Adult victims of rape and sexual assault are forced to wait more than six months to receive rehabilitative therapy and treatment at one of the nation’s six specialized clinics, The Jerusalem Post heard on Wednesday.

According to Noa Harris, director of the Rape Crisis Center in the Sharon region, while victims up to the age of 18 are provided assistance fairly quickly, adults must join a lengthy waiting list for therapy to deal with the traumas they’ve experienced.

“If you are over the age of 18 then you could face a big problem,” Harris told the Post, referring to six rape and sexual assault rehabilitation clinics that provide a largely free service and are run by the Welfare and Social Services Ministry and the Health Ministry.

In recent years, three new rehabilitation clinics for rape victims have opened – in Nazareth (for Arabic speakers), Rishon Lezion and Beersheba – joining existing centers in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem.

“The treatment at these clinics is excellent,” said Harris. “Unfortunately, there is a long wait to sign up for them and there is no option for women to stay there overnight. That means if a woman is attacked at home or by someone in the family, there is no safe alternative place for her to go. There is no shelter specifically for rape victims.”

She added: “We try to help them find friends or other family members who will help. If that fails then we will call a battered women’s shelter or see if they can be hospitalized, but often women find themselves out on the streets.”

Indeed, Harris pointed to a recent study that found more than 70 percent of women working in the Israeli sex industry had been victims of sexual abuse or rape. Many of them had received inadequate rehabilitation to deal with the traumatic experience.

Ada Pliel-Porffman, deputy director for the Department of Sexually Abused Teenagers and Youth at the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services, said it was essential for victims of such traumatic experiences to receive treatment as soon as possible.

“It is essential, especially among young girls, that we treat them as quickly as we can,” she said, pointing out that the ministry partially funds 10 emergency centers run by the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, including Harris’s Rape Crisis Center in the Sharon region.

“These centers provide victims with first aid treatment,” she continued, describing how they help them initially by taking them to the hospital or to the police station to file a report.

As for the six rehabilitation centers, Pliel-Porffman said that currently 690 women were receiving treatment, either individually or in group therapy, but she recognized there was a growing demand for the treatment.

“When we opened the new clinic in Nazareth for the Arab-speaking population in the area, we thought it would draw a handful of women, but today there are 85 women receiving treatment there,” she said.

“Today, we have more information and understanding as to how to help these women get over the trauma they have experienced,” Pliel-Porffman said.

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