New Data Show More Domestic Violence, but Fewer Indictments

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A battered women's shelter in 2016
A battered women's shelter in 2016Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron

Nearly 70 percent of files opened for domestic violence in Israel in 2017 were ultimately closed without any indictment, usually due to a lack of evidence.

That is according to statistics of the Public Security Ministry, published here for the first time, in response to a request by MK Itzik Shmuli of the Zionist Union.

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The data showed that in the last five years there has been an increase in the number of files opened for domestic violence (including murder, attempted murder, assault and threats) but a decline in indictments. Whereas in 2013 about 17,500 files were opened and about 6,500 indictments were filed, in 2017 about 18,200 files were opened but only about 5,300 cases were followed by indictments. The main reason for closing some 70 percent of files is a lack of evidence.

“These files are sometimes a matter of one person’s word against another, and the files are closed quickly,” said a law enforcement source. “The fact is that so many of the criminals of this type are recidivists, whom we don’t arrest quickly enough, and even if they serve a prison sentence they return to the same way of life. Women and children who suffer from violence in Israel don’t really receive full protection.”

A battered women's shelter in Herzliya in 2016Credit: Meged Gozani

The statistics revealed that there are over 10,000 assailants who have had between three and 20 various complaints filed against them for violence; 5,716 assailants with three complaints against them; 2,585 with four complaints; and 1,253 with five complaints.

The high percentage of recidivism is also reflected in the data of the Israel Prison Service. As of March 2018, 32 percent of those arrested for domestic violence were serving a sixth sentence or more, 23 percent were serving a third to fifth sentence, 15 percent a second sentence, and only 30 percent were serving their first sentence. This is a gradual and significant increase in the number of prisoners who have been serving multiple jail times in recent years. In 2011, 20.5 percent of the prisoners were serving a sixth sentence or more; in 2013, 27 percent; and in 2016, 30 percent. In the past five years about 21,500 files were opened for domestic violence against children, of them 31 percent (6,740 files) were closed for “lack of public interest.” Only in 12 percent of these cases were indictments filed.

According to Shmuli, a member of the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee: “The numbers prove the extent to which female victims of violence have been abandoned to their fate. The most scandalous item of all relates to the wholesale closing of files of those who assault women and children, for lack of public interest.

“The fact that tens of thousands of files are closed for lack of evidence also indicates that the forces invested in protecting the victims and in enforcement are too meager. The result will be that a victim of violence or her children who see the data will lose faith in the system, and be convinced that there’s no point in filing a complaint.”

Of the 1,636 prisoners who are serving time for domestic violence 17.5 percent received less than a year in jail; 34.5 percent between one and five years; 21 percent got five to 15 years; 6.5 percent are doing 15 to 20 years; 12 percent, 20 years or more, and 8.5 percent got life terms.

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