Children studying (illustrative).
(photo credit: ILLUSTRATIVE PHOTO: TAMAR SCHAPIRO)
After decades defending the rights of children, Yitzhak Kadman is still shocked at some of the cases that come to his attention, he said Tuesday at the Jerusalem launch of a new initiative against child abuse in Israel.
Kadman, the director of the National Council for the Child, was one of a series of speakers at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem marking the opening of the program. It was spurred by the disturbing findings of a recent survey on child abuse conducted by Prof. Zvi Eisikovits and Prof. Rachel Lev-Wiesel from the University of Haifa.
The findings indicated that 52.9% of children had suffered some form of abuse and victimization; 31.2% had suffered emotional abuse, 18.7% sexual abuse, 18% physical neglect, 17% emotional neglect, 17 % physical abuse and 9.8% were witnesses to domestic violence within their own families. The survey also showed that Arab children suffer more abuse than Jewish children on all levels.
Among both Jewish and Arab children, boys were more frequently subjected to abuse than girls. This included sexual abuse, with 19.6% out of a total of 5,650 boys and 17.5% out of 6385 girls having been the victims of sexual abuse.
Non-profit organizations and public institutions will combine to implement the initiative, named Mihalev, a Hebrew acronym for the prevention of violence against children which also means “from the heart.”
Kadman said he had recently received a letter from a 61-year-old man in Australia who wrote that it had taken him 50 years to get past his trauma at being raped by a priest and take action. He is now fighting to get a public apology from the Catholic Church.
Another example by Kadman concerned a 70-yearold woman who as a young girl was physically abused by her father and sexually abused by an uncle. She had written a book about a girl who had survived such trauma and asked Kadman to ensure that every child receive a copy in order to learn that no situation is utterly hopeless and that it is possible to survive and to have a bright tomorrow.
The final example was about a 20-year-old young woman from a haredi family who as a small girl had been sexually molested by her older brother with the knowledge of their parents.
From the age of 12 till 18 she was sexually and physically abused by her father and ignored by her mother.
One day when she came to school with her head bleeding, her teacher’s response was to tell her that if anyone should ask, she should reply that her head had been caught in the door of the bus.
Eisikovits, who shared some of the findings of the survey with an audience that included first lady Nechama Rivlin, said that originally the intention had been to question some 3,000 children, but that businessman Gil Mandelzis, who financially supported the survey, said this number was too small for a comprehensive nationwide picture and the number of children polled was 12,035. The Ministry of Education allowed the researchers into classrooms to ask questions that had been vetted to ensure that the children not relive the traumas that they had endured.
Speaking as a mother and grandmother, Rivlin said that to her great regret violence against children is a scourge in all sectors of Israeli society, which is characterized by a conspiracy of silence with regard to battered children. “We must break this conspiracy of silence once and for all,” she declared.
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