Minister for Social Equality Gila Gamliel (Likud) has announced the establishment of a NIS10 million program to combat violence against women. The program, which has been approved by the government, will be implemented by the Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women.
Gamliel was speaking on Tuesday at the President’s Residence during an event aimed at recognizing outstanding people who work toward eliminating violence against women. She cited several cases of women who had been murdered by husbands, partners or close family members over the past year.
She told the story of Maya Goren, 41, of Bat Yam, who had been brutally killed by her partner in June. Goren loved to read and write stories. She worked at the Beit Lessin theater for 10 years, and in her spare time she taught intellectually disabled illiterates to read and write.
One of the stories Goren wrote was about having a baby of her own to look after.
When she was 35, she met someone younger than she was, but who was the answer to her romantic dreams. She even became pregnant and it seemed as if the desire she had woven into her short story was about to become a reality.
One night, when she was already in bed, her partner came and pulled back the blanket as if to join her, but he held his hand in such a way that she did not see the gun until he shot her. The first bullet didn’t kill her and she managed to crawl out of bed in a desperate bid to get help, but he shot her again and again – and then slit her throat.
Goren was one of 17 women murdered this year, and the list keeps growing, Gamliel said.
There are 30,000 cases of sexual abuse reported each year, and some 2,000 battered women are in treatment. There are another 5,000 in need of therapy, she added.
While not so long ago, women were afraid or embarrassed to talk about what had happened to them, Gamliel said, today, those who have suffered sexual violence realize they are not guilty and are willing to speak out.
“It’s not just a woman’s problem,” she declared. “It’s society’s problem. It’s never the problem of just one person, but of all of us. We must counter brutality with tolerance, and the hand raised in anger with the hand stretched out in friendship.”
President Reuven Rivlin said there were women who managed to get up and save themselves while, unfortunately, there were those who did not.
Rivlin commended “Me Too,” a campaign by women admitting that they had been sexually attacked or harassed, as an important breakthrough, especially because it encouraged more women to come out and accuse those who attacked them. On the downside of the campaign, he observed, it created the impression that all men are guilty of sexual harassment and violence.
Rivlin said he believed that “violence against women harms all of us. It harms us as men, it harms us as society. Sometimes, we have to use unpleasant and even impolite means to fight it.”
He added that the special day designated by the United Nations for the elimination of violence against women was not for women alone, but for everyone, women and men, to work together to remedy the situation through education so that even if people don’t do it for themselves, they will at least create a better world for their children and grandchildren.
Some women, even when they put on a happy face and appear to have a good family life, can never get past the trauma.
One who has dedicated herself to preventing pedophilia, of which she was a victim, would not allow herself to be photographed or identified. Although she was present in the room, she could not bring herself to tell her story in front of others, and told it on video instead, still shedding tears so many years later.
She had been raised in a happy family in which the children told their parents everything, but because she had been violated repeatedly by a close relative, she could not bring herself to share this awful secret.
When she was already an adult and her mother had been widowed, she finally managed to tell her of her suffering.
Her mother engulfed her in her arms and kissed her, saying: “Where was I? Why didn’t I see what was happening?” The woman never leaves her own children alone in a room with anyone – not even with their father or any male relative. She works to protect other children, too.
A prize was awarded to Debbie Gross, who lives in a haredi neighborhood where she noticed that several children were being sexually molested.
Gross set up a special center for women and children. The center grew over time and she now receives some 200 complaints a week. She has also traveled abroad and persuaded rabbis in other haredi communities to establish similar projects.
Alex Levin, another prizewinner, has long been devoted to helping children and preventing human trafficking.
Levin was shocked when he first learned that women were sold like cattle and treated like slaves, and decided to do something about it. He established a website called Sexual Harassment.
Through it, he finds ways to help women out of their predicament. He said he hoped that the day would come when women could walk in the streets at night without fear of being attacked.
Einat Agassi was an additional prizewinner.
Agassi is director of Tair, an organization that provides immediate help to women and children in trouble, and said she looked forward to the day when it would close down because there was no longer a need for that type of service.
Gamliel also referred to some of the vicious verbal attacks against Rivlin in recent days for his refusal to pardon Hebron shooter Elor Azaria, saying: “You are now the subject of a brutal assault. Violence begins with words. We must not be silent in the face of any kind of violence.”