Israelis unaware of prevalence of sexual abuse

57% of Israeli parents believe sexual offenders are random strangers, and under 25% of parents speak to their children about the issue.

Tova Dvorin,

Abuse (illustration)
Abuse (illustration)

Most Israeli parents remain ignorant of the signs, extent, and threats of sexual abuse, a Panels Politics poll revealed Monday. 

Only 11% of parents of children ages 5-18 understand the true prevalence of sexual violence in Israel. 

57% believe that the prime offenders are pedophiles - not adults already known to the child or family - and the rate of this belief runs higher amongst traditional and observant Jews in Israel, as well as among men more than women. 

The survey also found that 77% of parents were raised in homes where sexuality was never, or seldom, discussed - a trend that continues today. Just 24% of respondents talk to their children about healthy sexuality, with men being far less likely to give their children "the talk" than women. 

Not all the statistics are bleak, however. 85% of parents talk to their children about safe surfing on the internet and on smartphones at least once per day; once again, women are more likely to conduct these talks than men. 

Despite this, 30% of parents have never looked at their children's Facebook profiles; the 23% of parents who do so regularly are, by and large, mothers under the age of 40. 

"The purpose of the survey is to raise awareness over the fact that in spite of the current pandemic [of sexual abuse] in the State of Israel, many parents are still not aware of it and therefore do not provide their children with the appropriate protection," Orit Sulitzeanu, Executive Director of the Association of Rape Crisis and Sexual Assault Victims, explained to Maariv. "Parents are still prisoners to their misconceptions about the nature of sexual violence."

"The tendency to see a pedophile or a stranger as the attacker is natural and in fact allows us to think that if you protect children from outsiders they won't be vulnerable," she continued. "The actual reality is different and therefore we need to raise parental awareness of the issue, to train professionals in the health, welfare and education sectors to recognize and identify [signs of sexual abuse] as soon as possible and ensure that every child in Israel will be within the framework of formal education classes about healthy sexuality and preventing sexual abuse." 

Sulitzeanu will present the findings to the Children's Rights Committee later Monday. Ahead of the session, Committee chair MK Dr. Yifat Sasha-Biton (Kulanu) noted that the meeting's aim is to "end the epidemic of sexual abuse of minors and to raise awareness among parents and children, to provide tools to educators identify children affected and improve the care and support of the victims and their families."

"In addition, changes must be made in legislation and law enforcement to bring perpetrators to justice," she added.