Well-known Israeli journalist Yoav Yitzhak, writing at News1, attacks the spinelessness of the media in protecting Channel 2 news reporter, Yoav Even, accused of brutally raping and injuring a woman in late February. Yitzhak wonders at the oddness of the Israeli media, whose wont is to clamor for freedom of the press and against gag orders in all manner of cases, but not in this one. Yitzhak says:
Why are the media silent? The answer relates to the identity of the suspect. He is someone well-known among journalists. A number of them have relationships with him. Because of this, the media prefers to avoid any legal activity that would cause this gag order to be cancelled. The price, as usual, is paid by the citizens of the nation who are entitled to the free flow of information without obstacles or the interests of the media interfering.
Yitzhak also notes in his article a delay between the date the victim registered a rape complaint, March 16th, and the date the suspect was first questioned, March 23rd. Such a delay would certainly have given him time to do many things that might possibly have compromised the investigation. The court protocol notes for example, that he took down the Facebook exchanges he had with the victim after the incident occurred (though after the police gained access to them).
I’ve been reading the court protocol for the case and have also read from a portion of the transcript in which the victim describes the acts committed against her. They are horrifying. Since she prefers that the worst of it not be portrayed publicly, I’ll suffice with describing it in these more general terms. In case anyone is wondering, the documents have come from various sources and provision of the materials by those sources to me is coordinated in no way whatsoever.
On March 23rd, after interrogating Even for several hours, the police went to court with a request to extend his remand. He was then placed under house arrest. Subsequently, he was released and Yitzhak says he is now free. His bond of $4,000 was provided by Ela Har Noy, who reports for Haaretz and Channel 10 on the crime and health beats (both of which seem particularly apt for this case) and Meital Raveh, an entertainment industry attorney. Oddly, the judge in the case places Even in their custody and makes them responsible for his good behavior.
In reading the material I outlined above, I’m struck by the bizarre behavior of both parties but especially that of Yoav Even. The victim describes in vivid detail her sense of being drugged and feeling like a “zombie.” The suspect poured her two drinks including a whiskey. But the sensations of heaviness and loss of physical control clearly points, at least in her mind, to use of a date rape type drug.
During a sex act, he whips out his cellphone which she fears he is using to take pictures of her. When she protests he explains that someone is trying to “send something” to him. All this during the act of sex! If he’s taking a picture of her, one wonders whether it’s because in his mind she’s a trophy of some sort.
Even’s attorney describes the victim as being a habitue of wild sex, someone who dresses in S&M leather outfits in her Facebook photos. He says that she was “aggressive” and liked it rough. There is supposedly a transcript of a conversation in which she calls herself a “monster.” According to this narrative, even if she did say no how’s a poor boy to understand that ‘no means no’ when you’re dealing with a she-witch like this? Don’t know about you, but I find all this distasteful in the extreme.
The judge in the case even falls for this argument to an extent. In deciding whether to detain Even (and his decision on March 24th was only to detain him under house arrest, which was eventually changed to a full release), he says he has to weigh complex factors. In a normal case, the threshold for holding a suspect can be quite low. But in this case, he says, it requires a higher level of suspicion that a crime has been committed:
No one doubts that the suspect and victim had sexual relations. The wounds on her body could’ve occurred according to the suspect’s story as a result of “aggressive sex” with her [as was her preference]. The story of what happened in the apartment is far from being clear-cut or being capable of interpreted only one way. The suspect related during his interrogation certain details which appear to relate to the complainant and her sexual proclivities.
The transcript also provides support for his claims about her sexual preferences.
The morning after the sexual contact there is support for [Even’s] claim that she engaged in an act of violence [against him].
In the following passage the judge is being too-cute-by-half given what he wrote above:
It is important to note that these words are not delivered as criticism of the complainant or her behavior in this situation. But within the context of these events there may be enough to reasonably doubt that the suspect might understand that he was having sex without her consent.
It is statements like this that drive me around the bend. They imply that any woman who likes rough sex can’t reasonably expect any man to understand that “no means no.” It’s as if a certain type of behavior in a woman frees a man from having any obligation to discern what a woman wants. Who is the woman this judge thinks does mean no when she says it? Why, the proper decorous one who behaves according to societal conventions of what a woman should be in bed (whatever that means).
