By November 13, 2013 0 Comments Read More →

New Study Reveals Half of Israeli Children Suffer Some Form of Abuse


A new University of Haifa study is causing quite a stir in Israel. Social welfare organizations have been the standard measurers for incidents and rates of abuse, but much abuse, this new study shows, goes unreported. Instead on relying on reported abuse, this UH study focused on direct reports and surveys of Israeli children. What they found was startling. Nearly half of Israel’s children suffer some form of physical, sexual or emotional abuse, according to their findings.

More than 10,000 children were surveyed, a statistically significant population. The study was conducted from September 2011 to September 2013 by the Center for the Study of Society at the University of Haifa. The heads of the study were professors Zvi Eisikovits and Rachel Lev-Wiesel.

The total population surveyed were not divided based upon income nor religious “minchag” (cultural background and practices). Israel’s population is much more diverse than many outside of the country realize, with a clear majority of the population having partial or entire Arabian “Mizrachi” Jewish background, Ethiopian Jews, European and Russian Jews, as well Ugandan immigrants, and a large Palestinian, largely Muslim percentage of the population, nearly 30%. The only division reported was that there were 8,239 children described as “Jewish” and 2,274 children described as “Arab.”

First-hand accounts were collected by the UH investigators, from Jewish and Arab children aged 12 (sixth grade), 14 (eighth grade) and 16 (tenth grade).

Half of the total number of children, 48.5%, reported that they had suffered physical, emotional or sexual abuse. Of this, 28% reported emotional abuse, 18% sexual abuse, 15% emotional neglect, 14% physical neglect, 14% physical abuse, and 9% who had not directly experienced physical abuse in their families, but had witnessed it directly.

Lev-Wiesel said that “The study examined not only the scope of violence against children and their vulnerability to harm, but also the factors that encourage or delay reporting it to others. The findings require a re-evaluation of everything we know about the phenomenon and professionals’ behavior regarding the children.

“As people who have been in the field for many years, we were unfortunately not surprised by the statistics. We were surprised by the children’s willingness to answer the questions with such openness. This proved that speaking directly with the children was the best and most effective way.”

Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, chairman of the National Council for the Child said the findings were “inconceivable.” This member of the study’s steering committee continued, “It requires an emergency multi-system approach so we can start thinking about how to reach the children who suffer in secret without our knowing anything about them.”

In 2012, there were only 48,992 suspected cases of child abuse reported. This represents only around 1.9% of Israel’s population of children. The results demonstrated that there is a much higher rate of abuse reported by the state agencies than the rate evidenced by directly interviewing children.

(Article by Ari Simeon; photo via CNS/Debbie Hill)

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