Sexual assault, gang rape, and prostitution among youth have captured the headlines of Israeli media in the past few months.
The latest incident reported Wednesday, saw seven men between the ages of 17-45 arrested on suspicion of engaging in sexual acts and involvement with minors in prostitution in exchange for money and other benefits.
Chief Superintendent Yizhak Gatnio, head of the Tel Aviv District Police Investigations and Intelligence Department told army radio on Thursday that he feels “personally a bit uncomfortable” speaking about the incidents in the most recent case. According to the chief superintendent the acts were among "the worst that I can come up with in my mind that girls can do." He further added that the sexual acts were done with consent.
The National Council for the Child released an open letter to Interior Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich on Wednesday calling for the establishment of a national unit of the Israel Police to combat sex crimes against minors.
“The exposure of the latest shocking affair of the sexual exploitation of minors, only reinforced our conviction that we must operate in a more thorough and serious manner in addressing this widespread and difficult problem of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children, boys and girls,” wrote Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, executive director of the National Council for the Child.
He called on the Education, Welfare, Justice, Health and Internal Security Ministries to provide close cooperation and coordination in addressing and responding to this issue.
According to Kadman, the responses should include prevention and treatment programs, legislative amendments, improvements in enforcement, exposure and early detection programs, and innovative programs in sexual crime through the internet and social networks.
Kadman said the police "should and can" become the leaders of implementing change.
"Of course, the police should not and are unable to bear alone the burden of the heavy and complex reform needed in this area, but we can hope that the changes led by the police will illicit similar deployment in other organizations,” he wrote.
Kadman concluded by writing that while this idea may be new to Israel, there is precedence at the international level and many advanced countries already operate such police units.
Orit Sulitzeanu, director-general of The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel (ARCCI) also issued a statement Wednesday in light of the “series of cases publicized in recent weeks.”
According to Sulitzeanu, the association made an appeal over two months ago to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to establish a national program to combat sexual violence among youth.
The program calls for mandatory seminars in schools on the issues of sexuality and sexual assault, the establishment of training programs for professionals and educational staff, and an information campaign to raise awareness of the phenomenon and ways to deal with it.
Seven teenage boys were arrested for the alleged rape of a 13-year-old girl in Tel Aviv in a separate incident last week. Police arrested five teenage boys suspected of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl in a similar case in December.
“Stop burying your head in the sand. We call on authorities to recognize that, in Israel in 2014, there is an untreated widespread phenomenon that we must invest the necessary resources to eradicate,” Sulitzeanu said.
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