Health Ministry refusing to release sexual violence data - lobby

The lobby’s request was submitted in July, and the Health Ministry failed to release the information within the legally allotted 30 days, according to the lobby.

Israelis demonstrate against sexual violence after the rape of a 16-year-old girl in Eilat last week, Jerusalem, August 23, 2020 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Israelis demonstrate against sexual violence after the rape of a 16-year-old girl in Eilat last week, Jerusalem, August 23, 2020
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Following the Health Ministry’s failure to provide information on sexual violence against patients by healthcare staff under the Freedom of Information Law, Israel’s lobby against sexual violence on Sunday submitted a complaint to the Justice Ministry.

“The fact that the Health Ministry is not doing anything to put a stop to [sexual violence of staff against patients] is a disgrace on its own,” but its willingness to break the law to keep information about the scale of this [violence] quiet is a red flag, the lobby said in a statement.

The lobby said its request was submitted in July, but the Health Ministry had failed to release the information within the legally allotted 30 days.

The lobby said it has been raising alarms for years about the Health Ministry’s failure to address cases of sexual violence toward patients committed by staff. Its requests for information are usually met with apathy and sometimes with resistance, it said.

“We are not safe in the healthcare system,” it added.

Protestors march against sexual violence. Jaffa Street, Jerusalem 2018. (credit: MOOLI GOLDBERG)Protestors march against sexual violence. Jaffa Street, Jerusalem 2018. (credit: MOOLI GOLDBERG)

“The Health Ministry’s refusal to give information on the sexual assault and harassment of patients by medical staff left us with no choice but to turn to the Justice Ministry,” said Yael Sherer, head of the lobby against sexual violence.

“We have never received an answer from the Health Ministry to a request for information under the Freedom of Information Law in the time frame set out by the law and have always had to oblige them to answer and turn to the court,” she said.

“The insistence on hiding this information, even at the cost of breaking the Freedom of Information Law, is deeply concerning,” Sherer said. “We turn to the government and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz to declare a systemic address of sexual violence in the healthcare system now.”

Last week, a doctor and a nurse were arrested on suspicion of sexual and/or violent offenses against patients.Prof. Arie Levine, 64, director of gastroenterology and pediatric nutrition at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, was arrested for sexual assault and rape of patients, some of them minors, under the guise of medical treatment, Haaretz reported.

A 49-year-old male nurse at a psychiatric ward was arrested for suspected involvement in the alleged murder of 17-year-old Lital Yael Melnik, who was found partially buried near a park in Kiryat Motzkin on Saturday morning.

When reporting her disappearance, Melnik’s grandmother gave police the name of the nurse who worked in the psychiatric ward Melnik had been hospitalized in. The nurse was allegedly intimately involved with the girl, and Melnik’s grandmother had reportedly taken out a restraining order against him.