A dozen teenage boys from the north of the country were remanded to house arrest earlier this week on suspicion of raping a young girl over the course of four years - since she was 10 years old.
The suspects, aged 14 to 17, were arrested over a week ago on suspicion of rape, sexual assault, extortion and threats.
A covert police investigation had been triggered by a school counselor and then the social services in the girl's hometown. The girl recently moved to a school in another town, where her behavior made a counselor suspect she had been assaulted. The counselor reported this to the social services in the girl's hometown, which looked into the case and turned to the police.
Some of the suspects' parents claim their sons had nothing to do with the complainant. Other parents admit their sons engaged in sexual acts with her but say it was with her consent. They did not think what their sons did was wrong. One mother asked with surprise, "How can a child say no to a girl who wants to have sex with him?"
Since their arrest, on January 31, the suspects' remand has been extended twice by the Nazareth Magistrate's Court. On Tuesday, they were remanded to 10 days of house arrest out of their hometown.
The mother of two suspects, aged 14 and 15, rejecting the allegations, said: "Everything was done with consent. The police like to blow things up. This is a small town, and everyone knows everyone else. The girl lives in our neighborhood. I know her. She's a girl who doesn't receive warmth and love at home and was tossed from one boarding school to another."
She asked: "Does it seem reasonable that so many slept with her against her will? It seems to me that a girl in distress decided to slander my son and other boys because she is unhappy, because her parents threatened her. When a girl wants, what is a boy of the same age going to say? That he's gay? They really don't know what they did wrong."
The mother said her son and the other kids are "ordinary, popular boys," adding: "Many others had sex with her, by consent. My other boy who is also suspected denies even being with her."
The mother of another boy, aged 14, said her son did not have sex with the complainant. "Only following the arrests, I found out the girl had slept with a friend of his in our house. It was during the summer holidays, when I wasn't at home. After she slept with the friend, he told her to do the same to my son, so she kissed his genitals. But he was disgusted and pushed her away," she said.
Some parents said the complainant had "sent several boys messages" inviting them to visit her.
The mother said she had warned the girl's father that his daughter was making out with boys in building entrances and getting into Arabs' cars. "She was known in the neighborhood as a slut," she said.
Attorney Yaniv Avitan, who is representing three suspects, said "their version is very clear, and they're sticking to it. According to their story, there was no criminal offense. They didn't think they were committing a criminal offense. The place to deal with this is not in court but in the social services."
A resident of the girl's neighborhood said: "This is a sad case. The girl's family is supportive, and now they're being slandered. I think boys took advantage of her distress."
Other residents said they did not understand why the boys had been arrested, as the complainant had initiated the sexual acts.
One suspect's mother said that one rainy night the girl "knocked on our door and asked to spend the night in our place. That shows her family neglected her and also makes one wonder. If she were the victim, why did she return to her attacker?"
The girl's family refused to comment and asked to be left alone. One of the girl's brothers said, "She is alright. She's being taken care of. She's in good hands."
The head of the city's education department said: "All the authorities fell asleep on the job and passed the girl one from one institution to another, instead of taking care of her."
MK Danny Danon, chairman of the Knesset Committee for Children's Rights, said he would hold an urgent debate next Tuesday on the media's effect on sexual violence among minors.
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