#MeToo takes Israel by storm

When Israeli women break the code of silence.

November 8, 2017 20:41
2 minute read.
National Organization fo Women protest in New York, calling for prosecution of Harvey Weinstein

Sonia Ossorio, President of the National Organization for Women of New York, speaks during a rally to call upon Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. to reopen a criminal investigation against Harvey Weinstein, New York, October 2017. (photo credit: REUTERS/BRENDAN MCDERMID)

While the #MeToo trend has successfully permeated Israel’s pop culture and political sphere, there has also been a noticeable increase in discussing sexual offenses among the public – mainly through social media.

Sexual harassment and rape have always existed but a recent trend is leading more women to come forward and discuss their experiences using social media, with the Hebrew version of #MeToo (Gam Ani) calling attention to the phenomenon.

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Orit Sulitzeanu, the head of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, an umbrella organization comprising of nine counseling centers, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that it is hard to pinpoint the exact number of cases of sexual assault in Israel, but she noticed a sharp increase in the publishing of experiences on social media.

“Reporting sexual harassment in Israel has been going on before Harvey Weinstein, but it increased much more after Americans began sharing their stories online. Suddenly women journalists, actors, politicians started to say ‘me too.’ So this is the big tsunami of cases we are seeing now.”

She continued: “The #metoo campaign started in the States and came to Israel.

Every day, we read new stories, and public awareness is really very important because it is causing a really big earthquake, but this is the first step.”

Galia Wolloch, the president of Na’amat, the largest women’s movement in Israel, sees this trend as an opportunity to open a dialogue about the topic. She explained to the Post the role that social media has in bringing these cases to the surface: “We are not surprised by this phenomenon [sexual abuse], but we are surprised by the volume of women who have come out with their stories because it really means they are showing lots of courage and strength to put up with reactions from Facebook comments.

It’s not easy to come out.”

In a statement released to Ynet on Wednesday, she added that “women are changing the rules of the game. If women were silent before, they will no longer continue [to be silent] nor will they accept how things were in the past.”

Noting that this issue is a two-way street, Wolloch said, “There is no doubt that the discourse is about to change and I am sure that men are internalizing this process. I even hear men saying ‘I cannot imagine women being emotionally scarred like that.’ They are realizing how painful this is.”

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