappropriate or "bad." Don't "kick yourself" for feeling any of these emotions.

4) Remember that abuse, sadly, is quite common.
It's far more widespread than any of us would like to believe. Experts estimate that 1 in 4 children will be sexually violated by the time they reach their 18th birthday.

5) Don't try to "guess" or figure out who the accuser is.
Survivors of child sexual abuse, like rape survivors, need their privacy to recover from their trauma. Openly speculating about who is alleging a sex crime is essentially gossiping (lashon hara), and helps to create a hostile climate that will keep other survivors (even those abused by non-clerical perpetrators) from coming forward.

6) If you do know the surviovrs(s), protect his/her confidentiality.
There are many good reasons why abuse survivors are unable to publicly come forward. Often, the person wants to keep his/her elderly parents or young children from suffering too. Don't compound the pain he/she is in by disclosing his/her identity to others.

7) Understand that survivors of sex crimes as children often have "troubled" backgrounds (i.e. drug or alcohol problems, criminal backgrounds, etc.)
Instead of undermining the credibility of accusers, these difficulties actually enhance their credibility.  (When someone is physically hurt, there are almost always clear signs of harm; so too with sexual abuse. The harm is reflected largely in self-destructive behaviors. One might be skeptical of a person who claimed to have been run over by a truck but showed no bodily injury. Similarly, one might be skeptical of an alleged molestation victim who always acted like a "model citizen.")

8) Don't allow the mere passage of time to discredit the accusers.
Stress to other community members that there are many good reasons why surviovrs of child sexual abuse and those abused as young adults disclose their victimization years after the crime. In most instances, survivors come forward when they are emotionally able to do so, and feel capable of risking disbelief and rejection from precious loved ones, including family members, community leaders, other authorities, and fellow Jews. Sometimes, they are psychologically able to do so only after their perpetrator has died, moved or been accused by someone else. Sometimes, they have been assured that their perpetrator would never be around kids again, but have learned that this isn't the case.

(In other cases, it takes years before victims are able to understand and/or acknowledge to themselves that they have been sexually violated. This is a common defense mechanism.)

9) Ask your family members and friends if they were victimized.
Many times, survivors of sex crimes will continue to "keep the secret" unless specifically invited to disclose their victimization by someone they love and trust. Even raising this topic can be very uncomfortable. But it must be done. It may be very awkward and your family members may even act resentful at first. But soon they will remember that you really care about them, and will see your question as a sign of that care.

10) Mention the accusation to former community members, rabbis yeshiva and day school rish staff now living elsewhere.

They may have information that could prove the guilt or innocence of the rabbi or cantor facing allegations. This is especially important because sometimes abuse survviors or their families move away after experiencing abuse.

11) Contact the police or prosecutors.
It's your duty as a citizen to call the proper civil authorities if you have any information (even if it's "second hand" or vague) that might help prove the guilt or innocence of the accused. It's your duty as a Jew to help seek justice and protect others from harm. Remember: abuse thrives in secrecy. Exposing a physical wound to fresh air, clean water and sunlight can be healing. Exposing sexual crimes is also ultimately healing. And remember that police and prosecutors are unbiased professionals with the skills and experience needed to ascertain whether an allegation is true or false.

12) Don't allow other community members to make disparaging comments about those making the allegation.
Remember, the sexual abuse of children has terribly damaging effects. As a Jew, you want to help prevent such victimization. And you want anyone who is in pain to get help as soon as possible. Critical comments about those who make allegations only discourage others who may have been hurt. Such remarks prevent those who need help from reaching out and getting it. Show your compassion for abuse victims. Be sure to tell community members  that hurtful comments are inappropriate. Remind them that they can defend their rabbi or cantor without attacking his accuser.

