Against the backdrop of an alarming number of brutal rapes being reported in recent weeks, the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel (ARCCI) revealed Wednesday that it has yet to receive a shekel in funding promised by the government because of bureaucratic procedures.

Speaking at an emergency session of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women – called to discuss the series of rapes – ARCCI director Michal Rozin said the organization, which runs 11 help centers and a hotline for victims to report attacks, is waiting for some NIS 4 million in funding meant to come from a joint committee of Ministries of Welfare and Social Affairs and Justice.

“Everyone is outraged by the series of rapes that have happened recently yet the government is not putting the money where its mouth is,” Miriam Schler, executive director of the Sexual Assault Crisis Center in Tel Aviv, told The Jerusalem Post following Wednesday’s meeting.

“It is completely outrageous that the government expects us to continue taking care of these victims without pay or funding for our programs,” continued Schler, explaining that the government is unlikely to transfer the money it has committed for the organization’s 2012 budget until sometime in September because of lengthy bureaucratic procedures.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Rozin highlighted that over the past year, more than 40,000 people have called the organization’s hotline to report sexual abuse, harassment or rape. As well as the hotline and centers it runs, the organization offers victims a range of immediate support and also provides educational programs.

The Welfare and Social Services Ministry runs additional treatment programs and on-going support for victims.

MK Tzipi Hotovely, chairwoman of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women, said in the meeting that the budget for the association should not be subjected to bureaucratic procedures but should be permanent just like the country’s defense budget.

“We are talking about personal security for every citizen, because everyone is a potential victim here,” she said. “This situation, which constantly repeats itself every year because the Justice Ministry takes months and months to transfer the funds, is unacceptable.”

Meretz party leader Zehava Gal-On called for an emergency meeting with both the ministers of justice and welfare to address the problem. Both ministries sit on an interministerial committee that is meant to approve and transfer funds to the ARCCI.

In response to Wednesday’s meeting, the Welfare Ministry said the issue was being investigated and highlighted that the office is committed to treating victims of rape and sexual assault.

The Finance Ministry responded that the paperwork allowing for the transfer of the funds had already been completed and was waiting final approval.

“Over the past few days this issue has been given priority by the ministry but, unfortunately, we were not given the opportunity to respond or clarify the matter since we were not invited to participate in the hearing of the Committee on the Status of Women,” the Finance Ministry wrote in its response.

Earlier this week, three suspects were arrested for raping two young women in the fields near Ramat Yishai and on May 11 a young couple reported a sustained and brutal rape that took place in central Tel Aviv.

During the same week, a young woman was rescued by police while she was being attacked in south Tel Aviv. In addition, the police released information regarding another rape that took place on Independence Day in Tel Aviv and on Tuesday, it was revealed that an 11- year-old girl had been gangraped in Beersheba.

Asked whether this latest wave of sexual crimes indicates that the problem is deepening here, Schler said that there seems to be an element of copycat crimes taking place and emphasized that what is being reported in the media is likely just the tip of the iceberg.

These are sensationalist cases because the rapists were from a certain community, said Schler, adding, “We must remember that 87 percent of rapes are by perpetrators known to the victim and that only 20% of those incidents are reported to the police.”

The Association of Rape Crisis Centers runs two helplines, one for women (#1202) and one for men (#1303).

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