In Their Own Words: Jesse's Victims Speak Out
On January 11, 2004, Newsday staff reporter Paul Vitello wrote an open letter to the 13 boys who the Friedman's were charged with abusing, challenging them to come forward. He states that "If an injustice was done to the Friedmans, you are honor bound to undo it." However, "If on the other hand no injustice was done, you have to defend yourselves - and other victims like you - and to explain to those unfamiliar with the sexual abuse of children why the cops were right to come back, and come back, until you were able to talk."
At this time, the victims are beginning to come forward. Although, they continue to protect their identities, Judge Boklan, the judge who presided over the Friedman case has authenticated that the following statements were made by victims or family members of victims that Jesse Friedman pled guilty to molesting.
Open Letter to the Academy Awards Committee by two of the victims that Jesse confessed to abusing:
The Film "Capturing the Friedmans" about a case of child molestation in Great Neck, Long Island has been nominated for an Academy Award. We are two of the victims of Arnold and Jesse Friedman writing to you, asking you to hear out side of the story, writing on behalf of the other victims and ourselves. We were abused, tortured, and humiliated by Arnold and Jesse Friedman in computer classes in Arnold's basement. Many of us have physical scars from what was done to us; all of us have psychological scars. Although it has been 16 years, we live with the knowledge of these crimes every day of our lives. Some of us have had bad dreams, some of us slept with baseball bats under our bed for years for fear of reprisals. Many years ago, we thought we could not tell what was happening to us because we felt too guilty and embarrassed and were constantly threatened. Our parents thought Arnold was calling our houses so often because he was such a concerned teacher. His calls were to make sure we were not telling and to repeat the constant threats.
But we have worked through our suffering in therapy, and we are men now, no longer ashamed, some of us with families of our own, all of us embarking on a new life. And now one of the men who tortured and threatened us, Jesse Friedman, is being paraded like a celebrity while we have been left in the shadows, powerless, and voiceless once again.
Don't take our long journey towards healing away from us. Don't use our story to promote the agenda of a confessed child molester who destroyed our childhood and confessed numerous times.
We don't want the acclaim of this movie to keep other young boys who are being secretly abused silent for fear that their stories won't be believed. We don't want adults who might listen to the children turn a deaf ear, having seen the film and say, "These children are probably lying or exaggerating just like those Friedman victims in the movie." We did not lie. We did not exaggerate. We were never hypnotized to tell our stories. The director twisted the facts in the film to make it appear that way. We told the truth then and are telling the truth now.
We don't want the story of our suffering used to silence other victims of crimes. We want our own children to grow up in a world where it is safe for children to talk about abuse they are suffering and to get help quickly.
You are making a significant decision regarding which documentary film this year deserves the highest praise the film industry can offer. We are sure many factors go into your decision and don't know whether the feelings of the faceless subjects of this documentary are relevant to your considerations.
But we can tell you that if this film does win an Oscar, it will be won at the expense of silencing the plaintive voices of abused children once again, just as our own voices were silenced 16 years ago by the threats and intimidation of our tormentors, Arnold and Jesse Friedman.
Our identities are known and protected by Judge Abbey Boklan who presided over the case. She will authenticate that we are two victims of Jesse of Arnold Friedman
Letter from John Doe (one of the 13 victims that the Friedmans pled guilty to abusing).
--- Hon. Abbey L. Bokan (February 12, 2004)
January 29, 2004
Dear Judge Boklan:
I am writing to you because I need your help. I was a victim of sexual abuse as a young child. There were many other children who were also abused by the same perpetrators, Arnold and Jessie Friedman. Arnold Friedman died in jail, but Jessie Friedman is now attempting to appeal his conviction with the help of a wealthy filmmaker, the producer of the film "Capturing the Friedmans." My concern is that during this appeal my privacy will be invaded. I am asking for you to help all of the victims who were involved in the criminal investigation of Arnold and Jessie Friedman. We want to protect our privacy from further invasion and it is my position that the State should provide that help.