13) Educate yourself and your family about sexual abuse.
There are many excellent books and resources on the subject. There are also good books specifically about molestation (www.theawarenesscenter.org/books.html)  Check out The Awareness Center's web page: www.theawarenesscenter.org

14) Support the accused rabbi or cantor PRIVATELY.
Calls, visits, letters, gifts, and prayers - all of these are appropriate ways to express your love and concern for the accused rabbi or cantor. Public displays of support, however, are not. They only intimidate others into keeping silent. In fact, it is terribly hurtful to survivors of clergy sexual abuse to see community members openly rallying behind an accused rabbi or cantor. You may want to publicly defend a rabbi or cantor, collect funds for the rabbi or cantor's defense, and take similar steps. Please don't. Express your appreciation of the rabbi or cantor in a direct, quiet ways. Even if the rabbi or cantor is innocent, somewhere in the community is a child who is being molested by a relative or a being abused by his/her coach or youth leader. If these children see adults they love and respect publicly rallying around accused perpetrators, they will be less likely to report their own victimization to their parents, the police, or other authorities. They will be scared into remaining silent, and their horrific pain will continue.

15) Don't be blinded by the pain you can see.
The trauma of the accused rabbi or cantor, and those who care about him, is obvious. You can usually see it in his or her face, his or her posture, and his or her actions. But please try to keep in mind the trauma of the accuser too. Because you rarely see his/her pain directly, it's important to try and imagine it. This helps you keep a balanced perspective.

16) Try to put yourself in the shoes of the alleged victim.
It's easy to identify with the rabbi or cantor. Most Jews have met dozens of rabbis or cantors and know them as warm and wonderful individuals. On the other hand, few Jews have met clergy abuse survivors. Try, as best you can, to imagine the shame, self-blame, confusion and fear that afflict men and women who have been victimized by trusted religious authority figures.

17) Use this painful time as an opportunity to protect your own family.
Talk with your children about "safe touch," the private parts of their bodies, who is allowed to touch those parts, what to do if someone else tries, and who to tell. Urge your sons and daughters to have similar conversations with your grandchildren.

18) Turn your pain into helpful action.
In times of stress and trauma, doing something constructive can be very beneficial. Volunteer your time or donate your funds to organizations that help abused kids or work to stop molestation.

19) Keep in mind the fundamental choice you face.
On the one hand, at stake are the FEELINGS of a grown up. On the other hand, at stake is the PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL, PSYCHOLOGICAL, SPIRITUAL AND SEXUAL SAFETY of potentially many children. If one has to err in either direction, the prudent and moral choice is to always err on the side of protecting those who can't protect themselves: children. Remember too that it's easier for an adult to repair his reputation than for a child (or many children) to repair his/her psyche and life. Another way to look at this: Being falsely accused of abuse is horrific. But actually being abused, then being attacked or disbelieved is far worse.

20) Ask your rabbi or cantor to bring in an outside expert or a therapist who can lead a balanced discussion about sexual abuse.

Therapists understand and can answer the questions you and your community members are facing, and help you deal with the emotional impact of this trauma too.

21) Urge your rabbi, cantor, yeshiva or day school employees to follow these guidelines too.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sex-Offenders' Haven? Convicted Sex Offender Rabbi Michael Ozair Residing in Thailand, A Mecca of Pedophiles

© (2008) Vicki Polin, MA, LCPC, NCC
The Awareness Center's Daily Newsletter - July 15 2008

Towards the end of May, a member of The Awareness Center happened to stumble upon convicted sex offender, Rabbi Michael Ezra Ozair’s Facebook account.

When I was informed I immediately looked at Ozair’s site.  I was stunned to see that most of his “friends” appeared to be teenage girls from Thailand, China, Israel and a few from Los Angeles.  Rabbi Ozair did have a few adult friends listed (mostly male), several of whom were individuals in which The Awareness Center had been watching, due to worrisome information about them.

Considering Michael Ozair is a convicted sex offender and it appeared that he might be using his Facebook account to groom teenage girls, a report was made to the IC3 (The Internet Crime Complaint Center). 

The fact that removing an account from Facebook is not the answer to the real problem, because Ozair -- like many other convicted sex offenders can easily create another account using another name within in minutes of an account being terminated.  Nonetheless, it was hoped that his account closing would send a message that his behavior was being monitored.

Over the last few months several newspaper articles stated that Facebook had a policy that convicted sex offenders were not allowed to have an account with them.  A note was sent to facebook with all the necessary information.  At the time I thought the problem would be solved easily.   I was wrong.

