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Victims' advocate accused of misconduct

Several groups severs ties with colleague over allegations

by Michael Orbach

Online exclusive: April 23, 2010/ 9 Iyar, 5770

In the world of Jewish advocacy against sexual abuse, a sense of solidarity exists among activists who see themselves as waging an uphill battle against communal leaders who have failed in their responsibilities. But in a rare moment on Wednesday, April 21, one activist called out another.

Vicki Polin, CEO of the Awareness Center, an organization devoted to combating sexual abuse in the Jewish community, sent an email blast to her supporters in which she warned about a charismatic new activist, Kal Holczler.

Holczler founded Voices of Dignity, an organization with goals similar to her own, but the Awareness Center, Polin wrote, would be severing all ties with Voices of Dignity. (Holczler was profiled in The Jewish Star on March 12.) She cited a number of reasons.

The first, Polin said, is Voices of Dignity's association with SOVRI, the Support Orthodox Victims of Rape and Incest Helpline, based out of Beth Israel Medical Center.

"The SOVRI Helpline is an organization whose policy is not to make hotline reports in cases where they suspect a child is at risk of harm," she wrote. "They have been justifying this by saying that since they are a volunteer based organization, they are not mandated to report."

Given the extensive cover-ups of sexual abuse that have occurred in the Jewish community, activists consider failing to report to be a grievous offense.

"They fear that no one will utilize their services if they do the right thing, and protect children when they suspect they are at risk of harm and or neglect," Polin wrote.

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