A vast majority of parents are unaware of the extent of the threat of sexual violence against their children, according to a study released Monday by the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel.
Presented at a discussion of the Knesset Special Committee for the Rights of the Child, the study revealed that just 11 percent of parents correctly assessed the extent of sexual violence in Israel or, in other words, 89% of parents underestimated the threat to their children.
“The purpose of the survey is to raise awareness that despite the fact that there is a pandemic occurring in the State of Israel, many parents are still unaware of it,” Orit Sulitzeanu, the director of the association said ahead of the committee meeting.
The study found that a majority of parents, some 57%, believed that children are harmed mainly by pedophiles. In addition, men were much more likely than women to believe that a child would most likely be harmed by a stranger, rather than a person known to the child.
“The survey found that parents still believe the misconception regarding the nature of sexual violence. The data gathered from calls to the center show that the majority of offenders, 87%, are familiar people, not strangers and not pedophiles,” she said.
As such, Sulitzeanu said there is a need to raise parental awareness, as well as train health, welfare and education professionals to address these issues. She also called on the education system to offer classes about healthy sexuality and preventing sexual abuse.
The findings also indicated that 77% of parents grew up in a household in which nobody talked to them or spoke very little about sexuality.
Along this trend, just 24% of parents today said they talk to their children about healthy sexuality.
One positive finding from the study revealed that the vast majority of parents, 85%, speak to their children about Internet safety at least once a day and that mothers were far more likely to have these types of talks with their children than fathers.
In contrast, 30% of parents responded that they have never checked up on their child’s Facebook activities, while 23% said they follow their child’s activity on Facebook on a regular basis.
“This study proves what we at the ARCCI see in the field – the majority of parents in Israel are unaware of the extent of the phenomenon of sexual violence, they do not generally speak with their children about the issue, very few regularly monitor their children’s’ Facebook account and, so, due to a lack of sufficient awareness, parents are not providing their children with the appropriate protection,” said Sulitzeanu.
The study was conducted in November via an online survey by Panels Research Institute among 306 parents to children ages five to 18.
MK Yifat Shasha-Biton (Kulanu), head of the Knesset committee said of the findings: “To end the epidemic of sexual abuse of minors, we must act systemically to raise awareness among parents and children; to provide tools to educators to identify children who were harmed; and improve the care and support to the victims and their families. In addition, changes must be made in legislation and law enforcement to bring those who harm to justice.”