Crime & Justice

Sisters share trauma of sexual abuse by school principal at trial in Australia

Sydney, Australia, June 28 (EFE).- Two sisters who were sexually abused by the former ultra-Orthodox principal of a Jewish school in Australia described on Wednesday the trauma they had suffered for several years due to that experience.

“Malka Leifer stole my body, I was forced to sever the connection with my physical self. I did not know how to protect myself, abuse became my norm,” Dassi Erlich told a court in Melbourne on Wednesday.

Erlich and her sister, Elly Sapper, suffered multiple abuses when they were teenagers by then principal of the Adass Israel school, Malka Leifer, 56, who was found guilty in April of 18 charges of sexual abuse, including five of rape, perpetrated between 2003 and 2007.

Leifer faced a total of 27 charges for the alleged sexual assaults on sisters Dassi Erlich, Elly Sapper and Nicole Meyer, but the jury found her not guilty of nine of them, including those linked to Meyer.

On Wednesday, Erlich and Sapper appeared in the Victorian County Court and detailed the wounds left by the “painful truth” of years of abuse.

“She abused me and I am forced to inherit the consequences for the rest of my life,” said Sapper, who also revealed that she lost her baby during the trial.

“Six days before the verdict we lost our little girl – her heart stopped beating,” she said.

Sapper’s husband, Daniel Lichter, said that the trauma suffered by his wife has caused recurring nightmares and panic attacks.

“In these moments I cannot touch or hold her because it worsens her experience,” he said, adding that the betrayal of trust has had a lifelong impact on his wife’s mental health.

Her “relationships exist in a perpetual juggle between desire for connection and the echoes of her trauma,” he said.

During the over six-week long trial, the three sisters testified that the abuses perpetrated by the then principal took place on school grounds, in locked staff offices, at school camps and at Leifer’s house.

Leifer, who arrived in Australia from Israel in January 2021 after a tortuous extradition process, began working at the school in 2001 as head of religious studies.

The first allegations against her began to come to light in 2008, when she was already the principal and which led her to flee to Israel. EFE


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