Report on alleged rape of minor slams administrators of quarantine hotel

Welfare Ministry committee recommends legal action against location’s operator, says poor planning directly contributed to the incident

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

A Welfare and Social Services Ministry report on the alleged rape of a minor by an adult at a state-run coronavirus quarantine hotel found that a series of problems in the planning, setup, and operation of the site contributed to the incident, and recommended legal proceedings against the hotel operator.

The hotel was commissioned to provide a virus quarantine site for minors who were in child care services, along with young adults with no family support who were living in housing provided by the state’s correctional administration.

Earlier this month, the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court approved upgrading the charges against Yarin Sherf to rape over the relations he had had with a 13-year-old girl in the hotel in February. He had previously been indicted only on the charge of a forbidden consensual relationship, as well as other lesser offenses, but following a public outcry, the charges were changed.

Isolating minors and adults of both genders from correctional frameworks together at one site, without separation, was a “mistaken decision,” the ministry report, published Sunday, said.

Not providing proper separation between genders and age groups, as is usually the case in correctional programs, “directly contributed to the lack of protection [for guests], to the serious incident that happened, and to other incidents that turned out in retrospect to have occurred in the framework,” it found.

Though the guests at the hotel were divided between different floors based on gender and age, there was nothing to prevent them from moving from floor to floor; nor were there enough security cameras to cover the corridors.

The operator of the hotel had no experience in running a site within any kind of framework and “certainly not frameworks designed for marginalized populations,” the report said.

In addition, the supervisors onsite had no experience or training in dealing with the target population, which “contributed to the failure,” it said.

There was not enough planning done with relevant professionals, and the complex issues relating to the character of the expected guests were not adequately taken into consideration, the report found.

The committee recommended closing the hotel, along with instituting legal proceedings against the operator, who “did not meet obligations under the agreement, did not provide the required manpower according to the number of occupants and did not enforce predefined procedures.”

There was supposed to be one supervisor per eight residents, but on the day of the alleged rape, there were 10 residents and just one supervisor, the report found.

Yarin Sherf. (Facebook)

Sherf, 21, was at first indicted at Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on charges of prohibited consensual relations, sexual harassment, making threats, assault, and giving an intoxicating drink to a minor.

Although under Israeli law, sex with a minor who is below the age of 14 is considered rape, even with consent, prosecutors shied away from filing the charge because the alleged victim had told Sherf that she was 14 and had apparently nominally agreed to the encounter.

The original charge drew outrage from activists.

Acting State Prosecutor Amit Isman subsequently announced that he would review the matter, and prosecutors reexamined the investigative material and came to the conclusion that a rape conviction was possible.

According to the indictment, Sherf arrived at the hotel, which provided virus quarantine for youths who were not able to self-isolate at home, on February 23, when he met the girl.

Over the following hours, he established contact via the Instagram app, and, after he invited her to his room, she instead suggested he come to hers. However, before he arrived, the girl discovered his age via another social media app he was using, TikTok, and told him he was “too old.”

When she asked him if he was really 21 years old, Sherf responded that he was 20 and asked the girl her own age. She told him she was 14, prosecutors said.

The following day, a staff member at the hotel, after seeing the two speaking together in a public area, warned Sherf to stay away from the girl. Sherf indicated that he would.

Nonetheless, the two continued to message each other and the girl eventually told Sherf to come to her room, where they had sex. During the encounter, Sherf slapped the girl when she refused to perform oral sex and then apologized when she warned him against the behavior.

Hours later, Sherf suggested they again meet in her room after the girl sent him a photo of herself via Instagram. Although she initially refused, telling him, “I want to be alone,” she opened the door to him when he turned up and they again had sex.

A counselor who later knocked at the door and entered the girl’s room found Sherf hiding in the bathroom, after which the incident was reported to the police.

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