A new report by University of Haifa researchers Zvi Izikowitz and Rachel Lev-Weisel suggests child abuse in Israel is on the rise and most abuse goes underreported.
The study, co-published by the Israel Center of the Child, indicates that, based on child self-reports, 48.5 percent of Jewish-Israeli kids cope with abuse sometime during their childhood.
The landmark study interviewed more than 10,000 children enrolled in state-sponsored education ages 12, 14, and 16. The report did not include children in religious schools or alternative educational programs.
The findings reveal that the number of children who experienced abuse was far greater than the number of cases reported to authorities and goes beyond sensationalized cases in the ultra-Orthodox community. Currently, reports of child abuse indicate only 2 percent of Israeli children are abused.
This discrepancy does not surprise Ruty Meiri, social service director of Magen the Beit Shemesh Child Protection organization, who said while awareness of child abuse has led to more reporting in her community, reporting still lags behind.
“We are seeing the number of calls for help double each year, as word spreads in the community, and even abroad, that Magen is available to help victims of child abuse,” she said. She added that even with outreach efforts, the on-the-ground team knows that much abuse remains hidden in Israeli homes.
“We are very aware that we are still barely scratching the surface of the child abuse problem in Beit Shemesh,” she said.
The Knesset also responded to the report by holding an emergency meeting last Tuesday to talk about ways it can improve the lives of children in Israel.
“The phenomenon has become a real plague,” Knesset member Orly Levy-Abekasis said. “All of Israeli society must wake up. The first step toward change is to look in the mirror and admit you have a problem.”