Emergency hotline for victims of sexual assault

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Legal Proceedings: Criminal and Civil Proceedings


You can receive more detailed information (without legal counsel) by calling your local rape crisis center.

The information on this website does not constitute legal counsel, and should not be your sole source of information.

Criminal Proceedings

Filing a report with the police is your choice alone. The process of filing a report can be long and complicated and therefore you can, at any time, request to be accompanied by a volunteer from your local rape crisis center.

Important information before filing a report

  • You are not required to submit the report immediately after the attack, however going to the nearest police station may help in collecting evidence and better your chances that the case will go to court.
  • Most police stations have a staff that is specially trained to investigate sexual offenses. When you arrive at the station we recommend that you ask for such an investigator.
  • You can ask to be accompanied by a friend, family member or volunteer from the local rape crisis center for the entirety of the investigation and while giving testimony (the investigator may, with permission from an officer, ask them to leave).
  • It is your right to be questioned alone in a private room.
  • It is your right, according to the law, to specify the gender of your investigator.
  • If you filed a report after the attack, you will undergo a medical examination at a nearby hospital to collect evidence (for more on your rights during a medical examination)
  • If you decided to file a report for an offense that happened in the past, it is your right to have the investigation conducted in the police station near where you live, however it is preferable to go to the police station under whose jurisdiction the attack took place.
  • From the moment you filed the report, it is in the hands of law enforcement. First, the police will conduct an investigation, collect evidence and testimonies. Then they will pass the case off to the relevant prosecutor. The prosecutor will decide if to file charges against the suspect or close the case.
  • The state acts as the plaintiff suing the accused and you serve as a witness in the case.
  • In the case that a number of years have passed, the incident may no longer be within the statute of limitations for filing a report. If you are unsure about the statute of limitations, consult a lawyer. In all incidents, decisions concerning the statute of limitations are in the hands of the legal system, until you file a report with the police you cannot be sure if your case is still within the statute of limitations (explanation below).

The following an explanation of the statute of limitations:

  • In incidents of rape, sodomy, or indecent assault on the grounds of lack of consent – the statute of limitations is 10 years from the day of the incident.
  • In incidents of sexual abuse the statute of limitations is 3-5 years from the day of the incident.
  • In incidents of sexual harassment – the statute of limitations is 5 years from the day of the incident.

The statute of limitations concerning offenses against minors and the helpless

  • When the offense is committed by a family member (parents, step-parents, grandparents, step-grandparents, siblings, step-siblings, uncles or aunts, uncles or aunts by marriage) or one responsible for minors under the age of 18, the statute of limitations begins 10 years from the age of 28 (for offenses committed after 1986). That means that you can file a report until the age of 38.
  • When the offense was committed by someone who is not a family member or responsible in any way for the minor, the statute of limitations begins from the day the minor turns 18. That means you can submit a report until the age of 28.
  • If more than 10 years have passed since the offense, authorization is required from the Attorney General.
  • If the attacker was a minor at the time of the abuse – authorization of the Attorney General is required to prosecute him.

Police Investigation Procedures

  • In the framework of the investigation the police will collect evidence and testimonies.
  • The suspected attacker will be called in for questioning or arrested. If the attacker is unknown there will be a process to identify them including putting together a composite sketch and identification according to the picture. If needed, an identification lineup will be conducted or searching the area of the incident for the suspect. The police will arrest or release the suspect according to the needs of the investigation.
  • There can be a confrontation between you and your attacker as part of the investigative process. You have the right to refuse to participate in such a confrontation, even though it will hurt the chances of your case. If you decide to refuse such a confrontation, request that the reasons of this refusal are included in the investigation file.
  • If there are other witnesses who could provide information to help with the investigation, they will also be called in for questioning.
  • The process could last several days, week or even months, depending on how complicated the case is and if there are difficulties gathering evidence and testimonies. You may be invited back to the police station to supplement your testimony.
  • In many cases the suspect will not be arrested at all or arrested for only a number of days and released. During his arrest the police will ask you to come and supplement your testimony – it is important to try to cooperate with their time table as much as possible. It is important to remember that arrest or release of the suspect are not indicative of your case or the extent to which the police believe you! If you believe the suspect will hurt you if released, let the investigator know as soon as possible.
  • After filing your report you will receive a number of documents: the first confirms the submission of your report and details the offense being investigated and the case number. It is important to keep this document so that in the future you can check on the progress of your case using the case number. The second document provides details for using the computerized system for victims of criminal offenses called the MENA System. By using the provided username and password you can receive details on the progress of the investigation via internet.
  • From the moment you filed a complaint the case is under the control of the police. If for some reason you decide not to go through with the complaint we recommend letting the investigator know the reason. Important! If you told the truth during the investigation, don’t say that you lied during the investigation!

District Attorney Procedures

  • The investigation will be sent from the police to the appropriate District Attorney. The attorney will decide if to file an indictment against the suspect or to close the case
  • The prosecutor on the case will study it and decide if there is enough evidence to file an indictment, according to the evidence and testimonies collected by the police. This process should be very quick (especially in situations where the suspect is already under arrest/if there are significant holes in the evidence/because of the statute of limitations/there is no suspect), however in reality the process takes longer than it should and could last months or even years.
  • You have the right to receive information from the prosecutor in order to keep updated on the progress of the case.
  • While in the hands of the District Attorney the prosecutor on the case will most likely invite you in, or call you to clarify the details concerning the assault, and to hear everything directly from you.
  • Your case may be closed for a variety of reasons. The most common reason is “lack of evidence”. If your case is closed, it does not mean that the system does not believe you, rather that the system could not successfully gather enough evidence to prove what happened beyond reasonable doubt!
  • If you would like to close the case, you can also submit an appeal to the State’s Attorney within 30 days.
  • If the prosecutor finds enough evidence they will file for an indictment. You will receive notification by mail or via the computerized system.
  • At any step of the process, you can turn to your local rape crisis center to receive guidance, accompaniment or assistance from one of our volunteers.

