Huge increase reported in number of female runaways

The number of female runaways aged 13 to 20 has skyrocketed 79 percent since 1999, according to new figures from the Social Affairs Ministry. The report also found increases over the same time period in the number of girls turning to the ministry for help after being victims of sexual violence (21%) and domestic violence (55%) or for help with eating disorders (15.3%). The overall rate of haredi girls seeking help has grown even faster, with 60% more appeals from them than five years ago. Arab girls are also getting more help, with a 36.8% surge in their requests for assistance. There has also been a 23% drop in the number of unwanted pregnancies and a 7% drop in suicide attempts. The report explained that increasing awareness of the phenomenon of domestic violence and related issues, as well as resources offering help, factored into the growth in appeals for help from Arab and haredi girls. Among the latter group, there has also been a growing incidence of girls who have run away from home to escape the haredi lifestyle, according to the ministry. The numbers were compiled from the ministry division which helps girls in distress, and are based either on reports from the girls themselves or from their parents - for instance, requests for help in identifying missing daughters. The figures were released to coincide with the official opening of the "Adi" project, which from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. provides girls in distress with a place to receive psychological counseling and other forms of help. Until now, similar programs have usually required full-time residency. In 2004, 250 girls were waiting for live-in accommodations, up from 213 the year before.