In Israel’s citizen army, a steep rise in sex crimes
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In Israel’s citizen army, a steep rise in sex crimes

Number of indictments for sex-related offenses has nearly doubled over the past 2 years, IDF’s chief prosecutor says

Mitch Ginsburg is the former Times of Israel military correspondent.

An illustrative photo of IDF Military Police, November 17, 2014 (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit/Flickr)
An illustrative photo of IDF Military Police, November 17, 2014 (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit/Flickr)

The Israeli army has seen a 40 percent rise in the number of indictments issued for sexual crimes in the army in 2014, the IDF’s weekly magazine Bamahane reported this week. The total number of alleged sex crimes for which soldiers have been indicted — 37 — was up from 26 in 2013 and 20 the year before that.

The army’s chief prosecutor, Col. Udi Ben Eliezer, told the weekly that there were three cases in which a defendant has been charged with rape and eight cases of sexual assault.

The most common sex-related offense in the army in 2014 was for violation of privacy, he said, with 35 percent of the cases revolving around illicit photos or films of female soldiers. “I’m not sure they all understand the ruinous repercussions of their actions,” he said. “It has to be made clear that this is not some childish prank…but rather an outright criminal act.”

He cited one case of a career soldier who routinely filmed female soldiers in the shower and another of an enlisted soldier who threatened to circulate a photo of a female soldier that had been altered to make her appear naked, if she refused to have sex with him. “It’s a crude criminal act and one that includes charges of blackmail,” Ben Eliezer said.

An illustrative photo of an IDF commander at a swearing-in ceremony for female recruits on February 18, 2015 (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit/ Flickr)
An illustrative photo of an IDF commander at a swearing-in ceremony for female recruits on February 18, 2015 (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit/ Flickr)

Over the past three years the IDF Military Police have investigated 260 cases of possible sex crimes, but in a majority of the cases the alleged victims, aware of the ordeal of testifying in court, opted not to press charges. In 2014, 70 percent of the women who complained of, and sought help for, a sex-related crime perpetrated against them in the army chose not to testify in court or press charges.

“This gap causes a huge problem,” Ben Eliezer said, noting that in such instances an internal evaluation is conducted and the alleged perpetrator is warned but “no concrete steps can be taken against the man,” he said, “and he could even be promoted.”

Testifying and being cross-examined in court, he said, are “not a simple ordeal, to put it mildly,” but in the end, he said, “there is no other way.”

In the United States Armed Forces in 2014, 20,000 military personnel reported at least one instance of “unwanted sexual contact,” representing nearly five percent of all active-duty female soldiers, according to data released by the Defense Department and the Rand Corp. last December.

That figure was far higher than the official number of assaults – 5,983 – recognized by US former defense secretary Chuck Hagel in his report to President Barack Obama in November.

In the Rand report, the Military Times noted, many incidents that may have been considered hazing by the Pentagon were counted as assault. In all, the report found that nearly half the assaults reported by women and 35 percent reported by men were “penetrative sexual assaults.”

The Rand survey found that 62 percent of women who experienced a sexual assault and reported it, according to the Military Times, faced “some type of retribution or retaliation.”

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