child abuse 88.
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The Internet in Israel is a "pedophile's paradise," Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, Executive Director of the National Council for the Child, has warned The Jerusalem Post. He was speaking in the wake of Wednesday's arrest of 10 individuals suspected of raping and sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy for more than two years.
According to initial information released by the police, the suspects met the minor via a homosexual social networking Web site. Most of the details of the case are under a court-imposed publication ban.
"Just as the government is responsible for enhancing road safety for Israel's children, it is also responsible for making sure that our children are safe from predators on the Internet," stated Kadman, highlighting that two years ago - at the Beersheba Conference for Child Welfare - police representatives announced the intention to create a task force that would use investigative and preventive measures to stop such predators from using the Internet to reach children.
"Since then, very little has been done by the government or the police to get these preventative measures up and running," he claimed, adding that light punishments to those who are found guilty of sexually abusing minors also contributed to the ease with which pedophiles use the Internet for such purposes .
"We are not only talking about this case, which is obviously extreme, but what of the other situations where pedophiles use the Web for virtual sex or to harass young children?" asked Kadman.
While the Israel Police did not respond to Kadman's claim before press time, a former National Fraud Unit investigator told the Post that the authorities had in the past worked closely with Interpol and Europol to bring down international pedophile rings operating on the Web. He also said there was a unit within the police that tracks Internet crimes.
"Just because the government is not doing enough, that does not mean however, that parents should also ignore what is happening to their child," commented Kadman. "It is up to parents to talk to their children about Internet safety. While the Internet is a useful resource, it is also one of the main ways for children to be exposed to these bad elements."
Ronit Zur, head of the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services Child Investigative Unit, said Thursday that parents should act on any suspicions that their children may be victims of sexual abuse and seek professional consultation immediately.
"The signs vary from age to age and for each situation but parents can usually tell when there are changes in their child's behavior," said Zur, explaining that the ministry's Child Investigative Unit is the only legal body allowed to interview children under the age of 14 who are believed to have been abused. Those over 15 fall under the jurisdiction of police Child Investigators.
As for the court-imposed media ban on naming any of the suspects involved in the most recent case, one lawyer who works with similar cases involving minors said he believed that at this stage "it is unnecessary to reveal their identities until the police have enough evidence to convict them."
"Before destroying someone's reputation, there needs to be solid evidence against these people," he said.
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