Psychologists: Women's Accounts of Rape by Katsav Were Credible

Specialist in sexual abuse trauma tells High Court that Mazuz was insensitive to victims' psychological state.

Psychology experts say the attorney general erred in his interpretation of the testimonies of women who said former president Moshe Katsav raped them, according to a document presented to the High Court of Justice on Sunday.

An opinion by Dr. Zvia Zeligman, a specialist in psychological trauma caused by sexual abuse, states that if Attorney General Menachem Mazuz had been sensitive to the women's psychological state, he would not have erred in interpreting contradictions in the testimonies as posing "evidentiary obstacles" in the case.

Zeligman says the internal contradictions in the testimonies reinforce their authenticity and are sufficient to indict Katsav for rape.

Zeligman's opinion was presented to the court ahead of next week's deliberations on the petitions filed against the plea-bargain agreement Mazuz reached with Katsav this summer.

The deposition by the clinical psychologist was part of a statement made by the Association of the Centers Assisting Victims of Sexual Abuse, one of the groups that petitioned against the plea bargain.

According to attorney Dafna Holtz-Lechner, representing the association, "the attorney general made a serious error when he examined the evidence on sexual abuse without placing it in the context of the psychological damage. In order to understand the testimony of a woman who underwent continued sexual abuse, it is necessary to put on the right lenses [through] specialist evaluations that can offer an explanation."

Zeligman is the founder and director of the unit at Ichilov Hospital for treating adults who suffered sexual trauma at a young age. In her deposition, she analyzes the psychological condition of women who suffer sexual abuse.

Zeligman points to the victims' inability to describe what happened to them in a linear fashion, offering instead fractions of facts to the police.

She says this occurs because the women are not sure about what happened, about their need for recognition from the attacker, about their feeling of uncertainty from being sexually exploited, and because they developed feelings of dependence toward the attacker.

The conclusion, according to Zeligman, is that the confusion in the testimonies and the lack of coherence reinforce the reliability of the testimony. She adds that if the testimony is free of flaws, it suggests there has not been any psychological harm.

In a statement released by Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch on Sunday, the association argues that "contrary to what is required and expected from the prosecution in Israel, the attorney general opted to ignore the explanations provided by the mental health professionals, who offered a professional and convincing interpretation to the dynamic ... behind the behavior and testimony of the victims."

Beinisch said the interpretation was "on the basis of clinical experience and research that exceeds 30 years," showing that there was no substance to the claim of "evidentiary obstacles" as raised by the attorney general.