Open Crisis Centers for Victims of Sexual Assault in the Periphery
Acute care centers are emergency centers that give initial care to victims of sexual assault. In Israel, these centers exist in hospitals. At acute care centers, victims are provided with multi-disciplinary physiological and mental treatment and sexual assault exams, which are used to preserve evidence for future lawsuits and check for potential medical needs. There are only five such centers in Israel: Wolfson Medical Center in Tel Aviv, Bnai Tzion Medical Center in Haifa, Poriya Medical Center in Tiberias, Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, and Soroka Medical Center in Beer Sheva. This means that a woman who is assaulted in Eilat needs to get herself to Soroka – a two-hour drive at 200 kilometers away, before she can even wash herself after being assaulted. What’s more, the directive that regulates these centers was last amended in 2003, and it is thus outdated and does not include new treatments, relevant exams, or improved forensic equipment technology.
On 25.3.2019, ACRI Adv. Tal Hassin sent an inquiry to the Health Ministry Director asking that the ministry open additional acute care centers: one in Eilat, a city that deals with many personal safety challenges, and others in the North, to serve residents living in the Western Galilee, Upper Galilee and Golan Heights. The inquiry included a request for every hospital to own forensic evidence kits and to train staff on how to use them for victims of sexual assault (this is especially important as there is a small window of time for collecting biological samples). Adv. Hassin wrote that without widespread access to this procedure, the choice to go to an acute care center or suffice with a normal hospital room is not really a choice for victims. This procedure, otherwise known as a rape kit, must be available everywhere as it allows victims and broader society to achieve an important goal - bringing sex offenders to justice. In 2016 and 2017, the vast majority of sexual crime cases opened were closed due to lack of sufficient evidence for prosecution.
ACRI also requested that the outdated procedures be updated to include: updated trainings with new information on how to talk to and care for victims, and sensitivity training for caring for different populations, especially Arab, Ultra-Orthodox, and LGBTQ communities, including transgender people.
On 2.5.2019 the Health Ministry responded that the ministry is in the midst of a strategic process to re-evaluate the health system’s response to and care for sexual assault victims. In the process, they are looking both at expanding the geographic placement of acute care centers and improving hospital staff trainings. They also said they are updating the regulations and procedures.
Today (4.8.2019), it was announced that, through the “Eilat Development Plan,” medical services throughout Eilat will be improved and, amongst other things, an acute care center for victims of sexual assault will be established at the Yoseftal Medical Center. While this is an improvement, there is still a need for additional acute care centers to be set up for residents of the Galilee and Golan.