7 years late: Health Ministry updates treatment guidelines for sexual assault victims

The guidelines, finally adopted by the ministry, were originally supposed to be published by the end of 2015.

  Israeli activist protest against Yuval Carmi, a psychologist suspected of committing sexual offenses and in support of Kim Ariel Arad who is one of the alleged victims of Yuval Carmi, in Jerusalem, October 24, 2021. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Israeli activist protest against Yuval Carmi, a psychologist suspected of committing sexual offenses and in support of Kim Ariel Arad who is one of the alleged victims of Yuval Carmi, in Jerusalem, October 24, 2021.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Seven years past its deadline, the Health Ministry published new guidelines for the emergency treatment of victims of sexual violence on Wednesday.

The guidelines were originally supposed to be published by the end of 2015. In the meantime, medical staff operated without uniform and up-to-date procedures. The last update to the guidelines was in 2003.

Initial emergency treatment for sexual violence victims is critical and includes, in addition to initial medical and psychological responses, the process of collecting forensic evidence for a rape kit.

Since 2003, when the procedures for sexual violence victims were last updated, there have been many developments in treating them, including new forensic and medical technologies, psychiatric treatment and more.

Israelis take part in a demonstration in support of the 16-year-old victim of a gang rape in Eilat, Tel Aviv. August 22, 2020 (credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)Israelis take part in a demonstration in support of the 16-year-old victim of a gang rape in Eilat, Tel Aviv. August 22, 2020 (credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)

The Health Ministry filed a draft of the new guidelines in May of last year, but without a timeline for the completion of work on them. The Lobby for the War on Sexual Violence warned at the time that if a timeline was not released, they would petition the High Court of Justice on the matter.

On January 3, 2022, the lobby filed a lawsuit to the High Court against the ministry, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, director-general Prof. Nachman Ash and the director of the Department of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Dr. Zogar Sahar-Lavi, demanding that the new procedures be published.

"The State of Israel today took a huge step forward in the war on sexual violence."

Yael Sherer, head of the lobby against sexual violence

“I am happy and welcome the publication of the new procedure, and look forward to seeing it implemented,” said Yael Sherer, head of the lobby against sexual violence. “The State of Israel today took a huge step forward in the war on sexual violence.

“Uniform and up-to-date procedures will enable the Health Ministry to provide optimal care for victims, and will even equip them with forensic evidence that will be admissible in court if they wish,” she said. “’Procedure’ sounds like a small thing, but it’s a revolution.”