Victims of sexual assault to receive free legal aid to keep attackers away

A new law will allow victims of sexual assault to receive free aid to obtain a restraining order.

July 29, 2015 20:44
1 minute read.
Ayelet Shaked holds introductory press conference at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem

Ayelet Shaked holds introductory press conference at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem. (photo credit: NOAM MOSKOVICH)

The Knesset on Wednesday unanimously passed into law legislation allowing victims of sexual assault to receive free legal aid to help obtain restraining orders against their attackers.

The bill passed a final vote with 27 in favor and none opposed, expanding the legal aid the Justice Ministry provides to include the civil procedure to get a restraining order.

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The aid would not depend on the victims’ income.

Since in most cases of sexual assault, the attacker is someone the victim knows, the law seeks to help the victim not have to see the attacker in his or her everyday life and thus relive the trauma. Such encounters harm the victims’ mental state and hinders their ability to heal psychologically, the Justice Ministry explained upon proposing the bill.

A law allowing victims of sexual assault to take out restraining orders against sex offenders has existed for more than a decade, but the Justice Ministry said it was rarely used, partly because many victims cannot afford lawyers.

“Victims of these crimes have a heavy mental burden and we must do what we can as a society to make things easier for them, even a little bit,” Justice Minister Ayelet- Shaked said when the bill was approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation last month.

On Tuesday, the Knesset passed a law that would waive the statute of limitations for a victim of a crime to complain about it if he or she was threatened or misled by the person being accused.

In addition, according to the bill introduced by Meretz MKs Zehava Gal-On, Tamar Zandberg and Michal Rozin, the statute of limitations can be waived if the plaintiff was previously unaware of information that is relevant to the case, or if the defendant took advantage of a position of power over the plaintiff to prevent him or her from complaining.

Rosin explained that “this amendment will give the legal system the tools to lengthen the statute of limitations in specific cases in which the defendant had power over the plaintiff and did not let him or her file a complaint.

“I hope it will bring justice for many victims, allowing them to file complaints about the injustices caused to them,” she said.

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