Treatment for Battered Wolves

There is a decades-old tradition of abuse that not one of the soldiers who has served in the Wolf Company unit gave up.

Children who grow up after suffering abuse in the home and battered women who have freed themselves from the men who beat them go out into the world with their souls forever scarred. If the battered children do not receive treatment from psychologists and social workers, there is a chance they will themselves become abusive parents; without such treatment, girls who were abused may become battered women. The results of sexual abuse are ominous from a psychological and social point of view.

Abuse is a bad thing, and just as there is no such thing as "evil in the good sense of the word," it is difficult to imagine a context in which abuse can be perceived as something positive - unless of course it pertains to the Israel Defense Forces. The army not only has its own slang, but its own Orwellian doublespeak, in which defense is attack and systematic abuse for decades is "fortifying," turning a young soldier into a man, bringing the unit together, fostering the brotherhood of combat soldiers - which is also founded on a conspiracy of silence.

This special language comes to the fore especially whenever a case of abuse is uncovered in the IDF. It came out very prominently last month when the case broke regarding the abuse of young soldiers in the unit of Brigade 188, known as Wolf Company to its troops. The recruits there are wild about the army and wanted specifically to serve in the most combat-oriented unit in the Armored Corps. The abuse is a decades-old tradition, but it was company commander Tal Arazi, who had taken up his post only a few months before the incident, who had to pay the price.

The fact is, we have a decades-old tradition of abuse that not one of the hundreds or thousands of soldiers who have served in this unit gave up even one detail about to the general public.

Like in bad families, the phenomenon of abuse in the army is "passed down," as Brig. Gen. Avishay Katz wrote in these pages on August 28. In this case, too, the victim identifies with the aggressor and he himself becomes like him, passing on the torch of abuse to younger soldiers. Sometimes, as with battered women and children who are sexually abused, the abuse is perceived by the victims as a sign of love.

The IDF did investigate the case, took certain steps and announced the "turning over of a new leaf" and lessons learned for the future. The future is important, but a new leaf cannot be turned over on those who are like the wounded and abandoned in the field - especially not those young soldiers who came to Wolf Company after company commander Arazi, and have not been there the required six months to be able to pass on the heritage of abuse to those younger than them.

What does a 19-year-old who comes to the unit hoping to become one of those "wild animals" - as the poster he hung in his room and his T-shirts say - feel after four months during which he was beaten, humiliated on a daily basis and left in the field as if he were prey?

It is easy to understand the feelings of the parents of a soldier, who, like his friends, was made to lie on the ground while a veteran combat soldier passed by firing staples from a staple gun into their stomachs. They, who had educated their son to serve the homeland, feel now that they have failed in the primary task of protecting their child, and they are helpless. But in the eyes of the state, these soldiers are no longer children.

And now the army, which has taken responsibility for the lives of these grown-ups from their parents, must now take pity on them and on their parents, and give the injured individual care through the system, instead of leaving them alone to crawl on all fours through the burning sand to the nearest private psychiatrist.