Israel extends statute of limitations for sexual abuse of minors

Statute of limitations for sexual abuse of minors extended to age 35 • Will apply to family, institutions that knew of abuse

Male hands arrested with handcuffs in Criminal concept (illustrative) (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Male hands arrested with handcuffs in Criminal concept (illustrative)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

In one its last legislative acts under Prime Minister Naftali Bennett the government passed the third reading of three significant bills to protect the rights of sexual assault victims.

The first was to extend the statute of limitations for victims of sexual abuse as minors; the second was to expand the protection of victims before the confidentiality of their evidence is lifted. A third deals with evidence confidentiality.

The statute of limitations bill will be extended by 10 years from 25 until the victim reaches the age of 35. The very short statute of limitations has discouraged  victims from taking on a civil lawsuit.

“There are very few crimes as horrific as sexual abuse of boys and girls,” said Chairperson of the Committee for the Advancement of Women and Gender Equality Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List), one of the MKs who advanced the bill.  “The least we can do as a society for those who have experienced sexual violence as minors is to give them the opportunity to sue those who harmed them, and those who were supposed to protect them and betrayed their commitment - not just in criminal proceedings and not just until the end of a short statute of limitations.”

The bill will also apply the same statute of limitations to third parties, such as families and institutions, which knew of the abuse inflicted upon the minor and were negligent in preventing it.

 Abuse (illustrative) (credit: INGIMAGE) Abuse (illustrative) (credit: INGIMAGE)

“This bill will abolish the civil lawsuit stopwatch that hangs over the heads of so many minors who were victims of sexual assault,” Chairperson of the Children’s Rights Committee Michal Shir Segman (New Hope) who presented the bill for approval.

“Thanks to the extra time, the minors will be able to process the trauma, and to choose if and when to deal with their attacker again,” she continued.

“The law will remove a major obstacle blocking victims of sexual assault on their path to justice.”

“We have removed three significant barriers that prevented victims from suing the perpetrators and those who made it possible for them to be harmed,” Orit Sulitzeanu, CEO of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel (ARCCI) which helped put the bill together, told The Jerusalem Post.

“We believe and hope that it will help many women and men who were harmed in childhood to achieve justice,” she continued. “This is a very significant moment.”

Evidence Confidentiality Bill

Meanwhile, the Evidence Confidentiality Bill, which applies to a long list of sexual offenses and domestic abuse offenses, obligates the court to hear the victims of the crime before the removal of confidentiality. It also dictates that the victims be provided with legal assistance at the investigation stage.

The police investigator will be required, according to the bill, to make sure that the material that is exposed will be as limited as possible and to explain to the victims of the crime their full rights. This will include reduction of the legal test used as a psychiatric evaluation of the victim.

The bill was presented by MK Merav Ben-Ari (Yesh Atid), who said that “passing this important law is a real message to victims of sexual and domestic abuse. The law will encourage the filing of a complaint with the police while maintaining the personal safety of victims, and no less importantly, will restore their confidence in legal proceedings.”