(photo credit: NOAM MOSKOVICH)
Victims of sexual assault will be able to receive free legal aid if a bill approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation Sunday becomes law.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s initiative, which is likely to pass as it is a government-sponsored bill, would provide a ministry lawyer to victims to help them obtain a restraining order against their attackers, which is a civil procedure. The legal aid would not depend on the victims’ income, as it usually does.
“Just as the government manages the criminal proceedings for the victims, it should also run the civil ones for them,” Shaked said.
Since in most cases of sexual assault the attacker is someone the victim knows, the bill is meant to help the victim not have to see the attacker in his or her day-to-day life and relive the trauma again and again. Such encounters cause harm to the victims’ mental state and hinders their ability to heal psychologically.
A law allowing victims of sexual assault to take out restraining orders against sex offenders has existed for over a decade, but the Justice Ministry said it was hardly ever used because the victims cannot afford a lawyer and there is a serious lack of attorneys who are experts in such crimes.
“Victims of these crimes have a heavy mental burden, and we must do what we can as a society in order to make things easier for them, even a little bit,” Shaked explained. “I am very happy to be leading a process that will give thousands of victims of sexual assault the help they need.
This is the government’s responsibility.”
Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel legal adviser Liat Klein supported the bill.
“We think it is very important to allow victims of sexual crimes to take advantage of their rights according to the law and allow them to keep the sex offender who harmed them away from their area, thus allowing them to rehabilitate their lives and not live in constant fear of unwanted, frequent encounters with the person who hurt them,” she said.