Women at Risk

Israeli society has become a dangerous place for women - on the street, at work, and even in their own homes.

One out of every three women in Israel will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime, and nearly 80 percent report that they are living in "constant fear" of sexual assault. Women are 3.5 times more likely to suffer from sexual violence than men.

Such statistics are intolerable. Israeli society has become a dangerous place for women - on the street, at work, and even in their own homes.

The data that appear in Monday's story by Yaniv Kubovich must raise the concerns of not just women, but everyone. Violence against women is not only a "women's issue."

What's even more frightening is that the reports compiled by the Public Security Ministry do not reflect the full severity of the situation, because they are based solely on incidents that are reported to the police. Many incidents never get reported. That women's hot lines and aid centers get some 40,000 calls annually makes that clear.

But the Public Security Ministry figures are enough to portray a painful reality. It emerges, for example, that minors comprise about half of the victims of sexual violence. According to women's aid centers, some 30 percent of those who contact them were sexually assaulted before the age of 12. The reports also indicate that since 2008 there has been a rise in the rate of divorced women who are murdered, and that the ratio of Ethiopian women murdered is 15 times that of their proportion of the population.

Over the years there have been many achievements, primarily legal ones, in the struggle for gender equality. This is a welcome trend, but it cannot be allowed to blur the picture emerging from the official statistics.

Violence against women is not a divine decree or a cultural issue that typifies certain population groups; such attitudes merely perpetuate the current state of affairs. The Public Security Ministry's data gathering and formulation of a violence against women index is only the first step in battling this phenomenon. Reducing it requires the full mobilization of government ministries, first and foremost the public security, social affairs, and education ministries.