Reports of Child Abuse in Israel Rose 7.5% in 2018, Government Figures Show

51,000 cases reported, a plurality from children neglected by family

Illustration.
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Reported cases of child abuse rose by 7.5% in 2018 compared to 2017, according to a report from the Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry to be released on Monday.

In 2018, 50,976 reports of abuse of minors were received, compared to 47,447 cases in 2017, and 48,203 in 2016, states the report. The data are part of the annual report released under the requirements of the Youth (Treatment and Supervision) Law by the social workers who work with the children.

The greatest number of complaints in 2018, 14,342, concerned neglected children – almost a third of all the complaints. Neglect, according to the Social Services Ministry’s definition, is an ongoing situation characterized by the inability of the person responsible for the child to provide their basic needs, protection and access to health and educational services – which could lead to harm to the health and proper development of the child.

The rest of the cases reported involved physical abuse, 11,633 complaints (24.8 percent); 5,461 complaints of sexual abuse (11.7 percent); and 3,425 cases of emotional abuse (7.3 percent).

Boys were more exposed to abuse than girls, 53.1 percent of the cases involved boys compared to 46.9 percent for girls.

Most of the child abuse was committed in the place that is supposed to be the safest for them: within the family. In 71 percent of the reported cases of abuse, it was a family member who harmed the child, and in 4.1 percent of the cases it was a responsible adult outside the family who abused them. Especially worrying is the large number of abuse reports involving children with disabilities: 11,404 incidents, which make up 22.4 percent of all the cases reported.

In 2018, 2,303 children were removed from the supervision of those responsible for them, and the court ordered them placed in frameworks outside the home, such as boarding schools or foster homes. In addition, 20 percent of the complaints were passed on to the police for examination.

Other reports the ministry received concerning children – in addition to child abuse – included 731 cases of children becoming addicted, 1.6 percent; 792 cases of youths involved in criminal activities, 1.7 percent; and 1,176 cases concerning suicide attempts by minors, 2.5 percent.

The greatest number of complaints, 32.2 percent, came from the Jerusalem District – even though it is not the most populous district. The Central District reported 27.5 percent of the complaints, Northern District, 26.9 percent, and the lowest number was in the Southern District, 13.3 percent.

The report is based on complaints received by the social workers. Hava Levy, the head social worker for implementing the Youth Law, said: “This year we are marking 30 years since the amendment to the law that defined the reporting requirement – which obligates all people and professionals, including treatment, medical and educational staff to report on harm to a minor if a suspicion exists. “Over the years, we have seen a constant rise in the number of reports … This has allowed social workers under the Youth Law to reach the minors suffering from neglect and abuse and to provide them with protection and treatment,” said Levy.

Vered Windman, the executive director of the Israel National Council for the Child, said the data from the report reflect not only the enormous distress of all those children suffering from sexual abuse, violence and neglect, but also the distress of the Israeli welfare system.

Many children will be left unprotected if enough jobs are not added for the growing needs, said Windman. “Today, in too many social services offices in local governments they can treat only the children who are on the edge of the abyss. The time has come for Israel to stop abandoning its weakest and most vulnerable children, and to place them at the top of the list of its budgetary priorities,” she added.