For three and a half years now I've been volunteering at a hotline for sexual assault victims. Once a week I sit there, hear the testimonies of boys and men, and attempt to assist them as much as possible. Just like dozens of other volunteers, during this period I learned something about the mental state of victims, their way of expression, and the manner in which they tell their story.
Only rarely is the story structured, orderly, and consistent. In the overwhelming majority of cases the story is animated, a little confused, and includes contradictions and baffling facts that a person who did not experience a sexual assault can find difficult to comprehend: A person says he was raped overnight by an attacker and then slept over, and later they even ate breakfast together and kept in touch for several weeks.
After that he tried to commit suicide and for years since then he has not left the house and lives on pills. And I, the volunteer who has not experienced anything similar, cannot understand this. How could it be? Why did he even sleep over? Why did he keep in touch? Why?
One of the first things that new volunteers at the hotline learn is not to ask "why." This question is the luxury of those who never experienced the trauma of rape. In order to survive, maintain one's sanity, and cling to life, sexual assault victims must often rearrange the facts. Dr Zvia Zeligman, a psychologist who specializes in the field of sexual assault, defined it well when she wrote about the dependence of rape victims on the attacker: "If only I manage to truly love him, it will hurt less and be less humiliating. If I love him, I will hate myself less…"
Court must restore complainants' dignity
These words are obviously not written just for kicks. They are written against the backdrop of the expected High Court decision regarding the plea bargain with sex offender Moshe Katsav. In recent days, representatives of the State Prosecutor's Office were interviewed one after another and explained that they gave in because of the inconsistency in the testimony of the rape victims.
The latter, as it turned out, failed to structure their arguments properly, failed to behave logically, and are just hard to believe. Who would believe someone who was raped in a humiliating manner and continued to come to work, and even wrote the raping president an affectionate note?
Those who make such arguments have never met a sexual assault victim. Those who say such foolish things fail to understand the trauma in question. Yet in order to defend their inexplicable decision, the attorneys spared no effort in undermining the victims' credibility in any way possible. Through anonymous leaks and open interviews, they presented the rape victims as lacking any substance, not serious, lacking credibility, and unworthy.
At once, we regressed terribly. Again it turned out that a rape victim who seeks justice must take into account the fact she may be raped again – this time by those appointed as law enforcers. If she only dares to complain, she may find herself condemned by the rapist himself, his PR team, his attorneys, and the police. State attorneys too, who decided to capitulate, would be willing to publicly stain the complainants in order to spare themselves criticism.
This becomes even more absurd in light of the fact that the attorney general emphasized that he truly believes the complainants and is certain that Moshe Katsav is a serial sex offender. But, what can we do, the legal truth is different than the truth, and therefore we must capitulate.
Now everything is in the High Court's hands. The court must restore the public's trust in the legal process. It must close the gap between the legal truth and the truth. It must restore the complainants' dignity and rule that today, in the wake of the Katsav affair, the law enforcement system would not be allowed to commit a second rape against those who decided to file a complaint.