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NEW YORK (RNS) Responding to increasing reports of sex abuse in Orthodox Jewish communities, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes on Wednesday launched a new outreach program aimed at helping victims come forward.
Kol Tzedek, which translates to “Voice of Justice,” includes a phone number where victims can reach a social worker familiar with their culture, along with a prosecutor who can set up a meeting in a comfortable environment to discuss their cases. The program will work with community groups such as the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services.
“Sex crimes exist in every community and are always very difficult for victims to discuss,” Hynes said. “Because of the insular nature of Orthodox Jewish communities, many victims are reluctant to report crimes to secular authorities. This program will go a long way to address those impediments.”
The district attorney’s office currently has more than a dozen open cases involving alleged sexual abuse in Orthodox communities, with some information provided by State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, an Orthodox Jew who represents part of Brooklyn.
In the past year, through his weekly radio show and an open forum he organized on the subject last month, Hikind said he was surprised to hear of dozens of allegations that had gone unreported, due to shame and fear of reprisal within the community, and distrust of the civil legal system.
“We will continue to grant support to the victims and to provide a safe haven for them to share their stories of personal anguish,” he said. “Because of these efforts, the layers of silence which have long enveloped this issue are increasingly falling by the wayside.”
By Nicole Neroulias
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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