Wednesday, December 18, 1996

Vicarious Victimization, Secondary Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Compassion Fatigue . . .

Vicarious Victimization, Secondary Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Compassion Fatigue . . .

© (1996) Victoria Polin, MA, ATR, LCPC

Questionnaire:  Directions: Circle either true or false to each of the questions listed below. You will not have to show this to anyone.

  1. T   F   Are you startled easily?
  2. T   F   Have you or one of your clients experienced intense fear(s) at work?
  3. T   F   Have you been experiencing feelings of helplessness while working with clients?
  4. T   F   Has anyone threatened your own personal safety on the job?
  5. T   F   Has any of your clients safety been in jeopardy?
  6. T   F   Are you preoccupied with recollections, images or thoughts that are related to   your job?
  7. T   F   Do you have disturbing dreams relating to work?
  8. T   F   Do things trigger you at work that bring on thoughts that are disturbing?
  9. T   F   Do you avoid activities, places, people that remind you of the work you do?
  10. T   F   At times do you forget important facts relating to work?
  11. T   F   Do you have a tendency to avoid certain activities you use to enjoy?
  12. T   F   Do you feel detached and/or estranged from your co-workers?
  13. T   F   Do you have trouble feeling your feeling, or avoid feeling them?
  14. T   F   Do you feel like you will not have a normal life span?
  15. T   F   Do you have trouble going to sleep/staying asleep at night?
  16. T   F   Have you noticed an increase in irritability or outbursts of anger? 
  17. T   F   Is there a change in your ability to concentrate?

Definitions (from The American Heritage Dictionary)


  • Burnt Out - A failure in a device attributable termination to burning, excessive heat, or friction. Physical or emotional exhaustion, especially as a result of long-term stress. One who is burnt out, as from long-term stress.

  • Vicarious -
    1. Endured or done by one person substituting for another.
    2. Acting in place of someone or something else.
    3. Felt or undergone as if one were taking part in the experience or feelings of another.
    4. Occurring in or performed by a part of the body not normally associated with a certain function(s).

  • Victimization - To subject to swindle or fraud. To make a victim of.
  • Compassion - The deep feelings of sharing the suffering of another, together with the inclinations to give aid or support or to show mercy.
  • Fatigue - Physical or mental weariness resulting from exertion. 2. Tiring of effort or activity; labor. 3. The decrease capacity or complete inability of an organism, origin, or part to function normally because of an excessive stimulation or prolonged exertion. 4. Weakness in material, such as metal or wood, resulting from prolonged stress. To tire-out; exhaust.

  • Fun - A source of enjoyment, amusement, or pleasure. Playful and often noisy activity. To behave playfully; joke.
  • Humor- The quality of being amusing or comicical. The ability to perceive, enjoy, or express what is comical or funny.

Sunday, December 01, 1996

Fact Sheet: Ritual Abuse

Fact Sheet: Ritual Abuse
American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC) - December, 1996

APSAC published this Fact Sheet on Ritual Abuse as a service to members and the general public in December, 1996.

"Ritual abuse" is one of the most-talked-about, rarest, and least-understood forms of alleged child maltreatment. Experts disagree about whether or not "ritual abuse" exists, the range of situations to include in the category, and the extent and significance of these situations. Some argue that the term "ritual abuse" should be abandoned because it confuses more than it clarifies. Many more questions than answers exist about this highly controversial topic.


Most allegations of what comes to be called "ritual abuse" involve one or more of the following elements: terrorizing acts (e.g., threats to kill parents, pets, or loved ones if the abuse is disclosed); acts involving supernatural symbolism or ritual (e.g., the use of masks or robes, the use of crosses or pentagrams); acts involving real or simulated killing of animals and sometimes human infants (these acts can serve both ritual and terrorizing ends); acts involving real or simulated ingestion of urine, feces, blood, and "magic potions" which might include mind-altering substances; severe sexual abuse, often including penetration with objects.

Experts have proposed that allegations often classified as "ritual abuse" might reflect three very different situations (Finkelhor & Williams, 1988):

Cult-based ritual abuse. The hallmark of this type of abuse is an elaborated spiritual belief system not sanctioned by any of the major organized religions. Abuse of children is probably not the ultimate goal, but the vehicle for inducing in adults a quasi-religious state and for creating and maintaining a particular spiritual or social system. The belief system may or may not be "satanic."

Pseudo-ritualistic abuse. The primary goal is the abuse of children. Masks, costumes, visits to graveyards, threats of harm to the children and their families, and the killing of animals may be ways to intimidated children into participating, to prohibit their disclosure of the abuse, and to discredit their accounts if they do tell.

Psychopathological ritualism. Ritualistic acts are part of the obsessive or delusional system of a mentally disturbed individual, rather than the reflection of a developed ideology or of opportunism.

Such allegations might also be false, the result of fantasy or delusion on the part of the alleged victim (sometimes fed by books or television), or of misinterpretation or suggestion by interveners, including parents, police officers, therapists, and others.


Supervisory Special Agent Kenneth Lanning, MS, of the FBI, with extensive experience consulting on multi-victim, multi-perpetrator child sexual abuse cases, concluded that there is no evidence for a widespread satanic conspiracy perpetrating cult-based ritual abuse (Lanning, 1992). Other reputable nationwide studies support this conclusion (Bottoms, Shaver, & Goodman, in press).

Because professionals disagree about what constitutes "ritual abuse," and no mechanisms are in place at the local, state, or national levels to track reports of ritual abuse or to investigate the validity of ritual elements, no reliable data are available about its prevalence. A recent nationwide study has concluded that many allegations of abuse now referred to as "ritualistic" have nothing to do with supernatural beliefs, Satanists, or organized cults (Bottoms, Shaver, & Goodman, in press).

In one national research study of sexual abuse in day care (Finkelhor & Williams, 1988), one or more ritual elements were alleged in 13% of cases. The researchers could not determine whether these allegations were true or false, or whether they might pertain to cult-based ritual abuse, pseudo-ritualistic abuse, or psychopathological ritualism.

Much more evidence exists for religion-related abuse (i.e., abuse driven by beliefs associated with non-satanic religions or perpetrated by someone with religious authority) than for "ritual abuse" (Bottoms, Shaver, Goodman, & Qin, in press). Religion-related abuse includes such acts as "beating the devil out of a child," abusive "exorcism" and "deliverance" ceremonies, sexual abuse by clergy, and religiously motivated medical neglect.


Sexual abuse in which ritual elements are alleged is typically perpetrated by two or more people acting in concert. Whereas most surveys indicate that males are responsible for more than 95 percent of sexual abuse perpetrated against individual children, females comprise 40 percent to 55 percent of alleged perpetrators acting in concert (Finkelhor & Williams, 1988; Faller, 1994).


Professionals are divided over whether or not "ritual abuse" occurs. Much of the controversy in the professional community would likely disappear with the introduction of a coherent, widely-accepted definition of "ritual abuse."

