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Prime Minister Ehud Olmert pledged Monday during a meeting of the Knesset Committee for the Advancement of Women to allocate NIS 30 million to combat sexual violence and prostitution. Over the next two years, NIS 15 million will be allocated to psychological support for victims of sexual violence; the other NIS 15 million will go to combating prostitution.
Olmert dedicated the funds after he was presented with a plan by the Welfare Ministry, Internal Security Ministry, Justice Ministry and Education Ministry to decrease prostitution by encouraging women to check in to halfway houses. Officials from all these ministries were present in the Knesset Monday to congratulate Olmert on dedicating the funds, and to paint a picture of the growing issues of prostitution and sexual violence in Israel.
According to statistics presented to the committee by the Welfare Ministry, one out of every seven women and one out of every 11 men experiences sexual violence. Police also told the committee that there has been a sharp rise in reported rapes in recent years, with a 20 percent rise in women who have filed complaints in the past six months.
"Most people don't understand that this is a psychological trauma, and they hide their rape for years. These people usually need long-term care," said Dr. Rich Berman. He added that in 2006 more than 4,000 women went to the Tel Aviv Rape Crisis Center for treatment.
The committee also heard letters from several young women who had suffered sexual violence and had not been given treatment for years. One letter, written by a young woman before she committee suicide, said that there was "no place" for her to get help.
The committee also discussed the connection between sexual violence and prostitution. Between 85-90% of prostitutes had undergone some type of sexual violence in their youth.
"It is clear that these issues are connected not just by this statistic but by the general lack of programs and attention given to the many women's issues in Israel," said MK Zehava Gal-On (Meretz), the former head of the committee.
The prime minister ended the meeting by saying that although he didn't learn anything new, he was heartened to see "such a dedicated field of professionals fighting the problems of prostitution and sexual violence in Israel."
Olmert, who also holds the welfare portfolio, is the first prime minister to appear before the committee.
"I am proud to hold the honor of appearing here and hope to make it a committee in which I regularly participate," said Olmert. The prime minister added that the NIS 30 million reflected the greater emphasis placed on socioeconomic issues in the 2007 budget.