The number of IDF soldiers reporting sexual harassment is on the rise, women’s affairs adviser to the IDF Chief of Staff, Brig.- Gen. Rachel Tevet-Wiesel told the Knesset Committee for the Advancement of Women Monday.
In 2013, 561 reported harassment, as opposed to 511 in 2012. Nearly half of the instances (49 percent) were physical, including 4% that were rape cases, and the rest were verbal.
Other types of physical harassment include kisses on the cheek or touching a leg. Verbal harassment entailed inappropriate comments, tone or whistling.
“We consider the non-dramatic rise in the number of reports of sexual harassment a result of greater awareness on the part of soldiers and commanders,” Tevet-Wiesel said.
In addition, 396 female soldiers reported harassment that took place while they were off duty in 2013, up from 266 in 2012.
Tevet-Wiesel also reported that 9% of the complaints came from men, as opposed to 4% in the previous year, which she said does not reflect a rise in harassment but greater willingness by males to approach the IDF Coping and Support Center, because of its anonymity.
“Out of nearly 1,000 complaints in 2013, only one soldier left the IDF,” Tevet-Wiesel said.
“The rest received the tools to deal with what happened and continued working within the system.”
Knesset Committee for the Advancement of Women chairwoman Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) criticized what she called the IDF’s lax policies in senior officers guilty of harassment.
“Maybe we should take the judicial system out of the army?” she said.
“I want to commend the army for having a support system...but I don’t see that as the end of the story.
When we look at these numbers, we have to think what numbers we aren’t getting and how they don’t reflect everything that is happening. Some people choose not to complain.”
Lavie and the committee plan to visit the IDF Coping and Support Center to learn how it helps victims of harassment.
Keren Bar Yehuda of the Bar Association expressed concern about the fact that 61% of those who sought support did not file a police report about the harassment and said that the Law to Prevent Sexual Harassment requires an employer to start an inquiry when he or she learns about harassment.
Tevet-Wiesel responded that the IDF is concerned firstly with helping victims and promises them that they don’t need to file a complaint in order to talk and receive help.
At the same time, she said, the IDF has “clever ways” to deal with harassers, including undercover Military Police detectives.