New course for professionals to treat victims of sexual abuse in Arab sector

Arab society not very tolerant towards sexual assault victims who choose to complain, expert says.

Rape victim (photo credit: Judy Siegel-Itzkovich)
Rape victim
(photo credit: Judy Siegel-Itzkovich)
The Haruv Institute recently launched a course for welfare professionals dealing with sexual abuse in the Arab sector.
The course, being held at Givat Haviva – Jewish-Arab Center for Peace, near Hadera, includes 20 sessions and ends on July 2. It aims to raise awareness and understanding of and the ability to deal with all forms of violence, and of sexual abuse in particular.
“The course offers another way of trying to address the phenomenon of violence. We consider providing access to the professionals in Arab society crucial in the belief that this will lead to an increase in reports and in treatments,” Prof. Asher Ben-Arieh, director of the Jerusalem-based Haruv Institute, said.
The course has two segments: the theoretical that includes lectures from professionals in the Jewish and Arab sectors, and group sessions, in which each participant brings forth a relevant child victim case and the group discusses the best treatment and approach.
In addition, the participants are required to treat two victims during the course and discuss these cases with the group to receive guidance and advice from other professionals. Furthermore each participant must develop a project in his or her community to raise awareness of child victims of sexual assault.
“All the participants in the course are trained professionals hoping to gain additional experience and expertise on the issue of treating child victims of sexual abuse,” Taly Shlomi, coordinator of the Arab sector at the Haruv Institute, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
The Haruv Institute began advancing the project last year and has developed training plans specifically for professionals in the Arab community. The course was adapted to take into account the sensitivities and cultural codes in the Arab sector, such as the conflicts arising as a result of treatment, fear of exclusion, and family honor.
“This course is unique as it is comprised only of Arab professionals, and so enables the participants to express themselves openly, and they feel more open to raise concerns and issues specific to Arab society,” explained Shlomi.
According to the Haruv Institute, a recent study, conducted by the Center for the Study of Society at the University of Haifa in collaboration with the Education Ministry, found that the number of child victims of violence, and sexual violence in particular is significantly larger in the Arab sector, 22.3 percent of Arabs up to the age of 17 compared to 17.6 percent of Jewish children. Furthermore, two out of three Arab children are victims of some form of violence, the study found.
Furthermore, the female victims of sexual assault in Arab society are often perceived as guilty, as having brought the abuse upon themselves, and suffer humiliation and alienation. The victims are often blamed for staining the “family honor,” and in the cases of incest are even blamed for breaking up the family.
“Arab society, as is known, gives much weight to ‘family honor’ and as such is not very tolerant toward sexual assault victims who choose to complain. We hope that training professionals in the sector will encourage victims to come forth,” said Shlomi.
The Haruv Institute is developing additional courses in the South for professionals in the Beduin sector and another course to take place in the central region, Shlomi said.