Forty-seven year old Ukrainian woman trafficked to Israel is now receiving protection and care at a shelter.
Two years ago, S., 47, came from Ukraine to work as a domestic in the home of an Israeli businessman. The employment company abroad that contracted her told her she had "nothing to worry about," with respect to her new boss. However, according to S., her employer - a resident of a wealthy Tel Aviv suburb, who works at a foreign consulate in Israel - withheld most of her salary, took her passport, did not let her leave the house unless he was with her, and raped her. In many cases, S. says, her employer's friends who came to dinner or parties sexually molested her, and one of them also raped her.
Today, the police, who are concluding their investigation of S.'s charges, are arranging a confrontation between the suspect, who has denied any wrongdoing, and the alleged victim. According to the suspect's lawyer, Yehoshua Resnick, S. made up the whole story to avoid deportation.
S., who fled her employer after working for about three months, was arrested by the Immigration Police, who intended to deport her until she filed the complaint of abuse by her employer. She is now staying at Ma'agan, a shelter set up in 2004 for victims of trafficking in women, and is supervised by the Social Affairs Ministry.
According to the facility's director, attorney Rinat Davidovich, S.'s case may be a landmark with respect to enforcement of the Israeli law in human trafficking that was amended in 2006, following pressure from the United States. This law relates not only to trafficking in humans for purposes of prostitution, but also for purposes of forced labor or slavery.
Annual reports in which the U.S. ranks countries according to their efforts in this area have noted improvement in Israel in the prevention of trafficking for prostitution. However, Israel has still not met minimum standards when it comes to preventing human trafficking for other purposes.
The amendment stipulates that an individual can be tried for holding a person "under conditions of slavery for the purposes of work or services." According to the legislation, "slavery" is defined as "a situation in which a person controls another person's life to the extent where the person negates his or her freedom."
At present, two other women besides S., who were brought from the Palestinian territories to work in Israel, are living at the shelter.
In Ukraine, S. was told by intermediaries that her job would include cleaning, doing laundry and organizing social events in the home. She was promised $1,000 a month and one day off a week, with which she had hoped to support her mother and a handicapped sister and to pay for her daughter's college education.
At the end of her first month of employment, her boss told her he would not pay her because he was deducting the cost of bringing her to Israel. After she begged him, S. says, he gave her $200 - and that was the only money he paid her in three months of work. She said she was allowed out of the house only to walk the dogs, or when accompanied by her employer.
"I felt I had no choice but to stay, because I had no right to return home without money," S. says. In March 2006, the employer took her to a supermarket, where she managed to make contact with a woman who helped her hail a taxi and escape. She had been working at odd jobs, until she was apprehended by the Immigration Police. They had originally intended to deport her, but when her story came to light, she was transfered to the shelter, where she is awaiting the results of the investigation and a decision by the State Prosecutor's Office as to whether to try her employer.
The employer refused to respond to questions by Haaretz. His attorney said S. was not brought to Israel to work at home, but rather to "learn how to manage warehouses," for a few weeks. "As the expiration date of her visa approached, my client wanted her to extend her stay in Israel. When she declined, my client bought an airline ticket back to Ukraine for the complainant. My client, who was financially liable for her leaving the country, was very surprised when she did not show up for her flight, and chose to disappear. From that time, my client and the Immigration Police sought to locate the complainant. Recently, apparently following her arrest, the complainant chose to spread false complaints against my client."
The suspect's lawyer said there was no truth to the claim that S. was not allowed out of the house, and that she had house keys and could come and go as she pleased. The lawyer also said there had been no sexual contact, and that S. had tried to blackmail him, eventually making good on her threats to go to the police, "hoping to 'gain' extra time in Israel." The suspect's lawyers added that "we are certain that this simple truth will come out at the end of the police investigation."
Adapted from: Tamara Traubmann. "Ukrainian national says employer raped her, confiscated passport." Haaretz.com. 12 August 2007.
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