The Times of Israel’s excellent article by Carrie Keller-Lynn (Nov. 9) detailed rape during the October 7 pogrom, after it was kept mostly as a gray topic for nearly five weeks.
Because of our work on rape during the Holocaust and in later genocides, my colleague Dr. Sonja M. Hedgepeth and I know about the silence that has surrounded rape. The issue of sexual violence against Israeli women by Hamas still seems to be questioned by some in the global public arena, and it is important to offer all of the details that the ToI article can provide.
As the article explains, the circumstances of the mass killing and priorities of identifying the dead precluded authorities from carrying out legally admissible proof of rape. However, eyewitness accounts and testimonies by captured terrorists provide solid evidence. Regarding the Holocaust, with few exceptions, it took decades for the discussion to begin. There were no rape kits then, and it was often considered a shanda (shame) for survivors to say they were raped. Now the discussion is more open, especially after the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court declared rape a crime against humanity in 2002, in the aftermath of the genocides in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.
The discussion about rape on October 7 is an important step regarding the experiences of Jewish women during the attempted genocides by the Nazis and by Hamas. Through Remember the Women Institute and the book we edited, Sexual Violence against Jewish Women during the Holocaust (Brandeis University Press 2010), we have endeavored to put the rape and sexual assault of Jewish women into Holocaust history. Unfortunately, another chapter needs to be added to this tragic story.