In November, Nechie Fischman, a former Orthodox Jewish woman, seized an opportunity offered by New York’s recently expired Adult Survivors Act (ASA) to expose alleged abuse by Dr. Robert Goodman, a Brooklyn doctor. Fischman, alongside three others, filed a lawsuit, accusing the doctor of sexual assault during routine examinations.
The ASA allowed survivors of sexual abuse, even from New York’s tight-knit Hasidic communities, to file civil claims during a one-year window, irrespective of when the abuse occurred. The law empowered survivors to speak out collectively, leading to dozens of lawsuits within the Orthodox community.
However, breaking the silence in such conservative communities is daunting. Asher Lovy, director of ZA’AKAH, an organization raising awareness about sexual abuse in the Orthodox community, highlighted the reluctance due to community leaders discouraging survivors from reporting assaults.
One plaintiff, a ‘Jane Doe,’ fears ostracism if her identity is revealed. In the Orthodox community, being an unmarried woman subjected to any form of sexual contact is stigmatized, hindering marriage prospects. The lawsuit aims not only to hold Dr. Goodman accountable but also challenges the community’s attitude towards survivors.
The complaint details shared experiences among the women: routine visits turning into instances of alleged groping by the doctor. Jane Doe, who saw Dr. Goodman in 2016, remains traumatized and avoids the area where his office is located.
Nechie Fischman, a patient from 2012, described inappropriate behavior escalating over time. Dr. Goodman allegedly made unwarranted comments about her body, hugged her excessively, and groped her breasts during examinations. Fischman, like others, felt trapped, blaming herself for feeling uncomfortable.
The lawsuit provided a platform for these survivors to share their experiences and discover they weren’t alone. Fischman, now residing in Florida, hopes for accountability for assailants and an end to the threats of ostracization faced by victims within Orthodox communities.
As these survivors speak out, challenging taboos surrounding abuse, they seek not only justice for themselves but also a transformative shift in how Orthodox communities handle allegations of sexual violence. The ASA has acted as a catalyst, allowing these women to reclaim their voices and demand change.
Re-reported from the article originally published in The msn.com