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Israel needs to provide more assistance to child victims of violence and improve its follow-up care, according to Hannah Slutzky, national supervisor for child affairs in the Welfare and Social Services Ministry.
Speaking at the third annual Eilat Conference exploring violence in Israeli society on Wednesday, Slutzky called on the more than 800 social workers, ministry officials, local authority staff, police officers and journalists gathered there to help establish a national center for victims of violence - whether within the family or from outside - to deal with the long-term effects of their experiences.
"There are programs here and there but so far nothing exists linking them all together into a national effort," Slutzky told The Jerusalem Post following her presentation.
"The goal should be helping victims cope with their pain and move on with their lives," she said.
According to Slutzky, while there exists nine emergency centers for victims of sexual, physical and emotional violence, which are overseen by the Welfare and Social Services Ministry, once the victims have completed initial treatment there is little follow-up or assistance for them to ease back into society.
The effects of violence, especially sexual attacks, continue for a long time, Slutzky told the conference. "We have to ask ourselves what happens to them afterwards? Does Israeli society know how to deal with them?" She continued: "Very often victims cannot go back to their lives, they have to change schools and community. Other parents don't want them around because they are considered trouble."
While primarily focusing on victims of physical and sexual violence, Slutzky also highlighted the growing number of cases involving parental neglect among children, which she also termed a form of violence likely to have far-reaching consequences for those children later in life.
"Out of 230 children treated last year at the emergency centers, 107 came because they were not being looked after properly by their parents," said Slutzky. "We call them the silent victims; their cases do not create drama and get no public attention."
Slutzky's talk was bolstered by that of another conference speaker, child psychologist Miri Keren, director of the Community Infant Mental Health Unit at Geha Mental Health Center, who presented the findings of international studies linking violence experienced in childhood with violent acts in later life.
Keren told the forum that more needed to be done to teach parents how to raise their children without introducing violence into their lives.
Other speakers at the two-day conference included Defense Minister Amir Peretz, who linked the growing violence in Israeli society to the country's conflict with the Palestinians and to the growing socio-economic gaps between rich and poor. Peretz, however, refused to answer questions about his role in the Second Lebanon War or the preliminary findings of the Winograd Committee, which were published last week.
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