Not to be satisfied with merely destroying the right for a “wild woman” to say no to sex, this judge feels the urge to make matters worse:
It is a woman’s right to say no to sex. But is there enough suspicion of a crime being committed in this case to justify continuing his detention?
Of course, he continues by answering his own question in the negative. Because any man facing such an aggressive bitch in bed can’t be blamed if he interprets ‘no’ as ‘yes.’
The defense claims that after the sexual act/rape was completed that the victim went to sleep and the suspect went to the kitchen to wash dishes (!). I don’t know about you but I don’t like washing dishes when there’s no sex involved. After sex, no way. Then, while doing the dishes, his attorney claims he received a phone call from a female friend whose mother was dying of cancer. Despite this, the flaming harlot who in the meantime awoke from her slumber, slapped him in the face in a rage because he was talking to another woman after just having had sex with her (the victim). Clearly a jealous harpy, and not a wounded rape victim.
The next day, when the woman calls him, Even records her and the transcripts of those conversations conveniently become part of the evidence he uses to proclaim his innocence. I don’t know about you, but I’m not in the habit of recording phone conversations with anyone. But if I did, it would surely be in a case where I suspected that either I was in the wrong or the other party was.
One thing that strikes me about this case is that the victim is a cipher. She has no identity, no face, no story, no profession, no life. She is, like many Israeli women in similar situations, a piece of furniture to be moved around a room according to the whim of a lover or a judge or an (alleged) rapist. We know hardly anything about her. What does she do? What does she like? Where does she go?
All this, the vile gag order granted by the court has taken away from her. Yes, it’s true even with no gag order in place she might choose to remain anonymous. But then it would be HER choice, and not a male judge’s. There is a conspiracy of silence here which quells the victim in the face of the man who allegedly harmed her.
And further, I maintain the gag harms the suspect as well. If he is innocent, he should be able to speak publicly about his innocence. He should be able to tell the world his story and contradict hers if he chooses. Why shouldn’t he make his case? Other prominent accused rapists and sexual predators (Ramon, Katsav, etc.) have done so without gag orders. In other words, we are all the poorer, whether victim, suspect or common citizen, when such a veil of secrecy descends on legal proceedings.
Yoav Even, as Yitzhak says in his article, is a member of an elite club; and while as an individual he may not be of the first rank in terms of celebrity, the fact is that he is part of the male media monopoly. If Even’s sins are uncovered then the media as a whole will be tarnished. That’s why the wagons seem to be circling to protect the accused. And the victim? Who is she? Who cares? Of course, we say we care. We say we wish to protect a rape victim. But when interests conflict whose are more powerful?
There are those mainly male Israelis who claim that Even deserves the benefit of the doubt. That he is innocent till proven guilty. That she could be all the things Even claims she is. That, of course, is true. But there is nothing stopping him from making his case to the public. In a truly free society, that’s what should happen.
I should note that as in the case of Anat Kamm, there is a gag in the Even case not just in reporting the particulars of the case, but on reporting that there is a gag. This is one of those oddities of the Israeli system by which you not only can’t refer to a case or a suspect, but you can’t report that you can’t report it (though Yitzhak, Beit Halachmi and a few others have done so).
There is another oddity in the court protocol, though perhaps those familiar with Israeli legal procedure may explain this to me. During questioning before the judge, the defense attorney questioned the prosecutor about the claims of the victim in the case. I would’ve expected the defense attorney to be questioning the police interrogator and not the prosecutor. In the American system is highly unusual for lawyers to testify on behalf of their clients.
One final note, I spoke imprecisely in the comment threads earlier today when I claimed that the identities of rape suspects are not generally hidden in democratic societies outside Israel. While in the U.S. there are no gag orders in such cases, the police may pursue an investigation without revealing the suspect’s identity. However, in the case of a celebrity or well-known media personality such as Even, even if the police wished to hide his identity, it’s highly unlikely in the age of TMZ that they could do so. But in Israel apparently they can.