IDF Uses Dirty Jokes to Teach Soldiers the Ills of Sexual Harassment

The animated film, which shows a male soldier going to jail after making provocative comments to a female soldier, is part of the army's effort to raise awareness of verbal sexual harassment.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

The Israel Defense Forces this week launched a campaign against verbal sexual harassment, which includes an animated video featuring sexually suggestive dialogue.

In one scene in the film, called “It Starts with Words and Ends-Up in Court,” a female soldier is shown on kitchen duty. The voice of a male soldier serving with her, says, “I come from a 'moshav' ['farming community'], but I’ve never seen oranges like yours.” In another scene, the female soldier is in the field, and the male voice refers to having “combed the area and fired a round at her.” He then calls to the female soldier, “Aren’t you hot? Call me for inspection, and I’ll pass the baton to you.” Finally, he describes how he taught a “topography lesson” using a female soldier’s body while she “tried to get away.”

Next, the female soldier is shown crying and the male soldier begins lamenting getting in trouble with his whole base, his commanders and his parents. The film ends with an image of the male soldier in a jail cell and a narrator saying, "It starts with a few words and ends in the court room."

The IDF chief of staff’s adviser on women’s affairs, Brig. Gen. Rachel Tevet-Wiesel, told reporters Sunday that the campaign, which began this week, will feature ads on social media, signs at bases and classes given by junior officers. The goal, Tevet-Wiesel said, is to explain that words can create an environment that is insulting and rude words can turn into sexual harassment.

Tevet-Wiesel said that 2012 had seen a slight decline in reports of sexual harassment in the IDF. She would not give details, because she said the figures had not yet been presented to the chief of staff, but said that approximately 400 sexual harassment complaints are filed each year, half of which involved physical contact. About 3 percent of the reports involve severe physical harm – rape or attempted rape, she said.

Last year, the number of men reporting sexual harassment – verbal abuse as well as physical contact – rose for the first time, she said, adding that about 10 percent of sexual harassment complaints are made by men reporting acts by commanders or other soldiers.

The other 90 percent of complaints are filed by female soldiers complaining of sexual harassment by junior commanders. Last year, two female soldiers complained of sexual harassment by senior officers, with ranks of colonel and above. One case was quickly closed after a Military Police investigation turned up no evidence. In the other case, after the soldier refused to file an official complaint to the Military Police, and the officer denied the allegation, an internal investigation at the command level was made.

“The [IDF] campaign deals with dirty jokes, with things that come before sexual harassment. These acts can be found everywhere, in home front units, combat units, among high school graduates and less-educated people. There is no specific profile, either of the perpetrator or the complainant,” Tevet-Wiesel said.

A female soldier.Credit: David Bachar

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