Reports of physical and sexual violence against Arab women were up 20 percent in 2011 over the previous year, the Center to Help Victims of Sexual and Physical Abuse said over the weekend. Some 45 percent of the women calling the center's hot line said it was the first time they had told anyone that they had been abused.
The issue of violence in the Arab community in general, and against women in particular, is to be discussed Monday at a seminar under the auspices of a parliamentary inquiry committee chaired by MK Ahmed Tibi (UAL-Ta'al ).
"Violence, crime and the murder of women in the Arab sector are of top concern to Arab citizens and harm the social fabric of everyone," Tibi said on Sunday.
The center reported that while in 2010 it had been approached by 385 Arab women reporting emotional or physical domestic violence, in 2011 it had received 414 reports. Reports of sexual violence had jumped from 178 in 2010 to 229 last year, the center added, noting that 17 of the victims required psychological treatment as a result of the sexual assaults.
Some 39 percent of those complaining of sexual violence said they had reported the matter to the police, but 75 percent of those who reported physical or emotional abuse said they weren't able to pluck up the courage to file a complaint with police because they were embarrassed or feared for their families.
According to the center, most of the violence against the women was meted out by their husbands, another family member or an acquaintance. Eighty percent of those who asked for help said they had been attacked by their husbands, with 21 percent of these reporting sexual assault by their husbands. Sixty percent of those complaining of sexual assault said they had been under 25 when the violence occurred. Sixteen percent of the reports were by women saying they had been sexually harassed at work.
Women Against Violence, the nonprofit association that runs the Center to help Victims of Sexual and Physical Abuse, said that despite the bleak picture, the group was impressed at the increase in the percentage of reports the Arab women were making immediately or almost immediately after the attacks.
Fifteen percent of those who called said they had been attacked between 24 hours and a month before reporting the incident, while 30 percent said they were reporting an assault that had happened a year to five years previously.
Linda Khawaled-Abu Hof, who runs the hot line, noted the greater willingness of Arab women to complain about sex crimes, which indicates a rising awareness by these women of these rights. Still, she noted, the rates of police complaints are relatively low.
Women Against Violence noted that in 2009, nine of 11 women murdered by their husbands/partners or a family member were Arabs, while in 2010, 10 of the 15 murdered women were Arabs, as were 11 of the 16 murdered in 2011. These statistics generated protests in the Arab community, with calls issued to clergymen, intellectuals and the Arab political parties to take action against the phenomenon. A-Shams Radio, a regional radio station broadcasting from Nazareth, launched a campaign to gather 100,000 signatures on a petition decrying the murder of women.
Monday's seminar on Arab violence will be attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar and Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino, along with professionals and experts.
Figures from the Public Security Ministry to be presented Monday show that in 2011, Arabs were involved in 76 percent of the murders committed and in 70 percent of the attempted murders. They were also involved in 38 percent of the aggravated assaults.
According to the Knesset Research and Information Center, in 2009, 126 people were murdered in Israel, of whom 61 were Arabs - 48 percent. This is significantly higher than their percentage of the population, which is 20 percent.