Kibbutz movement faces up to sexual harassment

Specially trained advisers to be available to counsel victims.

kibbutz beeri 88 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
kibbutz beeri 88 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The United Kibbutz Movement is commencing a program to create sexual harassment advisers in each of its communities, and the program is already in its experimental stages in the Upper Galilee and in the Menashe Regional Council. Smadar Sinai, Director of the Department of Women's Advancement in the Kibbutz Movement, explained that by installing sexual health advisers on kibbutzim, she hoped to bring the previously taboo, swept-under-the-rug attitude towards such problems out into the open. In the past, authorities were not informed of crimes of sexual harassment. Instead, such incidents were handled within the kibbutz. "We say 'no more secrets.' [Sexual harassment crimes] should be dealt with in the open, making use of all the facilities of the state," says Sinai. "These are small communities, so how do you react when something like this happens?" says Sinai, addressing the kibbutzim's lack of awareness of how to deal with sexual harassment. The new advisers are meant to be a resource for the community - a person accepted by the kibbutz who is readily available to help any victim, male or female, at any time. The proposal for this project has been unofficially presented to Mirit Danon, Director of the Women's Division in the Prime Minister's office, who expressed interested in it. Danon said her department would be willing to fund the necessary training courses. Before the new project goes into effect across the country, Sinai plans to observe the Upper Galilee and Menashe pilot programs. She expects the Upper Galilee region to have appointed an adviser soon. Once appointed by their home kibbutzim, sexual harassment advisers will undergo 10-12 weeks of training before they can begin work. Sinai said that the body of knowledge advisers will have to inquire is "unique" and comprises both legal and social aspects. Advisers will handle complaints from all sectors of the kibbutz, both schools and workplaces. Israeli law requires any workplace employing more than 25 people to retain a sexual harassment contact person. The sexual harassment advisers' role is not to notify the police directly - only the victim can choose to do so. Rather, advisers will work with victims to inform them of the options available and which steps should be taken if the victim desires legal recourse.