The next day I received a note back from Facebook asking for more information regarding Michael Ozair and was asked for a direct link to the sex offender registry in which he was listed.  I went to both the California and National sex offender registry -- Michael Ozair was not listed.  I had no idea what was going on and started to dig.  After several phone calls and e-mails to law enforcement in Los Angeles, I learned that Ozair was no longer listed in a way in which he was easily found.  Each state has its own protocols in how their registry works.  Unfortunately, since Michael Ozair is currently registered as living outside the United States -- in Thailand, his profile is not easily accessed.

My contact at the LAPD forward Michael Ozair’s most updated registration to both the contact at Facebook and to me.  I thought this would be all that was needed and Ozair’s account would be closed.

I didn’t hear anything for a few days and kept checking to see if Ozair’s account was removed.  The entry was still there.  I recontacted Facebook and they stated there was some technical difficulties with the police officer’s e-mail and that the officer would need to send the information to a different e-mail address and was asking for more information besides a copy of the sex offender registration.

On July 3, 2008, I finally received a note stating “After reviewing the reported abuse, we have removed all offending content based on our Terms of Use.”

If it weren't for the many hours communicating with Facebook and the LAPD, Michael Ozair’s account would have remained open -- Meaning this convicted sex offender would have maintained full access to teenage girls on Facebook. 

I’m still bewildered with the reality that a convicted sex offender would be allowed to move to Thailand, especially considering it is known to be a haven for sexual predators.  It’s also known as one of the worst countries when it came to the human sex slave trade.  

Rabbi Michael Ozair’s case shines a light on a deeply worrisome phenomenon -- several American convicted sex offenders are moving to places like Thailand, China, India, Israel, etc. -- all known Mecca's for child predators to most likely continue creating more victims.  As Americans we need to be concerned with not just the safety of our children, but the children of the world.  Without a federal policy in place, American sex offenders will continue with this trend.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Rabbi Yona Metzger on Child Abuse and The Case of Rabbi Elior Chen

By Vicki Polin, MA, NCC, LCPC, Executive Director - The Awareness Center
The Awareness Center's Daily Newsletter - April 8, 2008

It seems strange that Rabbi Yona Metzger would be making the following statement, especially since he was accused of sexual misconduct/clergy sexual abuse (with four men) several years ago.

I strongly disagree with the statement Rabbi Metzger made regarding excommunicating the parents of the children who were so horrendously abused. Even though the actions came from their own hands, I believe that they were being manipulated and were acting under the explicit directions of their spiritual leader/cult leader, Rabbi Elior Chen.

Many individuals who get involved with cults, often have histories of child abuse and or neglect. From past experience in working with ex-cult members, I found that women who have left abusive relationships are also more susceptible to getting involved in cult like groups.

The basic issue is that adult survivors of child abuse (emotional, physical and sexual abuse) and those battered as adults are looking for unconditional love. What happens is they get manipulated in believing that their leader represents "the truth." They no longer are able to access their ability to use deductive reasoning / critical thinking.

Though I do believe these parents should no longer have custody of their children, I do not believe that we should make blanket statements stating they should all be excommunicated. We need to look at each situation on a case by case basis. I also have mixed feelings about the parents and the criminal cases that will be brought up against them. If these parents were unable to access their critical thinking, would they then be considered mentally ill? Were they at the time of each act unable to discern right from wrong? I'm not trying to make excuses for their behavior, it's just that I think there is much more to the story then what we are reading in the newspapers. The parents psychiatric help and exit counseling. This can occur either in a prison or a psychiatric facility. I believe that the parents are most likely individuals who most likely have the potential for rehabilitation.

I do not believe this is true when talking about Rabbi Elior Chen. I do agree with Rabbi Metzger that Chen should loose his rabbinical title and believe he should spend the rest of his life in a prison. I do not believe he will ever be safe to be out with the rest of our society.

Below is the article that was in the Jerusalem Post, below that is information on Destructive Cults.


Metzger: Abusive parents and rabbis should be 'excommunicated'Jerusalem Post - April 9, 2008http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1207649968071&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Following a spate of allegations of child abuse in the religious community, Ashkenazi Chief
Rabbi Yona Metzger called on rabbis to "unhesitatingly renounce" such violent acts.

