(photo credit: Judy Siegel-Itzkovich)
The percentage of reports of physical and sexual abuse against children in 2009
were much higher in Jerusalem than in other parts of the country, although
overall, child abuse remains underreported in every region, a new study
published Wednesday by the Haruv Institute shows.
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Based on the number of
reports filed with the social welfare services in each district nationwide, the
Haruv Institute researchers found that reports of sexual abuse in the Jerusalem
area made up 25.5 percent of all reports of child abuse in the region, while
47.4% of the reported cases involved physical abuse.
These rates were
significantly higher than in other parts of the country, with reports of sexual
abuse in the southern region, for example, making up only 12.2% of that region’s
abuse reports, and physical abuse cases accounting for 42.4% of the reports in
However, reports of general neglect among the capital’s
children were relatively fewer than in other regions. In Jerusalem only 27.1% of
the reports involved neglect, while in the south it was 53.8%, 45.1% in the
North and 41.7% in Tel Aviv.
“Neglect” is defined in several ways,
including children not attending school, left unsupervised at home or wandering
the streets unaccompanied.
Haruv director Prof. Hillel Schmid noted that
the actual number of abuse reports in Jerusalem was relatively low compared to
He told The Jerusalem Post
that the high percentage of
sexual or physical abuse reports in the capital was likely because only the
severest or most extreme cases of abuse were reported to the authorities, while
lower levels of “neglect” are often not recognized as abuse among the city’s
large haredi and Arab populations.
“There seems to be a difference in the
legitimization and definition of neglect among haredim and the Arabs as compared
to the mainstream society,” said Schmid, a former dean of the Paul Baerwald
School of Social Work and Social Welfare at the Hebrew University of
“There is a very different approach by these communities and
not every case of neglect is viewed as such.”
However, Schmid was quick
to add that overall, cases of child abuse remained underreported in all sectors
and regions in the country, despite a law that specifically requires the public
to report cases of suspected child abuse or neglect.
He said that few
people come forward with information and pointed out that the 33,751 cases of
child abuse reported to the social welfare services in 2009 were most likely
“only the tip of the iceberg.”
The Haruv report also examined child abuse
reporting in the US and Canada, noting that neglect cases in the US from 2008
constituted 65% of all reports, physical injury 18% and sexual abuse 10%, while
in Canada reports of neglect made up 35%, physical abuse 27% and sexual abuse
“The higher rates of reported neglect in the US and Canada lead us to
believe that North American society has a greater awareness of the need to
report such abuse cases than in Israel,” said Schmid.
population here is not enthusiastic about reporting cases of abuse or suspected
abuse. People are not only put off by the bureaucracy, where they have to fill
out paperwork and give personal information, but in addition, we are a much more
violent society than in the past and we either don’t notice the abuse or don’t
feel it is important to report.”
He said that along with its research,
the Haruv Institute had already started working with family doctors and
pediatricians at health funds and hospitals, training them to recognize signs of
violence and abuse among children and encouraging cooperation between medical
professionals and social workers.
“In many places doctors do not know the
social workers and there is little coordination,” said Schmid, adding that many
doctors are not familiar with the signs of child abuse.
Institute was founded three years ago by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family
Foundation with the goal of becoming a world center for advanced research in the
field of child abuse within the family in Israel.
The institute also
works closely with the Welfare and Social Services Ministry and in training all
professionals that work with children.