It’s been a stormy week for B., one of the eight women whose stories were published in a Haaretz report last Friday about senior journalist Emmanuel Rosen’s alleged sexual harassment of junior colleagues.
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In that report, B. described Rosen’s relentless pursuit, which culminated in him trying to kiss her and exposing his penis to her. She was just 21 at the time, in her first job after finishing the army.
“I’ve had a very emotional week since that was published,” she told Haaretz on Thursday. “Many people have been discussing the question of ‘why don’t women complain,’ and [saying that] if empowered women, those in the media, don’t complain, what are weaker women supposed to do?”
But in reality, she said, being a journalist makes it harder to complain, because a journalist can’t expect the anonymity other complainants enjoy. Sexual harassment cases are always put under a gag order, she explained, so that “no one will know who [the victim] is – not her family, not her colleagues, no one. But journalists always know these details … So if you’re in the media and complain, everyone will know very quickly – your friends at work, your bosses, everyone. You have nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.”
B. also related that after the Haaretz report was published, she decided to discuss her experience with her friends and relatives, for the first time in the 12 years since it happened.
“The responses I heard were astonishing, especially from my girlfriends,” she said. “I discovered something shocking: That every one of them had her own story, whether it was a teacher at school, a commander in the army, a boss, a relative. There wasn’t one girl I spoke to who hadn’t suffered sexual harassment in her life. For me, it was a bit like therapy: I stopped being ashamed.”
But on the other hand, she said, she was “furious about the silence of the men who worked with him … I would have expected them to send an unequivocal message about the obligation to create workplaces that enable young women to work in dignity and safety. Yet not one of them dared to say this.”
D., another of the women whose stories were published in Haaretz last week, agreed. “The scale [of the harassment] was enormous, and many senior media figures and his colleagues were aware of it,” she said told Haaretz on Thursday. “Yet for more than a decade, nothing was dealt with and nothing was published.”
In contrast, G., whose story also appeared in last Friday’s report, said she has been shocked by “people’s enjoyment of this story. I had the feeling that the mob just wanted to see blood, and we, the witnesses, as is so often the case, had ceased to be individuals.”
Since last Friday, much has happened. The police began looking into the issue to see if a formal criminal investigation of Rosen is warranted. They questioned his former employers at Channel 2 television, who related that they fired him three years ago because another employee complained that he harassed her, though she refused to go to the police. A former colleague of Rosen’s, Gadi Sukenik, said in an interview with Channel 2 that “everybody knew” about his behavior. Rosen’s current employers – Channel 10 television, Educational Television and Radio Lelo Hafsaka – announced his immediate suspension. Rosen himself denied all the allegations. And other women came forward to testify that they, too, were harassed by him.
One of these was Y., a former resident of the Gush Katif settlements in Gaza. When she was 18, fresh out of high school, she told Haaretz, she was recruited by a major media outlet to help cover the 2005 disengagement from Gaza. There she met Rosen, who began to pursue her.
“He was always sending me messages, especially at night,” Y. said. His messages were full of praise for her talent and promises to advance her career, just as he had advanced that of K. – “another girl I knew well.” Y. was religious; she always wore long skirts and long sleeves, and never touched men. “I was very innocent, and a red light didn’t go off,” she said.
He kept asking to meet her, and she kept making excuses. She asked whether this didn’t bother his wife, “and he answered that they had an open relationship. He wrote me again and again: ‘When are we going to meet?’ I asked him ‘Why should we meet?’ He answered, ‘To raise our relationship to another level.’ I sent a question mark, and he responded, ‘To sleep together.’ I was shocked and told him not to come near me again.”
But what she found most shocking, she said, was her colleagues’ response when she told them what had happened. “When I told the gang at the station, they told me this is well known and I should stay away from him. They laughed about the situation. I understood from them that it’s clear to everyone that he’s like this, trying to sleep with girls at work … I was shocked by him, and even more so by the fact that it was so clear to everyone.”