Israelis speak at UN against child sexual abuse

The two spoke against child sexual abuse in the United Nations in Geneva at a World Children's Day event initiated by Israel's ambassador.

Ronit Raphael and her daughter, Sarah Raphael-Leitersdorf at speaking out against child sexual abuse at the UN in Geneva (photo credit: DAVID KLEIBER)
Ronit Raphael and her daughter, Sarah Raphael-Leitersdorf at speaking out against child sexual abuse at the UN in Geneva
(photo credit: DAVID KLEIBER)
Ronit Raphael and her 13-year-old daughter, Sarah Raphael-Leitersdorf, spoke out against child sexual abuse at a United Nations event marking World Children's Day.
Israel's Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Aviva Raz Shechter, initiated the discussion, which kicked off the 30th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. 35 countries participated in the event along with experts in the field of child sexual abuse prevention and organization representatives.
"Combating sexual abuse of children is a key priority for Israel," the Israeli mission to the UN in Geneva tweeted.
In an attempt to fight child sexual abuse on a global scale, Raphael, an Israeli businesswoman, founded The Global Army against Child Abuse.
The Global Army's stated mission is to "increase public awareness of child sexual abuse, and to pressure governments to implement stricter laws, in order to reduce the number of victims."
In 2014, the organization released a video entitled "Tom's Secret," which helps explain what child sexual abuse can feel like for the victims and how difficult it can be for them to express themselves. It also shows that when the abuse is finally brought to light, how those the child trusts can support them.
The organization described the animated short as "the first of its kind in the world ever, that on one hand guides parents how to identify child sexual abuse, and on the other hand encourages children to share."
The script was written by child sexual abuse experts from the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel and has been produced in multiple languages.
Raphael's daughter spoke about a particular case she heard and why it is important to discuss the difficult issue of child sexual abuse.
"I will be honest, at the beginning everything on the topic [of] child abuse scared me and I wouldn't want to talk about the fact that it happened to around 260 millions kids in one year. Then I realized that this topic is one of the most important topics to talk about with your parents, at school or just in general," said Raphael-Leitersdorf.
"I came across one story that absolutely struck me. October 2019 a 12-year-old elementary schoolgirl from Indiana  was taught a prevention program and disclosed the abuse she experienced at the hands of her mother's boyfriend. This girl was abused more than 10 times in the summer of 2018. I'm honestly so proud she stepped up and had the courage to speak about the abuse that has happened to her. And only because in her school they had the program called 'Think First and Stay Safe,'" concluded Raphael-Leitersdorf.
Raphael thanked Raz Shecter, saying "Since I was exposed to the horrible statistics on child abuse, I dedicate one day every week to this critical topic. We will continue to develop new practical tools for education and prevention - and pressure governments to act."
The head of the EU delegation, Walter Stevens, noted his appreciation for the Israeli initiative and the importance of raising the difficult issue for discussion.
"Many thanks to the Center for Victims of Sexual Abuse in Israel who took part and partnered to create Tom's secret video," said Stevens. "And thanks to Professor Elizabeth Letrano of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore who is Leading a research project for children 11 to 13 years old who has shown initial effectiveness in preventing sexual abuse, in an academic study currently being conducted."