More Israeli Soldiers Reporting Sexual Harassment

Male soldiers make up 9 percent of the reported victims compared to 4 percent two years ago.

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More Israeli soldiers reported experiencing sexual abuse in 2013 than they did in 2012, the army chief of staff's women's affairs adviser has reported.

In 2013, there were 561 male and female Israeli soldiers who reported sexual abuse, compared to 511 in 2012, as reported by the chief of staff’s women’s affairs adviser, Brig. Gen. Rachel Tevet Wiesel, to the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, headed by MK Aliza Lavie.

Among the incidents, 49 percent were physical forms of sexual harassment and the rest were verbal assaults. Four percent were incidents of rape, while the majority of reported assaults ranged from an unwelcome touch of a foot, for example, or a kiss on the cheek.

In addition, there were 396 reports of incidents under civilian circumstances, where the victim of harassment was outside a military framework. This is an increase from the 266 harassment reports of female soldiers in 2012. Men make up 9 percent of the victims, compared to only 4 percent two years ago. “In my opinion that indicates not only an increase in the number of victims but an increase in the number of men who permit themselves to turn to the (IDF's coping and support) center due to its accessibility and the preservation of anonymity, and because there is no obligation to report to the commanders,” said Tevet Wiesel.

Out of almost 1,000 complaints in 2013, only one soldier was released from the army as a result of the sexual abuse incident. All the other victims received support and the tools needed for dealing with what happened and continued to function within the system.

The chair of the Knesset committee, Aliza Lavie, said: “The handling in the framework of the army and the incomprehensible leniency of the punishment in the past three incidents of sexual abuse among senior officers is disturbing. Shouldn’t jurisdiction be taken out of the hands of the army? I welcome the army’s therapeutic framework, I’m happy about the transparency, but I don’t consider it the end of the story. When we receive data, we have to see what we didn’t receive; they don’t completely reflect what happened, there are some girls who choose not to complain.”

The IDF spokesperson's office said in response: "The IDF takes very seriously the issue of harm on a sexual basis and invests great efforts to eradicate the phenomenon. Recently, there has been an increase in explanations and information about the possibility of reporting and complaints, and leading this is the establishment of a coping and support center, there has been a certain increase in the number of complaints. Every complaint that we receive is examined individually and treated seriously."

IDF soldiers during a training exercise. The defense establishment says it will have to cut back on training.Credit: Ilan Assayag
MK Aliza Lavie in the KnessetCredit: Emil Salman

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