"There's an epidemic of sexual abuse of children in Israel."
'Sexual assault is made much easier in haredi society, because kids are separated from their mothers at a younger age,' explains rape center manager
Tzofia Hirschfeld, Ynet
Between a Gemara class and a morality class hesder yeshiva students will attend a special course at the Rape Crisis Center for Religious Women. The course is meant to train yeshiva students to become instructors at workshops on the prevention of sexual harassment, which they will give at high school yeshivas and ultra-Orthodox schools.
The objective of this initiative is to provide religious and haredi teenagers with tools to prevent assault, and teach them how to act in case they were victim of abuse.
"There's an epidemic of sexual abuse of children in Israel," said Debbie Gross, who runs the center. "This epidemic exists in all the sectors, including the religious and haredi ones. We are talking about a very serious phenomenon, which I believe can be substantially reduced through these workshops.
"We are already running similar workshops in kindergartens and elementary schools. The problem is that some schools don't allow us in classes over the fourth grade, not to mention yeshivot, which don't let us in at all because they don't want women to host the workshop.
"This is exactly why we needed to train men. We approached the heads of the hesder yeshivot and they agreed," she said.
Is there a difference between the religious and haredi public and the secular public with regards to sexual abuse?
"The only difference is that in the religious and haredi society abuse is made much easier, because of the gender separation. A predator would go to places where there are no mothers to protect their children. For instance, a haredi mother can't take her son to the swimming pool from the age of 8-9. So the kids sometimes go with an older brother, who doesn't always keep an eye on them.
"Additionally, in our education system we have men teaching children from the age of three. This doesn't exist in the secular system, where one can graduate from high school without ever having a male teacher. We know that an attacker usually seeks a profession that allows him to be close to kids," Gross explained.
The course was made possible thanks to a grant from the Shatil organization, the Empowerment and Training Center for Social Change Organizations in Israel.