A Charge of Double-Betrayal in Williamsburg
Written by: Marci A. Hamilton
Marci Hamilton has fought for the abolishment of statutes of limitations [SOL] pertaining to childhood sexual abuse.
The SOLs limit the time that the abused have to take an abuser to court. They usually expire before people molested as children are ready to talk about what happened. This hit close to home recently, as Jewish Week reports.
‘Joel Engelman was 8 years old the first time he was summoned to the principal’s office at his Satmar school in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Not knowing what he might have done to provoke the call, Joel was nervous, as his principal, Rabbi Avrohom Reichman, had a reputation for being strict.
‘Much to his surprise, however, when he arrived, the principal put him on his lap and began “to change character,” talking to him like a “loving granddaddy,” Engelman told The Jewish Week. But what the principal at the United Talmudical Academy did to the boy that day — and several times a week over the next two months — was far from grandfatherly, Engelman charges in a suit he filed last week.
It alleges that in 1993, Rabbi Reichman, now 57, regularly molested him, and that the Satmar school, United Talmudical Academy, later committed fraud by agreeing to dismiss Rabbi Reichman — and then reneging on this once the criminal statute of limitations had passed. Engelman’s sexual abuse allegations are the latest in a string of such charges made by former male yeshiva students in ultra-Orthodox schools in Brooklyn.’
Joel argues that the UTA promised to dismiss his abuser, though once the SOL passed, they were free to hire him again. He’s taking the matter to court as a result.
Justice Denied author Marci Hamilton thinks it’s a risky move:
‘The reliance argument [when a case is based on relying on a promise] makes perfect common sense but hasn’t worked all the way up,” said Marci Hamilton, a professor at Cardozo Law School. “States like Pennsylvania and New York have been resistant to it. The view is that if the statute of limitations [SOL] is being misapplied it is up to the state legislature to change it.
‘This case just shows that the SOL is too short. When a 23-year-old can’t get into court, the SOL is too short. The majority [of abuse victims] come forward in their 40s. This reinforces that another state legislature that needs to act. When children are young [and within the SOL] they are often not psychologically ready to come forward. It can be very frustrating.’