Growing willingness to report sexual abuse in ultra-Orthodox society: The last two decades have seen a dramatic rise in the number of cases of sexual abuse or violence against children treated by social service agencies in ultra-Orthodox local authorities, where today- the rate of abuse is higher than in other local authorities
A new study by the Israel Democracy Institute examining the political and administrative structure of ultra-Orthodox local government (local authorities in which more than 90% of residents are ultra-Orthodox) sheds new light on social services and on sexual abuse cases in ultra-Orthodox society.
The study, by IDI researcher Ariel Finkelstein, reveals a marked increase in the number of cases of sexual abuse or violence against children in ultra-Orthodox local authorities. Until 2013, social service departments did not classify sexual abuse cases in a separate category; these cases were included in the general category of violence against children. In ultra-Orthodox local authorities, the incidence of these cases has risen from 0.15 per thousand children in 2000, to 1.5 per thousand children in 2010, to3.7 in 2019. In other Jewish local authorities, the number of such cases grew from 1.5 to 3 per thousand children between 2000 and 2010, and has since dropped to 2.6. In Arab local authorities, the corresponding figure has fallen dropped from 1.6 to 1.1 since 2000. This trend is unique to the category of sexual abuse and violence against children. In other categories of violence, there has been no increase in the number of cases over the last decade, in either ultra-Orthodox or other local authorities.
Is this a sign of change? According to Finkelstein, the rise in the number of cases in ultra-Orthodox local authorities may not be due to an actual rise in sexual abuse but also in the awareness of the issue and in the willingness to report such cases. Finkelstein notes that in recent years, ultra-Orthodox local authorities have developed advanced techniques for working with the ultra-Orthodox community c on these issues, and that the community now has greater trust in the authorities, thus making it easier to report incidents.
Specifically regarding sexual abuse, Finkelstein shows that as of 2020, 3.29 children per thousand in ultra-Orthodox local authorities were being treated by social service departments following sexual abuse, compared with 1.98 in other Jewish local authorities, and 0.69 in Arab local authorities. In 2020, there were a total of 730 cases of sexual abuse being treated p by ultra-Orthodox local authorities.
According to Finkelstein, these data do not necessarily indicate a higher rate of sexual abuse in ultra-Orthodox society than in the rest of the population, since they may also reflect the level of trust among different groups in local social services. In any case, says Finkelstein, it is clear that the actual incidence of sexual abuse –across all population groups- is several times greater than what is reported in social service data.
Clients of social service departments treated for sexual abuse by type of local authority (absolute nos.), 2020
Source: Analysis of Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services data by Ariel Finkelstein, researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute
Clients treated by social service departments due to sexual abuse or violence against children (defined by the primary need for care—change to footnote) ) as a percentage of all clients ( here too—a footnote) with an identified need for care, 1998–2020, by type of local authority
Source: Analysis of Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services data, by Ariel Finkelstein, researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute