Child abuse is underreported throughout country

Percentage of sexual abuse cases reported are higher in Jerusalem; the 33,751 child abuse cases reported in 2009 “only the tip of the iceberg.”

By
November 4, 2010 03:01
3 minute read.
Victim [Illustrative photo]

Rape victim. (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.

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.

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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 Tel Aviv.

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 other regions.



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 Jerusalem.

“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 3%.

“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.

“The general 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.

The Haruv 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.


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