Many Israelis are not aware that 80 percent of rapes in the country are committed by perpetrators known to the victim. A survey commissioned by The Authority for the Advancement of Women in the Prime Minister's Office for publication on International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Sunday showed that the Israeli public holds many misconceptions about rape.
In the survey 25 percent of Israelis agreed with the assertion that rape only happens after nightfall, while 34 percent thought that daylight prevented acts of rape. Seventeen percent of the 500 respondents thought that the way a woman is dressed is one of the main causes of sexual assault.
"One of the major achievements of the NIF family," explains Aida Touma-Suliman, Executive Director of NIF grantee Women Against Violence (WAV), "is that International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is now marked throughout the country by the media, establishment figures and government offices."
WAV, which was established in 1992 with support from NIF, set up the first shelter for battered women and rape crisis center in Israel's Arab sector. On Friday, WAV organized a major demonstration in Nazareth to protest violence against women, which was attended by the city's mayor and other notables.
Women demonstrate in Nazareth to mark International Day
for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
Before the NIF family pioneered the campaign on violence against women in the 1980's and early 1990's, many Israelis simply insisted that there was no such problem in Israeli society. Now the subject is such a consensus issue that politicians scramble to champion the cause. Even Prime Minister Ehud Olmert issued a special statement for the occasion and claimed that the government will allocate a larger budget for combating violence against women in 2008.
Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog visited the Jerusalem Sheltered for Battered Women, which is operated by former NIF grantee Woman to Woman, and announced greater government assistance for women who leave such shelters and for the treatment of violent men. Y-Net, Israel's most popular Internet news site, published a special report which revealed that while the Ministry of Welfare's budget for alleviating domestic violence had increased by 18% over the past five years, the number of women seeking refuge in battered shelters over this period had increased nationwide by 75% to about 13,000 per year.
To mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, veteran NIF grantee Israel Association of Rape Crisis Centers (IARCC) opened a special exhibition of photographs depicting women who have been the victims of sexual violence and organized a demonstration in Tel Aviv on Saturday night. The organization also published its annual report, which showed a slight decrease in the number of complaints.
"We think that the plea bargain negotiated by the State with President Moshe Katsav," explained IARCC Spokesperson Einat Rubin, "had a negative impact on the subject of sexual assault with many women losing faith in the police and legal system."
IARCC received 8,862 requests for help in 2006, compared to 8,970 in 2005, and 38,720 inquiries for information. But Rubin stresses that these numbers are just the tip of the iceberg as most victims of sexual assault keep the trauma to themselves.
With this reluctance by victims of sexual assault to come forward in mind, the impending ruling by Israel's Supreme Court on the plea bargain with President Katsav, of which NIF grantee Kollech – Religious Women's Forum is one of the petitioners, is of enormous significance. The Supreme Court verdict is expected in the coming few weeks.