“Forward” Stirs the Pot on Recent Intra-OTD Sexual Assault Allegation

NOTE: The following is an opinion article. It is a follow-up to a previous article we published. It is meant to refute a slanderous and prejudiced article on the topic published today by The Forward. We urge you to read it first, before proceeding with our analysis thereof.

The Forward, after researching the recent sexual assault accusation in the OTD sector for a few days, has released its own narrative of the story, one that differs from ours, one that promotes victimhood culture; one that hypes and exacerbates the problem of alleged-rapist naming and shaming; one that overreacts in response to hazy sexual encounters where the woman is either unclear about her boundaries or subsequently regrets the encounter. The story does much to trump up the affront experienced by the accuser, and that of the other women who allegedly were mistreated by the accused, but it does not much represent his version of the story and his defense thereof as clearly demonstrated by the screenshots and text messages between the two.

This is not surprising. The Forward is known to have a strong liberal bent in general and an affinity for finding and highlighting victims. It has demonstrated it amply on a range of topics. But its presentation of this story in an ostensibly objective tenor is deceptive and ought to be exposed for the sham that it is. The dissembling article contains numerous inaccuracies, omissions and prejudices. In the following piece we will parse through it and present a critique.

Following are a series of quotes from the article and their respective rebuttals.

…the man, who regularly attends social gatherings for people who have left Orthodoxy, preys on women who are dealing with the fallout from leaving their communities. They say he presents himself as someone who can help them navigate family court, or as someone who can commiserate about the difficulty of going through divorce with young children, or merely as a friend who can help them hang a TV on the wall. He then allegedly approaches them at their home and attempts to have sex with them — sometimes succeeding either through persuasion or physical intimidation.
1. The Forward here paints him to be a connivingly devious predator  –one who plans his nefarious actions with malice aforethought to achieve his sinister objective. That is not the picture painted either by A.B. (the accusing woman) or by the text messages and screenshots of the event. For example, A.B. describes him as: “he didn’t seem aggressive or narcissistic or suffering from a personality disorder. Just a quiet slightly depressed boring non-attractive lonely jewboy”.
The text messages between the two, and A.B.’s later recounting of the event do not suggest that he was presenting himself as trying to help her with her custody. In fact she mentions that he confided to her about his own divorce custody battle but not that she elicited, or listened to, advice from him regarding her own custody battle in turn.

The Forward has agreed not to name any of the women who reported the man’s sexual misconduct. Each asked for anonymity, fearing reprisals from the man, their families or the religious communities they left.

2. Hogwash. The Forward lifted this hackneyed line from the hoary boilerplate legalese text now ubiquitous in our corporate society. There are would be reprisals against government whistleblowers. There are reprisals against corporate employees who rake the muck and complain to authorities. But there are no “reprisals” against women who report sexual misconduct. The accusing women are publicly supported by the overwhelming majority of members in the OTD community and in the liberal sector at large. Their families know that they sleep around, and have no reason to shun them for any particular event, let alone take deliberate punitive action for it. The women’s ties to their religious communities have been severed long ago. They don’t care what the religious community thinks of them, nor does the religious community care what they do, so long as it’s not done publicly in the community’s neighborhood for all to see. If the women want to be anonymous, that’s fine. Some people might ascribe somewhat less credence to complaints voiced anonymously, but that’s their prerogative. But let’s not pretend that it’s out of fear of reprisals.

In a public Facebook post early Wednesday morning, the man accused of the alleged sexual assaults protested that he is innocent of these accusations. The post, also sent to an email listserv used by members of the OTD community, was made under the name “Mike NY.”

3. Tell me dear Forward: you agreed to keep the women’s identities anonymous, out of fear of reprisals or whatever. How much more so should you keep the identity of the accused anonymous. You are are giving a public voice to his accusers in a situation that is far from adjudicated as to his guilt. It’s okay to talk about the event for the sake of the public’s edification. But exposing his identity so that this accusation defames him and accompanies him for the rest of his life? Where is your conscience? How do you so callously and hypocritically care about the phantom reprisals that an alleged victim would get and not about the real reprisals that the accused is getting as I write this? I’m not talking about purported or potential reprisals. Real reprisals! He has already been ejected from Footsteps, not because of his actual crime (that hasn’t been tried yet), but because there is such an outcry against him by other members; and now he faces immense opprobrium, ostracization, a lasting stigma, incessant anxiety, not to speak of the thousands of dollars he may have to spend now on lawyers? Is his blood not red?

On September 2, the woman received a message from “Mike NY” suggesting that he bring a bottle of wine to her apartment, according to screenshots of social media messages posted publicly. Though she says she doesn’t drink, she agreed, telling him to come by after she had bathed her children and put them to sleep. Almost as soon as he walked in the door, she said, he began to kiss her. She says she tried to shove him off, but failed. Terrified that he might hurt her, and that she would wake her children if she screamed, she convinced him to wear a condom, but after a few seconds he took it off, and then penetrated her anally, without warning. Then she screamed.
4. What The Forward fails to mention is that the two had plenty of romantic interaction before “bringing a bottle of wine to her apartment”. Whatsapp Screenshots show dozens of remarks –including many voice messages– exchanged between the two on that day alone, not counting presumptive prior encounters in person and electronically. The messages were breezy and romantic in nature –the sort of banter men and women typically exchange in the process of courtship (e.g. she wrote that “I love pet therapy… I love horses”, apparently in response to a voice message from him on the topic).
When he proposed “I feel like bringing wine over later”, her immediate unhesitating response was “sure thing”. Now that’s a sure thing. What the woman later recounted that she didn’t really want to drink is the questionable part, for which there is no evidence here or there, although C.D. (the man) contends that they both drank and smoked weed of their own volition prior to copulation.

In the woman’s later retelling of the incident in the OTD Sisterhood group she didn’t suggest that he started making out with her “almost as soon as he walked in the door”.

The man refused to leave until some point after she fell asleep.
5. Refusing something clearly implies that a request was made. That is not the story the woman told. In the OTD Sisterhood group she writes:
After the act I took a shower for over an hour and was hoping that when I came out he would be gone. He wasn’t gone yet. Then I told him that my kids wake up super early and I’m afraid that if he sleeps over they will see him, hoping he gets the hint and leaves. But he just slept in my bed anyways.

Did he exhibit grace and tact? No. Did he get the hint? No. But was he obstinately defiant? No. Did he refuse a request? No.

After the attack, the woman said she did three things: She completed a rape kit, she posted about her experiences on private OTD Facebook groups and she contacted a staff member at Footsteps, a not-for-profit that offers support services to people who have left Orthodox Judaism. On September 13, she went to the local prosecutor’s office, intending to file charges. (The prosecutor’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.)
6. First of all, who said there is an “attack”. That is taking a whole lot of liberty with the way the word is traditionally understood and with the circumstances of this event. By the woman’s own account in the OTD Sisterhood group (which nobody suggests was given under duress or in which she would have any reason to lie or prevaricate) she had never said “no” to him, though she did repeatedly say “slow down”. That is not, on its face, an “attack”; nor do the accusing women call it such. “Event”, “intercourse”, “coitus”, or some other substitute word here would have been far more apropos.

Second,  from the order of the three things, it seems that she had completed the rape kit soon after the event (which is the only timeframe for the rape kit to be completed in order for it to be effective), had gone to Footsteps to report it sometime last week (Sep 4th-7th) but decided to pursue charges only on the 13th. What is conspicuously not explained is why the woman would consider the event violent enough to perform the rape kit immediately but not to file charges immediately. Did the rape kit evidence turn out negative? Did she perhaps only come to the conclusion that she was raped later after the outpouring of sympathy and support by the masses in response to her OTD Sisterhood post and later the Off the Derech post? In other words, is the fact she was violated an objectively real occurrence or is it a retroactive redefinition of an event in response, at least partially, to subsequent social pressure for her to claim victimhood and wrap herself in its mantle?

After she wrote about what happened to her, other women reached out with their own stories about the man who she said assaulted her. The Forward has spoken to four of those women. Two say he tried to sexually assault them, one over a year ago and one this summer. Two others say he insistently tried to have sex with them after they clearly rejected his advances, one over two years ago and one this August.

7. He tried to sexually assault them? How does one try to commit assault but doesn’t quite do it? Does it mean that he started making out with them against their will but did not consummate? Does it mean that he used physical force with them against their will but he didn’t penetrate? If one tries to woo a woman through chivalrous actions and seductive words, –no matter how crude the tactics– and yet fails to capture the woman’s affection, that’s called a failed courtship, not “tried to sexually assault them”. If that’s not what you mean by “tried” please explain. Otherwise, don’t publish such a vague, unfalsifiable, smear.

One woman who asked not to be named said she met him at a small Footsteps gathering about two months ago. She only spoke to him for a few minutes before he left. A week later he invited her to his home. She agreed, but told him she was a virgin, and that she did not want to have sex with him. At first, he agreed, and told her so in a text message viewed by the Forward. That night, however, she said that he “changed his mind” and penetrated her. “When he went in, I hadn’t agreed to it before,” she said. “Then I pretended [it was] okay. It wasn’t my decision.”