In a statement released Tuesday night, Metzger said that abusive parents and rabbis must be "condemned" and "excommunicated."

He told community rabbis to express their disapproval and the disapproval of the Torah for such "acts of brutality."

Biderman's Chart of Coercion

Most people who brainwash...use methods similar to those of prison guards who recognize that physical control is never easily accomplished without the cooperation of the prisoner. The most effective way to gain that cooperation is through subversive manipulation of the mind and feelings of the victim, who then becomes a psychological, as well as a physical, prisoner. (from an Amnesty International publication, "Report on Torture", which depicts the brainwashing of prisoners of war.


Deprives individual of social support, effectively rendering him unable to resist
Makes individual dependent upon interrogator
Develops an intense concern with self.

Once a person is away from longstanding emotional support and thus reality checks, it is fairly easy to set a stage for brainwashing. Spiritually abusive groups work to isolate individuals from friends and family, whether directly, by requiring the individuals to forsake friends and family for the sake of the "Kingdom" (group membership), or indirectly, by preaching the necessity to demonstrate one's love for God by "hating" one's father, mother, family, friends.
Abusive groups are not outward-looking, but inward-looking, insisting that members find all comfort and support and a replacement family within the group. Cut off from friends, relatives, previous relationships, abusive groups surround the recruits and hammer rigid ideologies into their consciousness, saturating their senses with specific doctrines and requirements of the group.
Isolated from everyone but those within the group, recruits become dependent upon group members and leaders and find it difficult if not impossible to offer resistance to group teachings. They become self-interested and hyper-vigilant, very fearful should they incur the disapproval of the group, which now offers the only support available to them which has group approval.
Warning signs
The seed of extremism exists wherever a group demands all the free time of a member, insisting he be in church every time the doors are open and calling him to account if he isn't, is critical or disapproving of involvements with friends and family outside the group, encourages secrecy by asking that members not share what they have seen or heard in meetings or about church affairs with outsiders, is openly, publicly, and repeatedly critical of other churches or groups (especially if the group claims to be the only one which speaks for God), is critical when members attend conferences, workshops or services at other churches, checks up on members in any way, i.e., to determine that the reason they gave for missing a meeting was valid, or makes attendance at all church functions mandatory for participating in church ministry or enjoying other benefits of church fellowship.
Once a member stops interacting openly with others, the group's influence is all that matters. He is bombarded with group values and information and there is no one outside the group with whom to share thoughts or who will offer reinforcement or affirmation if the member disagrees with or doubts the values of the group. The process of isolation and the self-doubt it creates allow the group and its leaders to gain power over the members. Leaders may criticize major and minor flaws of members, sometimes publicly, or remind them of present or past sins. They may call members names, insult them or ignore them, or practice a combination of ignoring members at some times and receiving them warmly at others, thus maintaining a position of power (i.e., the leaders call the shots.)
The sense of humiliation makes members feel they deserve the poor treatment they are receiving and may cause them to allow themselves to be subjected to any and all indignities out of gratefulness that one as unworthy as they feel is allowed to participate in the group at all. When leaders treat the member well occasionally, they accept any and all crumbs gratefully. Eventually, awareness of how dependent they are on the group and gratitude for the smallest attention contributes to an increasing sense of shame and degradation on the part of the members, who begin to abuse themselves with "litanies of self-blame," i.e., "No matter what they do to me, I deserve it, as sinful and wretched as I am. I deserve no better. I have no rights but to go to hell. I should be grateful for everything I receive, even punishment."