The Court Hearing

  • If the prosecutor decides to file an indictment, they will decide either to reach a settlement or begin trial.
  • In a plea bargain the prosecutor and the defender come to an agreement regarding what the accused did and what their punishment will be. It is your right to receive information about the plea bargain as it is negotiated and the prosecutor must hear your opinion. You do not have the “right to veto” the proceedings! It is important to share your special wants and needs with the prosecutor in an open and clear manner.
  • You will most likely be asked to provide testimony in court as a central witness.
  • Before you testify, the prosecutor will request to meet with you. If the prosecutor does not invite you in for a meeting, it is recommended to contact them and request a meeting. The initial questioning will be by the prosecutor (the plaintiff) which will be followed by a cross-examination by the suspect’s lawyer. Your testimony will be given in court in the presence of the judge, the suspect’s lawyer, the suspect, and the prosecutor. In rare cases you will be allowed to testify behind a curtain or via closed-circuit television.
  • Additionally, the attacker and other witnesses will be called to testify in court.
  • It is your right to be present during court discussion, as long as the court or plaintiff does not think you will get in the way of the process. You may also be accompanied by the person of your choice. You are not obligated to be present, with the exception of your testimony. 
  • At the end of the court case you will be given a verdict made up of a ruling (innocent or guilty) and a sentence (determining the punishment). The ruling can find the accused guilty, innocent or beyond reasonable doubt. Both sides, the plaintiff (the state of Israel) and the defense, may appeal the ruling or the punishment.
  • The court is likely to rule in favor of financial compensation as part of sentencing. You have the right to appeal the compensation you receive, not other punishments as part of the sentencing.

Your Rights as the Victim of a Criminal Offense in Criminal Proceedings

  • Throughout the criminal proceedings you are not required to be represented by a lawyer unless you are one of the sides in the proceedings (the plaintiff or defendant). However, if you would like, you may hire a private lawyer. The rape crisis centers provide informational and support services at no charge.
  • Your rights as a victim of a criminal offense during criminal proceedings are protected by law. Below are a number of rights it you should be familiar with:
    • You have the right for protection from the suspect and relatives.
    • During the police investigation and court testimony, it is your right not to be questioned on your sexual history, unless it is necessary to reveal the truth about the assault.
    • There is a restriction on sharing your personal information with the defender and the defendant.
    • It is your right to receive information on the progress of the case during every stage of criminal proceedings.
    • It is your right to express your opinion concerning possible punishments during sentencing.
    • It is your right to express your opinion to the prosecutor in the case of a plea bargain.
    • It is your right to express your opinion before the parole board in the case of early parole.

For details on additional rights, see the Law of Rights for Victims of Criminal Offenses.

Civil Proceedings

  • A person who experienced any kind of sexual abuse can sue for compensation for damage caused as a result of the abuse or harassment.
  • The lawsuit is conducted in the presence of the attacker or harasser, or sometimes a different responsible party (for example – the employer).
  • Civil proceedings can be conducted with no connection to criminal proceedings, however, there is an advantage to starting civil proceedings after the abuser is found guilty in court.

In the event that the attacker or harasser is found guilty and sentences in court, you can take civil action in one of two ways:

  • A civil suit in which the judgment is used as evidence: Regular civil action can be taken at any time (within the statute of limitations), and as part of the lawsuit the criminal court ruling is used as evidence. Such proceedings may take a long time.
  • A civil suit trailing a criminal conviction: Starting civil proceedings with the same judges who ruled in the criminal proceedings in which the attacker or harasser was convicted. This type of proceeding is much quicker, but has a time limit of 90 days from the day the civil suit is opened to the final ruling.

Damages for which you can sue for compensation:

  • Loss of past and future earnings – if you lose salary as a result of difficulty working or progressing at work (Calculated by the percentage of functional disability determined by an expert).
  • Cost of mental health treatments and other rehabilitative treatments – request for compensation for prolonged mental health treatments in the past and future and additional rehabilitative costs, for example: medicine, alternative treatments, help with studies, etc.
  • Recourse to the aid of others in the past and in the future – expenses from the need of help from a third party (for example: needing help at home because of difficulty functioning.)
  • Pain and suffering – compensation for long term emotional injuries, including: inability to trust others, low self-image, lack of enjoyment of life and lack of enjoyment of sex.

Sexual Harassment – the law for the prevention of sexual harassment allows compensation up to ₪ 120,000 without proof of damage, it is also your right to sue for compensation for additional damage caused (for example – loss of earnings because of dismissal).

Statute of limitations in civil suits

  • Sexual assault – in general you can open a civil suit within 7 years of the day of the incident. In the case of sexual assault of a minor (under age 18), the count of 7 years begins at 18, so you can sue until age 25.
  • Sexual harassment – you can open a civil suit within 7 years of the day of the incident.
  • Sexual abuse of minors within a family (incest) – you can open a civil suit until the age of 35.
  • The statute of limitations for civil suits is not the same as the statute of limitations for criminal proceedings. Therefore, if the possibility to conduct criminal proceedings exists, it does not mean that you can then open a civil suit. You should clarify against the law of the statute of limitations before beginning a lawsuit.
  • Because of various exceptions, it is recommended to consult a lawyer regarding the statute of limitations.