Children play in park
Children play in parkIsrael news photo: Flash 90

A first group of 22 doctors has completed a course that provided them with the skills to identify child abuse. The doctors, who work in hospitals and health clinics around the country, were part of a pilot program that is set to be expanded, with the goal of including at least one expert on abuse in all health facilities in Israel.

The program was organized by the Haruv Institute, which was established in 2007 specifically to deal with the issue of child abuse in Israel. On Wednesday, the Institute sponsored an international gathering on child abuse. According to statistics presented at the conference, in 2007 (the last year for which the data was available), over 18 million children in Europe experienced some form of child abuse – with 22.9% of all children experiencing physical abuse, and 29.1% experiencing verbal abuse.

In Israel, group researchers said, it is estimated that there are between 120,000 and 150,000 cases of child abuse annually. However, only 50,000 are reported, with the rest explained away by parents, caregivers, and doctors. The new program, said the Institute, will give doctors the skills they need to identify genuine cases of child abuse. According to Israeli law, a doctor or other health provider must report suspected cases of abuse to police.

The 22 doctors were flown to the U.S. to participate in a special course on identifying abuse, passing a test after the course that certified them as experts in identifying abuse. Eventually, the doctors will be able to teach the skills to others in Israel, thus building a network of abuse experts who can identify – and hopefully help to prevent - abuse as they examine children during their regular treatment activities, the Institute said.