Report: 30% increase in sexual harassment indictments in 2017

A vendor sells #MeToo badges a protest march for survivors of sexual assault and their supporters

A vendor sells #MeToo badges a protest march for survivors of sexual assault and their supporters in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California US. (photo credit: LUCY NICHOLSON / REUTERS)

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The year 2017 saw an almost 30% increase in indictments filed over sexual harassment in comparison with the previous year, KAN Bet reported Sunday.

According to the report, 129 indictments were filed last year for offenses under the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Law, compared to 96 indictments in 2016.

In 2017 a total of 2,089 cases of sexual offenses were opened, resulting in 766 legal proceedings; 77% of those ended in convictions. This is lower than the general percentage of cases which end with convictions, which stands at 82%.

Attorney Oshrat Shoham, department director in the Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office, told KAN Bet: “A lot of sex crimes are committed in closed rooms and it is one word against another, so it is difficult to expose strong evidence.”

“The percentage of closures of sexual offense cases is not different from the percentage of file closures in general,” she noted, adding that the large number of complaints attests to trust in the judicial system. “I feel that great efforts are being made by the system, and in the Attorney’s Office in particular, to improve the process that the complainants of sex offenses must go though. Over the years, there have been adjustments that encourage plaintiffs to file complaints.”

The State Prosecutor’s Office attributed the rise in the number  of the indictments to the enactment of the “Sex Tape Law”, passed in 2014, which prohibits the dissemination of sexual photos or videos of someone without his or her knowledge. Anyone who posts sexual content without permission is considered a sex offender and can be sentenced to a maximum sentence of five years in jail.

In addition, the Me Too movement, is also likely a factor in the increase of people filing complaints, having empowered sexual harassment victims to speak out.

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“We are in the technological era,” Shoham said, noting that this posed a challenge to the legal system with regard to sexual offenses. She added that the legislator behind the law, former Yesh Atid MK Yifa Kariv, redefined sexual harassment in light of a type of crime that nobody could have imagined in the 1970s or 1980s.  “Virtual offenses today are offenses for all intents and purposes,” she said.

Last week, police arrested a resident of Tirat Carmel, in the Haifa District, over suspicions that he hid behind a fraudulent lingerie company’s Instagram account to commit sexual offenses that involved tricking women into sending him nude pictures. In addition, last month, Negev District police arrested 26 men suspected of online pedophilia.

Orit Sulitzeanu, Executive Director of the The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel responded to the KAN Bet report saying: “We are happy to see the increase in the filing of indictments in sexual harassment cases in 2017. However, despite the increase, it should be emphasized that more than 80% of harassment cases are closed with no indictment – a fact that shows that even today, the legal process is not a proper and effective response for victims of sexual harassment.”

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