Pushing back against #MeToo, NGO seeks gag order on sexual harassment

“We need to set boundaries in our discourse. Not every woman is a victim and not all men are potential predators... The finger is very light on the trigger, we need to make some order in this jungle.

November 12, 2017 20:26
4 minute read.

European Parliament member Terry Reintke (C) holds a placard with the hashtag "MeToo" during a debate to discuss preventive measures against sexual harassment and abuse in the EU at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, October 25, 2017.. (photo credit: REUTERS/CHRISTIAN HARTMANN)


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An NGO is pushing back against the #MeToo movement, which began with women speaking out publicly about their experiences of sexual assault and harassment, and seems to have spurred a trend of public ousting of harassers.

In response, this Israeli NGO is seeking a gag order on claims regarding incidents which took place 14 years or more in the past.

On Sunday, the Movement for Diverse Equality appealed to Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked to endorse its initiative for new legislation regarding sexual harassment.

Since the #MeToo movement became a widespread phenomenon, a debate has resurfaced in Israel about extending the statute of limitations for criminally investigating sexual harassers.

Currently, depending on the crime, there are different time limits about how long after an incident that an alleged offender can be criminally investigated for sexual harassment, but in Israel the longest time, for the most serious offenses, is 10 years.
Hundreds participate in Hollywood #MeToo march against sexual abuse, November 12, 2017 (Reuters)

Britain has no limit, while the US has different limits in different states, varying from a few years to 30 years.

The NGO is calling on Israel’s sexual harassment limit to be raised to 14 years, as many officials have called for, but is also asking that there be a gag order against “informal trials by media,” meaning that women could not name harassers publicly after 14 years.

Movement for Diverse Equality chairwoman Hila Shai Vazan said the gag order part of her initiative would “ensure that the trials be in court.”

She said that with accusations that go back beyond a certain point that many accused men “cannot say whether it did or did not happen. They cannot remember at all and so they” are disadvantaged in “claiming their innocence.”

Vazan added that “the mentality 25-30 years ago is not what it is today.

You cannot judge what happened then based on today. It is very populist to say that it is the same. It is not the same.

There are differences. Sexual harassment is very subjective in the perspective of the particular persons involved.”

She said, “We need to set boundaries in our discourse. Not every woman is a victim and not all men are potential predators... The finger is very light on the trigger, we need to make some order in this jungle.”

Next, Vazan was pressed that even if setting gag orders might have a good intention of defending the good names of people who are falsely accused, that the impact could likely be re-silencing harassment victims. This is because often the first victims who come forward are older women who were harassed decades ago, and are no longer worried about how it will affect their marriages or careers. Often only after such victims come forward, do younger victims come forward whose complaints can lead to prosecution within the legal time limits.

Vazan responded that she was not saying there was no recourse for these women, only that they needed to go to the police and not to go directly after alleged offenders on social media platforms.

Further, she said, “whoever does sexual harassment usually does not stop.

Unfortunately it is a bad disease, and they continue to harass, so you will be able to get people who can make legal claims.”

Moreover, she said she was open to a statute of limitations longer than 14 years, if that was what experts ultimately arrived at.

Social Quality Minister Gila Gamliel’s spokesman said she viewed the #MeToo campaign very positively and reiterated that she has frequently told of her own experience being sexually harassed as a young soldier.

He said Gamliel was definitely open to making the statute of limitations longer for harassment crimes, specifically citing Britain’s no limit policy, as something to also consider. Also, he said she supported taking a new look at the entire corpus of harassment law, including whether victims could be better protected throughout the court process.

At the same time, the spokesman said his impression was that the prosecution might have doubts about extending the time limit, simply from the perspective of whether it would be practical to collect evidence for cases that went back too far in time. Gamliel did not address the gag order idea.

Shaked did not respond by press time to the Movement for Diverse Equality’s appeal, but was traveling in Japan.

A variety of well-known officials have gotten off from potential sexual harassment charges due to the time limits, including former foreign minister Silvan Shalom, former president Moshe Katsav – regarding some of his alleged victims – and former International Monetary Fund chief Dominic Strauss- Kahn. At least one alleged victim of sex crimes of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange found her case blocked by the statute of limitations in Sweden after he waited out the claims in Ecuador.

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