For Second Year, 80 Percent of Sex-offense Cases in Israel End Without Charges

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Demonstrators in Tel Aviv protesting a decision by the State Prosecutor's Office in a rape case involving a 13-year-old girl, earlier this year.
Demonstrators in Tel Aviv protesting a decision by the State Prosecutor's Office in a rape case involving a 13-year-old girl, earlier this year. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Some 80 percent of sex-offense cases in Israel last year were closed without an indictment being filed, the same rate as in 2019, according to figures released Monday by the Association of Rape Crisis Centers.

The data also showed the number of requests for help received by the association’s members doubled in five years, to some 50,000 in 2020. Of those, almost 14,000 were by accusers who had never previously reported an assault – a 9 percent rise from 2019 and 52 percent increase on 2015.

The association’s annual report includes data both from the organization itself and other bodies such as the Israel Police, State Prosecutor’s Office, Israel Prison Service, labor courts, the Education Ministry and Israel Defense Forces.

The figures showed that 89 percent of the requests for assistance were by women. Fifty-seven percent of the total requests were in regard to minors, with 33 percent involving minors between 13 and 18. In 89 percent of the requests, the alleged perpetrator was known to the accuser and in 32 percent of cases it was a family member.

The alleged incident occurred in the accuser’s home in 53 percent of the cases.

The most widely reported category of offense was rape or attempted rape, which involved 37 percent of all requests for assistance.

According to the police, 5,903 sex-offense cases were opened in 2020, which was a 2 percent increase from 2019 and an 8 percent increase from 2015. In 81.5 percent of the cases, the accusers were females of all ages.

The police said there was a decline in reported sex offenses against children of both sexes, from 1,043 in 2019 to 854 last year. However, the association noted that many sex offenses against minors are never reported and that the decline might have been due to COVID lockdowns, which prevented school officials from identifying possible victims.

The State Prosecutor’s Office said the police handed over 4,521 cases that detailed allegations of sexual violence or sexual misconduct last year. Of those, 888 involved rape allegations, a 2 percent drop from 2019. A further 1,867 cases involved alleged indecent acts, representing a 4 percent rise.

Only a fifth of the cases actually led to an indictment. Of those, 36 percent had come from police investigators with a recommendation to close the case immediately.

Demonstrators in Tel Aviv protesting a decision by the State Prosecutor's Office in a rape case involving a 13-year-old girl, earlier this year. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

In 68 percent of the cases, the investigation was closed due to insufficient evidence. In the closed cases where the accuser appealed the state prosecutor’s decision, 97 percent of the appeals were rejected. (In only two cases were the investigations subsequently carried out in full.)

In 2020, the State Prosecutor’s Office submitted 80 requests to the attorney general to extend the statute of limitations in order to move forward with an indictment. This was more than seven times the number in 2019.

In a response to Haaretz, the office said it filed 744 indictments for sex offenses last year, a 30 percent increase over the past five years.

“The rate of indictments for sex offenses is no lower than for other offenses, and the rate of sex-offense cases that were closed is identical to that for all other offenses,” it stated. “About 85 percent of those indictments for sex offenses ended in full or partial convictions, or it was determined that the defendant committed the crime but wasn’t convicted.”

The State Prosecutor’s Office also responded to questions about sex-offense complaints against police officers. It said that 60 percent of such complaints resulted in investigations or other probes by the Justice Department’s internal affairs unit. The rate was similar to internal investigations for other accusations. About 70 percent of the cases ended because the complainant declined to cooperate, “despite the efforts that were made,” it added

All told, 68 complaints were filed against police officers last year, of which 35 percent were investigated and 89 percent were closed without an indictment. Only nine indictments were filed against police officers for sex offenses in 2020.

The Prison Service reported that it was holding 885 prisoners and detainees for sexual offenses last year, a 21 percent decline from 2015. There were 1,270 sex offenders released who remained under some kind of supervision, of whom 40 percent were defined as “high risk.”

In the education system, 4,652 cases were referred to the Education Ministry’s sexual assault prevention unit. That was an increase of 24 percent over 2019 but lower than in previous years. In 2019-20, 194 teachers were investigated on suspicion of committing sex offenses.

The ministry said it had no figures for ultra-Orthodox educational institutions, which account for about a fifth of Israel’s school population and are handled separately.

In the Israeli army, meanwhile, 2,261 complaints were filed with the chief of staff’s adviser on gender affairs – an 105 percent increase from 2015. Of those, 1,542 were cases within the army and 702 involved civilians.

“Unfortunately, the urgent need reflected in complaints to our centers wasn’t reflected in the data provided by law enforcement authorities,” said Association of Rape Crisis Centers CEO Orit Solitziano.

“Even though only a small number of victims ever make a complaint, about 30 percent of the cases that have been transferred by the police to the State Prosecutors’ Office come with the outrageous recommendation that they be closed immediately,” she said.

“Due to this wholesale dismissal of cases, we joined lawsuits and other legal proceedings with the aim of improving the dismal numbers,” Solitziano said. “The National Program for Combating Sexual Violence is ready. Now it’s just a matter of the new government making a decision,” she added, referring to a blueprint to address the problem.

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