‘We will not be silent any longer’

Knes­set panel con­tends that ‘Me too’ cam­paign high­lights fail­ures by po­lice and le­gal sys­tem

The Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By AMY SPIRO

MKs and women’s rights ac­tivists de­manded a change in the way so­ci­ety and the le­gal sys­tem deals with sex­ual ha­rass­ment and as­sault com­plaints, dur­ing a meet­ing called in the wake of the #metoo so­cial me­dia cam­paign.

The Knes­set Com­mit­tee on the Sta­tus of Women met on Tues­day to dis­cuss “No longer silent – the #metoo cam­paign and the day af­ter, speak­ing up.”

Sev­eral MKs, as well as rep­re­sen­ta­tives of women’s groups, spoke up about the sea change that has oc­curred in the past few weeks, and the need for more ac­tion.

“I am proud and I honor women who were brave enough to share their sto­ries and be part of this phe­nom­e­non,” said com­mit­tee’s chair­woman and Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sli­man. “And I honor those who have not spo­ken up yet be­cause I know the price those who speak out pay. But we will not be silent any longer.”

Many of those present, in­clud­ing jour­nal­ist Gaya Koren, spoke about the crit­i­cism, sham­ing and at­tacks that women who speak out face, and how it de­ters them from com­ing for­ward.

“I can un­der­stand women who don’t speak up, or don’t speak up un­til years later,” said Koren.

Meretz MK Ta­mar Zand­berg said turn­ing to the po­lice af­ter be­ing at­tacked can “feel like a sec­ond rape,” es­pe­cially when women are forced to face ques­tions about their be­hav­ior, their re­la­tion­ship his­tory, their cloth­ing and their mo­ti­va­tions for com­ing for­ward.

“When women speak up, peo­ple say ‘why are you bring­ing things up from decades ago,’” said Zion­ist Union MK Re­vi­tal Swid. “When a woman is ha­rassed or as­saulted, no­body asks her if it was a con­ve­nient time for her.”

Sev­eral of those present as­serted that the #metoo cam­paign, where women speak out on so­cial me­dia, shows the sys­temic fail­ure of the le­gal sys­tem to ad­dress th­ese sit­u­a­tions.

“The le­gal au­thor­i­ties have failed on this is­sue,” said Zion­ist Union MK Nach­man Shai. “Women know that po­lice are not the place to turn to – no­body wants to go to a place where the ac­cusers will be­come the ac­cused.”

Orit Sulitzeanu, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of The As­so­ci­a­tion for Rape Cri­sis Cen­ters in Is­rael, told the com­mit­tee that there are real and sig­nif­i­cant changes that can be made in the le­gal realm.

Firstly, she said, to “stop pros­e­cu­tors from ask­ing [vic­tims] all the ques­tions they do,” – about women’s past be­hav­ior and ac­tiv­i­ties. And se­condly, she said, to lengthen the statute of lim­i­ta­tions for sex­ual ha­rass­ment from seven years.

“It takes women a long time some­times to talk about it,” said Sulitzeanu. “Seven years is noth­ing.”

Likud MK Ye­huda Glick said the To­rah de­fines rape as likened to mur­der, “and that’s how we should re­late to it. So an at­tempted rape or as­sault is like an as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt,” he said. “And I can say I know what that’s like – it’s a scar for life.”

In 2014 Glick was shot four times by a Pales­tinian ter­ror­ist and was hos­pi­tal­ized for a month.

The Likud MK said one thing this cam­paign has ac­com­plished, is to hope­fully show men how dam­ag­ing and trau­ma­tiz­ing their ac­tions can be for the women af­fected.

“I be­lieve when some men say ‘it was 20 years ago, I for­got,’” said Glick. “Maybe you for­got, but she didn’t. For her, it was a trauma.”

(Amy Spiro)

RIGHTS AC­TIVISTS meet with MKs at the Knes­set yes­ter­day to dis­cuss the ‘#metoo’ so­cial me­dia cam­paign.

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