The Tel Aviv Sexual Assault Crisis Center, initially called the Tel Aviv Rape Crisis Center, was founded in 1978 by the Tel Aviv branch of the Israel Feminist Movement, evolving in 1982 into an independent, fully accredited, non-profit organization. It was the first such entity in Israel and remains the largest, offering the most services. Currently there are 9 other Sexual Assault / Rape Crisis Centers operating in various locations in the country.
In 2015 the Tel Aviv Sexual Assault Crisis Center handled over 10,200 calls, 35% of all calls received by all the Sexual Assault / Rape Crisis Centers in Israel. The population served by the Tel Aviv Center is approximately 1.8 million, some 23% of the entire population of Israel.
From the beginning it was recognized that the Tel Aviv Center has several parallel roles:
- Providing immediate crisis intervention services to women
- Raising public awareness
- Initiating essential social change through extensive educational outreach programs
The Tel Aviv Sexual Assault Crisis Center is directed by an elected 7-member Board of Directors. Financial and operational oversight is conducted by an elected 3-member Oversight Committee. All these officers are elected by the organization’s approximately 240 volunteers from among themselves, on the basis of criteria set forth in the organization’s charter.
Day-to-day administration and professional support for the Center’s services and activities is managed by a highly qualified Executive Director and carried out by a 16-member professional staff that includes Coordinators for each of the Center’s departments and activities:
- Women’s Hotline, Crisis Intervention, Supervision and Victim Support
- Women Volunteer Training and Maintenance
- Men’s Hotline Volunteer Training and Supervision
- Religious Men’s Hotline Training, Supervision and Outreach to Religious Community
- New Immigrant Hotline and Outreach to New Immigrant Community
- General Education Programs and Public Awareness
- Religious Sector Educational Programs
- Liaison With and Training of Professional Sectors
- Police and Hospital Matters
- Justice System and Victim Witness Assistance Program
- Resource Development and Financial Management
The volunteers have two main avenues for volunteering: staffing the Hotlines in 3-hour shifts once a week, or engaging in the Education Department’s broad outreach program to junior and senior high schools, boarding schools, army, places of employment and other sectors. They can also volunteer for information and library activities, organizing public events, and more. All volunteers and staff members, as well, must participate in a 24-week training program. The volunteers must also regularly attend supervision sessions. The volunteers are supported in their work by the Center’s professional staff.
Unlike other traumatic events, sexual abuse is often experienced as a trauma that one undergoes alone. The survivor can feel that society is unable to accept her story and her experience, and as a result, in addition to the trauma of the event itself, she is left with a feeling of isolation, exclusion and guilt.
The Tel Aviv Sexual Assault Crisis Center’s main service is its 24 hours a day, 7 days a week Hotline for Women. The Hotline for Men, which is the only such line for men in Israel, is staffed 7 days a week. In 2003, the Center opened a designated Hotline for Religious Men and Youth operating 5 days a week from 7:00 PM to 11:00 PM. The Russian speaking New Immigrant Hotline is an adjunct of the Women’s Hotline and is on call when needed.
All three hotlines provide immediate emotional, “lending an ear” assistance, tailored to the caller’s specific needs and give basic information to survivors of sexual assault, which can be of any type and of any degree of severity. The guiding philosophy is based on three main principles: the survivor is never the guilty party; there is no room for a judgmental attitude; the volunteer and the caller are equal in status.
The Tel Aviv Sexual Assault Crisis Center provides a number of additional services to those who seek assistance:
- Support groups for rape and incest survivors
- Accompanying to hospital, police station and through the judicial process
- Operation of the Victim Witness Assistance Program
- Referral to a psychologist, social worker, health professional upon request
The Tel Aviv Sexual Assault Crisis Center conducts a number of public outreach projects, the majority of which are aimed at promoting change in the prevailing public attitudes towards victims of sexual assault. This is done in order to achieve an improvement in the policy, procedure and treatment of sexual assault victims, eventually leading towards increased reporting by the victims. Another aim is to significantly reduce and hopefully prevent acts of sexual assault through education and raising public awareness.
Included among the projects are:
- Lectures and workshops for youth in junior and senior high schools and boarding schools
- Lectures and workshops for inmates in state prisons
- Lectures and workshops on sexual harassment in the workplace
- Outreach to specific sectors – new immigrants, the religious sector and kibbutzim.
- Professional consultation and professional seminars for school principals and teachers, social welfare workers, therapists, gynecologists, hospital physicians and nurses, civilian and military police investigators, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, military officers in general and mental health officers in particular
- Support groups and training for law enforcement officials working with sexual assault victims/survivors
- Public outreach and public relations programs, including producing written material and accepting interviews in the media
- Lobbying of local and national officials in order to introduce change in public policy and legislation, as well as achieve a higher priority for sexual assault and its victims on the national agenda
Our vision for the future encompasses reaching out to sexual assault victims/survivors who are less prone to contact us by finding ways to enter into such “closed” communities as the ultra-orthodox, kibbutzim, Arab Muslim, Christian and Druze groups, foreign workers and refugees as well as additional immigrant sectors. We constantly aim to widen the scope of our services and activities, and to fine tune them to suit as many sexual assault victims/survivors as possible.