Imprisoning a female soldier who had reported being raped showed “an appalling lack of compassion,” a female senior army officer told Haaretz yesterday.
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Some two weeks ago Haaretz reported that a female soldier who had reported being raped and then failed to return from sick leave to her base, had been sentenced to 10 days in military prison.
The soldier said she had gone AWOL because she was in emotional distress, but her commanders sent her to prison all the same. Following the report in the media, Ground Forces commander Guy Zur granted the soldier a pardon and ordered her release.
The incident evoked angry reactions from women’s rights organizations. The director of the Authority for the Advancement of Women’s Status in the Prime Minister’s Office, Vered Swid, demanded that the soldier’s commanders be tried for neglect of duty because they “ignored the soldier’s mental state after the trauma she had undergone.”
IDF officials now admit the incident should have been treated with more sensitivity and that the soldier should not have been sent to jail, although it was in keeping with military orders.
However, the officials handling the case saw no place to take any measures against the soldier’s commanders, saying they could hardly be tried on the basis of insensitivity. An official said that the soldier’s commanders and other commanders have been briefed on how they should have handled the case.
“When someone reports being sexually assaulted and ends up in prison – it’s a mistake, although they acted according to the orders. It’s the kind of occurrence they must learn a lesson from, but I don’t think punishing commanders will achieve a better performance,” the female officer said.
“This is a case of insensitivity, but it doesn’t characterize the IDF. The army that I know acts differently. This is an exception,” she said.
The soldier had been raped in a nightclub while on leave. After learning the details of her complaint, her commanders contacted the army’s rape crisis center.
IDF sources said the soldier had refused to go to the center for support, but her commanders had received instructions on how she should be treated from then on. Only after that, when the soldier went AWOL from her base and was seen as a deserter, was it decided to put her on disciplinary trial and send her to military prison, the sources said.
After the soldier submitted a pardon request, Zur granted it. “It was clear [that sending her to prison] was utterly insensitive. It was a harsh act, lacking in compassion, but at least someone realized it was a mishap and it was solved,” the officer said.