No reliable data are available on the prevalence of different beliefs about "ritual abuse" among professionals. However, in a nationwide study of thousands of interdisciplinary professionals, 11 percent of mental health professionals reported having encountered one or more allegations of child abuse that included ritual elements, as defined by the researchers. A very small group of clinicians (1.4 percent), each claiming to have treated scores of cases, accounted for most of the reports of ritualistic child abuse (Bottoms, Shaver, & Goodman, in press).

A very high percentage of professionals who encountered reports of ritual abuse from patients believed those reports, based largely on patients' strong affect and apparently abuse-related behavioral symptoms, even though other corroborative evidence was often lacking (Bottoms, Shaver, & Goodman, in press).


Some studies have found that allegations of sexual abuse involving ritual elements are prosecuted at a lower rate than allegations without such elements (Finkelhor & Williams, 1988). Others have found no significant difference in the rate at which these allegations are prosecuted (Faller, 1994). Ritualistic elements that lack corroboration can discredit otherwise verifiable accounts of abuse, and are often downplayed by prosecutors (Faller, 1994)

True accounts of abuse can include false elements that reflect fantasy on the part of victims, misinterpretation or suggestion by interveners, or deception by perpetrators. One of the most difficult challenges for child abuse professionals today is establishing criteria for distinguishing between true and false elements in accounts of abuse.

  • Bottoms, B.L., Shaver, P.R., Goodman, G.S., and Qin, J. (in press). In the name of God: A profile of religion-related child abuse. Journal of Social Issues.
  • Bottoms, B.L., Shaver, P.R., & Goodman, G.S. (in press). An analysis of ritualistic and religion-related child abuse allegations. Law and Human Behavior.
  • Faller, K.C. (1994). Ritual abuse: A review of the research. The APSAC Advisor, 7, 1, 1, 19-27.
  • Finkelhor, D. & Williams (1988), L.M.. Nursery crimes: Sexual abuse in day care. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.
  • Lanning, K.V. (1992). Investigator's guide to allegations of "ritual" child abuse. Quantico, VA: Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime.

Thursday, November 14, 1996

Nightline: When To Believe A Child's Word

When To Believe A Child's Word
Nightline - November 14, 1996

The following film clips (Part 1 and 2) are from a Nightline episode which aired on November 14, 1996.  

This particular newscast was about the backlash against survivors of child sexual abuse coming forward and speaking out.  

A group of people who claimed their children falsely accused them of incest banned together creating the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF).  What this group basically did was take research out of context to prove that therapist were implanting false memories into their clients that their parents molested them.  The reason for the backlash, was the fact that adult survivors of child sexual abuse started to file civil suits against their offenders -- who often were their parents.

Due to the number of frivolous law suits filed, many therapists quit working with anyone who disclosed child sexual abuse histories.  This all changed in 2002, when the cases of clergy sexual abuse broke in Boston and also cases within Jewish communities, boy scouts and from within every religion.

Below is the historic exposé, in which Nightline, with Ted Koppel, exposed the False Memory people for what they really were and an article that appeared in the New York Times regarding this show.


When To Believe A Child's Word - Part 1
ABC-Nightline - November 14, 1996

When To Believe A Child's Word - Part 2

ABC-Nightline - November 14, 1996


TURNING POINT:  When Children Accuse - Who To Believe
Byline: Ted Koppel and Erin Haynes 

ABC-Nightline - November 14, 1996
Code: U961114 01


WHEN CHILDREN ACCUSE: WHO TO BELIEVE Child sex abuse is a very serious problem. 

In 1994 alone 140,000 new cases were investigated and found to be real. But are innocent people being sentenced for crimes they never committed because of the testimony of the young?
Doubt over the testimony of children in sexual abuse cases has made it harder to try accused child molesters, sometimes with deadly consequences, but authorities say children do tell the truth in most cases.

TED KOPPEL: [voice-over] This week, another tragedy.

1st RESPONDENT: I don't understand this. They- they knew. Why did they let him come into this neighborhood? Or in any other neighborhood?

TED KOPPEL: [voice-over] A convicted child molester avoids prison because there is doubt over the testimony of a child.

STEPHEN CECI, Psychologist, Cornell University: We're never going to have - never going to have - a Pinocchio test. There will never be a test where the child's nose is growing longer when she gets it wrong.

TED KOPPEL: [voice-over] But when the convicted molester is sent home, he kills two children.

2nd RESPONDENT: When they do something like that, don't let them out. Just don't let them out at all.

TED KOPPEL: [voice-over] Tonight, the country faces a growing dilemma, knowing when to believe a child's word.

ANNOUNCER: This is ABC News Nightline. Reporting from Washington, Ted Koppel.

TED KOPPEL: This is a subject that is so controversial, about which people on both sides of the issue feel so passionately, that you should know how, in this particular instance, it was brought to our attention. Cydnea Tamarkin [sp?] has been a journalist for many years. She has devoted a great deal of attention to the subject of the sexual abuse of children by adults. Ms. Tamarkin has come to believe that, in recent years, a great many children who claim to have been sexually abused are not believed, or at least that suspects are not prosecuted because of some high-profile cases in which the testimony of children was found in court to be not credible. At one point, Ms. Tamarkin served on the advisory board of an organization called Believe the Children. She insists, however, that she remains neutral on the subject, and we have found her to be a useful, objective and reliable resource.@PGPH I'm telling you all of this because some people are under the impression, and have communicated this to us, that Ms. Tamarkin produced the reports you are about to see. That is not true. Correspondent Erin Hayes and producer Jim Hill have been especially sensitive to the suggestion that their work might be seen as anything less than objective reporting, and so have we. We are satisfied that their story is important and that Erin's report has been compiled as fairly and cleanly as possible.

ERIN HAYES, ABC News: [voice-over] Robert Jambois, a Kenosha, Wisconsin prosecutor, and his staff are preparing a case against a man accused of sexually molesting a little boy.

ROBERT JAMBOIS, Prosecutor, Kenosha, WI: He's been waking up in the middle of the night, you know, screaming, "Daddy, don't do it again."

ERIN HAYES: [voice-over] As in most child sex abuse cases, there is no physical evidence.

ROBERT JAMBOIS: Basically, it's the child's word against the word of the adult.

ERIN HAYES: [voice-over] The case will hinge on the testimony of the boy. It will not be easy.

ROBERT JAMBOIS: He's going to be called a liar, and he's going to be told that, you know, going to say that he just- he made this whole thing up, or that somebody else made it all up.

ERIN HAYES: [voice-over] Jambois says it will be doubly difficult because many potential jurors walk into court already dubious about the testimony of children.

ROBERT JAMBOIS: One of the questions that we often ask jurors, I mean, "Are you prepared to convict this defendant just based on the testimony- or based exclusively on the testimony of an eyewitness?" And many of them will say, "Yeah, yeah." And, "Well, what about- what if this eyewitness is five years old, and you believe this five-year-old, and you don't believe the defendant, are you still prepared to convict, based exclusively on the testimony of this five-year-old eyewitness?" "Oh, no," they're not really inclined to do that.

ERIN HAYES: And prosecutors from more than a dozen major cities told Nightline it is a disturbing trend. In the past five years, they say, it has become much more difficult to prosecute child sex abuse because the credibility of children's testimony has come under attack.

J. TOM MORGAN, Prosecutor, Dekalb County, Georgia: The courtroom has gotten very mean. It's gotten mean for children, and it's gotten mean for the people who advocate for children.

ROBERT JAMBOIS: If I have a credible child who's able to give a credible account of what occurred, why shouldn't that be enough? Why- why shouldn't the jury believe that a child will- is telling the truth about these matters?

ERIN HAYES: [voice-over] Because, a group of critics argues, in many cases, by the time children get to the witness stand, there has been too much opportunity for investigators to pressure children into describing abuse where there may be none. Attorney Steven Komen [sp?] has defended dozens of people charged with child sex abuse.

STEVEN KOMEN: My experience is, is that a qualified lawyer, or a psychiatrist, social worker, or psychologist, can get a child to say just about anything they want while they're talking to them.

RICHARD GARDNER, Psychiatrist: It has all the- all the criteria of a witchhunt, and the- the similarities between Salem and what we have now are uncanny.

ERIN HAYES: [voice-over] There is a history behind those charges, a spate of high-profile sex-abuse cases gone awry.

1st TV CORRESPONDENT: The community of Jordan, Minnesota has been jolted by allegations of a ring of child sexual abusers.

ERIN HAYES: [voice-over] Cases in the 1980s, charges that defied belief.

2nd TV CORRESPONDENT: Coerced into staying silent by the brandishing of guns and the mutilating of animals.

ERIN HAYES: [voice-over] But police and prosecutors had little, if any, experience with these unusual cases. Some took children's stories at face value or, worse, relentlessly interviewed some children until they finally came forward with stories of abuse.

ATTORNEY [?]: The children were never allowed to say, in their own words, what happened to them.

ERIN HAYES: [voice-over] In the years since, many of those cases have unraveled. Many of those accused had charges against them dropped, were acquitted, or had their convictions overturned.

PAUL STERN, Deputy Prosecutor, Kenosha, WI: Clearly, in the last two years there have been mistakes made in prosecution. There has been overcharging, there has been overreaching, there's been overzealous statements made by- by prosecutors, by investigators, by therapists.

ERIN HAYES: Those mistakes, prosecutors say, prompted them to change the system. Safeguards are being put in place, and interviewers are being trained not to lead children on in questioning.

PAUL STERN: This system works. This system works more effectively and more efficiently, with better results and better decisionmaking now than it did 10 years ago.

ERIN HAYES: [voice-over] But prosecutors say convincing juries of that has been extraordinarily difficult in the face of a counterattack they say is planting widespread doubt about the believability of children's testimony.@PGPH [on camera] And prosecutors say that counterattack is succeeding on the basis of unproven theories and misapplied science that they say should have no place in the courtroom.

IP[Commercial break]

TED KOPPEL: At the heart of many cases involving the sexual abuse of children is a debate over science in the courtroom. Erin Hayes continues her report.

ERIN HAYES: [voice-over] This is what is at the center of the debate, the statements of children, like this one, who told prosecutor Jambois that her father sexually molested her.

1st CHILD: He took a pen and stuck it in her- in my body.


1st CHILD: Yeah.

ERIN HAYES: [voice-over] If you are a juror, listening to this child, should you have strong doubts? Is there reason to believe a child would make up something like that, or could be led to make it up? Many who defend the accused point to a body of research they say shows children can and do make up stories of sexual abuse. Some of they research they cite most frequently is that of Cornell University psychologist Stephen Ceci. Professor Ceci's staff has found they can elicit elaborate stories from young children, stories that are absolutely untrue, like this one.

2nd CHILD: The monkey escaped from the zoo. A man [unintelligible] he asked if- if I could help him find it, and I- and I found it.

ERIN HAYES: [voice-over] The studies have been widely cited in the media as evidence for questioning children's accounts of sex abuse. USA Today suggested questions can induce kids to falsely claim abuse. The Boston Herald said interviewers' techniques can often convince non-abused children they were truly molested, and more of Ceci's work has been cited in the courtroom as evidence of "...a high degree of suggestibility among young children...," that it's "...quite easy to distort a child's memory..." and "A child who was not abused may come to believe they were...@PGPH But Ceci says in many cases his work has been misused and misunderstood.

STEPHEN CECI, Psychologist, Cornell University: Not only do I believe children can be reliable in sexual abuse cases, I believe the vast majority of them are reliable in those cases.

ERIN HAYES: [voice-over] But Ceci says what is missing from many accounts of his work is that it is fairly difficult to convince children to make up even the most harmless stories.

STEPHEN CECI: Because in our studies we work at it very hard.

INTERVIEWER: And guess what, they found the monkey and gave it back to the lady. Did anything like that ever happen to you?

3rd CHILD: No.

INTERVIEWER: Did you ever help a stranger in a park to find a monkey that ran away from a zoo? You didn't?

STEPHEN CECI: We pursued kids repeatedly over long periods of time.

INTERVIEWER: Did anything like that ever happen to you?

4th CHILD: No.

STEPHEN CECI: I'm not talking about a single interview, where you sit down and you use a single leading question, and all of a sudden the child's giving you some highly elaborate narrative about something that never happened. That isn't how we grow a narrative. We do it over long periods of time, with repeated false suggestions by an interviewer.

ERIN HAYES: That doesn't seem to- to bear most child sexual abuse cases.

STEPHEN CECI: No. I would- I would agree.

ERIN HAYES: In fact, in his studies, most of the children ultimately do not give in to interviewers' suggestions, and while many of the interviews are about more serious subjects, medical exams, for example, they are not about sex abuse, and many in the child protection field are troubled that Ceci's research is being applied to sex abuse cases.

CHARLES WILSON, National Children's Advocacy Center: Because a child can be convinced of some event within their- within their realm of experience, such as seeing a clumsy clown at a- at a party, doesn't translate into that they can be made to believe that their grandfather had sex with them every Friday night for the last three years. It doesn't tell them about what the taste of semen is like. It doesn't tell them about the pain.

ERIN HAYES: [voice-over] Professor Ceci says he sees his research as a first step toward understanding cases where children have made false allegations of abuse.

STEPHEN CECI: It in no way denies the true instance of child sexual abuse, to say that some percentage of those claims may be falsehoods because of the way the adults have pursued the kids' memories.

ERIN HAYES: [voice-over] But those cases, he says, are not the norm.

STEPHEN CECI: Maybe 1 percent, 5 percent, 10 percent. I suspect it's nowhere near the majority. My hunch is the majority of interviews done with kids by front-line workers, child protective service, law enforcement, therapists, pediatricians, are well-done.

ERIN HAYES: [voice-over] But prosecutors say that is not the message being heard. Many jurors walk into court, they say, already doubting children, especially young children. [on camera] In fact, prosecutors in several states told Nightline that in many cases of sex abuse involving children under the age of six, they are not prosecuting, even when they are sure the child would be a credible witness. [voice-over] Rob Parrish, an assistant attorney general in Utah, is concerned that the cases are proving too tough for many prosecutors.

ROB PARRISH, Utah Assistant Attorney General: What I often say to prosecutors is that when we go in to a case like this, we have an extra burden. It's not just proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt. We've got to prove it pretty much beyond any doubt.

TED KOPPEL: In a moment, two of the men who have raised doubts about the reliability of children's testimony, when Erin Hayes's report continues.

[Commercial break]

RALPH UNDERWAGER, Psychologist: [videotape] The best thing to do, the thing that would, in fact, protect the largest number of children from being harmed is to do away with all this bullshit of child protection.

ERIN HAYES: [voice-over] Ralph Underwager, a Minnesota psychologist-

Dr. RICHARD GARDNER: [videotape] And we are witnessing the greatest wave of hysteria in the history of the country.

ERIN HAYES: [voice-over] -and Dr. Richard Gardner, a New Jersey psychiatrist, are two of the most outspoken critics of child sex abuse investigators in this country. On a past Nightline, Dr. Gardner criticized what he called "the child abuse establishment."

Dr. RICHARD GARDNER: ["Nightline," March 4, 1994] It is a fact that- a- a- a lot of incompetent zealots- zealous people, overzealous, who see sex abuse everywhere.

ERIN HAYES: [voice-over] Gardner's and Underwager's research and theories raising doubts about the validity of many children's accusations of sex abuse have been widely cited in the media, and both have been highly sought, highly paid witnesses for people defending themselves against child sex abuse charges.

RALPH UNDERWAGER: I believe the great majority of the questioning of children that is done in this country is highly coercive, highly suggestive, leading, and produces inaccurate information.

ERIN HAYES: [voice-over] Underwager has done research that he says backs him up. He evaluated taped interviews of children, children who claimed they were sexually abused. Too many of the interviewers, Underwager concluded, used leading or repeated questions, which he says cast serious doubts on the children's accusations.

RALPH UNDERWAGER: It is the case that repeated questioning is the most powerful and the- the most effective way to produce a false accusation.

ERIN HAYES: [voice-over] But his critics point out Underwager uses his own standards for determining what is repeated and leading. For instance, he has said that interviewers' questions like this one, "Okay ... I don't want you to say anything you can't remember for sure," could be considered leading. And most of the tapes he reviews come to him from defense attorneys, for whom he consults. When he testifies for them, he says, he is paid $2,500 a day. Underwager admits he has no way to known if the children's accounts of abuse in the cases he reviews are actually false.@PGPH [interviewing] How do you know, in each of these cases, that the abuse did not happen?

RALPH UNDERWAGER: I don't. That's not my function. That's the function of the justice system.

ROB PARRISH: If that's the case, then there's no reason for him to be expressing an opinion in the justice system, any more than any of the rest of us. I mean, you could call anybody in that circumstance to say, "I've viewed the tape and I think it's a bad interview, so therefore I think this child's probably not telling the truth."

ERIN HAYES: [voice-over] At least 10 courts have disallowed Underwager's testimony. One ruled he "...did not have bone fide qualifications..." as a researcher. Another said his work "...was not scientifically reliable..."@PGPH Underwager does continue to testify, which concerns many of his critics, who say is expertise is colored by what they see as a sympathetic view toward pedophiles. In a Dutch publication [Paidika] three years ago, Underwager said, "Paedophiles need to become more positive and make the claim that paedophilia is an acceptable expression of God's will for love and will among human beings."@PGPH Underwager says he has always believed sex between adults and children is harmful, but says to help treat pedophiles, they must first be encouraged to openly proclaim their sexuality.

RALPH UNDERWAGER: That's what they need to do for themselves, and that's what we need to have them do, so that we can deal with it.

ERIN HAYES: [voice-over] In the same controversial article, he said "Male sex may make women jealous," and that can "...hold true for pedophile sex too."@PGPH [interviewing] To say that a woman would be jealous of pedophile sex, what do you mean by that? Why would you say something like that?"

RALPH UNDERWAGER: What's so difficult to understand about that?

ERIN HAYES: It's almost impossible for me to understand.


ERIN HAYES: Why would a woman, in your estimation, be jealous of sex between a pedophile and a child?

RALPH UNDERWAGER: If it interfered with whatever the woman had as her purposes, or her intents, or whatever her relationships were, that's what could occur.

MARK ELLIS, National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse: His methods and theories are not accepted by others in his field, and have been subject to a great deal of criticism by others in his field.

ERIN HAYES: [voice-over] Prosecutors are also critical of Dr. Gardner, who not only testifies, but publishes and markets his own books on child sex abuse, books often quoted in court cases.

ATTORNEY: [law firm videotape] Now, I want to talk to you about the most common cause of false accusations.

ERIN HAYES: [voice-over] In this videotape produced by a law firm, an attorney cites from Dr. Gardner's research Gardner's conclusion that false allegations of child sex abuse are commonplace in custody disputes.

ATTORNEY: [law firm videotape] This phenomena [sic] has been examined in research and it's now been given the name "parental alienation syndrome."

ERIN HAYES: [voice-over] That disorder, however, cannot be found in the standard manual of psychiatric diagnoses. It is a term Dr. Gardner coined himself, based mainly on his own experience as a psychiatrist.@PGPH But the largest study done on the subject to date found that false allegations of child sexual abuse rarely surface in custody disputes ["...less than 2% of cases involved an allegation of sexual abuse." Dr. Gardner declined a videotaped interview for this report, but he sells tapes of his own, as well, in which he describes his criteria to help determine whether a child's allegation of sexual abuse is true or false. Among his criteria?

Dr. RICHARD GARDNER: [videotape] If it sounds incredible, it's probably not true.@PGPH In extreme cases, children who are sexually abused become like little street-smart sluts. I believe that children who are false accusers are going to have a higher incidence of reading mystery stories.

ERIN HAYES: [voice-over] Dr. Gardner concedes no one has scientifically tested his criteria, not even he.

ROB PARRISH: Those tests are not based on scientific reality. They're not verified, they're not validated in any way.

ERIN HAYES: [voice-over] But, prosecutors say, such work is having a real effect in the courtroom.

ROBERT JAMBOIS: It has promoted a level of cynicism among a significant percentage of the population, and when you're dealing in an area where you have to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt unanimously among the jury, a little bit of cynicism can do a great deal of damage.