Monopolization of Perception

Fixes attention upon immediate predicament; fosters introspection
Eliminates stimuli competing with those controlled by captor
Frustrates all actions not consistent with compliance
Abusive groups insist on compliance with trivial demands related to all facets of life: food, clothing, money, household arrangements, children, conversation. They monitor members' appearances, criticize language and child care practices. They insist on precise schedules and routines, which may change and be contradictory from day to day or moment to moment, depending on the whims of group leaders.
At first, new members may think these expectations are unreasonable and may dispute them, but later, either because they want to be at peace or because they are afraid, or because everyone else is complying, they attempt to comply. After all, what real difference does it make if a member is not allowed to wear a certain color, or to wear his hair in a certain way, to eat certain foods, or say certain words, to go certain places, watch certain things, or associate with certain individuals. In the overall scheme of things, does it really matter? In fact, in the long run, the member begins to reason, it is probably good to learn these disciplines, and after all, as they have frequently been reminded, they are to submit to spiritual authority as unto the Lord.. Soon it becomes apparent that the demands will be unending, and increasing time and energy are focused on avoiding group disapproval by doing something "wrong." There is a feeling of walking on eggs. Everything becomes important in terms of how the group or its leaders will respond, and members' desires, feelings and ideas become insignificant. Eventually, members may no longer even know what they want, feel or think. The group has so monopolized all of the members' perceptions with trivial demands that members lose their perspective as to the enormity of the situation they are in.
The leaders may also persuade the members that they have the inside track with God and therefore know how everything should be done. When their behavior results in disastrous consequences, as it often does, the members are blamed. Sometimes the leaders may have moments, especially after abusive episodes, when they appear to humble themselves and confess their faults, and the contrast of these moments of vulnerability with their usual pose of being all-powerful endears them to members and gives hope for some open communication.
Threats sometimes accompany all of these methods. Members are told they will be under God's judgment, under a curse, punished, chastised, chastened if they leave the group or disobey group leaders. Sometimes the leaders, themselves, punish the members, and so members can never be sure when leaders will make good on the threats which they say are God's idea. The members begin to focus on what they can do to meet any and all group demands and how to preserve peace in the short run. Abusive groups may remove children from their parents, control all the money in the group, arrange marriages, destroy personal items of members or hide personal items.
Warning signs:
Preoccupation with trivial demands of daily life, demanding strict compliance with standards of appearance, dress codes, what foods are or are not to be eaten and when, schedules, threats of God's wrath if group rules are not obeyed, a feeling of being monitored, watched constantly by those in the group or by leaders. In other words, what the church wants, believes and thinks its members should do becomes everything, and you feel preoccupied with making sure you are meeting the standards. It no longer matters whether you agree that the standards are correct, only that you follow them and thus keep the peace and in the good graces of leaders.

Induced Debility and Exhaustion

People subjected to this type of spiritual abuse become worn out by tension, fear and continual rushing about in an effort to meet group standards. They must often avoid displays of fear, sorrow or rage, since these may result in ridicule or punishment. Rigid ministry demands and requirements that members attend unreasonable numbers of meetings and events makes the exhaustion and ability to resist group pressure even worse.

Warning Signs:

Feelings of being overwhelmed by demands, close to tears, guilty if one says no to a request or goes against a church standards. Being intimidated or pressured into volunteering for church duties and subjected to scorn or ridicule when one does not "volunteer." Being rebuked or reproved when family or work responsibilities intrude on church responsibilities.

Occasional Indulgences

Provides motivation for compliance

Leaders of abusive groups often sense when members are making plans to leave and may suddenly offer some kind of indulgence, perhaps just love or affection, attention where there was none before, a note or a gesture of concern. Hope that the situation in the church will change or self doubt ("Maybe I'm just imagining it's this bad,") then replace fear or despair and the members decide to stay a while longer. Other groups practice sporadic demonstrations of compassion or affection right in the middle of desperate conflict or abusive episodes. This keeps members off guard and doubting their own perceptions of what is happening.
Some of the brainwashing techniques described are extreme, some groups may use them in a disciplined, regular manner while others use them more sporadically. But even mild, occasional use of these techniques is effective in gaining power.

Warning Signs:

Be concerned if you have had an ongoing desire to leave a church or group you believe may be abusive, but find yourself repeatedly drawn back in just at the moment you are ready to leave, by a call, a comment or moment of compassion. These moments, infrequent as they may be, are enough to keep hope in change alive and thus you sacrifice years and years to an abusive group.

