There has been a decline of 47 percent over the past four years in complaints to police of sexual offenses, the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel reports.
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According to the association’s annual report, released Sunday, out of the 40,000 complaints of sex crimes that reached rape crisis centers in 2014, only 13 percent were subsequently filed with the police. This is in contrast to 2010–2011, when some 20 percent of complaints to the centers were filed with the police, 17 percent in and approximately 15 percent in 2013.
It is possible that in some cases complainants went directly to the police, not through rape crisis centers, or that a number of complaints by the same woman were treated as one case by the police.
All in all, in 2014, 5,974 complaints of sexual offenses were filed with the police.
MK Aida Touma-Suliman (Joint Arab List), chairwoman of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, called the information in the association’s report “disturbing and shocking” and called on the police to check into what is behind the decline and “why women don’t have faith in the police and the way it deals with their complaints.”
A 20-year-old woman from central Israel, who was a victim of sexual violence by her domestic partner and went to the police last year to file a complaint, says she was humiliated. “I revealed the most sensitive and painful things and I wanted the person sitting opposite me to be on my side in. But the way he asked me the questions he made me feel like it was my fault. They were intimate questions whose relevance to the investigation I didn’t understand. I felt that I had to prove that it was his fault that he hurt me. I have enough guilt feelings already, that I failed, I don’t need the police making me feel guilty,” she said.
The police spokesman’s department said that police figures “indicate a rise in the extent of reporting,” adding: “The association’s data are based only on declarations of the alleged victim when approaching the crisis center and thus they are partial and do not indicate actual reporting. Naturally the decision to file a complaint of a sexual offense is complex and based on a variety of personal considerations by the victim. The police work in close cooperation with rape crisis centers to provide the best response in dealing with the matter.”
Figures from the State Prosecutor’s Office obtained by Haaretz show an 18-percent increase in 2014 over the previous year in indictments for sexual offenses. However, despite the increase, many files on sex crimes that reach the State Prosecutor’s Office do not end in indictment. In 2014, the prosecution opened nearly 4,000 cases, but indictments resulted in only 720 of these. Nevertheless, some of these cases are still pending and indictments may still be filed.
Of the cases that reach the courts, an overwhelming 81 percent result in convictions and only 4 percent received an innocent verdict.
Nearly 70 percent of the cases involve indecent acts and about 15 percent involve charges of rape.
Figures obtained by Haaretz also show that 3,774 complaints of sexual violence against minors reached rape crisis centers, but only 2,505 police files were opened. Last year, according to figures from the State Prosecutor’s Office, 58 cases were brought to court, 90 percent of which resulted in convictions.
This year the association’s report deals for the first time with sexual offenses in digital media. In 2014, the police received 119 complaints of sexual harassment by posting of a photo or recording, and the prosecution opened 94 cases on charges of posting an obscene publication.
The rape crisis centers reported 80 complaints of sexual offenses on the Internet or telephone, in which only 1.4 percent knew the offender.
Orit Sulitzeanu, CEO of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers, wrote in the report: “We have chosen to focus on sexual offenses in the virtual arena and the ways to protect children from the new dangers lurking on this media. Sexual offenses on the Web are especially dangerous and cruel because of the ability to hurt a large number of victims with a single keystroke.”