A women speaks to a nurse (illustrative photo).
Only 15 percent of sexual assault cases were reported to the police in 2013, according to a report released on Monday.
The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel presented the report to the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women observed annually on November 25.
More than 40,000 complaints of sexual violence were submitted to the rape centers last year, of which some 8,637 were new inquiries, reflecting a 12% increase from the previous year, according to the association.
Eighty-seven percent of the complaints regarded female victims, while some 13% were made about male victims.
Thirty-six percent of complaints concerned rape, attempted rape, or sodomy, 26% dealt with rape within the family or incest, and 17% were about sexual harassment.
An additional 15% of complaints had to do with indecent acts and 5% related to group rape or assault.
The majority of sexual assault incidents, some 28%, were committed by a family member, while 24% were committed by an acquaintance or person familiar to the victim, according to the complaints.
“The increase of 12% in reports to the crisis centers is proof of the tremendous importance of unraveling the conspiracy of silence surrounding the topic of sexual abuse and the assistance that directly affects the ability of women, girls, and men to gather courage and turn to the crisis centers,” association director Orit Sulitzeanu said.
“Unfortunately, reporting to the authorities and the handling of cases of sexual assault in the police and the courts are still lacking, and this is reflected in the gap between the data from the Association of Rape Crisis Centers on sexual assault and the data on contacting the authorities,” she said.
Authorities must better understand that sexual assault is a “social epidemic” infiltrating every aspect of daily life from the home to work and even in schools, Sulitzeanu said. She called on the government to fight sexual assault and the conspiracy of silence and invest resources to minimize the phenomenon and provide assistance to the victims as well as raise public awareness of the issue.
MK Aliza Lavie, chairwoman of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, said the findings revealed an increase in awareness among women of their rights. However, she said that despite the constant struggle to fight sexual abuse and the improving legislation, women are still exposed to severe harassment and rape.
“The chilling percentage of assault within the family and also assault in the workplace shows that despite all the efforts we are still facing a very serious situation,” Lavie said.
“We must continue to invest in enforcement and hasbara [public information] in schools and in the workplace, in the hope that not only women internalize their rights but also those who still do not understand what is forbidden and what is permitted with regards to human relations,” she said.
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