Tel Aviv elementary school science teacher Yotam Okon was sentenced to 7 years in prison for the sexual assault of a student by the Tel Aviv District Court on Thursday morning.
The 37-year-old Okon also received three years probation and was ordered to compensate one of his victims NIS 200,000. Attorney Tami Kalenberg-Levi, who represented the victim as part of the Justice Ministry's legal aid department, said that the court issued a severe punishment due to the abuse of the teacher's position.
"A school teacher sexually assaulted his student, who was only 10-years-old when she first met him. She chose, courageously, to tell about the assault and even complain to the police," said Kalenberg-Levi. "We hope that the decision will serve as a stop sign for all people in authority in the education system and in general not to use their position to hurt children, and that whomever does this will be imprisoned for many years."
The victim's mother thanked the Justice Ministry's legal aid and praised the police and prosecutors for their quick responses and work on the case.
"I'm happy that the court put an end to the criminal activity that assaulted my daughter and could have led to the assault of other children," the victim's mother said in a statement.
She said that her daughter had brought the person who took advantage of her innocence and his position to sexually abuse her, and encouraged others to come forward if they had suffered abuse. She asserted that teenagers no longer blamed the victim as in her generation, but recommended that they collect evidence to ensure their success in court.
"Our difficult and painful experience leads me to recommend to everyone who feels that they are hurt or are being hurt: complain," said the victim's mother.
Okon was convicted in December 2021 after he confessed to the crimes as part of a plea agreement.
The former teacher was arrested in mid-2021 following an initial complaint against him. He had been accused of engaging with a 12-year-old student in sexual conversations on Whatsapp. He had asked her to send him nude pictures and videos. Police had claimed that there was reasonable suspicion of sexual encounters between the two, but Okon had claimed that the messages were the extent of their relationship.
Following his arrest, former students shared their experiences with Okon on social media. One TikTok user started the campaign when she posted a video about the suspect's arrest, saying that he had given her "special attention." Another commenter said that the teacher had grabbed at her stomach and said that her shirt was too short.
The mother of a 13-year-old girl filed another complaint days after the former students began to share their stories, but insufficient evidence was found by police. A third minor went to a police station to report Okon.
Shira Silkoff, Eve Young, and Idan Zonshine contributed to this report.