You may or may be aware that a motion picture was made about this conviction, and that the director of the motion picture is planning to fund some type of appeal. I have recently become aware of the fact that this film has been nominated for an academy award. I am sure that the cinematography is excellent. I wish the director the best of luck in the pursuit of his award, however, I find his position as a financial supporter and advocate for Jessie Friedman's appeal questionable at best. It seems obvious that ancillary to this appeal is an opportunity for him to advertise himself for the purpose of furthering his professional career. He is biased due to the substantial stake that he has in the outcome of the appeal. The culmination of his life's work is his movie that is now aligned with the legal status of Jessie Friedman. A victory in the courtroom would validate his film as a so called "important work" that carries with it the force to impose its will upon our criminal justice system. What aspiring director would not desire such recognition as a social force to project his or her career into the stratosphere of the film-making industry? This director's cause is wrong and his purpose is self serving at my expense as well as at the expense of the other victims.
Arnold and Jessie Friedman violated my trust for them as educators by sexually abusing my classmates and I at their home where they purported to teach computer skills to young people. As a child I was often placed by my parents into the custody of others whether be it at school, or at an after school care program or at a summer camp. This seemed quite common among my peers and I was comfortable with trusting adults as authority figures.
Arnold and Jessie Friedman portrayed themselves as educators who would teach young children how to operate a computer. Many parents were quite enamored with the idea that their child should be equipped with the advantage of computer literacy as the computer technology boom began in the mid 1980's. It was under the guise of an educator, that Arnold and Jessie Friedman used computer technology to show young children pornography, to take photographs of young children reacting to that pornography, and to take photographs of sexual acts being performed by young children. I was seven years old when I was in the custody of Arnold and Jessie Friedman. At that time I did not understand the dynamics of human sexuality, I only understood fear. I became afraid of everything beyond my control. My childhood curiosity was replaced with an inherent distrust for adults, authority figures, and every unknown.
As a victim of sexual abuse perpetrated by Arnold and Jessie Friedman, I should not be obligated to bear any burden, for the purpose of justifying their conviction ex-post. The criminal justice system is an apparatus that society uses to enforce the standards of conduct necessary to protect individuals and the community. It operates by apprehending, prosecuting, convicting, and sentencing those members of the community who violate the basic rules of group existence. The action taken against lawbreakers is designed to serve three purposes beyond the immediate punitive purpose: 1) as a deterrent, 2) to remove dangerous people from the community, and 3) it gives society an opportunity to attempt to transform lawbreakers into law-abiding citizens. This system is imperfect. It is based in theories of retribution and punishment. Furthermore, the victims are entitled to closure, with no obligation lasting in perpetuity to certify, in whole or in part, the prosecution of the criminal defendant by the State ex-post.
I am now a twenty-four year old law student who has confronted my past. It seems absurd to me at this point that I may be subpoenaed by a court once again to authenticate my testimony that I gave to a grand jury as a seven year old child. It is my position that the State should protect me and all the other victims from having our privacy further invaded. As a victim of sexual abuse, I can tell you first hand how embarrassing it feels, despite having done nothing wrong. The sexual abuse was bad enough, but the process of being a part of an investigation and testifying before a grand jury was also very painful. It would be unjust for the State to abandon us now when our privacy may be threatened once again by Jessie Friedman, a convicted sex offender, and his ally, the director of the film "Capturing the Friedmans."
We need help to prevent our further exposure. Arnold and Jessie Friedman were found guilty of sexually abusing children. The Court determined there was no reasonable doubt that those defendants had committed those crimes. We victims bore our burden by participating in the investigation and testifying. I, nor any of the other victims, should now be placed in a position to defend the conviction of Arnold and Jessie Friedman ex-post. If there is anything that you can do to help us I would be eternally grateful.
Sincerely, John Doe
Statement by the mother of one of boys who Jesse Friedman pled guilty to molesting.
This statement was written by the mother of a victim. She is protecting the identity of the victim by not using her name. Her identity can be authenticated by Judge Abbey Boklan.
A mother of one of the boys who Jesse Friedman pled guilty to molesting (as confirmed by Judge Boklan) forwarded us a copy of a letter that she first sent to Dateline. She was very upset by a program which Jesse Friedman and Andrew Jarecki appeared. She was nauseated by Jesse's apparent lack of remorse or compassion for his victims. She was also struck by Jarecki's apparent ignorance of what abused children go through. She noted that her son had no desire to "discuss or revisit those experiences in any way with any one", and worried about the effect of the film on other children who are being abused.
With her permission, several excerpts from of her original letter appear below: