Tamar Gozansky, a Hadash party member of the Israeli Knesset [Parliament], has sent LILITH the following communique:
A fourteen-year-old girl was gang raped and sexually abused for an entire week by eleven boys, aged sixteen and older, on Kibbutz Shomrat in Israel, in the summer of 1988. The girl complained to the police, but a year later the District Court Prosecutor decided to close the file of the complainant “for lack of public interest” and for the inability of the girl to testify in court because of her mental condition.
The decision led to public fury. Leading the battle to reopen the file are “Bat-Adam”-a coalition of women’s groups fighting against violence against women-and public figures like myself.
The battle achieved results; the prosecutor for the Haifa District Court has entered an action against seven of the accused, (One had fled the country.) The trial began in June 1991, lasted for more than a year. The rape victim, today 19, has undergone a humiliating cross-examination by the five lawyers defending the accused men. In November 1992 the judge decided to acquit them on the grounds of “benefit of the doubt” based on the discrepancies and contradictions of the victim’s testimony.
This time, the decision aroused not only women’s organizations but also many others in Israel, including Knesset members. Consequently, the State Prosecutor studied the verdict and has filed an appeal to the Supreme Court. A decision has still not been published.
The following is excerpted from a statement made by Tamar Gozansky to The Jerusalem Post, November 12, 1992:
I greatly fear that the Shomrat verdict will inhibit girls and women who hesitate to complain to the police, thus seriously harming efforts by women’s groups to create an atmosphere that encourages them to file complaints in cases of rape and sexual assault.
I fear the verdict will strengthen the distorted concept according to which the rape victim (of whatever age) collaborated with the rapist(s) because she did not scream, cry or complain right away to the police.
I condemn any crude denunciation of, and threat toward, the judge; but I regard as encouraging the growing readiness of women and the public at large to struggle against a distorted social concept which perceives the body of a girl or a woman as a vehicle for satisfying lust, which “understands” the “lack of restraint” of men.
Such concepts form the background of the acquittal of the Shomrat defendants, “for lack of proof,” as well as that of the ludicrous sentences imposed on sexual attackers in other cases.
The first demand, in the wake of the trial, is that the State Prosecutor lodge an appeal against the District Court judgement. But this is not enough. We need amendments to the criminal law relating to the collection of evidence from and submission of testimony by the raped person; we need severer sentences for gang rape and the rape of minors, and their abuse.
But, chiefly, a true concern turnabout is needed in the very concept, so that we rid ourselves of rapists and sexual attackers of women, physical or emotional. Israeli society must eliminate the cluster of prejudices vis-a-vis women—and that is a mission the educational system and the media must adopt with all their strength.