Melchior: We must help child victims of sexual assault

A bill that would require the state to oversee care for minors who were victims of sexual assault and violence passed its first reading in the Knesset plenum by a unanimous vote of 28:0 on Wednesday. If passed into law, the bill, presented by Knesset Education Committee Chairman MK Michael Melchior (Labor-Meimad), would establish centers throughout the country to coordinate the various agencies and institutions currently caring for the youths. "Minors who are victims of sexual assault or violence are a particularly vulnerable population," Melchior noted in the explanatory preface to the bill. "A minor who was a victim of assault is undergoing an immediate crisis situation, and requires support, assistance and assessment for further care." In addition, youth victims of assault suffered from "a secondary victimhood, the harm caused by being at the center of a long process that is not structured to deal with their unique pain and needs - the criminal process," Melchior added. Despite this, he wrote, "until today, the state has not found it necessary to take on the burden of financing the care for these youths." "The multiplicity of services and organizations causes emotional difficulties for these children," Melchior wrote in the preface, "who are forced to meet a large number of professionals, to answer the same questions - often invasive - many times, to be in places not suitable for children and to deal with delays and bureaucratic sloth." A statement from Melchior's office noted that in the United States, some 400 centers have been established in the past 20 years to coordinate the various agencies and to bring the different services for youth victims under one roof. The statement also noted that improvement in care for the youths contributed to preventing their developing into criminals. The bill was meant to redress this problem by bringing the state into the picture.