In a stunning and hopefully culture changing verdict, Nechemya Weberman, 54, a counselor in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect in Brooklyn, was convicted on 59 counts of abuse, including sustained sex abuse of a child and endangering the welfare of a child after a young girl he counseled bravely came forward with her horrific tale of rape and molestation. It was a huge day for the victim, but also for all religious women.
Coming forward in a rape case or a sexual abuse case is terrifying for any victim. But when you're part of a religious group that expects a certain kind of behavior from women and doesn't trust outside authorities, it's something else entirely.
This girl who just turned 18 is a hero. She spoke for all the girls past who were too afraid to speak up, but confided in her about their own abuse at the hands of Weberman. She endured a lot, too.
She said her family was harassed for coming forward; her father lost his business and her nieces were kicked out of school. Someone even shot cellphone photos of her during the trial and posted them online.
It's always hard to be honest and brave in a rape trial. As we all know, lawyers will stop at nothing to disqualify victims. They imply they are sluts; they question their moves and clothing and sexual behavior up until the point of the rape. Because, apparently, only innocent flowers who don't enjoy sex are ever TRULY unwilling.
Of course, if you add the religious aspects here, it's especially brave that this young woman was able to push forward.
As a woman, it's easy to understand why a woman would rather just endure the private pain of being raped than actually tell anyone and get attention for that. Victims often feel shame, and when they are questioned in that way, it only makes it worse. We so desperately need to get past this idea in our culture that a rape victim should feel shame.
Rape isn't sex. It's a kind of violence specifically perpetrated against women and sometimes men. It's intimidation and torture, cruelty and domination. It isn't sex.
This brave girl shows what can happen when a person doesn't back down and let those who would intimidate and hurt win. Justice is served in this case and Weberman will not abuse more little girls.
Her courage truly made a difference in the world. Now I hope she can go on to have a good life, the one she deserves.
Can you understand why victims don't come forward?
Image via Violette79/Flickr