Women’s groups in Israel slam ‘problematic’ trial despite satisfaction at outcome

Women’s rights organizations expressed relief over the conviction of former president Moshe Katsav on rape and indecent assault charges.

When the details of the verdict became known, the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel reacted to the verdict by saying it was a sad and difficult day for the country.

“It is a day on which the truth that convicted him and his true face came to light, after the four difficult years the victims have gone through, [after] the deficient conduct of the prosecution and the defamation campaign waged by Katsav and his attorneys against the victims,” they said.

Ronit Ehrenfreund-Cohen of the Women’s International Zionist Organization called the verdict a substantial advance on the victims’ behalf, saying the court had recognized that the testimony of the victims could lack coherence and could at times even be contradictory, “because that is an inseparable part of the pathology of victims of crime, but it is still the truth.”

“An additional painful point is that it now turns out there were many who knew what was happening for years and didn’t do or say a thing and even led to [Katsav’s] election as president not uttering a word. They have a lot of soul-searching to do,” said Ehrenfreund-Cohen, who directs WIZO’s division for the advancement of the status of women.

The Association of Rape Crisis Centers said the handling of the case against Katsav by the prosecution was problematic. It termed the conduct of then-Attorney General Menachem Mazuz in the case “flip-flopping” and said it was difficult for the victims.

The group said the case had trouble, “from the declaration that the president is a serial sex offender to a problematic plea bargain agreement that deprived the victims of their right to testify and [would have] prevented the presentation of evidence in court. They also ignored other prior testimony due to the statute of limitations … The Katsav case will remain forever as a festering wound for the public, etched into the collective memory as a story of abandonment and the failure of the Israeli legal system.”

Rape crisis centers reported a marked increase in the number of calls received by their emergency hotline yesterday. Keren Shahar, who directs the rape crisis center in Rehovot said among the women calling yesterday there were those that wondered how the verdict would affect their own cases. Some said it made them relive their own experiences.

Shahar said most of the callers said the verdict was a great relief, however.

The Rehovot center’s volunteer coordinator, Hava Pik, said there were others who deliberated over whether they wished to undergo what the victims experienced in the trial.

“There is great hope,” she added, “that the verdict will constitute a milestone and strengthen women who are deliberating over whether to file a complaint and that even instances of ‘just a kiss’ or ‘just a touch’ have received recognition as sexual harassment.”


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