NGO demands Israeli government form program to fight sexual violence

Legislators call for parliamentary inquiry as data shows a significant increase in sex crimes within families.

The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel (ARCCI) called on the government to create a national program for tackling the increasing levels of sexual violence in Israeli society, especially cases of incest and sexual molestation within the family.

Presenting to the Knesset its semiannual report, which showed a sharp increase in sexually violent crimes and rape, ARCCI executive director Michal Rozin declared that “it is time for everyone to join forces and build a national program, which will include all government ministries, to eradicate sexual violence in Israel completely.”

Rozin added that not only had sexual violence in the country increased, but “the scope and variety of the abuse and attacks has intensified, too.”

During the meeting, which included the Knesset committees for Labor, Welfare and Health; the Status of Women; and the Rights of the Child, legislators said they would call on Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin to establish a parliamentary inquiry to look into the growing cases of domestic violence and child molestation.

Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog said at the hearing that despite improvements in recent years in treating children and youth at risk, he would find a way to increase the budget for centers providing assistance and treatment to victims of rape and sexual assault.

According to the report, which reflects data collected by ARCCI’s rape crisis hot line and information reported by its affiliated centers around the country, during the first half of this year there was a rise of 13 percent in the number of new calls for help, going from 3,773 in 2009 to 4,245 so far this year.

Among the calls received by the hot line, 1,359 callers reported being victims of rape or attempted rape, a 13% increase from the previous year; 166 said they’d been subjected to a gang rape or a group sexual assault, a rise of 23% over the previous year; and there were 10 reports of statutory rape.

In addition, 254 people reported either ongoing sexual harassment at work or a one-time experience of sexual harassment, a 14.5% increase from 2009, while 275 said they had been victims of sexual assault.

Out of those who called the hot line, the group reported that 66.5% had been under the age of 18, and 40% of those reporting incest or sexual abuses in the family had been under 18.

Overall, sexual abuse within the family increased by 11% in the first half of 2010, with most of the reports involving incest perpetrated by fathers, brothers, uncles and other relatives. Mothers and sisters were also found to have committed these crimes, the report noted.

“Last year the media reported numerous cases of gang rape, incest, sexual abuse of minors by family members and sexual assault by teens against their own peers,” Rozin pointed out.

“These cases and many more unreported cases only serve to back up our data that there has been an alarming increase in the number of people reporting such crimes.”

Three years ago, the government, then under the leadership of Ehud Olmert, committed to investing some NIS 30 million to build a special program for victims of rape and other sexual attacks. However, ARCCI has pointed out that little has progressed since then, and today there are simply not enough services and treatment centers available to cope with this increase in cases.

At the meeting, Herzog said his ministry’s budget for treating victims of rape and sexual abuse was more than NIS 4.5m. a year for 10 centers and that he was committed to increasing that amount in the future.

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