SHIRI FISHMAN WRITES – The United States has been witnessing an epidemic of sexual harassment allegations in Hollywood and elsewhere.
In October, movie producer and Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein was fired by his own company amid sexual assault claims from numerous women. Similar accusations were subsequently leveled at gay actor Kevin Spacey, shutting down production of “House of Cards.” Comedian Louis C.K. publically apologized for exposing himself to women on several occasions.
Like the United States, Israel has fallen into this trend of victims coming forward to accuse powerful men of abusing their positions.
The #MeToo campaign was reignited by actress Alyssa Milano on Twitter in the United States in the middle of October. Milano says she did this, “So we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” Shortly after the start of the social media campaign Israel reported a spike of 20% in the calls made to the Rape Crisis Centers. Orit Sulitzeanu, the CEO of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, said, “Many of the centers noted that some of the women were motivated to contact them because of the public discussion of the subject,” and argued that, “Women are changing the rules of the game.”
Four women accused Alex Gilady the President of one of the largest broadcasting networks in Israel, Keshet Media Group, of sexual misconduct and rape dating as far back as the 1970s. Three of the women were journalists and one a columnist, all of whom met with Gilady to discuss potential employment opportunities or exclusive interviews. Gilady resigned following the accusations but maintained his innocence.
Recently, a prominent Israeli media personality and journalist, Gabi Gazit, announced that he would be taking a leave of absence amid sexual harassment claims. A former coworker of Gazit from Radio 103FM says he “warned” her not to file a claim after making unwanted sexual advances and touching. Two other women have also come forward and accused Gazit of kissing them against their will.
Danielle Berrin, a journalist from Hollywood, wrote an article detailing her sexual assault by, “an accomplished journalist from Israel,” but refused to say his name. Following Berrin’s publication a second Jewish-American journalist, Avital Chizhik, announced over Twitter that she too was sexually assaulted by an Israeli media personality but did not give further details about his identity. In an interview with Berrin she claims that she put her story out there to compel other women who had been sexually harassed or assaulted to speak up.
The International Women’s Media Foundation has found that two-thirds of female journalists have either been sexually harassed or abused while on the job. These women were typically told to “deal with it” or that there was nothing that could be done. It seems as if a new era is approaching: one that tells women that it is okay to step forward. There is still a long way to go for meaningful reform regarding sexual assault in the media realm but at least now there is a step in the right direction.