A record number of people turned to rape crisis centers in January 2011, the month following the verdict in the rape trial of former President Moshe Katsav, according to the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel. The association also says 2010 saw a 16 percent rise in the number of people seeking counseling in its centers.
It released the statistics ahead of a discussion to be held in the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women in honor of the United Nations-sponsored International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, to be marked on Saturday.
Some 40,000 people sought out a rape crisis center in 2010, 16 percent more than in 2009. Of these, 7,858 had never approached a rape crisis center before, a rise of 3.5 percent over the pervious year. About one quarter of the callers said they had been attached several times by the same person or had been attacked over a period of years.
The association's figures show that 42 percent of the calls dealt with rape or attempted rape, 23.4 percent involved incest, 10.4 percent reported an indecent act and 7.9 percent had to do with sexual harassment at work.
The number of calls to rape crisis centers in January 2011, apparently as a result of the verdict in the Katsav case, was 873, as opposed to the usual monthly number - 650. More women also filed police complaints at that time opposed to a usual 130 - a 36-percent increase.
Another significant statistic in the association's report is that 67 percent of calls to rape crisis centers involved acts committed against boys or girls under the age of 18, and 34 percent of new callers in 2010 reported attacks that had taken place when they were under 12 years of age.
"It is not enough to express shock at the figures. Decision makers and those responsible for our safety must act unceasingly to save souls from sexual attacks, which have the most serious implications on the individual and on society," Michal Rozin, director general of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, said.
"In light of the enormity of the phenomenon of sexual violence and its destructive impact on society, we call on the authorities to act tirelessly to precent this terrible crime," Rozin said.
She added that a great deal of work had to be done to raise awareness of sexual crimes, to identify their male and female victims, to put the perpetrators on trial and to see to the rehabilitation of the victims.
The women's organization Na'amat released a survey aimed at economic violence against women, to mark the international day of focus on violence against women. The survey revealed that 17 percent of the women it polled were not free to use their own bank account, and 30 percent of women needed their partner's approval to purchase something for themselves.
Na'amat will mark the international day on Tuesday with a conference dealing with economic control over women. Participants include Na'amat's chairwoman Talia Livni, MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud ), chairwoman of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women, and Vered Sweid, director general of the Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women in the Prime Minister's Office.
"Economic violence is the less familiar side of violence against women, whether it goes together with physical violence or stands on its own," Livni said, adding that many women are powerless to extricate themselves from situations where men have an economic hold over them.
"Economic empowerment is a basic tool to prevent and treat women who have been victims of violence," Livni said.