Mother vows to fight for rape charges against 13-year-old’s alleged attacker

After teen allegedly assaulted in quarantine hotel, mother says light charges against suspect ‘give legitimacy’ to future attackers

Women protest sexual assault laws during the trial of alleged rapist Yarin Sherif in Tel Aviv, March 12, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Women protest sexual assault laws during the trial of alleged rapist Yarin Sherif in Tel Aviv, March 12, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The mother of a 13-year-old girl who says she was sexually assaulted by a man while quarantining at a hotel for coronavirus patients run by state welfare services described the ordeal in interviews on Saturday.

The alleged incident occurred late last month at the hotel, which provides virus quarantine for youths who are not able to self-isolate at home.

“She’s a young girl, she’s 13, everything is a mess for her,” she told Channel 13. “Physically, she’s not functioning. Most of the time she’s in bed, she’s vomiting a lot, at certain moments she disconnects. At certain moments it comes back to her in flashbacks. It’s very, very difficult for her.”

She castigated officials for not charging the defendant in the case with rape and vowed to continue to press for the charge.

Yarin Sherf, 21, was indicted at Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on charges of forbidden consensual relations, sexual harassment, making threats, assault, and giving an intoxicating drink to a minor, but not rape.

Yarin Sherf, suspected of raping a 13-year-old girl at a quarantine hotel, seen in an online video (via Facebook)

“It was a huge shock for us when we heard,” she said. “We will of course not give up and will appeal to the High Court if we need to.”

The lack of a rape charge “gives legitimacy to potential rapists,” she said.

“If raising a hand against a girl, and violence, and lack of consent are called consensual, then where are we in 2021?” she asked.

She told Channel 12 she had reached out to welfare services for help because her daughter was struggling with the pandemic.

Her face was concealed during the emotional interview to preserve her daughter’s anonymity.

“I turned to welfare services to prevent a dangerous situation for my daughter that I recognized might happen. And what happened was welfare services got involved, and my daughter, who was sick with coronavirus, was transferred to a quarantine hotel,” she said.

Yarin Sherf, suspected of raping 13-year-old girl at a quarantine hotel, is seen on a screen via a video link during a court hearing at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court, March 1, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

She said she had opposed her daughter going to the hotel, but that welfare workers had reassured her that the girl would be safe and under supervision at all times. Authorities told her that only other children under the protection of welfare services would be at the hotel.

“I had an uneasy feeling the whole time. The social workers and counselors knew this clearly. I told them I was afraid,” she said. “I didn’t think for a second that the state could put a 13-year-old girl with an adult man, age 21, a criminal in every way, who was in prison once already, and put the two of them in the same building.”

The girl’s mother said on Thursday expressed her outrage at the end of the court hearing that failed to indict the man on rape charges.

“I cannot believe I have to say this — I feel like they raped my daughter a second time,” she said.

The State Attorney’s Office on Friday said it would reassess the decision not to file the rape charges.

Acting State Prosecutor Amit Aisman was set to convene an urgent meeting on the matter during the week.

The announcement by the State Attorney’s Office followed outrage over the decision to not charge Sherf with rape.

People demonstrate support for a 13-year-old girl as a Yarin Shref, 21, was indicted for having sex with her, seen outside the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court, March 11, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The decision also drew an outcry from activists and as the indictment was filed Thursday at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court, demonstrators rallied near the courthouse to show their support for the girl.

Although under Israeli law, sex with a minor who is below the age of 14 is considered rape, even if consensual, prosecutors shied away from filing the charge because the alleged victim had told Sherf that she was 14.

Prosecutors asked that Sherf be held in custody until the end of the proceedings.

“The respondent took advantage of the power difference between him and the minor, and despite his understanding of her very young age, did not stop his actions until he obtained what he wanted,” said prosecutor Ravit Shafir, who filed the indictment.

The incident comes amid several recent high-profile cases involving violence against women in Israel, a trend that has drawn protest demonstrations demanding the government take action against the episodes.

The co-founder of ZAKA emergency services was accused of sexual assault by six people in a report this week.

Earlier this week three men were arrested for allegedly gang-raping a 16-year-old girl in the north of the country.

In February, a police officer was charged with murder for allegedly shooting his wife dead in the West Bank settlement of Na’ale earlier that month.

Days earlier, a man was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the rape and premeditated murder of his former wife’s 12-year-old daughter.

In September last year, 11 men were indicted in the alleged gang rape of a 16-year-old girl at a hotel in Eilat, in a case that shocked the country and spurred calls for reforms.

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