Devaluing the Individual

Creates fear of freedom and dependence upon captors
Creates feelings of helplessness
Develops lack of faith in individual capabilities

Abusive leaders are frequently uncannily able to pick out traits church members are proud of and to use those very traits against the members. Those with natural gifts in the areas of music may be told they are proud or puffed up or "anxious to be up front" if they want to use their talents and denied that opportunity. Those with discernment are called judgmental or critical, the merciful are lacking in holiness or good judgment, the peacemakers are reminded the Lord came to bring a sword, not peace. Sometimes efforts are made to convince members that they really are not gifted teachers or musically talented or prophetically inclined as they believed they were. When members begin to doubt the one or two special gifts they possess which they have always been sure were God-given, they begin to doubt everything else they have ever believed about themselves, to feel dependent upon church leaders and afraid to leave the group. ("If I've been wrong about even *that*, how can I ever trust myself to make right decisions ever again?").

Warning Signs:

Unwillingness to allow members to use their gifts. Establishing rigid boot camp-like requirements for the sake of proving commitment to the group before gifts may be exercised. Repeatedly criticizing natural giftedness by reminding members they must die to their natural gifts, that Paul, after all, said, "When I'm weak, I'm strong," and that they should expect God to use them in areas other than their areas of giftedness. Emphasizing helps or service to the group as a prerequisite to church ministry. This might take the form of requiring that anyone wanting to serve in any way first have the responsibility of cleaning toilets or cleaning the church for a specified time, that anyone wanting to sing in the worship band must first sing to the children in Sunday School, or that before exercising any gifts at all, members must demonstrate loyalty to the group by faithful attendance at all functions and such things as tithing. No consideration is given to the length of time a new member has been a Christian or to his age or station in life or his unique talents or abilities. The rules apply to everyone alike. This has the effect of reducing everyone to some kind of lowest common denominator where no one's gifts or natural abilities are valued or appreciated, where the individual is not cherished for the unique blessing he or she is to the body of Christ, where what is most highly valued is service, obedience, submission to authority, and performance without regard to gifts or abilities or, for that matter, individual limitations.

Characteristics of a Destructive Cult

What is a Cult?

A cult is a group or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea, or thing and employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control (e.g., isolation from former friends and family, debilitation, use of special methods to heighten suggestibility and subservience, powerful group pressures, information management, suspension of individuality or critical judgment, promotion of total dependency on the group and fear of leaving it, etc.) designed to advance the goals of the group’s leaders to the actual or possible detriment of members, their families, or the community. (West & Langone, 1986)

Characteristics of a Destructive Cult

1. Authoritarian pyramid structure with authority at the top

2. Charismatic or messianic leader(s) (Messianic meaning they either say they are God OR that they alone can interpret the scriptures the way God intended.....the leaders are self-appointed.

3. Deception in recruitment and/or fund raising

4. Isolation from society -- not necessarily physical isolation like on some compound in
Waco, but this can be psychological isolation -- the rest of the world is not saved, not Christian, not transformed (whatever) -- the only valid source of feedback and information is the group.

5. Use of mind control techniques (we use Dr. Robert Jay Lifton's criteria from chapter 22 of his book Thought Reform & the Psychology of Totalism to compare whether the eight psychological and social methods he lists are present in the group at question)
• Milieu Control: Control of the environment and communication within the environment

• Mystical Manipulation: Seeks to promote specific patterns of behavior and emotion in such a way that it appears to have arisen spontaneously from within the environment, while it actually has been orchestrated totalist leaders claim to be agents chosen by God, history, or some supernatural force, to carry out the mystical imperative the "principles" (God-centered or otherwise) can be put forcibly and claimed exclusively, so that the cult and its beliefs become the only true path to salvation (or enlightenment)

• Demand for Purity: The world becomes sharply divided into the pure and the impure, the absolutely good (the group/ideology) and the absolutely evil (everything outside the group) one must continually change or conform to the group "norm"; tendencies towards guilt and shame are used as emotional levers for the group's controlling and manipulative influences

• Confession: Cultic confession is carried beyond its ordinary religious, legal and therapeutic expressions to the point of becoming a cult in itself sessions in which one confesses to one's sin are accompanied by patterns of criticism and self-criticism, generally transpiring within small groups with an active and dynamic thrust toward personal change

