An Israel Police station in Osfiya
An Israel Police station in Osfiya. Photo by Moran Maayan
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A young immigrant from the U.S. who was sexually assaulted on a bus says that policemen at the Ramat Gan police station refused to record her complaint due to "a heavy workload." While procedures dictate that police should give priority to sexual assault victims, they made her wait several hours late into the night.The complainant had a photo and other identifying details in hand regarding the suspect, yet police told her to return to the station on a different day to submit the complaint.

The passenger, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue, got on a 400 bus from Jerusalem to Ramat Gan last Tuesday at 10:30 P.M. The man who sat down alongside her had a British accent, and introduced himself as James. He said he lived in Manchester, England. He persisted in talking to her, and he said he had spent the previous three months in the West Bank, that he had done time in an Italian prison and that he had lived in Ukraine. The young woman attempted to find a different seat, and not far from Ramat Gan approached the driver and asked where she should get off the bus, as a pretext for changing her seat.

According to the woman, once James noticed that she was not coming back to sit next to him, he moved to an open seat next to her and told her he wanted to touch her. When she tried to get up, he allegedly pushed her back and started groping her chest.

The moment that he pushed her and touched her chest - twice - she says she yelled at him to stop and pushed him away, moving again to another seat. The driver turned on the lights in the bus and told her that they were about to reach the stop that she'd asked for. "I got off the bus as quickly as possible and rushed home, looking over my shoulder to make sure he didn't follow me," the woman said.

The next day she informed her partner after she found the suspect's identity on the Internet. "Based on information that he had given to me on the bus I was able to locate him online. I found a dating web site on which he listed what appeared to be his full name, his age, his home town, the specific city in Ukraine where he had lived and a photograph," she said.

On Wednesday afternoon, the young woman and her boyfriend telephoned the police station in Ramat Gan, and were told to come in and file a complaint.

She went there right away. "Over the course of more than two hours I was told half a dozen times that they were too busy to see me that night, that they couldn't tell me how long I'd have to wait, and that I should come back another day," she said, even though she had told them that she was filing a sexual assault complaint.

According to standard police procedure, a person who arrives at a police station to file a complaint is supposed to receive an initial response within 20 minutes. In the case of urgent instances, such as sexual assault or attempted murder, priority is to be given to these complainants over the processing of arrested suspects who have been brought in to the station.

"We were put outside after 10 minutes, in the dark, in the heat," she said. When her boyfriend went out to get water, she was left alone with another woman, who was there to complain about a stolen credit card. The other woman inquired how much time it would take. The police yelled at her, and she got into a shouting match with them. The young woman then asked in English how much longer she'd have to wait. At first the investigator ignored her, so she asked again. He then yelled at her to go home and come back during the day, when she would be in and out in five minutes.

She told Haaretz she decided to stay at that point because if they would only give her five minutes for a serious crime, then they weren't going to take her seriously the next day either.

Around 11:30 P.M., while still outside on the bench she started crying, and a woman tried to comfort her. According to the young woman, when the policeman noticed this other woman trying to console her, he said derisively to the other woman, "'Oh, I see you've found a friend. Now you won't mind waiting,'" she recalled.

Shortly after that, her boyfriend arrived, and they were allowed to sit on the floor in the hallway. More complainants arrived. She decided that if she did not get in by midnight she would leave. Shortly after that a Haredi couple arrived to report a hit-and-run. The investigator told them to come back tomorrow, and that's when the young woman left.

"I told the investigator he let us down and left the place, feeling bullied," she said, noting that she wondered how it was possible that the police would not pay any attention to a woman who underwent sexual assault.

On her way home from the station, the young woman noticed a police car. She presented the photo of the suspect to the officer and related that he had sexually assaulted her. "They looked at the photo and told me that I had to go to the police station to file a complaint," she said. "I didn't know if I should laugh or cry."

Haaretz asked Wednesday for a response from the Tel Aviv District police, and the story was relayed to Commander Albert Ohayoun, the senior commander in the Dan district. Commander Ohayoun instructed to have the young woman come in and offer her account of what happened to an officer at the station, at a convenient time for her.

The complainant, who moved to Israel two years ago, returned to the station Wednesday afternoon and reported the assault to police investigators. "The top-most people in the station took my complaint personally," she told Haaretz Thursday. "They apologized profusely."

The police spokesman's office responded: "Immediately after receiving the information, the police contacted the victim of the crime and coordinated her arrival the same day to provide testimony at the police station. An examination of the event revealed that the complainant did not report the event immediately and arrived at the station 24 hours after the incident. At that time there were numerous arrested suspects at the station, and the complainant was asked to wait or to come in the following day."