There has been a dramatic rise in recent weeks in the number of child sexual-abuse cases being reported, especially from within the haredi community, according to the National Council for the Child. The NCC, a nonprofit organization, has demanded that the government provide free counseling services to all child victims of abuse.
“We are now seeing the negative results of people who were abused as children but who were left untreated,” NCC executive director Dr. Yitzhak Kadman told The Jerusalem Post Monday. One in three victims who did not receive post-abuse therapy were likely to become offenders later in life, he said.
Kadman said the increase in reports of sexual abuse against children, which he estimated had risen from 15-20 reported cases a month to 40-45, was also due to growing violence within society in general.
“Sexual abuse is not really about the sex but about the violence that surrounds it,” he said.
Over the weekend, in separate incidents, security guards – one from a school and another from a kindergarten – were arrested on suspicion of molestation. Sunday night, a 12-year-old girl from Pardess Hanna was found naked with signs that she had been slipped a date-rape drug and raped by two 13-year-old boys.
The rise in the number of reported and publicized cases could also be connected with increased awareness about such crimes, Kadman said.
“When one person reports such a crime, that gives strength to others who have gone through similar experiences to talk about what happened,” he said.
Reports of sexual abuse within the haredi community have grown by more than 30 percent in the last few months, Kadman said.
“Considering their share of the population, the fact that 30% of those reporting sex abuse to us comes from within the haredi community is a dramatic rise,” he said.
Kadman said he welcomed the haredi community’s increased willingness to report such incidents because in the past they were not talked about.
“In the past, the rabbis would just give orders to the known sex offenders to leave the community, believing that shunning them was just punishment,” he said. “But they would simply move on to another neighborhood. Now, the [haredi] public has started to put pressure on the rabbis to deal with this phenomenon.”
The rise in reports of sex abuse was also highlighted on Monday by the Welfare and Social Services Ministry, which announced that it was creating a NIS 8 million fund to offer child victims necessary counseling services. Currently, only those who can afford to pay for private post-trauma therapy are able to ensure that their children receive treatment.
The ministry’s figures showed a 16% increase over the past six years in the number of child molestation victims. They also indicated that the number of teenage sex offenders was steadily growing, with 669 reported in 2006 compared to 504 in 2000.
The new initiative, which includes financial contributions from the National Insurance Institute and the private Sacta-Rashi Foundation, will go toward broadening existing treatment centers, establishing new centers and increasing social-welfare budgets in this area. It is set to start at the beginning of 2008.
“As a result of budgetary problems in the past, many children, mainly from low socioeconomic backgrounds, did not receive treatment or counseling after being abused,” Welfare and Social Services Ministry director-general Nahum Itzkovitz said. “I hope that the additional budget will allow us to help every child who falls victim to sexual abuse and increase the number of professionals involved in the treatment of such children.”
Kadman was cynical about the move, saying the ministry should focus more on ensuring that every abused child receive one-on-one counseling from a trained professional.
“Opening seven or eight treatment centers is simply not enough,” he said. “There are more than 300 localities in Israel and every child should have access to such treatment. We have been fighting for this for many years and will continue until the government announces in writing that it has implemented a viable solution.”