IPTED KOPPEL: Balancing the rights of the accused and the abused- some final thoughts from correspondent Erin Hayes, in a moment.

[Commercial break]

TED KOPPEL: Joining us now from our Chicago bureau, ABC's Erin Hayes.@PGPH Erin, I get the sense that- that there really has been no conclusion to this story. I mean, your report ends, but it doesn't end with a conclusion. I take it that's because there isn't any.

ERIN HAYES: There really is no conclusion. There's a consensus among those I've spoken to, and that is that the pendulum just needs to swing back to the middle, that there was in the 1980s a tendency to immediately believe children's accounts of sex abuse, now there's a tendency to doubt children right away, and neither, they say, is reasonable.

TED KOPPEL: And what do the experts say can be done to bring about that happy medium?

ERIN HAYES: Well, they're trying now to remove reasons for doubt, to build more credible cases. There's a great deal of training going on now of police and prosecutors, therapists, even judges, about the best way to interview children to get the most accurate information from them. But having said that, they also say there will never be a crystal ball, an easy test, a simple way to know if an account of abuse is true or false. Each case, they say, has to be determined the old-fashioned way, on its merits, examining all the facts.

TED KOPPEL: Unfortunately, we're talking about fear on both sides, fear, on the one hand, of not believing children who deserve to be believed, fear, on the other hand, of convicting innocent people because of an easily suggestible child.

ERIN HAYES: Well, those I've spoken to say there are two things to remember. The first is that you have to remember that the accused is innocent and has to be presumed innocent until they're proven guilty. But they also say it's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, not, prosecutors say, beyond an irrational doubt. And what they're asking jurors to do is to walk into court with an open mind and a willingness to listen.

TED KOPPEL: And on that note, Erin Hayes, let me thank you. I appreciate it very much.@PGPH That's our report for tonight. Tomorrow, on Good Morning America, Sarah Ferguson, and Evander Holyfield. Then, on the Nightline Friday Night Special, an unprecedented town meeting in the Watts section of Los Angeles with the director of Central Intelligence. He'll be answering questions about the lingering controversy over the CIA's alleged role in the crack cocaine epidemic during the 1980s.@PGPH I'm Ted Koppel in Washington. For all of us here at ABC News, good night.

The preceding text has been professionally transcribed. However, although the text has been checked against an audio track, in order to meet rigid distribution and transmission deadlines, it may not have been proofread against tape.

Friday, November 08, 1996

Case of Jerry L. Harmon

Case of Jerry L. Harmon
(AKA: Jerry Harmon)

Inmate - Joseph Harp Correctional Center, Lexington, OK

Convicted on charges of lewd molestation, attempted rape in the second degree and forcible sodomy. 

There are several people who go by the name of Jerry Harmon. The individual discussed on this page was born on July 30, 1954.

Table of Contents:  

  1. Oklahoma Department of Corrections (2004)
  2. Inmates take fight for food to federal court (07/10/2004) 
  3. Oklahoma inmates push prisons for kosher meals (07/13/2004) 
  4. Oklahoma Prisoners Sue for Kosher Food  (07/13/2004) 
  5. Ruling Gives Several Oklahoma Prison Inmates Right To Have Kosher Food  (08/27/2004) 
  6. Judge rules 3 Oklahoma inmates have right to kosher food (08/27/2004) 
  7. Federal court orders kosher food for prisoners (12/16/2004)

  1. Oklahoma Department of Corrections (05/10/2012)

Also See:
  1. Case of Jon Andrew Cottriel
  2. Case of Jerry Harmon 
  3. Case of Dennis Earl Fulbright 

Oklahoma Department of Corrections

Name: JERRY L HARMON - ODOC# 249662
Alias: No data available

ODOC#: 249662

FBI#: 384083JA3

OSBI#: 144413

Birth Date: 07/30/1954

Appearance: White Male; 5 ft. 8 in. tall; 127 pounds; Brown hair; Hazel eyes;

Body Marks: No data available

CRF#      County     Offense           Conviction     Term     Term Code   Start       End
96-114    OSAG        Lewd Molestation     11/08/1996       10Y 0M 0D    INC          07/06/2004  07/05/2014
96-114    OSAG        Lewd Molestation     11/08/1996       10Y 0M 0D    INC          07/04/2024  07/03/2034
96-114     OSAG        Attempted Rape       11/08/1996       7Y 6M 0D     INC          11/14/1996  08/06/2000
                             Second Degree
96-114      OSAG         Forcible Sodomy      11/08/1996      10Y 0M 0D    INC          08/06/2000  07/06/2004
96-114      OSAG        Forcible Sodomy       11/08/1996       10Y 0M 0D   INC           07/05/2014  07/04/2024

Current Facility                       Phone#          Reception             Date Discharge     ParoleHearing Date
Joseph Harp Correctional Center     (405) 527-5593  11/14/1996 10/2004                       09/2007
Address              City           State            Zip Contact
Box 548            Lexington      OK                73051-0548           Mike Addison, Warden

Inmates take fight for food to federal court
By Michael Baker
The Oklahoman - July 10, 2004

Three Oklahoma inmates are waging a battle over prison cuisine with federal lawsuits demanding corrections officials pay for them to eat kosher. Kosher diet

Box Insert: There are 613 basic laws of Orthodox Judaism, and 60 to 70 of those pertain to eating kosher. Jews following strict interpretation of kosher laws cannot eat pork or mix meat and dairy, including cooking the items in the same pot, pan or stove, or with the same utensils; and beef must be properly slaughtered and drained of all blood.

Source: Rabbi Ovadia Goldman of Oklahoma City

The inmates, all convicted sex offenders, claim the state Corrections Department is violating the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment by not allowing them to practice their chosen religion, Orthodox Judaism.

Lawyers representing prison officials responded that serving the kosher meals would cost millions of dollars, might violate the First Amendment's establishment-of-religion clause and could even cause riots.

Similar arguments failed two years ago when Colorado lost a court case with prisoners demanding free kosher meals.

The arguments in the Oklahoma case unfolded this week in an Oklahoma City federal courtroom with testimony from the Jewish inmates, a rabbi and a top state prison official.

The inmates Jon Andrew Cottriel, 44; Jerry Harmon, 49; and Dennis Earl Fulbright, 36 all said they practiced Orthodox Judaism while incarcerated at Joseph Harp Correctional Center near Lexington.

The inmates said they are forced to pay for kosher meals without any real assurance the food is, indeed, kosher. In most instances, the men said they are forced to eat just fruits and vegetables.

The inmates' attorney, Rand Eddy, called Rabbi Ovadia Goldman of the Chabad Jewish Center of Oklahoma City to testify about the importance of eating kosher to those practicing Orthodox Judaism.

