Ex-principal Malka Leifer allegedly claimed accuser was needy

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish principal Malka Leifer has been jailed 15 years for sexually abusing two Melbourne sisters when they were students between 2004 and 2007.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish principal Malka Leifer has been jailed 15 years for sexually abusing two Melbourne sisters when they were students between 2004 and 2007. Photo: AAP

A former ultra-Orthodox Jewish school principal accused of raping three sisters allegedly told one of her accusers that she was helping her to get over her neediness.

Malka Leifer is facing 29 charges over the alleged sexual abuse of Melbourne sisters Nicole Meyer, Dassi Erlich and Elly Sapper when she was head of religion and principal of the Adass Israel School in the city’s eastern suburbs.

Leifer, a mother of eight, has pleaded not guilty and is standing trial in the Victorian County Court.

Allegations of abuse were first made against Leifer in 2008.

In March that year Ms Sapper saw a clinical psychologist and discussed her own experience with Leifer, the jury was told on Monday.

Vicki Gordon said she saw Ms Sapper over several months and she disclosed that Leifer would touch her all over her body and even though Leifer knew from the beginning that she didn’t like it, she would continue.

“She told me it was because I never had any warmth and affection from home – I was more needy than other girls and she was trying to help me get over it,” Dr Gordon read from her notes, quoting Ms Sapper.

Leifer, 56, is accused of raping all three women, now in their 30s.

Other charges include indecent assault and sexual penetration of a child aged 16 or 17 who was under her care or supervision.

Court was closed for two weeks while the three women gave evidence in the trial and re-opened on Monday.

Ms Erlich’s former husband Joshua Erlich said his then-wife had used “glowing terms” when speaking about Leifer, and his wife would speak with her about the things going on in her life.

“She said they would lie in bed and talk to each other. That’s how they would spend that time,” he said.

Ms Erlich first disclosed abuse allegations against Leifer in 2008 to counsellor Chana Rabinowitz.

Her husband said he overheard Ms Erlich talking to Ms Meyer about it in early 2008, saying Ms Rabinowitz seemed taken aback by something she disclosed.

“She had mentioned something about how Mrs Leifer was affectionate to her and had been sort of like a surrogate mother for her and how she would hug her and have long conversations with her and, for some reason, Chana Rabinowitz was alarmed about this,” he said.

Mr Erlich said Ms Rabinowitz later spoke to Ms Meyer who had “corroborated”.

He described Ms Erlich being scared and panicked about what was happening.

Psychiatrist Lorraine Dennerstein told the court she wrote three reports after speaking to Ms Meyer about the abuse, including one which noted Leifer had groomed Ms Meyer for a sexual relationship while she was in year 12.

She noted the allegations included touching and attempted penetration. In another report she said Ms Meyer said Leifer gave her “suffocating kisses” and panted with excitement.

The trial is continuing.

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