In Israel, Australian Sisters Recount Alleged Sex Abuse by ultra-Orthodox Principal

By Dina Kraft
November 13, 2017

The three women seek the extradition of the headmistress whose lawyer says she's unfit to face trial. The sisters tell Haaretz about their experiences in a close-knit community back home Growing up in an especially cloistered ultra-Orthodox home and community in Melbourne, Australia, the three sisters were required to have their books vetted by their school or parents. Any depictions of male-female interaction of any kind were whited out and taped over – even fairy tales.

Television and movies were prohibited. Even mail-order clothing catalogs weren't allowed into their home. They learned nothing about their own bodies or sex.

But they say the kind attention they received from their charismatic headmistress at their all-girls ultra-Orthodox school evolved into sexual abuse, assault and rape – as they told the Australian police. They say they didn’t even have the words to describe it; each kept her experiences to herself. They were unaware, they say, until years after the alleged abuse began, that all three had become the headmistress’ victims.

“We didn’t know what our bodies even were, we didn’t have biology lessons,” said Elly Sapper, 28, the youngest of the three sisters who have accused the headmistress, Malka Leifer. “Everything was taboo. You didn’t even know about getting your period. You didn’t know when someone touches your body it was wrong. She said that was love, so we believed her.”

Last week, Sapper and her sisters Nicole Meyer, 32, and Dassi Erlich, 30, spoke with Haaretz in Tel Aviv about the abuse they say took place between about 2001 and 2008.



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