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    Sunday, May 19, 2024

    Sexual assaults on Oct. 7 detailed at Jewish Federation event

    Shany Granot-Lubaton speaks Thursday, March 28, 2024, during an event at Langley's Great Neck Country Club in Waterford organized by the Jewish Federation of Eastern Connecticut. (Lee Howard/The Day)
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    Waterford ― The co-leader of the Hostage and Missing Families Forum in New York wove the story of harrowing sexual assaults on women perpetrated during and after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel into her speech Thursday during a Jewish Federation of Eastern Connecticut event attended by more than 100 people.

    Shany Granot-Lubaton said she told the stories to an audience at Langley’s Great Neck Country Club as a way to gain support for assault victims who may need trauma therapy and to emphasize that several female hostages are still in danger. Keeping their stories alive could put pressure on government leaders to start focusing on the horrors of hostages, particularly women being assaulted every day, she said.

    “They can’t refuse, they can’t do anything,” Granot-Lubaton said. “Time is running out. As time goes by, more and more hostages don’t survive captivity.”

    One released hostage, 40-year-old Amit Soussana, talked just this week to The New York Times about her assault. It was the first time a freed hostage had talked publicly about sexual abuse, though it has been reported previously that many female Oct. 7 victims showed signs of sexual assault.

    Soussana, kidnapped from the Kfar Aza kibbutzim near the Gaza border, said she was attacked by a Hamas guard before her release in November. According to her account, she was held in a bedroom in Gaza and chained up in darkness but had been briefly released to use a bathroom when a man named Muhammad attacked her on Oct. 24.

    The Times said the assault Soussana reported lines up with details given to a social worker who interviewed her after her release. Soussana also told of other forms of harassment, including being pummeled by the butt of a gun and being hung up “like a chicken.”

    JFEC, in a press release, said it believes “the story of the sexual violence against women has not been properly recognized.”

    Granot-Lubaton said the situation in Israel hit home with her family when they found out her husband’s cousin and his daughter had been killed during the Oct. 7 attacks. The cousin’s wife and three other children were taken hostage, but were released in November, though they heard stories from other women and girls about constant sexual assaults. At first, they held off telling the stories, but have become increasingly graphic in revealing details as the months have dragged on.

    “They are fighting for these girls,” Granot-Lubaton said.

    The Hostage and Missing Families Forum, created less than a day after the Oct. 7 attacks, focuses on reuniting hostages with their families while also offering medical and emotional support.

    The United Nations has published a report on the apparent rape and gang rape that its investigators believe happened on Oct. 7. The report also noted what the U.N. called “clear and convincing” evidence that hostages were raped in captivity.

    More than 1,100 people in Israel died in the Oct. 7 Hamas raids that led to the taking of 253 hostages, about half of whom are believed to still be alive. Israel responded by invading Gaza, which has led to more than 30,000 Arab deaths and the uprooting of tens of thousands of people. The government of Israel has tied any temporary cessation in hostilities to the release of the remaining Israeli hostages.

    “We’re marking half a year; I never thought we would get to this point,” Granot-Lubaton said.

    l.howard@theday.com

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