By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
The following is a grave warning to young women and their parents:
There is an individual loose in our community who presents himself as both a therapist and an activist fighting against the dangers of addiction to immorality on the internet. He gives public lectures and speeches in various venues presenting himself as an expert in the field. He has spoken in shuls, yeshivos, and Bais Yaakovs. He warns young men and young women to stay clear of potential sites and predators. This speaker is eloquent, articulate, and reassuring. He cites facts and figures authoritatively. Yet he has a pattern of eventually getting involved in Biblically forbidden ways with young ladies that reach out to him. These young ladies may be single or even married.
When he speaks at a shul, school or other event, contact with vulnerable young ladies can begin. The contact between the two begins innocently enough. At times, he presents himself as a type of therapist or counselor and promises confidentiality. At first the confidentially is maintained. When the young lady begins to delineate her problem, he explains that the problem is so severe that it must be either dealt with more directly or in person.
The patterns follow typical grooming techniques that are well-documented of others who attempt to develop inappropriate relationships with unsuspecting victims. They begin by complimenting them. The relationship quickly becomes inappropriate and professional boundaries are not maintained. This individual has an office where he sees people, or he may meet them on a more casual basis. He tells the individuals that they need to develop normal patterns of relationships and then he models that “normal” pattern of relationship r”l.
This particular individual makes sure that he does not get involved on a physical level with anyone under the age of eighteen. The individual treats his victims as “special” and may even say that this is the first time he has been so “taken” by a person.
The author of this article has met with a victim and has examined evidence corroborating the victim’s story. The author has no doubt whatsoever as to the veracity of the story.
The author has also reached out to five separate gedolei Torah. Each gadol has ruled that the information contained in this article must be disseminated to the public on the internet. It was at the behest of Rav Aharon Feldman, rosh yeshiva of Ner Yisroel in Baltimore, that this community alert has been issued.
If you feel that you or a family member has been victimized by this individual, email email@example.com. Your identity will be kept private and this will help prevent others from being victimized.
In addition, Rav Yisroel Harphenes is of the halachic opinion that all situations of a therapeutic nature should be strictly gender separated. Women must see women and men must see men, according to Rav Harphenes. Other poskim have said that ideally gender separation should be maintained, but if necessary and under strict observance of the laws of yichud, alternatives can be pursued. They further instructed that the following guidelines be implemented.
1] Anyone who is currently seeing a therapist or counselor should make sure that the therapist is truly licensed and undergoes regular supervision. It goes without saying that this should be verified independently.
2] All yichud situations of a male therapist alone with a woman must be avoided, notwithstanding any assurances of permissions granted by rabbis, etc.
This specific matter is being researched for any possible illegalities involving misrepresentations of a therapeutic nature, and whether there are any illegalities involved in physical involvement with someone in a therapeutic context, even if the therapist is not a licensed New York State therapist. At this point, the name of the individual in question is being omitted as research into the matter continues.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.