MKs and women’s rights activists demanding a change in the way society and the legal system deal with sexual harassment and assault complaints, called for a Knesset hearing in the wake of the #MeToo social media campaign. The Knesset Committee on the Status of Women met on Tuesday, November 15, to discuss the theme “No longer silent – the #MeToo campaign and the day after, speaking up.” MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Hadash – Joint List) chairwoman of the committee said “I am proud of and honor women who have been brave enough to share their stories and be part of this phenomenon; and I also honor those who still have not spoken up, because I am aware of the price paid by those who do so. But we will be silent no longer.”
Many of those present at the meeting, including journalist Gaya Koren, spoke about the criticism, shaming and attacks faced by those women who speak up, and how they can be deterred from coming forward. “I can understand women who don’t speak up, or don’t so until years later,” said Koren.
Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg said that victims’ turning to the police after being attacked can “feel like a second rape,” especially when women are forced to face questions about their behavior, the history of their relationship, their clothing and their motives for coming forward.
Several of those present asserted that the #MeToo campaign, where women speak out on social media, shows the systemic failure of the judicial system in addressing these situations. Orit Sulitzeanu, executive director of The Association for Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, told the committee that there are real and significant changes that can be made in this realm. Firstly, she said, to “stop prosecutors from asking [victims] all the questions they do,” – about women’s past behavior and activities; secondly, to increase the statute of limitations for sexual harassment so that it is longer than seven years. “Sometimes it takes women a long time to talk about it,” said Sulitzeanu. “Seven years is nothing.”