"Every law that God gave us is an opportunity and a chance to strengthen our relationship with him," Goldman said. "If there's a possibility to eat kosher food, then not eating kosher food weakens our relationship with God."

Goldman said that in a restrictive setting, the best way to ensure meals are properly prepared is to serve pre-packaged kosher meals.

Bobby Boone, deputy director of the Corrections Department's eastern region, said to provide such meals would cost Oklahoma's prison system about $3.8 million extra a year.

Once kosher meals are served, then other religions will demand other special diets, Boone said under questioning from Oklahoma Assistant Attorney General Stefan Doughty.

Of the 96 religions represented in the state's prison population, 20 could make a claim to having a special dietary need, Boone estimated, saying about 6 percent of the prison population could make such a claim.

The prison system now spends about $2.50 a day for each inmate to eat. Kosher meals would cost about $10 a day, Boone said.

To provide kosher meals, the Corrections Department would have to cut staff, Boone said.
"We're not operating at full staff anywhere in the state of Oklahoma," Boone said. "It would increase the risk" inside and outside the prison.

Inside the prison, Boone said, providing kosher meals for Jews could upset other groups that see it as preferential treatment.

In 2002, Colorado lost similar arguments when the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled the state must serve kosher foods to Jewish prisoners at no charge. The court ruled Colorado had violated the prisoners' freedom-of-religion rights, an argument three Oklahoma inmates are making.

But while arguing the case Thursday for the Corrections Department, Doughty added a twist not considered in the Colorado case.

Serving kosher meals at taxpayers' expense would violate the U.S. Constitution, providing for the establishment of religion by government, Doughty said.

After Thursday's hearing, Magistrate Judge Gary M. Purcell said he would consider all the arguments before issuing a report and recommendation. The case will then go to a district judge, who could follow Purcell's recommended ruling, ask for more evidence or reject Purcell's recommendation.

Weeks or months could pass before Purcell issues a report, attorneys said.

Oklahoma inmates push prisons for kosher meals
The Associated Press - July 13, 2004

OKLAHOMA CITY — Three prison inmates who practice Orthodox Judaism want the Oklahoma Department of Corrections to pay for them to eat kosher meals.

The inmates, all convicted sex offenders, allege that the DOC is violating the First Amendment by not allowing them to practice their chosen religion.

In federal court last week, DOC attorneys argued that serving the kosher meals would cost millions of dollars, might violate the First Amendment's establishment clause and could even cause riots.

The inmates — Jon Andrew Cottriel, 44; Jerry Harmon, 49; and Dennis Earl Fulbright, 36 — are incarcerated at Joseph Harp Correctional Center near Lexington.

The trio said they are forced to pay for kosher meals without any real assurance the food is kosher, which is defined as ritually fit by Jewish law. The men allege they are forced to eat just fruits and vegetables in most instances.

Rabbi Ovadia Goldman of the Chabad Jewish Center of Oklahoma City testified about the importance of eating kosher to those practicing Orthodox Judaism.

"Every law that God gave us is an opportunity and a chance to strengthen our relationship with him," Goldman said. "If there's a possibility to eat kosher food, then not eating kosher food weakens our relationship with God."

In a restrictive setting, the best way to ensure meals are properly prepared is to serve prepackaged kosher meals, he said.

Bobby Boone, deputy director of the Corrections Department's eastern region, said to provide such meals would cost Oklahoma's prison system about $3.8 million more annually.

Once kosher meals are served, then other religions will demand other special diets, Boone said under questioning from Oklahoma Assistant Attorney General Stefan Doughty.

Of the 96 religions represented in the state's prison population, 20 could claim to have special dietary needs, Boone estimated. That represents 6% of the inmate population.
The prison system now spends about $2.50 a day for each inmate to eat. Kosher meals would cost about $10 a day, Boone said.

He argued that providing kosher meals would force the Corrections Department to cut staff and would appear as though the agency were providing preferential treatment.

"We're not operating at full staff anywhere in the state of Oklahoma," Boone said. "It would increase the risk — inside and outside the prison."

In 2002, Colorado lost similar arguments when the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled the state must serve kosher foods to Jewish prisoners at no charge. The court ruled Colorado had violated the prisoners' freedom-of-religion rights.

After the July 8 hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Gary M. Purcell said he would consider all the arguments before issuing a report and recommendation.

Oklahoma Prisoners Sue for Kosher Food
Kosher News - Tuesday 13 July, 2004

Lexington, Oklahoma ( Three prison inmates want the Oklahoma Department of Corrections to pay for their kosher meals. T he inmates say DOC is violating the First Amendment by not letting them practice their chosen religion. In federal court this week, DOC attorneys argued that serving the kosher meals would cost millions of dollars, might violate the First Amendment's establishment-of-religion clause and could even cause riots. The inmates are incarcerated at Joseph Harp Correctional Center near Lexington. Jon Andrew Cottriel, Jerry Harmon, and Dennis Earl Fulbright. They say they're forced to pay for kosher meals without knowing for sure if it's kosher.

Ruling Gives Several Oklahoma Prison Inmates Right To Have Kosher Food
Associated Press (KOTV, OK) - August 27, 2004 

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A federal magistrate rules three Oklahoma inmates have a right to eat kosher food paid for by the state Department of Corrections.

Attorneys for the state say they plan to object to the ruling by U-S District Magistrate Judge Gary Purcell.

Purcell ruled this week that the inmates' right to freely express their Orthodox Jewish religion outweighs state expenses.

Inmates Jon Cottriel, Jerry Harmon and Dennis Fulbright filed their petition while incarcerated at Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Lexington. All three are convicted sex offenders.

State attorneys say they will file an objection to the ruling before a September 14th deadline. Until a U-S district judge makes a final decision, no kosher meals will be served.


Judge rules 3 Oklahoma inmates have right to kosher food
By Michael Baker Staff Writer - August 27, 2004

A federal magistrate concluded three Oklahoma inmates have a First Amendment right to eat kosher food paid for by the state Corrections Department.

State lawyers will lodge a written objection in hopes an Oklahoma City federal judge will reject the finding, an assistant attorney general said Thursday.

U.S. District Magistrate Judge Gary M. Purcell said this week that the inmates' right to freely exercise their Orthodox Jewish religion outweighs state expenses.

Although Purcell's ruling only applies to the three inmates, the magistrate noted that the right is likely to be extended to all Orthodox Jewish inmates after additional court proceedings.

Inmates Jon Andrew Cottriel, 44; Jerry Harmon, 50; and Dennis Earl Fulbright, 36 -- all convicted sex offenders -- filed their petition while incarcerated at Joseph Harp Correctional Center near Lexington.

Oklahoma Assistant Attorney General Stefan K. Doughty said he would file an objection to Purcell's ruling by the court-imposed Sept. 14 deadline.

The objection and the inmates' responses will be considered by U.S. District Judge Lee R. West. West could approve or reject Purcell's ruling, or ask for more evidence.

