Women march Tel Aviv- Moti Kimche
Marchers carrying symbolic coffins through Tel Aviv to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women Nov. 25, 2010 Photo by Moti Kimche
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Over half of Israeli men - 61 percent - do not consider forcing sex on an acquaintance as rape, a study conducted by Tel-Hai Academic College recently found. Moreover, 41 percent of Israeli women share that view.

The study was conducted last fall by Dr. Avigail Moor, a clinical psychologist who specializes in treating victims of sexual violence.

Moor asked her respondents two main questions: The first was whether they believed forced sex with an acquaintance constitutes rape; the second was whether they felt forced sex with a stranger constitutes rape. Respondents were asked to provide a simple yes or no answer.

What Moor discovered is that many of those surveyed viewed these two circumstances quite differently. While 61 percent of men and 41 percent of women said they did not consider forced sex with an acquaintance to be rape, nine out of 10 respondents of both genders said that forced sex with a stranger is rape.

When asked whether they viewed forced sex with a spouse as rape, only 8.5 percent of women and 7.3 percent of men said yes.

The surveyed individuals included 160 women and 159 men who constitute a representative sample of the population aged 18 to 69.

"The importance of the study is that it empirically documents the public's tolerant attitude toward rape by an acquaintance, which is the most common form of sexual assault," said Moor. "In contrast to the law - which does not distinguish between rape in which the assailant knows the victim and rape in which the assailant is a stranger - the public doesn't view forced sex by a prior acquaintance as rape in every regard, and minimizes its severity.

"Consequently, the justice system, and sometimes even the victims themselves, have trouble identifying a situation as rape, and therefore as a crime ... for which the guilty party must be punished," she continued. "As a result of this view, women who are raped by an acquaintance have trouble getting support ... and are even accused of creating the conditions for the incident to occur, while the attackers aren't denounced or punished."

When Moor asked respondents whether a woman should complain to the police if raped by a stranger, 54 percent of women and 52 percent of men said yes. When asked about rape by an acquaintance, 38 percent of women and 20 percent of men thought the victim should file a police complaint.