Sisterhood Blog

Danger in Doubting Women's Tales of Sexual Assault

By Elana Sztokman

  • Print
  • Share Share

A 27-year old woman from Pardes Hanna committed suicide after the police released the prime suspect in her rape. The suspect is a former police officer in the Hadera police station in Israel — the very same station where the woman went to complain. In other words, the man was believed and let go by his former colleagues. The story and its aftermath raise issues about the way rape victims are treated in Israel, and about the old boys’ network that seems to permeate some of the country’s police departments.

According to reports in Ynet, the woman, a divorced mother of one studying graphic design, committed suicide on April 3, after filing two complaints about rape and undergoing a forensic medical examination. The police have confirmed that she filed these complaints and claimed that they began a proper investigation before releasing the man. However, one officer, police superintendent Yehuda Maman, bizarrely denied this and told reporters that she only came to wish the police officers a happy Passover.

The police who arrived on the scene after her death found detailed descriptions of her alleged attacks. According to her family members, after she filed her first complaint about being raped and identified her attacker, the police briefly interrogated the suspect — reportedly, he had been fired from the police department 10 years ago for criminal involvement — and quickly released him. A few days later, she filed a second complaint that she was attacked and raped by three men. Her family members said she was badly beaten the second time.

“If the police would have taken her complaint seriously, she would still be alive,” a family member said, adding that she had despaired at the thought that the entire police department was supporting her alleged rapist. The police denied any foot-dragging or pressuring the victim, and added that the investigation is still open.

The problem here is not just the suspected corruption, in which personal connections or “protekzia” seem to enable some people to get away with crimes committed. The story here also reflects the way women who report being sexually assaulted are treated by the police as well as by the general public. As one Hebrew internet forum demanded upon posting this story: “When are women going to be taken seriously?”

Even comments from people who presumably knew her and liked her reflect the tendency not to believe the rape victim. Here is how one of her neighbors described her, according to the Ynet story: “She was a totally normal woman. She is not the type who has a bad name or the type who is known for doing nonsense (shtuyot).”

There it is, folks, right there. The second a woman complains of being raped, the first thing some listeners conclude is that she must not be normal. She must be the type that does “nonsense.” The rape victim is guilty until proven innocent.

It is worth noting that the tendency to doubt rape victims is not a particularly Israeli phenomenon; it’s also prevalent in America. Last week, in fact, the Washington City Paper published a shocking story about a college girl who was raped at a fraternity house at Howard University. She had witnesses and evidence, and said that she still could not get the attention of the police or the hospital. The victim has since filed a lawsuit against the District of Columbia, Howard University Hospital, George Washington University Hospital, both universities, several doctors and the D.C. police. She is seeking damages from the doctors and the D.C. police, whose actions she said resulted in “the probable loss of the opportunity to see her assailant brought to justice.”

Her story is horrible. But at least she is still alive.

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Sexual Assualt, Rape, Pardes Hanna, Suicide

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love.
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.