A number of Israeli male commenters have objected to my characterization of the high level of sexual violence against women in Israel. I promised I would provide some sources and statistics to support my claims. The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel presents findings for 2007 which indicate nearly 9,000 cases of reported sexual assault (of which one-third were rape). I presume this is the number of reports the Centers received and not the total number of all cases reported to the police or social workers. But it is still a good indication of the prevalence of the phenomenon in society. It should also be kept in mind that the vast majority of rapes and sexual violence are not reported to anyone by the victim, so we can assume that there are many more cases than those reported. Here are some figures (Hebrew) maintained by the Knesset.
Statistics prepared by the United Nations indicate Israel’s 2009 per capita (per 100,000 women) incidence of rape is 17.6. The following western countries report rates lower than Israel’s: Canada, Finland, Chile, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Latvia, Spain, and Switzerland. There were a number of western countries reporting rates higher than Israel. My impression is that these countries aggressively encourage women to report and prosecute those who are accused of the crime. If women feel they will be further victimized by reporting, as they do in Israel and many other nations, they simply prefer, as a rule, to keep their suffering to themselves. Countries reporting higher rates were: United States, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Iceland, New Zealand, and Britain.
I’ll close this post by quoting a female friend of mine who grew up in Israel and lived there for several decades before moving to the U.S.
I do not recall meeting even one woman in Israel who was not harassed (at the very least).
To be clear, this does not mean that Israel has a problem other countries don’t. It means that Israel has a seriously misogynist culture that allows some men to feel entitled to harrass and abuse women and it means that the police and courts don’t, as a rule, do enough either to protect female victims, or to prosecute and convict perpetrators. It doesn’t mean the same problems don’t exist elsewhere. But it does mean that Israelis, especially men, need to face up to this culture and do what they can to change it instead of burying their heads in the sand as a good number do.
One way to encourage more women to report sexual violence in Israel is to do away with gag orders that protect the identity of the suspect. As it is, the playing field is not level. It needs to be.