• Sacred Science: The totalist milieu maintains an aura of sacredness around its basic doctrine or ideology, holding it as an ultimate moral vision for the ordering of human existence questioning or criticizing those basic assumptions is prohibited a reverence is demanded for the ideology/doctrine, the originators of the ideology/doctrine, the present bearers of the ideology/doctrine offers considerable security to young people because it greatly simplifies the world and answers a contemporary need to combine a sacred set of dogmatic principles with a claim to a science embodying the truth about human behavior and human psychology

• Loading the Language: Words are given new meanings -- the outside world does not use the words or phrases in the same way -- it becomes a "group" word or phrase

• Doctrine Over Person: If one questions the beliefs of the group or the leaders of the group, one is made to feel that there is something inherently wrong with them to even question -- it is always "turned around" on them and the questioner/criticizer is questioned rather than the questions answered directly the underlying assumption is that doctrine/ideology is ultimately more valid, true and real than any aspect of actual human character or human experience and one must subject one's experience to that "truth" the experience of contradiction can be immediately associated with guilt one is made to feel that doubts are reflections of one's own evil when doubt arises, conflicts become intense.

• Dispensing of Existence: Since the group has an absolute or totalist vision of truth, those who are not in the group are bound up in evil, are not enlightened, are not saved, and do not have the right to exist; impediments to legitimate being must be pushed away or destroyed one outside the group may always receive their right of existence by joining the group; fear manipulation -- if one leaves this group, one leaves God or loses their salvation/transformation, or something bad will happen to them; the group is the "elite", outsiders are "of the world", "evil", "unenlightened", etc.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Commentary - Vicki Polin: Church Hurts Victims of All Faiths

By Vicki Polin Examiner - March 3, 2008

BALTIMORE (Map, News) - I was totally shocked at (Maryland Catholic Conference Director) Dick Dowling's manipulation of words when he lied about Del. Eric Bromwell's bill (offering a window in civil statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims.) As a member of the Child Victims Voice of Maryland Coalition, I will say that not one trial lawyer has been involved in our coalition or advocated for this bill.

Those who have been advocating for the bill are survivors of sex crimes committed against them as children, and also their family members and friends. We are all seeking justice against those who perpetrate sexual offenses against our children.

It's both sad and sickening to say that this is just more evidence that Dowling's deceitful words are part of a concerted fearmongering effort by the Maryland Catholic Conference to mislead parishioners. The sad part is that by doing this, he is taking away the civil rights of all those who were victimized as children, not just Catholic survivors. It's important to keep in mind that just under 50 percent of all cases of child sexual abuse occur in the home and not the church, synagogue or mosque.

Dowling is an educated man who knows that raising the statute of limitations is a key deterrent to child sexual abuse. Sex offenders know full well that these archaic laws work in their favor because so many victims/survivors are not in the position to come forward until much later in their lives, usually in their late 40s, 50s or beyond. An example of this is the case of Rabbi Ephraim Shapiro. At the age of 64, Murray Levin finally came forward. This was 52 years after he was allegedly molested by his bar mitzvah teacher.

When California raised its statute of limitations, more than 300 new sexual predators were revealed, essentially ending their reign of terror and prey of children. Just as the archdiocese or many other religious organizations did for so many years, bad laws protect sex offenders and shield criminal offenses from justice.

We all need to remind Dowling that honesty and truth will always prevail.

Vicki Polin is the founder and executive director of the Awareness Center Inc.
(The International Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault)

Friday, February 8, 2008

Shema Kolainu (Quick Trip to Denver To Provide Testimony at a Senate Hearing on the SOL Bill

© (2008) Photographs by Vicki Polin
(Shema Kolainu - Hear Our Voices)

I went to Denver to provide testimony at the House of Representatives in hopes of abolishing the statute of limitations on filing a civil suit for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. What I really wanted to do was spend time in the mountains. The closest I got was taking pictures from the upper floor of the hotel I stayed at and looking down at them when the airplane took off to go back home to Baltimore.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

She founded resource for sex abuse victims

By Bryna Zumer
Owings Mills Times - January 24, 2008

Vicki Polin, a counselor specializing in sexual violence, noticed years ago that there seemed to be no Jewish resources for sex abuse victims, and she was uncomfortable referring them to Christian organizations, which she felt might proselytize them or be unable to speak to Jewish issues.

