Awareness Center Leads the Way on Child Abuse Reform Efforts

By Ron Cassie
November 30, 2008

Brooklyn Rabbi Nochum Rosenberg, facing physical threats for speaking about child sexual abuse in the Orthodox Jewish community, received the first "Rape Victim Advocate of the Year" award Wednesday from the Awareness Center in Pikesville.

Vicki Polin, director of the Awareness Center, a Jewish coalition against sexual abuse, said Rosenberg's plight highlights problems Jewish victims have stepping forward in Baltimore as well.

"In Baltimore, rabbis are doing everything they can to discourage people from going to the police," said Polin, estimating she's met with at least 100 Baltimore-area Jewish survivors of child abuse in seven years.

"The kids are threatened with being kicked out of Jewish day schools. They are stonewalled in the community."

The award presentation at the Pikesville Library served as one of a series of events recently organized by the Awareness Center and the Child Victims Voice of Maryland, working to abolish the state statute of limitations on civil lawsuits involving child sexual abuse.

Currently, victims have criminal, but not civil, recourse after their 25th birthday.

"Studies show only 10 percent of victims of childhood sexual abuse ever report it, most not until they are in their 40s, 50s and 60s," Polin said.

Susan O'Brien, an Annapolis consultant and child sexual abuse victim, said the bill presented by state Sen. Dolores Kelley, D-Baltimore County, should have bipartisan support.

"This is a child protection measure. Do I want the right to sue the guy who abused me 25 years ago? Yes, but the guy who abused me in 1978 was 23 years old at the time, and he's still out there," she said.

At a meeting Monday in Frederick, Ava Miegdzinski said a neighbor sexually abused her 5-year-old sister.

"The lawyers talked my parents out of filing a lawsuit because they said the other side's attorneys would tear my sister apart," Miegdzinski said.

"That makes us so mad today."


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