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Israel: nearly half of reported sexual abuse cases in 2019-20 involved underage girls

Protest in Tel Aviv against rape on 8 February 2021 [JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images]
Women in Tel Aviv protest against rape and femicide on 8 February 2021 [JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images]

Nearly 5,000 of the reported 8,508 sexual abuse cases in Israel in 2019-20 involved victims aged 17 and under, a new Knesset report has revealed. The report was published today for the Committee for the Advancement of Women and Gender Equality, chaired by Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman.

According to data provided for the report by the Association of Rape Crisis Centres (ARCCI), the most widely reported category of offence was rape or attempted rape, which involved 37 per cent of all calls for help made to hotlines. Moreover, while figures showed that 89 per cent of such calls were by women, 57 per cent of the total were with regard to minors, and 33 per cent involved minors aged between 13 and 18. In addition, all of the requests referred to an alleged perpetrator already known to the victim, and in 32 per cent of cases the former was a family member.

"Men constitute an absolute majority of the suspects in police cases for sexual offences with registered victims, no matter the age or gender of the victim," confirmed the report.

In 2019 and 2020 together, over 10,000 sexual offence cases involved a registered victim, and no significant difference was found in the number of cases filed per year, with almost 5,200 filed in 2019, and a similar number in 2020. This is largely due to sexual harassment offences and public indecency, as well as last year's lockdowns, reported the Jerusalem Post.

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"The data compiled by the ARCCI shows that the epidemic of sexual assault is still one of the biggest challenges we face as a society," said Touma-Sliman, ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women that will be marked on Thursday. "The data shows that sexual assault, especially following the difficult Covid-19 period, does not exempt anyone – men and women, children and adults, young and old."

The MK pointed out that an increase in the number of calls to hotlines shows an important rise in awareness. "Women and people who have been harmed today know more and more that sexual violence is illegal and illegitimate in every context. This is an important development, and this awareness needs to be strengthened further."

She added, though, that 80 per cent of the cases that are opened do not lead to an indictment. "The conclusion is that there are further intrinsic problems in the police and the prosecutor's office dealing with the phenomenon."

ARCCI Director-General Orit Sulitzeanu explained: "Our annual report reveals the gap between the welcome change in public discourse in recent years, and the state's continual inability to address the phenomenon of sexual violence. We have collected and published this data to show that this is not a localised issue, but a systematic and comprehensive problem. We call on the new government to view this picture and understand that systemic problems require systemic solutions."

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