Israeli Women No Longer Need to Hide Their Identities in Sexual Harassment Cases

The welcome trend of women complainants coming out into the limelight increases the chances that justice will be done for more and more women.

Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial
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All's not well in the Givati Brigade. From left: Lt. Col. Liran Hajbi, GOC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Sami Turgeman and Givati Brigade commander Col. Ofer Winter.
All's not well in the Givati Brigade. From left: Lt. Col. Liran Hajbi, GOC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Sami Turgeman and Givati Brigade commander Col. Ofer Winter.Credit: IDF Spokesperson
Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

May Fatal, the soldier who was sexually harassed by Lt. Col. Liran Hajbi, and Efrat Ya’akov, who filed a sexual harassment complaint against Hebrew University Prof. Mario Schneider, are signs of a welcome change in society’s attitude and norms of conduct toward women.

There was a time when the victims of various kinds of sexual harassment who filed complaints were forced to “become a letter,” as Fatal put it; that is, to hide behind a letter signifying their first name, such as in the case of A. from the President’s Residence, the first woman to complain against ex-President Moshe Katsav who is now serving a prison sentence for rape and sexual harassment. Worse yet were cases where women were forced remain silent, to repress the harm done to them and to come to terms with “killing the affair” in the institution where it took place.

But now the letter of public shame adheres to the attacker and not the complainant, who is revealed in public by her name and picture.

That is the way it should be, and it is logical. The complainant is not the one who should have to hide her face in shame because of what happened to her, but the commanders, teachers, employers or colleagues who crossed the line.

Fatal decided to go public in protest at the impending plea bargain with Hajbi, according to which he will be charged with conduct unbecoming an officer and discharged from the army, but will not stand trial for a criminal offense nor be demoted, as requested by the military prosecutor.

The indictment attributes to Hajbi “actions that exceeded relations between a commander and a subordinate, some of which were in a sexual context.” But Fatal describes serial harassment on the part of an individual who unhesitatingly took advantage of his authority in the military hierarchy and did not heed her demands to cease his crude comments and text messages and an attempt to kiss her.

Efrat Ya’akov also decided to make her name and photograph public in order to tell her version of the harassment to which she says she was subjeted by Schneider, which included offensive comments like “everyone knows Yemenite women are hot, I’ll take you apart too,” and repeatedly touching her.

Facebook and public discourse cannot replace the courtroom and it is not their function to make the criminal or legal process unnecessary. However, the welcome trend of women complainants coming out into the limelight shows a conceptual change. This change increases the chance that justice will be done for more and more women, who will no longer have to surrender to harmful norms that allow those in authority, in particular, and men in general, to do whatever they wish to women’s bodies and dignity.

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