Orthodox activist created an international Jewish sex-offender list
Eric Aiken of Boca Raton, Florida, is the owner and creator of this website*, and is an outspoken advocate for orthodox victims of child sexual abuse.
Over the past four years, he has compiled a list comprising more than 770 names of alleged orthodox offenders. The website brazenly highlights incidents where well-known rabbis and orthodox Jews have been involved in alleged cover ups and sexual scandal.
Aiken, himself a near victim of child sexual abuse, started the website when he began investigating the rabbi who allegedly tried to molest him when he was 18 years old.
“I was shocked when I saw the number of orthodox molesters, many of whom were people I knew. It led me to become involved in advocacy in this area,” he told the SA Jewish Report this week.
“Immediately, I reached out to rabbis to see if there was something that I could do to stop child sex abuse. No one seemed helpful or willing. Most of them did not even return my calls.”
So, four years ago, he started compiling a list of alleged offenders. At the time it had about 160 names on it, mostly gleaned from sexual-offenders registries attached to various states in the United States, and some from published articles.
Then, he decided to go public, producing his website with the attached naming and shaming list of alleged offenders.
“My aim is for it to be used as a resource for employers and parents to protect children, prevent abuse, and stop the cover ups,” he said.
While researching his website, a common theme emerged. “Orthodox child sex predators are routinely protected and covered up by rabbis and orthodox officials. Victims who speak out or report their abuser to the police are publicly shamed. Many victims, even their families, are expelled from their communities for speaking out.”
Although there are no statistics to back his belief, he believes the database will help to save lives.
To date, it has not been endorsed by any rabbi, but this has not deterred him from continuing his efforts to expose alleged perpetrators. “Despite being told by rabbonim that they support my idea of exposing orthodox child sexual offenders, they do not endorse my website,” he said.
The people he names each have what he terms “publicly available information” about them linked in PDF format next to their names.
He insists that he makes no claim that the articles or reports “are truthful or accurate”, saying that he relies on reputable news sources for information. He insists that he merely republishes publicly available documents and media reports.
In his disclaimer on the website, he says there are three different categories in the list: convicted, arrested, and not charged.
“When individuals have the word ‘convicted’ or ‘arrested’ next to their name, I am not stating that this is true. I am reflecting what one of the attached reports or documents alleges about that individual. I don’t know if this information is accurate,” says Aiken.
“When someone is listed as ‘not charged’, it means that they have not been charged with a crime. The reason they are listed is that their name has come up in a publicly available media report, and I have republished that report next to the individual’s name for information purposes only. I do not allege that the listed individual has done anything wrong or has committed any crime.”
So far, he said, he had not had any run in with the law, was well versed in American defamation law, and was careful to act within the law.
Wendy Hendler, the Director of Koleinu SA, which runs a support helpline for victims of abuse in the community, said that in theory, the idea of an accessible database of sexual offenders was a “brilliant idea”.
“It can be a valuable resource for schools, shuls, and other institutions when hiring new staff to check that there is no history of abuse or behaviour of this nature. Offenders are known to move from one city to another, from one job to the next. They find employment where there is access to minors, and this leaves places like schools vulnerable.”
She said that while it was good that the South African Constitution protected individuals’ rights to privacy, the public should have some access to the sexual offenders register to safeguard themselves against hiring past offenders.
South Africa has a National Register for Sex Offenders, administered by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. It records names of those found guilty of sexual offences against children and mentally disabled people. The register is not open to the public, and is kept strictly confidential.
Anyone found guilty of a sexual offence against children and the mentally disabled is put on the register. An employer in the public or private sector working with children or the mentally disabled can apply for a certificate from the registrar to see if a name is on the register. According to experts, this is a bureaucratic process, and not easy to obtain, however.
No one including the registrar is allowed to disclose or publish any information contained in the register, including the names of convicted offenders. Any unauthorised disclosure or publication amounts to a criminal offence.
Johannesburg attorney Ian Levitt, who has experience in sexual-abuse cases, said a database could jeopardise survivor privacy and lead to his or her identity being exposed, which was concerning.
“One main reason why we were successful in overturning the 20-year bar on prosecutions was that survivors of sexual abuse face massive challenges in coming forward to seek justice,” said Levitt.
“Any person who is concerned about the survivor should focus on enabling that survivor to come forward and seek justice, rather than fear possible exposure on a widely circulated media or database of sexual offenders,” he said.
“If there is no way that publication of a convicted sex offender’s details can link him or her back to the survivor, I think the offender’s naming and shaming can be a powerful weapon. But again, the offender must have been convicted, and his or her exposure must not in any way link to the survivor whose interests remain paramount.”
He questioned Aiken’s motive in exposing only orthodox Jewish abusers on his website. “All sexual offenders are the enemy. To focus on Jews makes this a Jewish problem and not a societal problem, which it really is.
“I have no problem with him exposing all the Jews, but then expose everyone else too. Lay people will read this website as [indicating] a major problem in the Jewish community. That is a massive problem, because it could lead them to feel safe in the non-Jewish community, where this behaviour is just as rife.”
- The SA Jewish Report has chosen not to print the name of the website as we cannot verify its accuracy.