The kosher meals will be served only if West approves, said the inmates' attorney, Rand Eddy. If that happens, it will set the stage for all Orthodox Jews in state prisons to receive kosher meals, Eddy said.

Cost argument rejected
During a hearing last month, a corrections official testified that serving the kosher meals to everybody who would want them would cost more than $3 million a year and cause disruptions with inmates.

Purcell rejected the arguments.
"There is no persuasive evidence presented by (the state) that the cost of providing kosher meals to the plaintiffs and other Orthodox Jewish inmates would entail more than a minimal increase in the Oklahoma DOC's annual food budget," he wrote.

Purcell also noted that Oklahoma prisons already serve pork-free meals to those of the Muslim faith.

Doughty said his objections to Purcell's opinion will argue that providing kosher meals could violate others' rights.

Serving kosher meals at taxpayer expense would violate the U.S. Constitution by providing funding for the establishment of religion by the government, Doughty said.


Kosher diet
Orthodox Jews following strict interpretation of kosher laws:
  • Cannot eat pork.
  • Cannot mix meat and dairy foods, including cooking the items in the same pan, or using the same utensils.
  • May only eat beef from cattle that have been properly slaughtered and drained of blood.
  • Source: Rabbi Ovadia Goldman of Oklahoma City


Federal court orders kosher food for prisoners
Kosher Gift Baskets - Thursday 16 December, 2004

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. ( A federal magistrate ruled in late August that three Oklahoma inmates have a right to eat kosher food paid for by the state Department of Corrections. The ruling is consistent with similar opinions by other state and federal courts. Attorneys for the state say they plan to object to the ruling by U.S. District Magistrate Judge Gary Purcell. The judge ruled that the inmates right to freely express their Orthodox Jewish religion outweighs the concern over state expenses. The inmates, convicted sex offenders, filed their petition while incarcerated at Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Lexington, Okla. Until a U.S. district judge makes a final decision, no kosher meals will be served.

Oklahoma Department of Corrections
May 10, 2012



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"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." –– Margaret Mead

Saturday, October 26, 1996

Second in a Series: Rabbinic sexual misconduct is rarely taken seriously

Jewish Telegraphic Agency - October 26, 1996

NEW YORK -- Does the Jewish community take rabbinic sexual misconduct seriously?

The answer depends on who's being questioned, but many leaders lean toward a no.

Officials of the major religious movements contend that when a congregant complains of being sexually exploited or harassed by her or his rabbi, the matter is handled cautiously but effectively.

Rabbi Joel Meyers
"We're dealing with [the] issues, and we will take seriously rabbis' behaviors in all areas of their lives," says Rabbi Joel Meyers, executive vice president of the Conservative movement's Rabbinical Assembly.

But "we want to be very careful in coming to any kind of a judgment, to first understand what the situation is before we jump to conclusions," he says.

On the other hand, many movement leaders say they believe more needs to be done in response to rabbinic sexual impropriety, which some maintain is much more common than the community acknowledges.

In the Reconstructionist and Reform movements, the issue has recently received more attention. That is evidenced by the development of new policies for handling the issue, and more attention paid to the matter at professional gatherings and in rabbinic journals.

Yet others -- including clergy sex abuse experts, women who call themselves victims of rabbinic sexual exploitation, members of congregations where such conduct has allegedly occurred, and a few rabbis working to change the way the issue is handled -- say Jewish religious leaders' response generally remains ineffectual.

Rabbi Arthur Gross Schaefer
"If this area is ever to be taken as seriously as it needs to be, the message must come from our leaders," says Arthur Gross Schaefer, an attorney and the rabbi of Reform congregation Kehilat HaAlonim in Ojai.

Adds Gross Schaefer, who has for the past few years been pushing his movement to better handle rabbinic sexual exploitation, "In the past, that message has been less than clear."

Those involved in such cases say that until very recently the response of many synagogues to those few women who complained of sexual misconduct by their rabbis was to try to persuade the clergyman to leave the congregation quietly, all the while hoping the real reason for his departure did not leak out.

For their part, rabbinic professional organizations have often helped the rabbi in question secure another job.

Rabbi Debra Orenstein
Rabbi Julie Spitzer
"There's a desire to reshuffle people, to keep it quiet and move them to a new community where they succumb to the same temptations," says Rabbi Debra Orenstein, a Conservative rabbi who serves as a senior fellow at the Wilstein Institute in Los Angeles.

Rabbi Julie Spitzer, director of the New York Federation of Reform Synagogues, and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations' expert on rabbinic sexual misconduct, tends to agree. "A lot of organizations want to handle things quietly, in-house," she says.

The situation only began to change, she notes, "when the women who had been victims started to come forward."

But rarely do those women go beyond their congregations to their movements' ethics committee to pursue disciplinary action. Few congregants even know that that rabbinical organizations -- let alone ethics committees -- exist, and the movements do little to help educate their constituents about where they can turn in cases of rabbinic misconduct, say those involved with the issue.

Awareness of clergy sexual abuse has grown in American society over the past several years. That awareness seems to be making a slow but growing impact on the way the matter is viewed by the Jewish community's grass roots and its leaders.

The Board of Rabbis of Greater Philadelphia, for example, recently held a symposium on rabbinic sexual misconduct.

For its part, the Reconstructionist movement, the smallest mainstream denomination in American Jewish life, has recently implemented a stringent approach to the matter.

The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association's ethics committee formulated an initial policy in 1995, and refined it this year when its members were confronted by a tough case involving one of the movement's rabbis who molested young boys years ago.

The RRA expelled the rabbi earlier this year, becoming the first rabbinical organization to expel a member for sexual misconduct.

Rabbi Leila Gal Berner
Under its new policy, the group notified all the movement's congregations and the other movements to ensure that a rabbi who has a serious problem involving sexual misconduct does not work as a religious leader again.

"It is necessary not to endanger anyone else," says Rabbi Leila Gal Berner, chairwoman of the association's ethics committee and the spiritual leader of Bet Haverim in Atlanta.
Rabbi Steven Dworkin

In contrast to the RRA's action, the centrist Orthodox rabbinical organization has not disciplined one of its members for sexual misconduct in years, if ever, says Rabbi Steven Dworken, executive vice president of the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America.

"I really don't think it goes on in Orthodox circles the way it does in others," he says. "I don't think that in any way, shape or form it's a problem in our ranks."

Yet the recent experiences of several Orthodox individuals have led them to disagree with Dworken's assessment.

Three years ago, two women who had studied closely with a prominent Orthodox rabbi in a large Northwestern city claimed he had courted them and had sex with them several years earlier. One of the women had studied with the rabbi in order to convert to Judaism, and the other to become observant.

"My soul had been raped," says one of the women, who asked that her name not be used.

"The community got rid of the rabbi and hushed up what it was about," says another Orthodox rabbi in the same city who is familiar with the case.

