It occurred to me, after last week’s post, that I had not adequately explained that the sexual assault case being discussed was not the first case of its kind this year. It was proceeded by a case of a girl in Northern Israel who had over several years, allegedly from the age of 10, been a regular target of sexual abuse at the hands of local youths.
I will spare you the details. Needless to say, it was a horrific case. If anything positive came out of it, it was a widespread awareness of the issue and of the problems the system is having in trying to deal with this emerging phenomenon.
I leave you in the capable hands of reporter Yael Barnovsky , whose background report in on Y-net was absolutely chilling. I hope my translation in English does her report justice…
Sexual Assaults: 700 Children Have No One To Report Them To
Recent horrendous incidents of sexual violence against children have caught the Welfare Ministry with hundreds of children waiting for investigators. 250 complaints were received since the beginning of the month, just in Tel – Aviv…
Feb. 11, 2010
A string of high-profile cases of sexual violence against children, culminating in the case of gang rape of a child in the North, finds the Ministry of Social Affairs with a severe shortage of Child Investigators. Some 250 complaints were received over the first ten days of the month (February) in Tel – Aviv alone. About 700 children are waiting their turn to be questioned by Child Investigators, but there is no one to conduct the investigations. The increase in referrals is attributed to the high media exposure of the murder of 7 year-old Leon Kalanatrov of Bnei Ayish, which placed the issue heavily on the agenda.
When a complaint of sexual assault reaches the police, if the offenders and / or victims are under age 14, the law stipulates that they be investigated by Child Investigators from the Office of Welfare, and only then are the findings presented to police investigators and the courts.
Requests for Child Investigators came mainly from the police, but they also come from parents who file complaints through the education system. Under Ronit Tzur, the Welfare Office’s Triage Officer, a total of 57 Child Investigators serve the entire country. For the last several months, they have been operating in emergency mode, their vacations canceled.
Retired Judge Saviona Rotalvi, whom Ynet interviewed extensively on the subject, also emphasized the difficult situation faced by the Child Investigators: “Whenever an event occurs, the media cries out and then forgets. The situation of the Child Investigators is catastrophic. Years and years of cutbacks have made is so those children who should be interviewed immediately are only investigated after weeks and months. Every time a story is exposed, there is an outcry, but no real search for true solutions – I am very upset by this situation.”
During a hearing held yesterday by the ministerial committee handling the problem of pedophilia, Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog discussed the manpower shortage and said he cannot cope with this phenomenon if he is not assigned an additional 35 special investigators. “Instead of emphasizing trains and balconies, you should take care of people,” he said to Ynet, criticizing the energy invested by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in promoting economic reforms.
Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch told the committee that the volume of this phenomenon has increased on the Internet has increased and is taking up more and more space so that his office too needs increased financial allocations to manage it. Committee Chairman Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman said it is clear that in order to combat these phenomena more funds must be recruited. The team concluded that, at its next meeting that each department will submit all their specific budgetary requirements.
Meanwhile, the ministerial staff made a number of decisions:
• to expand the reporting obligation of any person who suspects sex offenses against minors
• to examine the possibility of wider public notification regarding the presence of sex offenders
• to speed up resolutions to the question of rehabilitation of sex offenders and on-going supervision after release and examine the possibilities for medical treatment
• to reduce waiting times for investigation by increasing the number of investigators
• to coordinate activities of those authorities that deal with sexual assault
Instead Of Receiving Sex Education – They Learn From Porn Sites
Sexual assault of children is a widespread phenomenon with which Israeli society has difficulty dealing. According to data from the Council for the Child, in 2009, 2,450 children under the age of 14 fell victim to sexual assault. About a third of them were children younger than 9, a third ages 9-11 and another third, ages 12-14. About half the children were hurt by a friend or neighbor. In about 324 cases the perpetrators were themselves children under 14, in about five such cases, under the age of 12. About 95 percent of the perpetrators were boys.
The national average for children affected by sexual assault stands at about 4.1 per thousand. The “leading” cities for reported child sexual assault, according to the Council for the Child, were Tel-Aviv (8.6 per thousand), Or Yehuda (8.6), Eilat (11.4), Bat Yam (10.6), Nesher (12.1), Afula (11.8) and Pardes Hanna (9).
Welfare authorities, drowning in a sea of shocking cases, point an accusing finger at the educational system, and claim that is not investing enough in sex education. There are even schools in which no workshops on sexual assault are offered, and the primary source of information from which children derive information the subject is from porn sites on the Internet. According to data from the welfare system and Israeli Rape Crisis Centers, in recent years there has been a dramatic decline in the ages of both victims and perpetrators of sexual assault. Similarly, more and more cases are coming to light involving groups of children – whether speaking of incidents of gang rape, or of injury to dozens of children by a pedophile.
“Minors at this stage of their lives are very curious, and practically the only information they receive comes from porn sites,” said Attorney Inbar Yehezkeli-Blilos, the legal adviser of the Central Association of Rape Crisis Centers to Ynet. “Schools must provide more workshops on the subject .Children are exposed to pornography and try to reproduce those same behaviors, which seems to them normative, even in real life. Unfortunately, some schools do not want us – because of their obvious fear that complaints will suddenly arise.
“Blame the victim”
Sometimes, minor or minors who become victims of sexual exploitation, present themselves as if they agreed to what was done to them. However, according to all the experts, at age 10 and even at age 14, children are not really capable of making independent decisions. “The police and the judiciary often see the victims as ‘seducers’ and are not able to see the back story ,” says Attorney Yehezkeli. “There are judges, investigators and lawyers who know how to conduct themselves, but still there are those that hold patriarchal views, blame the victim and throw the blame on them. The police are, at times, very often sympathetic to the perpetrators.”