Sexual harassment victim [Illustrative].
(photo credit: INIMAGE)
MKs and women’s rights activists demanded a change in the way society and the legal system deals with sexual harassment and assault complaints, during a meeting called in the wake of the #metoo social media campaign.
The Knesset Committee on the Status of Women met on Tuesday to discuss “No longer silent – the #metoo campaign and the day after, speaking up.”
Several MKs, as well as representatives of women’s groups, spoke up about the sea change that has occurred in the past few weeks, and the need for more action.
“I am proud and I honor women who were brave enough to share their stories and be part of this phenomenon,” said committee’s chairwoman and Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman.
“And I honor those who have not spoken up yet because I know the price those who speak out pay. But we will not be silent any longer.”
Many of those present, including journalist Gaya Koren, spoke about the criticism, shaming and attacks that women who speak out face, and how it deters them from coming forward.
“I can understand women who don’t speak up, or don’t speak up until years later,” said Koren.
Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg said turning to the police after being attacked can “feel like a second rape,” especially when women are forced to face questions about their behavior, their relationship history, their clothing and their motivations for coming forward.
“When women speak up, people say ‘why are you bringing things up from decades ago,’” said Zionist Union MK Revital Swid. “When a woman is harassed or assaulted, nobody asks her if it was a convenient time for her.”
Several of those present asserted that the #metoo campaign, where women speak out on social media, shows the systemic failure of the legal system to address these situations.
“The legal authorities have failed on this issue,” said Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai.
“Women know that police are not the place to turn to – nobody wants to go to a place where the accusers will become the accused.”
Orit Sulitzeanu, executive director of The Association for Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, told the committee that there are real and significant changes that can be made in the legal realm.
Firstly, she said, to “stop prosecutors from asking [victims] all the questions they do,” – about women’s past behavior and activities. And secondly, she said, to lengthen the statute of limitations for sexual harassment from seven years.
“It takes women a long time sometimes to talk about it,” said Sulitzeanu. “Seven years is nothing.”
Likud MK Yehuda Glick said the Torah defines rape as likened to murder, “and that’s how we should relate to it. So an attempted rape or assault is like an assassination attempt,” he said. “And I can say I know what that’s like – it’s a scar for life.”
In 2014 Glick was shot four times by a Palestinian terrorist and was hospitalized for a month.
The Likud MK said one thing this campaign has accomplished, is to hopefully show men how damaging and traumatizing their actions can be for the women affected.
“I believe when some men say ‘it was 20 years ago, I forgot,’” said Glick. “Maybe you forgot, but she didn’t. For her, it was a trauma.”