Officials visit haredi sexual assault center

Members of Knesset committee visit victims' center in Beit Shemesh amid efforts to improve treatment of sexual assault in haredi community

Shai Landesman,

Haredi schoolgirls (illustration)
Haredi schoolgirls (illustration)
Flash 90

The Knesset Special Committee for the Rights of the Child visited a Beit-Shemesh based organization dedicated to providing help and psychological treatment for haredi children and youth who've suffered sexual assault, the Haredim 10 website reported. The organization, named "Ma'aneh", is focused especially on dealing with the issue in the context of the complexities of haredi communities.

In today's (Tuesday) visit, Committee Chariman MK Yifat Shasha-Biton of Kulanu said: "In every place and in every sector of the population, it is our duty to confront this issue. We can't afford to sweep things under the carpet. Someone who's sexually assaulted a child once will do it again. Every community, secular, religious and haredi, has to find the best way to deal with these issues and confront them head on."

Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbol approved of the committee's visit: "Sometimes we speak in different languages, but we all mean the same thing. We all want to eliminate this phenomenon, we just need to coordinate. The "Ma'aneh" center deals with all these kinds of matters, while cooperating with community Rabbis, so that they get to the root of the problem."

Ma'aneh CEO Aryeh Levi cited some statistics to convey the magnitude of the problem. "Since the institution opened in 2011, some 600 cases have been taken on, and some 400 of those were taken care of completely. The number of appeals for help we get is rising. We took on 182 cases in 2015 alone. It's very difficult for people from this community to ask for help in this matter."      

Levi explained that Ma'aneh's activities were only made possible after an arduous process, in which the institution was made fit to operate in the local haredi community, and the consent of all community elements was obtained. Chief among these community elements are the rabbis.

"Today there are some who come to us on their own through no middlemen, but in many cases the child only comes to us after he or she has gone through hell," Levi said.

The CEO claimed that there have been difficulties of funding and cooperation with state welfare services, and expressed home that the Knesset committee visit would bring better coordination in the future.  

MK Shasha-Biton directed the Welfare Ministry to begin a dialogue with the Ma'aneh center. "There is no question that the treatment of sexual assault victims is a complex matter, especially within the haredi community. The Ma'aneh center has the ability to operate within the community and give the government authorities all the tools they need to deal with the issues. We all have to cooperate, everyone will benefit, especially the children."