Child Abuse – Is It An Epidemic?

In the course of one day this week, two mental health professionals independently told me they are seeing an "epidemic" of child abuse, including child sex abuse.

However, one doesn't need to be a mental health professional to have the impression that child abuse is on the rise in Israel. One just needs to read the morning papers.

This week's stories included:

4 teenagers were arrested in the north of Israel on suspicion of repeatedly raping a girl, now aged 14, since she was 10 years old. Altogether ten youths are suspected of offenses against the girl.

Cult leader, Goel Ratzon, was remanded in a Tel Aviv court this week. Ratzon, who fathered dozens of children from at least 17 women, is suspected of a series of rape, harassment and enslavement offenses committed over a period of more than a decade. Amongst the allegations are that Ratson sexually abused some of his 40-odd children.

The case of Avinoam Braverman has continued to shock the country, with further details emerging of his activities involving tracking over one thousand young girls, and rape & sodomy of tens of young victims.

And most gruesome of all, twin brothers Naor and Adir Sodmi, 24, of Bnei Ayish, were charged Thursday in Petah Tikva District Court with sexually abusing and then murdering a seven-year-old boy by strangling his with their bare hands, before wrapping his body up in plastic bags and hiding it in a box.

So,what is the scale and nature of the child abuse problem in Israel?

Here's some facts and statistics you probably don't know about abuse of children in Israel.

By far the highest proportion of child abusers (all kinds of abuse, including negligence, physical violence and sex abuse)  are….their own parents. Fully 78% of children who came under the care of child protection officers were abused by one or both of their parents.

Of over 6500 calls received each year by ELI (Association for Child Protection) 52% were for sex abuse. 19% physical abuse; 15% neglect and 14% emotional abuse.

The figures for the number of kids under the care of child protection officers in Israel, show a steady increase, more than doubling from 16,815 in 1995, to over 39,000 today.

And for all those who say "children make up these stories", as a means of making light of child abuse allegations, according to the Children In Israel Annual Report by the National Council for the Child, True reports and False reports regarding children who came under the care of child protection officers: 96.9% True. And just 3.1% False.

The same report states that their figures only (obviously) included reported cases. "According to estimates, for every reported case there are 3-8 additional cases that are not reported."

So, are the observations of these mental health professionals out in the field, and the horrific headlines in our daily newspapers, reasonably accurate in seeing an 'epidemic' of child abuse?

According to the statistics, there is a constant and tragic increase in child abuse case, year by year. 

Does that make it an "epidemic"? Well, it's not spreading like swine flu....

More like a slowly growing cancer.   


  1. I just wanted to comment on the percent of false reports of child abuse. The Israeli number of 3.1% is in line with American numbers. Incidentally, most of those false reports are by parents in divorce or custody disputes. They are usually easily screened out through direct interviews with the children. Pre-teen children almost never originate false reports on their own.

  2. The number of false reports, while small, still should give us caution when dealing with a very unlikely story. For example, when the whole story seems unlikely, we should suspect that the report could be false. I would include in these false reports cases where the "victim" remembers the crime after many years (in one case I know of, a woman in her 20's who had been on decent terms with her father suddenly accused him of abuse int he past - well, why was she visiting him at age 22 if he had abused her? And if she wouldn't cut off contact with an abusive man when she "knew" what he had done, why does she suddenly expect the neighbors to cut him off when they don't even know if he did or didn't? In another case, a female teacher was accused of abusing a young child in school - the child, age 5, suddenly "remembered" that the abuse happened 2 years before, and people believed this story, even though less than 3% of sexual abusers are women, and of the tiny number of female abusers, the vast majority are high school teachers who go after boys of 12-13, or women who help their male partners abuse, and abuse relatives...there's only something like 5 female preschool teachers in the world (not counting daycare/babysitters) who have been convicted of sex crimes in school against female children who were unrelated to them, but that didn't stop people from rushing to believe this nutty story...


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