In Israel, 7 in 10 Sex Crime Complaints by Migrants and Tourists Don’t End Up in Court

Many female caregivers are sexually harassed by their clients, says Knesset report.

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Israeli Police have closed the files of 68 percent of sex-crime complaints filed by female foreign workers and tourists over the last five years, about half of them for lack of evidence, according to police figures.

Between the beginning of 2009 and October, 2012, police report 251 files opened for suspected sex crimes against foreign workers and tourists. Of these, 230 proceeded to the prosecution, but 170 were eventually closed. Only two files were closed because the prosecution deemed the individual accused not guilty. In 86 other cases (50.5%), the files were closed for lack of evidence, in 36 cases (21.1%) because the perpetrator was unknown, 22 cases (12.9%) for lack of interest to the public and another 24 for various reasons.

The figures, which appear in a report prepared by the Knesset research department for the Knesset Committee on Foreign Workers, indicate that most of the complaints by foreign workers are of serious crimes. One hundred cases (39.8 %) involved rape, 130 (51.8 %) were of indecent acts and 21 (8.4 %) for sexual harassment. The figures show that the numbers of sex-crime complaints by foreign workers has remained stable over the past few years.

There are 44,420 female foreign workers in Israel, 97.6 percent of whom work as caregivers. Many must remain with their client around the clock and in many cases, the alleged attacker or harasser is their client. Many are afraid to lodge a complaint for fear of losing their job and facing deportation.

The police say it is difficult to investigate suspected sex crimes against female foreign workers because in some cases the women do not cooperate and in others, victims ask to return to their home country and cannot be kept here to testify.

In a meeting last week of the Knesset Committee on Foreign Workers, Jane (fictitious name), 38, from the Philippines who has been in Israel since 2007, told the committee that she first turned to her placement agency for help when the man for whom she worked began to harass her, but after nothing was done she went to the police. She said that a few months after she started working for the man, “he began asking for things that are not part of my job as a caregiver, like watching sex films at night. He would take my hands to touch him and would touch me, my chest,” she said. She said she was going public and telling her story to the committee to convey a message. “I am not alone. There are many like me and something has to be done so this will stop,” she said.

According to Idit Leibovich, coordinator for caregivers at the workers rights group Kav La’Oved, about half the women who approach Kav La’Oved are victims of sexual attack or harassment. “These are the weakest workers in Israeli society, ‘easy’ victims who are afraid to talk and so there’s no chance anyone will know.”

Committee chairwoman MK Michal Rosin (Meretz) said: “It is inconceivable that women who are invited to Israel to care for the elderly and the handicapped should find themselves left open to sexual violence and harassment either from patients or their families…It is our responsibility to protect them and I hope the interior minister will join the effort to fight this phenomenon immediately.”

A migrant worker in Ra’anana (illustrative).Credit: Alon Ron

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