Arison’s ex to pay nurse NIS 250,000 for sexual harassment

Court angers advocacy groups by turning down request for NIS 5 million from Ofer Glazer.

December 1, 2011 06:24
4 minute read.

SHARI ARISON. (photo credit: Reuters)

In a verdict that angered sexual assault victims’ and women’s groups, the Tel Aviv District Court ordered businessman Ofer Glazer on Wednesday to pay compensation of NIS 250,000 to a woman he sexually harassed.

The complainant had sued Glazer for NIS 5 million after he was convicted of sexual harassment in 2007. However, Judge Eitan Orenstein dismissed as “completely exaggerated” the complainant’s arguments that she was seriously mentally disabled as a result of the harassment, and said that her request for compensation was disproportionate.

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In 2007, the court sentenced Glazer to six months in prison for sexual harassment and indecent assault, and ordered him to pay his victim NIS 15,000 compensation.

In addition to the criminal suit the complainant, a nurse who cared for Glazer’s then-wife, billionaire Shari Arison, at Arison’s home after surgery, filed a civil tort claim against Glazer, also in the Tel Aviv District Court, and demanded he pay her NIS 5m. in compensation.

Glazer chose not to attend Wednesday’s hearing, and was represented by his attorney, Noam Ronen. Nevertheless, the courtroom was packed as members of the public as well as journalists came to hear Orenstein read the verdict.

According to the indictment, the complainant said Glazer sexually harassed her repeatedly after she began to care for Arison in the then-couple’s home.

In an expert medical evaluation filed with the civil suit, the complainant said that as a result of the harassment, she suffered from a permanent mental disability of 40 percent, was severely traumatized and has repeated flashbacks of the abuse. She also claimed to suffer from depression and anxiety, and to avoid social interaction.

The complainant said that she cannot show feelings to those close to her, is afraid to come into contact with men she does not know, and can no longer work in the nursing profession.

Following the harassment, the complainant felt she had to leave Israel and now lives in New Zealand.

Orenstein dismissed most of the complainant’s claims and said Glazer’s defense team had presented evidence showing that she had continued to go out and interact in society, contrary to what she had told the court.

“Unfortunately, the complainant chose to enhance, exaggerate the situation,” Orenstein said. “It has been proven that there is no basis for the complainant’s version regarding the severity of her condition and the damage caused to her. The court saw evidence, including photographs and testimonies that show that the complainant carried on her life as before, going out into public, coming into contact with men she does not know, dressed in fine clothes and giving media interviews about what happened.”

The judge also said that the complainant had exaggerated to doctors about her mental state and about what had happened to her.

“The complainant told those people that she had been raped and imprisoned by [Glazer], allegations that were never attributed to him,” said Orenstein.

“This was done, apparently, to convince them to give a professional opinion that she was seriously mentally disabled, and to establish the claim for damages.”

The complainant’s lawyer, attorney Zari Hazan, told reporters that her legal team now study the verdict in detail and discuss with the her whether to file an appeal.

“We think that there were serious legal mistakes [in the verdict],” Hazan said. “The judge was mistaken to rule against the court-designated medical expert, who said that the complainant had been left with 40% permanent medical disability.”

Ronen said the verdict showed that the complainant should never have brought the civil suit to the district court.

District courts deal with civil suits demanding a minimum of NIS 2.5m. compensation.

In 2010, the court granted three women’s groups amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) status in the lawsuit, allowing them to provide expert information to help the court reach its verdict. The Kayan-Feminist Organization, which aims to advance the status of Arab women in Israel, the Association of Rape Crisis Centers and Tmura – The Israeli Anti-Discrimination Legal Center said they wanted to add themselves to the suit to help raise public awareness of the financial and other costs of sexual harassment.

In his verdict, the judge wrote that “it is regrettable that these sexual assault support centers, which joined the case at their own request as amici curiae, were misled by the complainant’s version.”

Efrat Oren, spokeswoman for the Association of Rape Crisis Centers, slammed the court’s verdict.

“Today’s ruling shows a lack of understanding about the characteristics of sexual harassment, its consequences and the social, economic and personal damage it causes,” Oren said.

“We should remember that few victims work up the courage to complain about harassment. Those who do complain pay a high price and the court did not take that into account.”

Oren added that Glazer had been convicted in a criminal case and that conviction had been upheld in appeal.

“It’s time the legal system understood that sexual harassment and abuse cause substantial damage not only for the victims but for the public at large,” she said.

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