8. Okay, so here we have a description of the second assault alluded to in the headline. Except, that the woman evidently did not see it as an assault at the time and perhaps still doesn’t see it as an assault. She did not report it to Footsteps, nor to police. She only reached out to A.B. (accuser) after A.B. had published her story to the Facebook group, the purpose of which was to confirm generally problematic behavior on the accused’s part. Words matter, my friend. Simply “not agreeing before” intercourse that intercourse was about to happen doesn’t make the spontaneous, unexpected act an assault. At least not according to a classical common-law definition of the term, one that still constitutes the law of the land. (“affirmative consent” proponents beg to differ but that standard is not normative). Is it reprehensible of him to initially promise not to have intercourse and then “change his mind” without first consulting her? sure! But if the woman ultimately “pretends it’s okay” after the man changes his mind then I don’t see how you call this an assault (assault definition: a violent physical or verbal attack). Is he supposed to read her mind? How is he supposed to know that she didn’t change her mind too, something that happens often between couples in the heat of romance?

A third woman says that she met the man at a club a year and a half ago when she was out with friends. She says that he gave her his number after she told him she was recently divorced. He told her he was divorced as well.

One night, according to the woman, he suggested that they get up early together to work out at the gym they both frequented. She says she agreed to let him sleep over, since she lived closest to the gym, and that even though she told him repeatedly she did not want to have sex, he insisted.

“He ended up just doing it — just pushing it through,” she said. According to the woman, he wasn’t wearing a condom.

“It took me time to realize that this was something really bad that happened,” she said. “Because I tend to blame myself a lot. So I ended up saying, ‘No, it’s my fault, I let him come to my house.”

9. Okay, finally we have an account by a woman which, if true, would seem to constitute sexual assault. I say “seem” because “it took me time to realize that this was something really bad that happened” implies that she didn’t consider it “really bad” at first. (Did she consider it “somewhat” bad?). Regardless, she did say “no” repeatedly, and there’s no excuse for a man to force intercourse on a woman against her express wish. So this would prima facie be a criminal case. And yet, there are always two sides to a story, as every judicious adjudicator and jurist knows, and we only have one side of the story here. So we still need to be cautious when we talk of such an event so long as we haven’t heard his side of the story (he refused to talk to The Forward) or the case has been tried by a judge or jury.

Leah Vincent, author of the memoir “Cut Me Loose: Sin and Salvation After My Ultra-Orthodox Girlhood,” said that women in ultra-Orthodox Judaism are not raised to understand the concept of consent.

“The notion of female agency is so negated and so minimized that it’s really hard to understand what consent means,” she said. “OTD women are at such brutal disadvantage because of the ways we’ve been groomed to acquiesce to men.”

Vincent said that both men and women who have left ultra-Orthodoxy struggle with un-learning the repressive elements of that culture.

“A lot of OTD men don’t even realize that they’ve absorbed a deeply misogynistic worldview,” she said.

10. Aha, so that’s where you get your pernicious ideas. From Leah Vincent. The one who repeatedly, as an adult and out of her own volition, whored herself out to men in a psychologically troubling epoch of her life, during her tumultuous transition away from Haredism and into secularism, but then described it all as rape and wrote a salacious book about it. That’s the woman you take your cues from? That would explain.

For the record, there is no such thing as “female agency”. It’s a made-up term that sounds highfalutin to make her Harvard-educated condescending ego feel better relative to the contemptible masses beneath her in status.

As to the substance: no, OTD men are not misogynistic. There’s zero empirical or anecdotal evidence for that. If anything it’s the exact opposite: many are sexually naive, have never been with a woman, adore and look up to women, and would do anything to ingratiate themselves with women in order to prove their self-worth and establish respectable social status among their friends. OTD men may be crass, they may be boors, certainly by your Harvard standards. But that doesn’t make them misogynistic.


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4 Responses to “Forward” Stirs the Pot on Recent Intra-OTD Sexual Assault Allegation

  1. Ab Chahan says:

    The forward is run by women they hate men and everything Jewish.

    They mainly run stolen JTA news articles or original hate blog pieces against the orthodox.

    Only now that Footsteps has hired many frum orthodox social workers, because they are getting money from the frummies like the rich parents of the overdosed otds like Malky Klein and Malky Lebovits, has Footsteps become one of that blog’s targets.

    Nobody reads that rag anymore they used to be bigger than the NY Times daily, now they no longer exit in print only as a blog forum, very boring and click baiting agitating stuff of others.

    Please don’t send them any traffic.

  2. M.K. says:

    “even though she told him repeatedly she did not want to have sex, he insisted”

    Very unclear. “Insist” like held her down and raped her, or like “please let’s have sex, please let’s have sex, please let’s have sex, please let’s have sex.”

  3. Ivanka Kushner-Trump says:

    Please take down the pic of my father donald trump the pig in the white house how grabs woman by the pussy most liked it didnt cry like this lady in the pic.

    Also he did Tshuvah already…

    At Least put up how the girls smile and loved it his garbing them by the pussy as he claims…

  4. Sarah says:

    The whole situation is awful. I do not like rapists, but why didn’t these women kick him out? Scream, call the cops or get a neighbor so he will get out of their homes? Lots of info is missing in all of these stories.

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