Soldier who developed PTSD after sex abuse during service is charged with going AWOL

Woman recounts attack by Palestinian terror inmate while serving as prison guard, eventually leaving her base after mental state worsened; defense lawyer vows to get charge dropped

Illustrative: The Ktziot Detention Camp on September 13, 2022. (Nati Shohat/FLASH90)
Illustrative: The Ktziot Detention Camp on September 13, 2022. (Nati Shohat/FLASH90)

A soldier who developed post-traumatic stress disorder after she was sexually abused during her military service is reportedly being charged with going absent without leave, nearly two years after she left her base due to her worsening mental state.

The Military Advocate General Corps has indicted the woman for desertion, with her military defense lawyer retorting that the Israel Defense Forces is responsible for her situation, the Kan public broadcaster reported Monday.

The former servicewoman recounted the sexual abuse incident, which happened some three years ago, during an interview with Kan.

She said she had been serving as a prison guard at Megiddo Prison, in a ward housing security prisoners — predominantly Palestinian terror convicts. The current government has pledged to stop placing conscripted soldiers in such wards.

“I was alone with the inmate and he grabbed my shoulder, slipped his hand toward my chest and later beat me in the ribs,” she said

A police officer was subsequently sent to take her complaint, but the officer explained that there was no point since the prisoner who attacked her was already sentenced to many years behind bars anyway, according to the report.

“The security prisoners would make comments, insert mirrors under the bars. Every moment I was afraid they would pull out a knife. I had to accompany them when they were sometimes only cuffed in the legs. Women must not serve in such places, it’s a lifelong trauma,” said the soldier, who wasn’t named in the report.

She said she asked to be relocated and was moved to a military base. But shortly before her mandatory two-year service ended, she developed PTSD and anorexia which worsened until she left her base without permission and didn’t return.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit told Kan that “the soldier has been charged for evading military service for almost two years. The period of absence for which she was charged started immediately after a previous absence of several weeks, for which she received a disciplinary hearing.

“In light of the soldier’s personal state, it was decided to refrain from arresting her.”

Oren Lieber, the military defense attorney representing the woman, said: “Instead of appreciating the soldier for her contributions and important service, following which her physical and mental state deteriorated, they began criminal proceedings against her. We will work to annul the indictment.”

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, center, speaks to National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir after a Knesset vote in Jerusalem, February 15, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Earlier this month, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir announced that conscripted Israel Defense Forces soldiers would stop serving as prison guards in sections housing convicted terrorists within six months, due to repeated incidents of sexual abuse by inmates in those wards.

Ben Gvir said last month that IDF soldiers would still work in the Israel Prison Service on the “second level of protection,” which includes guarding the building, with only limited interactions with prisoners.

In December, a review panel commissioned by then-defense minister Benny Gantz and tasked with examining the issue recommended that the arrangement be phased out.

A number of former soldiers who served as prison guards made bombshell claims of sexual assault and rape by terror inmates — often referred to as security prisoners — often with the complicity of prison commanders. At least six women came forward last year to allege that female soldiers were regularly “pimped out” for abuse by security prisoners at Gilboa Prison, a high-security incarceration facility in northern Israel.

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