Editorial |

Rape, Negligence and Suicide

Haaretz Editorial
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IDF soldiers.
IDF soldiers.Credit: Olivia Pitusi
Haaretz Editorial

There can be no glossing over the tragic case of the female soldier who ended her life 10 days after being raped. We cannot be satisfied with the customary answers from the Military Police that they have “opened an investigation into the circumstances of the incident” and that “for reasons related to confidentiality and the sensitivity of the information that is being sought, we cannot comment on the allegations.”

The Israel Defense Forces must comment on the harsh allegations that have been raised and turn this case into an alarm bell with regard to everything connected to the mental health care that the army provides to its soldiers. The soldier in question approached a commander nine days prior to her death, recounting that she had been raped at a party off her base a day before and was in a difficult emotional state. From that point on, there was a series of failures that culminated in her death.

She was not referred to a special trauma room for victims of sexual assault. And representatives from the IDF’s mental health system and the chief of staff’s gender adviser’s unit did not meet with her, despite the information that they were given. Her access to weapons was not halted, as is required, and neither the Israel Police nor investigators of the Military Police were alerted to her case.

The soldier had also tried to end her life a day before her suicide. She was released from the hospital without support services or supervision from the army, and her access to weapons was not limited. When she returned to her base from the hospital, she went into her commander’s room, took his weapon, left a letter behind and shot herself to death.

The negligence didn’t end there. After it was decided to examine her body in the presence of experts from the coroner’s office, the IDF didn’t provide those involved in the examination with details regarding her rape and her attempted suicide a day before she killed herself. Instead, as soon as news of her death was received, senior army officials were quick to obtain legal advice from specialists in the field.

“The IDF shares the family’s sorrow and will continue to support them,” the army stated. But the major question is why they didn’t provide support to the soldier herself? Why didn’t they provide her with proper treatment after she reported the rape? Why did professionals make do with a short telephone call when she was in the hospital rather than meeting with her? Why didn’t they limit her access to weapons? Why didn’t the army create a safe setting for her?

The army’s claim that “a female or male soldier who is assaulted has various mental assistance facilities and support at their disposal” does not stand the test of reality because the facilities did not respond as they should have, and in fact abandoned this soldier. Her case should be thoroughly investigated, and after that is done, the entire chain of command that failed needs to be held accountable.

This is also an opportunity to lift the thick veil obscuring suicides by IDF soldiers. Despite claims of confidentiality, it is frequently aimed at protecting those who have failed to look after the soldiers as required by their positions.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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