UN official in Israel asks victims of Hamas sexual assault to ‘break silence’

‘The world needs to know what really happened on October 7,’ Pramila Patten, UN envoy for sexual violence in conflict, says in message released through President Herzog’s office

UN special representative on sexual violence in conflict Pramila Patten (center) meets with First Lady Michal Herzog (left) and President Isaac Herzog in Jerusalem on January 29, 2024. (Amos Ben-Gershom / GPO)
UN special representative on sexual violence in conflict Pramila Patten (center) meets with First Lady Michal Herzog (left) and President Isaac Herzog in Jerusalem on January 29, 2024. (Amos Ben-Gershom / GPO)

A United Nations envoy visiting Israel on Monday urged victims of alleged sexual assault during Hamas’s October 7 attack to “break your silence” to help deliver justice.

Pramila Patten, the UN envoy for sexual violence in conflict, was in Israel to probe a wave of allegations of Hamas sexual violence on October 7, collect details and “identify avenues for support,” according to the secretary-general’s spokesman.

In a message to victims released by the Israeli president’s office, Patten said: “Please come forward, please break your silence because your silence will be the license of those perpetrators.”

“My team and I, we are here to listen to you in all safety and confidentiality,” she says in the message released by the office of President Isaac Herzog, who met with Patten alongside his wife, Michal Herzog, in Jerusalem on Monday.

“I’m here for a week, I’m prepared to meet you in a safe and enabling environment and to listen to your stories, the world needs to know what really happened on October 7.”

Patten says that survivors should not feel any stigma, but rather “the stigma, the shame, is on the perpetrators.”

Demonstrators gather outside the UN headquarters in New York City on December 4, 2023, to protest the international community’s perceived silence on sexual violence committed by Hamas terrorists against Israeli women during the October 7 massacre. (Carli Fogel)

She said the world owes them “more than solidarity. We really want to ensure that you have justice at the end of the day, and that we put an end to this to this heinous crime.”

“We are here to listen to you in all safety and confidentiality… The world needs to know what really happened on October 7,” she added.

“We really want to ensure that (victims) have justice so that we put an end to this heinous act.”

During her trip, Patten will also meet survivors, witnesses and representatives of security forces to collect evidence of sexual violence committed against women and men during the Hamas shock attack of October 7, the Israeli foreign ministry said earlier on Monday.

“Patten was invited by the foreign ministry so that she could receive an unmediated impression of the extent of the atrocities and then bring Hamas’s crimes to the attention of the proper international authorities,” the ministry said in a statement.

The UN envoy is also expected to tour southern Israel, where thousands of Palestinian terrorists had unleashed their deadly attack that killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians. The terrorists slaughtered entire families in their homes, raped and sexually assaulted victims, and tortured or mutilated some during the hours-long killing spree.

During the attack, terrorists also seized around 250 hostages, of whom Israel says 132 remain in Gaza, including at least 28 believed to have been killed, after about 100 were released in a prisoner swap in November.

Israel has criticized the UN for not responding quickly enough to victims’ accounts of rape and sexual assault during Hamas’s incursion into Israel.

Israeli authorities are investigating sexual crimes during what was the most deadly attack ever on the country, amid overwhelming evidence from eyewitnesses and from footage recorded by the Palestinian terror group itself.

In separate exposes in recent weeks, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, and others have detailed the accounts and the findings and have said the sexual violence and mutilation on October 7 was systematic.

A report published in November by Physicians for Human Rights–Israel (PHRI) included testimonies by ZAKA search and rescue volunteers about Hamas’s widespread sexual abuse on October 7.

In addition to witness testimony, police have video evidence, testimony from terrorists, and photographs of victims’ bodies that all point toward sexual assault.

Freed hostages have also detailed accounts of sexual assault.

Patten’s visit was announced earlier this month by the United Nations, with the secretary-general’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric saying she also intended to meet with recently released hostages.

Following the October 7 attack, Israel launched a military campaign aimed at destroying Hamas that has killed at least 26,000 people in the Palestinian enclave, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry. These figures cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires.

The IDF says it has killed over 10,000 operatives in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

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