90% of Rape Cases in Israel Closed Without Indictment, Study Finds

Report from the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel finds 40 percent increase in number of Israelis reporting sexual assault

Demonstrators at Tel Aviv's 'Slutwalk" against sexual assault at Rabin Square, August 20, 2019.
Meged Gozani

There has been a 40-percent rise in the number of people turning for assistance to rape crisis centers in Israel in the past five years, according to a new report.

Last year, 51,000 men and women filed complaints of sexual assault at rape crisis centers. According to the report, issued by the Association of Rape Crisis centers in Israel, and presented on Tuesday to President Reuven Rivlin, despite the rise in complaints, a higher percentage of rape cases were closed by the prosecution last year than in 2016–2017. Most cases of sexual offenses were closed for lack of evidence.

According to the figures, 91.3 percent of rape complaints filed last year were closed, as opposed to 88.8 percent in 2017 and 89.1 percent in 2016. Indictments were filed in 8.7 percent of the cases in 2018, as opposed to 11.2 percent in 2017 and 10.9 percent in 2016.

The rate of closure by the prosecution for cases of sexual harassment remained about the same last year as in 2016 and 2017 – 83 percent last year and in 2016, and 84 percent in 2017.

In 2018, 6,220 complaints of sexual harassment were filed with the police, as opposed to 6,030 in 2017 and 5,868 in 2016. Of these cases, about half last year involved complaints by minors, a 2-percent rise over 2017.

The greatest increase in complaints in 2018 as opposed to 2017 were for rape, a jump of 12 percent, while the rate of police complaints for sexual offenses overall increased by only 3 percent.

Of those turning to rape crisis centers for help, 11 percent were men.

The report notes that 88 percent of those cases, the assailant was a person who knew the victim.

Of the cases involving minors between the ages of 13 and 18, 7.2 percent were for gang assaults – more than double the percentage of complaints of this type involving adults.

In 67 percent of assaults on children under 12 the assailant was a family member. About one third of assaults on adult women were workplace-related.

According to figures provided in the report by the Justice Ministry department that investigates police misconduct, 79 complaints of sexual assault and sexual harassment were filed against police in 2018. Only 15 percent of these resulted in indictments – 5 percent fewer than in 2017– while 28 percent resulted in disciplinary action and 57 percent were closed.

Figures provided by the army show that in 2018, 1,706 cases of sexual assault were reported to the army’s adviser to the chief of staff on gender affairs – 15 percent more than in 2017, but more than double the number in 2013.

Despite the increase in complaints, in 2018 only 165 cases resulted in investigations launched by the military police. Of those cases, 14 percent were opened against an officer with the rank of lieutenant colonel or above, but none was indicted. According to the figures, officers constitute 26 percent of suspects but only 5 percent of those indicted.

The rape crisis center report also includes figures provided by the Israel Prison Service. These show a decline of 17 percent in the number of prisoners serving time for sexual offenses compared to 2012. Of these, 58 percent are serving their second sentence or more for such offenses, and 17 percent are serving their fifth sentence or more. Only a little less than half of all sexual offenders took part in therapeutic programs in prison.

Orit Sulizeanu, executive director of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, said that despite the rise in appeals to rape crisis centers, “in the justice and enforcement systems there’s nothing new under the sun.” Deploring the large number of cases that are closed, she added that “behind these numbers are girls, boys, women and men who have to deal themselves with the assault and receive no help, recognition or justice.”

“Change has begun, but the challenge is far from over,” said Rivlin upon receiving the report.