In the last year, Israeli colleges saw a record number of sexual harassment reports: 146 official complaints and 72 unofficial complaints out of the 152 colleges and universities. Out of the submitted reports, 19 institutes of higher education said only one complaint was received, and 50 schools reported that there were no complaints or rumors of sexual harassment in the last year.
Although there were claims that the reports were only submitted because the law says they have to and that the population group that studies at the colleges do not experience sexual harassment, MK Aida Touma-Sliman– chairwoman of the Knesset Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women, disagrees. She rejects the claim asserting that while she would be happy if there were no groups plagued with sexual harassment, that is not the case.
In direct relation, the Council for Higher Education (CHE) appointed Sigal Mordoch– an assistant to the deputy head of the CHE, to be responsible for all issues pertaining to sexual harassment, including prevention and training.
An attorney for the CHE legal office, Omri Golan, said that the decision was made last month to appoint a worker to address sexual harassment in institutes of higher education.
“We receive a copy of the annual reports, review them and analyze them and check if there are specific problems that need to be taken care of, and turn to the institutes when needed,”
Touma-Sliman said that while there was a record number of reports, they still do not reflect campus reality, a commonality within the Israeli society.
“Society still doesn’t help and doesn’t allow women to say ‘I was assaulted, I was harassed.’ Many are still afraid to speak, and with good reason,” Touma-Sliman stated.
Anat Maimon, the legal adviser for the Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women, reported that the people responsible for sexual harassment complaints did not receive the 18 hours of sufficient training established by law in 40% of the institutes that submitted reports.
The deputy chairwoman of the National Union of Israeli Students, Inbar Hochberg, devised a plan to reform how campuses address sexual harassment. The comprehensive policy includes:
- A call for every institution to establish an office to deal with the issue. The office should consist of a student representative and a social worker or psychologist, as well as the head of the office.
- A call for campus disciplinary courts comprised of three judges, with one coming from outside of the campus, as well as a student representative for student complainants.
- A call to protect the anonymity of the complainant
- A call to publicize the name of those found guilty of harassment.
In response, Touma-Sliman supported Hochberg’s proposal and advised schools to adopt the plan.