Financial Woes Push Israel's Only Shelter for Arab Sex Abuse Victims to the Brink

The Haifa Crisis Center is under threat after the Social Affairs Ministry refused to confirm its annual budget allocation to the center.

Israel's only facility for Arab victims of sexual abuse faces closure after the Social Affairs Ministry refused to confirm its annual budget allocation.

The Haifa Crisis Center is operated by the nonprofit organization Assiwa.

Ministry officials contend the funds are being withheld because the center neglected to furnish documentation attesting to its proper financial management. In effect, this contention refers responsibility for the situation to the Finance Ministry.

Workers at the NPO insist that the delay in supplying sound-management authentication stems from technical matters and bureaucracy - that is, from factors beyond its control.

Laila Hassan, director of Assiwar, the Feminist Arab Movement in Support of Victims of Sexual Abuse, says that the facility operates a 24-hour hotline for victims of sexual mistreatment. It also runs an array of educational programs, including one designed to raise awareness about sexual abuse among secondary school students. In 2011, she states, 719 women of all ages and from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds contacted the Haifa Crisis Center via the hotline; center workers conducted 79 meetings with victims who had the courage to make contact and speak openly about their distress, not just on the hotline.

The center operates four support groups for young victims of sexual abuse. NPO members were active in some 600 lectures and workshops on topics of sexual violence for Arab-speaking women last year.

According to the NPO's counsel, Abeer Baker, Assiwar submitted an appeal to the Social Affairs Ministry. The delay in supplying the required documentation is due to a technical problem, and Assiwar learned about the delay only recently, Baker clarifies. "Not receiving the government allocation will translate as the shutting down of most of the NPO's activity, including the hotline, the support groups and other activities, " Baker wrote the ministry.

Deferral of the NPO's request for financial support would be a grave concern, she added; the damage caused to persons who utilize the center's services would be substantial, particularly in light of the lack of other facilities and services for mistreated Arab-speaking women, she wrote.

The Social Affairs Ministry said that under orders from the Finance Ministry, it is not allowed to review requests from an NPO that did not furnish sound management authentication by March 1, 2012.