Vicki Polin, MA, LCPC
Before relocating to Israel in 2001, she attended Neve Yerushalayim, a women's college in Jerusalem, and saw that people who had been sexually abused had no place to turn.

"All these young women started telling me what happened to them," Polin said. "I started seeing what a problem it was."

A Chicago native, she moved to Baltimore in 2002 and, in 2003, launched the nonprofit International Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault, now known as The Awareness Center.
The organization's goal is to provide resources to victims and educate the general community, but Polin, an incest survivor herself, has also drawn controversy for posting information on alleged offenders, including many prominent rabbis, on the center's Web site.

"Our goal is education. It's not just about, 'Get this guy, get that guy,'" she said, explaining that many in the Orthodox world do not watch TV or read secular news, but have gained information from the center's Web site.

After she, together with a volunteer board of directors, began posting information on offenders, "survivors started saying, 'Why don't you have my story?' The same (victims) were talking about the same (offenders), and we started putting the pieces together."

Although more than 250 rabbis worldwide support The Awareness Center, critics have accused Polin of "lashon ha'ra," derogatory or damaging speech against another person, which Jewish tradition condemns.

"In some places, we're seen as heroes and in some we're seen as crazy or vindictive," she said.

After Polin received allegations against rabbis by a group that turned out to be linked to al-Qaida and was anti-Semitic, she posted resources on abuse for Christians and Muslims as well.

She also works with groups like The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, and, in addition to running the non-profit almost single-handedly, regularly testifies in court on behalf of victims of sexual violence.

The goal is not just to educate and reach out to victims, Polin said, but also to help abusers.

"There's no proven treatment for offenders. We don't know what to do, how to stop them," she said.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Pedophile suspect extradited from Israel charged in NY

By Michal Lando
Jerusalem Post - January 10, 2008

A suspected Brooklyn pedophile extradited from Israel to the US under a revised extradition treaty was arraigned and held on $10-million bail on Tuesday. 

Stefan Colmer was indicted by a Brooklyn grand jury on charges that he sodomized two 13-year-old boys from the haredi Jewish community in Brooklyn where he lived. To avoid arrest, Colmer, a computer technician and salesman, fled to Israel, where he has been hiding under the name David Cohen. 

A revamped extradition treaty between the United States and Israel, which went into effect January 10, 2007, allowed Colmer to be returned to Brooklyn. Prior to the newly amended treaty, Israel and the US had agreed to extradite suspected sex criminals only if they had been charged with rape. Since last January, at least two other sex offenders have been extradited, including Michael Leon Zeve and Kenneth Frank. 

"Until now, Israel has been a Mecca for sex offenders," said Vicki Polin, founder and executive director of The Awareness Center, the international Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault. 

The indictment charges that between March and May 2006, Colmer sodomized two teenage boys on numerous occasions, after luring them to his home from a nearby yeshiva high school, according to the US extradition request. 

Colmer is charged with eight counts of criminal sexual acts in the second degree, eight counts of sexual misconduct, 19 counts of sexual abuse in the second degree and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. In the Orthodox world, "the status quo has been to protect offenders' parnassa [income] and not shame family members, at the expense of shaming those who have been victimized," said Polin, who has been working in the sexual violence field for 25 years. 

 The new treaty may also allow for the extradition of Avrohom Mondrowitz, who claimed to be a rabbi and posed as a school psychologist in Boro Park during the late 1970s and early 80s. He was indicted in 1984 for sodomizing young boys, and he fled to Israel after learning he was under investigation. Since then, Mondrowitz has remained in Israel, protected by the now-defunct treaty. He was recently arrested there, pursuant to the amended treaty, and extradition proceedings are pending. 

Michael Lesher, an Orthodox lawyer representing six of Mondrowitz's alleged victims and actively pursuing his extradition, has been facing intense pushback. 

"I continued to bang on the door about Mondrowitz, but I am operating against tremendous institutional logic," said Lesher. "He should have been first to be extradited years ago. When they arrested Colmer, I think they were testing the waters."