Israel Police have begun investigating Israeli TV personality, journalist and producer Gal Uchovsky, after a KAN news report on Monday alleged that he had sexually assaulted a number of men.
After the publication of the report, Uchovsky announced that he be would resigning from his role as president of the LGBTQ+ youth group Israel Gay Youth (IGY).
"He didn't communicate like a human, he communicated like a forceful animal," said A., the main witness in the KAN investigation. "More than five times he tried to turn me over by force, to penetrate me with his fingers, to touch [me], to get in any way possible to that area."
A. said he told Uchovsky to stop, saying "These were very decisive words: 'Enough, it's not pleasant, let's stop it.' There were very unambiguous things."
A. gave the testimony while on a polygraph and was found to be telling the truth.
Another witness, identified as B., told KAN that he was assaulted by Uchovsky during a work meeting a few years ago. "We sat far away from each other and just in a moment he dived on me and began kissing me," he said. "I tried to push him off. He forced himself on me despite my resistance, until he finished."
In an Instagram post on Tuesday afternoon, Uchovsky stated that he was always the first to demand that public figures accused of misconduct respond to the allegations and examine themselves and not hide or entrench themselves.
"Everything that I demanded of others, applies to me as well, also then and also now. I too, am a person like any other," wrote Uchovsky. "I am not free of mistakes or inclinations and I am not clean of errors."
"Throughout the years and professional and social meetings with thousands of members of the community and those not part of [the community], I insisted on the respect of people and I insisted on respecting their wishes and listening well to every hidden or revealed message coming from their speech and behavior. I saw this as a necessary obligation as a person, a friend and a leader for many members of the community," added Uchovsky.
Michal Rabinovich, the KAN reporter who carried out the investigative report, revealed a number of additional details about the investigation to Golan Yochpaz and Anat Davidov on 103FM radio, saying that Uchovsky was almost twice as old as A.
"Listening to A.'s testimony still shakes me," Rabinovich said. "I think this must be a milestone - what was will not be anymore. And it also allows men to step forward with the courage to say it happened to me too, to set clear boundaries. There are more than the two testimonies we have published and perhaps we should settle for this sentence."
"This is not a holiday for me," the KAN journalist told 103FM. "In the end this is about a person's life. It is very important to say that we as a media body that broadcasts such a thing are not a judicial body, but journalists, who receive cross-examined information and see the responsibility that rests on our shoulders in doing the in-depth work.
"There is a moral and professional duty toward people who have been harmed, and I think that if you look at the target at the end, any such publication in any affair and in any journalistic investigation is supposed to and should help more victims and encourage them to speak and peel a little more off the wall of silence," added Rabinovich.
In response to the KAN report, Uchovsky resigned from his position as president of IGY and issued an apology to the two witnesses. Concerning A., he stated that he did not know A. felt that way. Concerning B., Uchovsky stated that KAN did not provide him with enough details to know which specific case was referred to, but apologized that he caused the second witness to feel badly as well.
"As someone who has dedicated his life to the community, Gal has decided that his responsibility obliges him to cease his activities as president of IGY, the LGBTQ+ youth organization," read a response issued by Uchovsky to KAN. "The organization is the enterprise of his life, and he does not want this stain to stick on this great organization."
"I was very sorry to hear about the complaints against Gal Uchovsky and I would like to express support for the complainants," tweeted Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, who is openly gay.
"We must have zero tolerance for sexual assault – this is true everywhere, and it is also true within the LGBTQ+ community," he said. "Uchovsky's decision to apologize and resign from IGY is the right and proper thing to do. The clarification of the allegations must be exhaustive and support for the victims must be ensured."
Transportation Minister Meirav Michaeli welcomed Uchovsky's decision to resign from his position and apologize, reminding those affected that they can always call the hotline for men affected by sexual assault at 1203. "There is no room for patience or acceptance when it comes to sexual assault."
The Agudah - The Association for LGBTQ+ Equality in Israel stated on Tuesday that the police were encouraging the alleged victims to contact them to provide testimony.
"We know that even today complaining about sexual abuse, and especially in the LGBTQ+ community, is something that requires courage and standing up to strong elements, so it is important for us to remind - we believe you," said the Agudah. "Our community, the one that strives for equality, security and self-completion must not accept or forgive sexual abuse within it."
The Agudah stressed that its hotline is open to listen, support and help, Monday through Thursday, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. at *2982 or on WhatsApp at 058-620-5591.
The Open House in Jerusalem stated on Tuesday that "to create security you need an open and honest discourse, and for the discourse to be open it needs to touch the painful places as well."
"The evolving discourse on sexual violence in the community is led by brave community members, and the openness they lead brings to light dark and difficult corners. The exposure of sexual violence is always a not-so-simple and painful event, but also a necessary part of a healthy and good course of correction," said the Open House.
"If the investigation on Gal Uchovsky overwhelms you with the need to talk and share about your own experiences, we strongly recommend that you do not stay alone - turn to the various help lines and use your support networks," added the Open House. "We of course continue to do our best for the youth and young people of the Open House, as part of our collaborations with IGY, and for the community at large."