Opinion

One Out of Every Six Girls

In Israel, one out of every seven women in Israel is raped during her life and one out of every six is a victim of incest - something must be done

FILE PHOTO: 'You're not alone' signs in solitary of sexual assault victims at protest against Israel's shamed former President Moshe Katzav, convicted of rape.
Nir Keidar

Three Israeli women killed themselves recently after being subjected to rape, incestual in at least one case, over an extended period of time. These were women who died long before they died by suicide, whose fundamental right to sovereignty over their own bodies was violated to the breaking point. At least one of them sought help or confided in someone close, but we’ll never hear about the victims who remained silent.

Take Avigail Lavie, whose father sexually assaulted her for years, starting when she was 5, who took her own life at age 22. “The noose is slowly tightening,” she wrote on her Instagram account. “A little more and I die.” Thus ended seven years in the Beit Ruth residential treatment center. When she arrived she was 15, bruised and lonely.

Her sad eyes, evident in the images circulating on the internet, are the eyes of hundreds and thousands of women. According to data from the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, one out of every seven women in Israel is raped during her life, and in 85 percent of rapes the victim and the perpetrated know each other. Another figure that leaps out from the tables is that one out of every six girls is a victim of incest.

It doesn’t take much imagination to understand the physical and emotional world in which such a girl is raised, within the hell contained in that sterile word, “incest.” Some of these women reinforce the oppression by building a wall of alienation between themselves and their daughters, as in the case of Roni Aloni Sadovnik, a lawyer who courageously told of how her mother slapped her when she dared to tell her, at age 12, of her ongoing sexual abuse by a relative.

The public, which can’t bear the thought that at this very moment, one out of every six schoolgirls is experiencing sexual assault, prefers to imagine rape as a disaster that happens in some dark alley, far from our carefully arranged eyes and obedient ears. This attitude allows us to fall into every possible trap. The Hollywood approach toward rape, which turns it into a one-time disaster in an isolated spot, frees the authorities from providing thorough treatment for the victims and their environment and abandons them to the mercies of charities that are collapsing under the weight of the cries for help and the incomprehensible pain.

The government is currently considering the possibility of immediately removing the assailant from the house, instead of the existing option of treating the victims in residential centers (including shelters for female victims of violence within the family).

Women’s organizations must unite and demand the attacker’s immediate removal, alongside treatment of the victim and her rehabilitation, to the extent possible.

This is an issue of life and death. Both parents and the system are obligated to find a way to make elementary schools address this issue, with all the difficulties that entails. This must be imposed on the education system, and not left to social services. Children must know about the possibility of being sexually assaulted so that they can tell someone if they suffer such an assault.

Additionally, assailants must be removed from the home. An entire system is needed to save these girls and their environments before it is too late.

Finally, steps to make this issue accessible to the public must be accompanied by the creation of sexual education curriculum starting in first grade. All of this is necessary to provide immediate preventive treatment.