The accused rabbi, a member of the Rabbinical Council of America and the married father of four, agreed to step down from his pulpit but wanted to remain in the community. One of his victims threatened to go public if he stayed in the city so he relocated to an ultrareligious community on the East Coast.

The synagogue board paid out his contract, and the rabbi left with more than $30,000, one of his victims and the other rabbi say in interviews.

At no point did either of the women who came forward approach the RCA with charges. But they did appeal to some leading Orthodox authorities for guidance about taking the rabbi to a
beit din, or religious court, says the woman who was interviewed.

"They said that halachically they don't recognize clergy [sexual] abuse," she says, referring to Jewish law.

"Ironically, despite all of the authority that the religion heaps on the rabbi, they halachically insist that he's just another adulterer and we were of consensual age," she adds.

Rabi Gedalia Dov Schwartz

According to Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz, a leading Orthodox halachic authority, Jewish law's view of a rabbi's sexual exploitation of a congregant "would be no different than anyone else" having an adulterous affair.

The Orthodox rabbi in question did not respond to requests for an interview.

In the meantime, the Conservative movement also is finding sexual issues among its congregants.

Rabbinic misconduct is rarely brought to the attention of the Rabbinical Assembly, however. And even when it is, no formal procedure is in place to handle the matter. Nor is there a written ethics code.

"In today's environment a report means someone is guilty. We have tried to maintain very carefully the fact that someone is innocent until proven otherwise," says Meyers, who investigates most complaints to the Rabbinical Assembly himself and tries to resolve them.

Rabbi Milton Feierstein
Rabbi Milton Feierstein, immediate past chairman of the Va'ad Hakavod, the R.A.'s ethics committee, says the Conservative rabbinate is developing "a code of appropriate rabbinic practice that would cover things like the rabbi in relationship to his congregation and to other rabbis."

But "we've been at the talking stage for almost two years," he notes.

Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin

Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin, a member of the R.A.'s executive council, says she once approached Meyers to tell him about a report of a rabbi's sexual exploitation of a congregant.

Meyers "said there was essentially nothing we can do. He said to tell the victim to get a lawyer," says Cardin.

Meyers does not remember that case but acknowledges that "maybe I said it and r

Since he assumed his job at the R.A. in 1989, four cases of sexual misconduct have come to his attention, says Meyers. Two of the four cases turned out "not to be true," he says. One involved a false accusation.

In a fourth case, which involved a rabbi using "inappropriate behavior but nothing physical," the R.A. required the rabbi to take specific steps toward repentance, including acknowledging his wrongdoing to his victim and to his congregation as well as consulting with a rabbinic mentor, Meyers says.
In the Reform movement, the Central Conference of American Rabbis recently has been working actively to address the issue. CCAR leaders agree with critics that the organization needs to improve the way rabbinic sexual misconduct is handled.

Rabbi Jeffrey Stiffman
"We're in the process of refining what we do," says Rabbi Jeffrey Stiffman, past chair of the CCAR's ethics committee. "There are a lot of new findings and [increased] willingness to face the problem."
But change is coming slowly, according to some Reform congregants and rabbis who charge that the system too often protects offenders and punishes victims.

In the mid-1980s the CCAR convened a task force -- jokingly called "the well-oiled zipper committee," according to several sources -- to look at the matter.

After meeting for about two years, committee participants, including the CCAR's senior leaders, decided that discussions and papers about sexual misconduct would be promoted at CCAR conventions and in the organization's journal.

A decade later, some Reform rabbis and congregants are angry that the issue still hasn't moved beyond that.

"When it's time for the CCAR to take action about an ethical issue like grapes being picked by migrant workers, they come up with a policy immediately," says one Reform rabbi who has been agitating within the organization to see the issue addressed in a concrete way. "But when it comes to monitoring and peer supervision, we can't act."

There's "such fear" of taking a stand against a colleague, says the rabbi, who asked that her name not be used because, she says, she has already been marginalized by her peers for speaking out on the issue within the CCAR.

To give the Reform movement its due, it did formulate a sexual harassment policy, which was adopted in October 1995.

Intended to help congregations draft their own sexual misconduct guidelines, a copy was sent to each Reform congregation's president, and was written up in the movement's magazine for congregants, Reform Judaism.

But, the UAHC's Spitzer says, the guidelines' impact has been limited. "There are lots of guidelines but a lot of confusion and denial on the part of congregations."

Currently, when a victim formally complains to the CCAR's ethics committee, the charge is investigated through a process that has, in some cases, taken years. The committee then makes recommendations to the CCAR's executive committee, which decides on appropriate discipline.

Until now, the resolution of recent cases of sexual misconduct involving Reform rabbis has varied widely -- from a slap on the wrist to temporary suspension.

In the four years that Stiffman chaired the ethics committee, a position that ended this year, the CCAR temporarily suspended between five and eight rabbis for periods of one to 10 years for sexual misconduct, he says.

The CCAR established a new ethics review committee this March to assess and possibly overhaul the way allegations of rabbinic sexual misconduct and abuse are handled.

Rabbi Jack Stern
"We have to develop a mode of investigation that may not yet be in place," says Rabbi Jack Stern, a highly esteemed veteran member of the Reform clergy who is serving as chair of the new committee.

He expects the task force to report to the CCAR at its annual convention next spring.

One of the system's most serious flaws, critics charge, is that none of the movements' rabbinical organizations consistently specifies what must take place to illustrate sincere repentance in order for a suspension to be lifted or an expulsion revoked.

That makes it unclear to the perpetrator, his victims and even those movement leaders responsible for discipline whether or not the rabbi has gone through that process, say both critics of the system and those involved in changing the process.

"There is a lot of leaning toward giving the offending clergy the opportunity to repent, and sometimes [giving] premature placement back in congregational or other settings," says Spitzer.

According to Stern of the CCAR's oversight committee, "We have to deal with the area of tshuvah. [repentance]. We haven't begun yet. All we know are the areas that we should be discussing and making recommendations, but nothing is foregone."

Rabbi Joseph Soloveichik
The great sages of Jewish tradition, from Maimonides to Joseph Soloveichik, have elucidated elements common to all acts of repentance, according to Reform Rabbi Arthur Gross Schaefer, who has written about sexual misconduct and repentance for the CCAR Journal: Reform Jewish Quarterly.

Repentance for sexual misconduct must include self-examination, acknowledgment of wrongdoing, an appeal to the victims for forgiveness, and some restitution for damages caused, he writes in the article.

"Tshuvah is not achieved simply by an offending rabbi saying that he/she is sorry, seeing a therapist or being placed on suspension for a period of time," he writes.

Then Gross Schaefer adds in an interview, "When we deal with the difficult issues of rabbinic sexual misconduct, we have not taken seriously our own tradition.

"Until we are willing to take tshuvah seriously, we are doing a major disservice to our victims, to our congregations and to our colleagues."