(photo credit: Judy Siegel-Itzkovich)
The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel announced the launch of a social campaign to combat youth sexual violence Tuesday evening.
The announcement came after the latest incident of alleged sexual assault among youth came to light earlier that day, as Tel Aviv police arrested seven teenage boys on suspicion of raping and sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl.
The social campaign will call upon youth to sign a virtual treaty in which they commit to act against any sign of sexual violence and to report any incidents of injury.
As part of the process, the teen administrators of the “Super-Pharm Yng” Facebook page, will in the coming days start a social media campaign to distribute these virtual treaties among other teens.
“Super-Pharm has embraced the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel for over a decade, and this year, in light of the focus on the issue among youth, we decided to develop a social campaign which will also recruit the youth community on the social networks,” said Gali Berger, spokeswoman for pharmacy chain Super-Pharm.
Teens are to enter the Yng Facebook page and sign the treaty, which also calls upon youth to act to prevent sexual abuse on social networks and in daily life as well as to maintain respectful communication based on mutual consent and the freedom of choice.
The association also released figures Tuesday evening citing that in 2012 it received 2,460 reports of sexual abuse among youths. Some 220 of these reports involved group assault of youth between the ages of 13 and 18.
“The report published on suspected gang rape of girls provides additional appalling evidence of the serious problem of sexual violence among youth. It is important to remember that a 13-year-old girl can in no way give consent or participate in these acts of her own free will,” said Orit Sulitzeanu, director-general of the association.
According to Sulitzeanu, the new campaign aims to join the appeal the association made two months ago to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to establish a national program to combat sexual violence among youth.
The program would include mandatory seminars in schools on the issues of sexuality and sexual assault, the establishment of training programs for professionals and educational staff, and an information campaign to raise awareness of the phenomenon and ways to deal with it.
“Today the call comes from youth themselves, through a virtual campaign, to take responsibility and action to reduce this phenomenon.
We look with severity upon the fact that the current Israeli government has turned a blind eye to this difficult phenomenon, and we ask to act immediately to establish a program,” added Sulitzeanu.
Dafna Eisenreich, education and information coordinator for the rape crisis center in Tel Aviv, warned that the common expectation that the youth of today should know as well as adults how to deal with sexuality, by dint of exposure to representations of it, was a fallacy.
“We must understand that sexual education is as necessary as any other field of education, and essential for granting children and adolescents reliable information concerning respectful sexual conduct that is based on respect, empathy, reciprocity and mutual consent,” she said. “As long as we continue to leave sexual education up to chance and the wide-open expanses of the Internet, we will continue to wake up in the mornings to new nightmares like these.”