An abusive reality – sexual assault in Israel
Is it possible that daily exposure to reports of sexual assaults has turned us callous to a horrid reality?
We have become numb. In the past few years it seems impossible to avoid media reports of sexual abuse and assault, of a violent reality which places over half of this country’s population in imminent danger. It has become a routine thing.
Our news editions are filled with reports of senior government officials, or prominent public figures – people who are considered the cream of the crop in their fields – who have sexually harassed and abused women as if that “right” was one of the benefits that comes with public office or high financial standing.
Our newspapers, if we bother to do more than just glance through them, have daily reports – which somehow seem to take up less and less space with each passing day – of a father who assaulted his daughter here, children who for years abused a classmate there, or of granddaughters and nieces terrorized by the ones who are supposed to love them the most.
And still – we seem oblivious to reality, incapable of realizing that in some surreal manner, there are those among us who live under the constant fear of sexual assault. These people are not a thousand miles away. They are sitting next to us on the bus, in the movie theater, in a café; and perhaps this proximity is what makes the violence which surrounds them so transparent to us.
Their reality petrifies us. To think that a woman going to work just like me – just like you – is afraid to be left alone with her boss; to think that the schoolgirl next door is afraid to go to sleep at night – for me and for the other volunteers at the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, those fears are a daily reality.
The facts are chillingly clear: In Israel, one out of every three women is sexually assaulted. One out of every five is raped. One out of every seven women was or is the victim of incest. One out of every six men was the victim of sexual assault. These are more than numbers to us. These are real people – people we meet every day.
The association’s reality is one where the phone never stops ringing. A reality in which we see victims through police procedures and legal proceedings; where schools call upon us to help them try and increase teenage awareness, to teach our youth were the fine line between courtship and assault is drawn; and where professionals call on us to help them deal with this ever increasing horrid phenomenon and its long term implications.
Working and volunteering in the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel is a matter of opening ones eyes to a very real, daily reality, in the hopes that one day, this reality will no longer be so transparent to us; in the hopes that one day this reality will just no longer be.
Inbar Cohen is a social worker with the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel