International Women’s Day

March 8, 2016 Agencies
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Israel’s First Lady Mrs. Nechama Rivlin has met with women who have been victims of sexual assault or abuse, who chose to tell their stories through a special cover story in the a  women’s magazine in honor of International Women’s Day.

Necham Rivlin with victims Photo: President's spokesperson

Nechama Rivlin with victims Photo: President’s spokesperson

The 22 women who were interviewed for the project entitled “You cannot force us to stay silent” (which in Hebrew literally translates to “You cannot rape us to silence”) represented the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet – which were used instead of victim’s name in public cases of sexual assault. Today, 16 of these women attended the meeting with the President’s wife.

Mrs. Rivlin said, “The meeting with you has been an experience. In my eyes, you are heroes and are brave; you urge yourselves to go on despite the painful wound. There is an earthquake happening within Israeli society regarding the willingness of women who were hurt, harassed, and the victims of sexual violence to speak out and attest in order to prevent the next victim. Hardly a day or week goes by without a courageous woman getting up and removing the veil. We almost always discover that she was not alone, that the assailant also attacked other friends or colleagues.”

“Nobody has the right to touch your body without your consent or through the imposition of authority”, stressed Ms. Rivlin and said, “If you have been hurt you are not alone. Before anything else, speak to your friends. Find the place to express the pain. Exposure is difficult, it raises the hidden trauma, but only through it will you be able to move on with life and not walk in the dark.” The President’s wife added, “I know we have come a long way, but there is still a long way to go. I am sure that this cover story will provoke many reactions. If there are any doors still closed and there certainly are, behind which women who are afraid or hiding, your stories will help them remove the locks and walk with pride.”

The 16 participants attending the meeting – Ruth Okashi, Karin Hodaya Shimoni, Mali Lev Marcus, Maya Ohev Ami, Daphna Argaman, Patricia Dor, Becky Seidman, Frida Mitelpunkt, Talia Weinberger, Shani Shtalryd, Uri Caspi, Rotem Elisha, Aude Abitbol, Keren Estrin, Racheli Greenberg and Adi Tannenbaum, introduced themselves and each in turn told the story of the sexual assault they endured, the strength and energy they required to reveal their stories, and the power the exposure gave them after which they felt proud of themselves.

Racheli Greenberg (22) was sexually assaulted at the age 12 by a teacher. She told the women at the meeting that she hoped the meeting and the cover story would increase the awareness of other women affected and said, “There are women who are now in the dark. I hope that this will give many more women in Israel the power to understand that they are not guilty and that there is light. We have nothing to be ashamed of, we are the victims and it is their shame, not ours.”

Rotem Elisha (18), was raped at the age of 12 by a neighbor. She spoke of how he was jailed for six months, after which he returned to live next door to her. She said, “I regained the control for myself through the exposure of my personal story. Everyone who has ever been hurt should not stay silent but talk about it.”

Daphne Argaman (51), was sexually assaulted by her father from the age of 12 to 14 said, “The person who hurt me was my father. I am happy to share here in this meeting that I forgave myself completely. I think I’m healthy and beautiful. I have no guilt or shame, and I’m not disappointed in myself. I’m proud of myself.”

Oude Abitbol ​(27), was sexually assaulted by a close friend at the age of 19. She said, “I was raped by a good friend of mine. During the assault I was alone and through this project I received all the hugs that I didn’t receive back then. I do not feel like a victim, but stronger than ever.”

The President’s wife answered the women emotionally. She turned to all the women in the room and said, “You’re beautiful, all of you are beautiful inside and out.”

During the event, Miriam Nofach Moses, the CEO of the magazine presented the Mrs. Rivlin with a framed photo of the cover page in recognition of the event.

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