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Report: Higher Sexual Abuse Rate Among Orthodox Jewish Students in Israel

Michael W. Chapman | October 12, 2022 | 3:59pm EDT
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(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

A new report out of Israel shows that the rate of sexual abuse is higher among students who attend schools in the national religious education system.

"Children who attend religious schools in Israel are more than twice as likely to experience sexual abuse, according to a stunning new report from a liberal Orthodox organisation published on Sunday [Oct. 2]," reported The Jewish Chronicle

Data on the abuse were collected from Israel's Welfare Ministry and the Central Bureau of Statistics, and were analyzed by the Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah Movement, a nonprofit educational research group in Jerusalem.

The numbers show that in Israel's national education system, the rate of sexual abuse is 1.04 per 1,000 students. In the haredi (strictly Orthodox) system, the rate was 1.98 per 1,000 students, nearly double the national rate. And in the  national-religious educational system the rate was 2.39. 

Also, "Among male and female students in the national system (age 3-18) who are welfare service users as a result of sexual abuse, boys make up about a third (31%), while in the national-religious sector, boys make up almost half of welfare service users as a result of sexual abuse (48%)." 

Orthodox Jewish students.  (For illustration purposes only, Getty Images)
Orthodox Jewish students. (For illustration purposes only, Getty Images)

In the haredi sector, however, "boys make up more than half of welfare service users as a result of sexual abuse (53%)" compared to girls, reported the Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah Movement

Shmel Shattach, who runs the Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah Movement, told The Jewish Chronicle that the data show that separating children by gender, "as in most religious schools, does not reduce the number of sexual assaults on children."

"None of the experts we consulted with for this study were surprised by the results," he said. "None of them said, ‘No, your numbers must be wrong.’ Every professional who deals with this issue said that the figures we found generally reflected reality."

The report noted that the data do not mean that the sexual abuse took place in the schools -- it may have in cases -- but reflected the number of reported cases in the Welfare Ministry's files. 

(Getty Images, for illustration purposes only).
(Getty Images, for illustration purposes only).

"The study reveals that both male and female students in state-religious and strictly Orthodox schools in Israel experience higher rates of sexual abuse," reported The Jewish Chronicle.  "The rate for male students was over three times higher (0.61 students for every 1,000) than their secular counterparts (2.07 in strictly-Orthodox schools, 2.3 in national-religious schools).

Shattach said that the strictly Orthodox community in Israel "tends to underreport cases of abuse," according to The Chronicle

The story further said that gender-separated religious schools "have more male teachers who are statistically more likely to commit sexual abuse."  Also, "[s]ome the towns that have the highest rates of reported sexual abuse were in settlements in the West Bank where there is less government oversight compared to municipalities in the rest of Israel."

h/t The Jewish Chronicle

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