Study: Huge Gap Between Compensation Paid to Victims in Civil, Criminal Sexual Harassment Cases

The study, conducted by Dr. Orit Kamir of the Peres Academic Center and statistician Ronit Harrisexamined 420 criminal, civil and disciplinary cases held in the past five years.

The average compensation awarded by criminal courts for sexual harassment is NIS 5,500, as compared to the NIS 38,660 average given in civil cases, a new study has found.

Conducted by Dr. Orit Kamir of the Peres Academic Center and statistician Ronit Harris, the study examined 420 criminal, civil and disciplinary cases held in the past five years. Kamir, who helped write the law against sexual harassment 13 years ago, said she remains optimistic about the courts' serious approach to the law and its application.

Their research found the following was true for the 118 criminal cases studied: 37 percent of the convicted sexual harasser received a prison sentence; 87 percent received a suspended sentence; 37 percent were sentenced to community work; 38 percent were sentenced to pay a fine to the state; and 70 percent were requested to compensate the complainant. More than one punishment was applied in most sentences.

When the harassment complaint against an employer or workplace superior is heard in a criminal process, two thirds of offenders are given a suspended sentence, and only 15 to 19 percent are sent to jail, the study found. A third of the offenders who were the complainants' colleagues are sent to jail, and a another third are handed a suspended sentence. The research found that 60 percent of other offenders are sent to prison.

In a criminal process, the sooner a complaint is filed, the greater the chances that the offender will be convicted. When a complaint was made immediately after an incident, 85 percent of the offenders were convicted; when the complaint was made a year later, however, only 55 percent were convicted, the study found.

Another finding of the research done by Kamir and Harris concerned the lawyers representing the accused in such criminal processes. The most severe sentences were handed to offenders who were represented by both a man and a woman; the next most severe sentences were given to offenders represented only by a male attorney; and the most lenient sentences were handed down when the defendant was represented only by a woman.

On the other hand, when the prosecution is represented by a woman alone, the chances of the accused being sent to prison are twice as high as when the prosecutor is a man, and four-times higher than when the prosecuting team includes both a man and a woman.

The study also found a connection between the relationship between an accused and an accuser in the workplace hierarchy, and the likelihood that a subordinate would file a complaint. The higher the accused sat above the complainant in the workplace hierarchy, the less she was inclined to complain, as long as she continued to work under him.

Only 22.6 percent of plaintiffs lodged complaints against an employer while still working for him, as compared to 80 to 90 percent who filed complaints against colleagues working at the same level and immediate superiors while still at the workplace.

Public sector employees who complained of sexual harassment at their workplace were found to be 50 percent less likely to complain to the police than employees in the private sector. The gap is explained in the study by the fact that public servants can complain to the Civil Service Commission, which operates its own disciplinary system.