MDA pledges to deal with sexual harassment and rape allegations

MDA director-general Eli Bin on Wednesday promised to appoint an employee in each of its 10 regions to deal with sexual harassment claims, which currently only has 1 official for the whole country.

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January 27, 2016 21:04
3 minute read.
Kiryat Gat stabbing

Magen David Adom paramedics evacuate victims from the scene of a stabbing in Kiryat Gat, November 21, 2015. (photo credit: MAGEN DAVID ADOM)

 
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In the wake of recent exposés on Channel 1 of reported sexual harassment and rapes of teenage girl volunteers working in Magen David Adom ambulances and other facilities, MDA director-general Eli Bin on Wednesday promised to appoint an employee in each of its 10 regions to accept and deal with such complaints.

The 85-year-old first aid, ambulance and blood-supply organization currently has only one such official in the whole country.

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“I have asked for the name of the manager who allegedly raped a girl, and if it’s true, he will not work here anymore,” Bin told the Knesset Committee for the Advancement of Women on Wednesday, saying he is responsible for the safety of the girls and boys volunteering for the organization and will take responsibility for dealing with the matter.

He also committed to carrying out the changes within two months and to sending a report on those changes within 90 days to the committee.

The Channel 1 investigation by reporter Yifat Glick, highlighted a rape victim who had not previously told her story, as one of numerous instances of abuse.

“I volunteered in the Carmel region of MDA when I was 15. What I went through was shown in the broadcast. The director of the region forced me to sign a letter with falsehoods.

Until now, MDA has ignored most of the cases and I have no doubt you know about many cases of harassment and covered it up to protect the employees. But today, you’ll have no choice and won’t be able to ignore them anymore,” the victim told Bin and the others present at the meeting.



Zionist Union MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin said that, four years ago, MDA decided to make changes in its constitution to prevent such things, but that they were not approved by the Health Ministry.

“The fact that sexual harassment is a growing issue shows that there is a change in society and the sense of justice. It doesn’t matter how high the official is in an organization,” she said.

“MDA is a vital organization, but it cannot ignore the shocking expose on TV, especially when it involved mostly minors. We did not come to besmirch it but only to expose what is happening and, if it occurs, how to treat the problem and fix it so that every volunteer and worker will feel she is safe and can contribute without fear,” Nahmias-Verbin added.

Committee chairwoman MK Aida Touma-Sliman (United List) called it “sad” that they were only just now hearing that directives to make the changes had been signed by the Health Ministry four years ago that could have prevented these occurrences.

MDA has many teenage girl volunteers, some of them religious, who work in close quarters, under pressure, taking instructions from professionals.

Glick told the committee that she had heard of MDA reporting 20 complaints, but that after the broadcast, she herself received complaints at various levels of severity from 25 victims.

“Volunteers have made contact with the MDA woman in charge of dealing with complaints, but they didn’t always meet her face to face, apparently due to her workload,” the reporter said.

Another volunteer, Billie Piltz, told the committee she felt all her training at MDA and experience weren’t worth much if “in the organization they don’t see women as professionals and what interests others is my backside and [thinking about] sex acts. A few months ago, a closed Facebook forum of MDA volunteers was set up, and every day they told shocking stories on what it’s like to be a teenage girl or woman in MDA.”

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