IDF officer suspected of attempted rape

IDF officer suspected of

violence against women 248.88 (photo credit: Brian Blondy)
violence against women 248.88
(photo credit: Brian Blondy)
Police will arrange for a young woman who filed a complaint claiming an IDF officer sexually assaulted her near the Tel Aviv port overnight Friday to confront him on Sunday, Israel Radio reported. Six witnesses will be asked to identify the 30-year-old captain, who serves in a unit responsible for the personal security of high-ranking officers, including IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi. Meanwhile, senior IDF officers expressed hopes that the image of the elite unit would not be damaged. "This is an excellent unit, with high quality people. The image of the entire unit must not be tarnished because of this case," the officers were quoted as telling Army Radio. On Saturday night, hundreds of people rallied at Tel Aviv's Rabin Square on Saturday evening to protest violence against women, hours after it was announced that the officer was arrested for the assault. Israel Radio reported that he had previously served in the personal security unit of the Shin Bet, the Israel Security Agency, and was awaiting promotion in the near future. There was no immediate response from Ashkenazi's office, and a gag order was placed on his identity as well as that of the woman, at the request of police. Friends said they had celebrated the accused's bachelor party at a strip club on Friday evening, ahead of his wedding scheduled for this coming Wednesday. The officer, who was said to be very drunk, allegedly attacked the woman as she was returning to her car from an evening spent with her friends who live near the port. Police believe he dragged her into nearby bushes, and forcibly took off her clothes while beating and kicking her. The woman cried for help and struggled with him, before he fled, after noticing passersby were approaching. He was later found hiding near the Yarkon River, literally with his pants down, inebriated and bruised, apparently from his struggle with the woman, police said. His remand was extended by four days by the Tel Aviv District Court on Saturday night. The rally at Rabin Square on Saturday night had been organized by the Israeli Women's Network and the Organization of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel before news of the alleged rape was published. It was timed to coincide with the international day for the elimination of violence against women, and aimed at creating and raising social awareness about the issue in Israel. "Violence against women is a phenomenon due to the patriarchical backbone of our society. Since Israel is a militaristic society, driven by a macho attitude, there will continue to be inequalities in salaries, positions and ultimately, violence against women," said Dr. Esther Levanon-Mordoch of the Israeli Women's Network. With a diverse crowd of women and men chanting slogans and drummers pounding rhythms, the demonstrators also carried scores of signs saying "Rape is a Weapon of War," "1202" for the crisis hotline number for women rape victims and messages to rape victims such as "You are not alone" to show their support and activism for victims. Quite successfully, the protesters managed to receive the undivided attention of many onlookers on every street corner, as the protest clogged the streets between Rabin Square and Rehov Shaul HaMelekh for several minutes until the crowd of hundreds reached the Tel Aviv Museum of Art square. Levanon-Mordoch commented that "many women still do not complain to the police, because in the past the police used be inattentive to domestic violence, with the thinking that violence [is] a private problem between couples" in explaining why violence against women is still prevalent in the country. In the past year in Israel, 15 women have been killed as a result of domestic violence and a recent survey found that one in 10 Israeli women is a victim of sexual assault. Levanon-Mordoch says figures are concerning because many women choose not to report abuse that has taken place against them and the figures in reality are much higher, since violent behavior against women is often simply accepted in various sectors of society. "We are working with the police and the legislators to bring about stricter sentences against violent men. We must have an ongoing change and a public discussion on the social agenda and in the media of the country," she said. Levanon-Mordoch stressed that she will continue working in order to bring about stronger justice against violent offenders and also educate Israel's youth in the public school system through her program "Young Women and Men Leading Change" to spur gender equality from a young age in children. Zohar, a writer and social activist from Tel Aviv, hoped that the rally would "increase awareness of violence against women on television and in the media… really, the country should just give harder and tougher sentences for domestic violence." On Wednesday, in a show of support to the movement, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu pledged that the government would spend NIS 3.5 million to renovate battered women's shelters throughout the country and give a grant of NIS 10,000 to shelter residents who leave to rejoin the workforce. Regarding professional difficulties encountered by women, the Tel Hai Academic College released a report that found that 40 percent of single Israeli women said they were sexually harassed at work on a regular basis, and that 80% had suffered some form of sexual harassment at their place of employment in the past. According to the webpage for The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, the definition of sexual violence is "any violence, physical or psychological, carried out through sexual means or by targeting sexuality. It includes violence against women, children or men carried out by men, women or children, with the intent to control and humiliate the victim." The Tel Aviv Sexual Assault Crisis Center is a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week hotline for women, the line can be reached by calling 1202. Similarly, the Hotline for Men, established in 1990, is the only such line for men in Israel, is also available at 1203. Benjamin Hartman and Jack Tonhaben contributed to this report.