Tel Aviv beach - Moti Milrod - July 2011
People enjoying the sun at Tel Aviv beach. Photo by Moti Milrod
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Tel Aviv police launched an investigation into an alleged gang rape on a Tel Aviv beach on Tuesday. They are also looking into police handling of the matter, after officers said they arrived at the scene and saw nothing.

The incident, reported in Tuesday's Haaretz, occured on Bograshov Beach and was witnessed by a number of bystanders.

"Following the report today in the media, Tel Aviv police have begun an investigation of the event, as well as of police handling of the matter," police said in a statement.

Police are also looking into the behavior of patrol officers who claimed to arrive four minutes after a call came in on the emergency 100 telephone service and said they saw nothing out of the ordinary.

Photographs published Tuesday in the media, supplied by witnesses to the event, prove unequivocally that several young men did indeed have full sexual relations with the woman in front of dozens of people on Bograshov Beach.

The victim's family refused to allow her to talk to the press, but some of her acquaintances told Haaretz that a similar event happened at a Bat Yam beach some time ago. They say that the 35-year-old woman from central Israel, who is a mother, has been treated in the past by welfare services and has received psychiatric care.

Following the reports yesterday, Haaretz received calls from people claiming they have recently seen the woman in similar situations. An employee at a beach south of Bograshov Beach told Haaretz that the woman often came to the beach and drank alcohol. He added that she also has had sex in public before and that her family have had to come and take her away after being notified.

"We're talking about a woman who has unsteady jobs, and is in a difficult mental state," said one of her acquaintances. "She doesn't always behave that way, but recently she started drinking again and doing things that destroy her family mentally. This woman needs help, and the police, as well as welfare services, know exactly who she is."

Police still cannot explain what happened to the recording of the call made by a female witness, referred to as N., to the 100 emergency center. All calls to the number are recorded and saved for legal purposes, but for some reason all calls on that day were apparently deleted, although police are still trying to somehow retrieve the recording, they said in the statement.

Brig. Gen. Yoram Ohayon, commander of the Yarkon districts, said: "There was only one call to the police emergency center. I'm not downplaying the event - I don't really know how serious it was. At this stage, according to our investigation, it seems that we're talking about an indecent assault in public. At noon yesterday, officers searched for the woman on the beach, thinking that she might return to the scene of the crime. Later yesterday, employees of the nearby restaurant were questioned." Kobi Ganish, a waiter at the restaurant explained why he didn't intervene. "There was a woman there who danced and was touched. She seemed somewhat insane," he said. "She took them to the beach and had sex with them. I couldn't deal with it because I was very busy. I thought that someone had probably called the police but I couldn't do anything at the time, since I was working."

Another worker at the restaurant, Alexander Buldeyev, said: "We saw around 20 16-year-olds with a woman who looker around 30, who was naked from the waist down. I saw what they were doing, but I thought she was a call girl and they all decided to have fun. If there were policemen there I would have checked to see what was happening, but we didn't see any cops there."

Legal responsibility

Last July, the Tel Aviv Magistrates Court sentenced three young men from Jaljulia and a female soldier to between three and six months of community service after they saw three of their friends attack 59-year-old Arik Karp on a Tel Aviv beach. Karp collapsed and died as a result of the assault.

Judge Mordechai Peled, who presided over their case, insisted that the four should have intervened. "A case of extreme evil happened in front of their eyes and they had the duty to stand up and intervene," he wrote.

"The fact that they stood there without intervening, without calling for help, is outrageous," he added. Prof. Emanuel Gross, a criminal law expert from the University of Haifa, yesterday analyzed the possible criminal implications of the event on Bograshov Beach as reported by Haaretz. Gross' impression is that one cannot interpret the woman's behavior as consent to sexual activity, and that therefore it seems it was a case of rape.

"Is it reasonable that a woman would agree to have sex in public, in front of dozens of people on the beach, when clear signs in her behavior point to the fact that she was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or in a mental state that doesn't enable her to give her consent?" he said. "Those involved in the act should have understood that the woman wasn't in a condition to give consent, and if these people closed their eyes and exploited her distress, then it's rape."

Gross added that, according to the law, a person must grant "real" consent to sex. When a person is under the influence of drugs, alcohol or is in a problematic mental state, it's obvious that they didn't grant real consent, he said.

As for the bystanders, Gross said that "being around a scene of a crime isn't a crime in itself. Still, if there were people who cheered on the perpetrators, then they become accomplices to a crime."