The “Me Too” Movement Resonates in Israel

It was another inspirational morning, with a visit to the Afula branch of the Haifa Rape Crisis Center. After a Tu B’shevat snack of dates and nuts, we got down to business. From their small meetinghouse in Afula, our friends Shani and Sarai, along with their Year Course Volunteer Sara, shared how the organization works to support survivors of sexual violence. Together with their nine professionals and cadre of volunteers, they provide so many services, from operating a 24-hour hotline and running support groups to assisting survivors as they navigate the system, often accompanying them to meetings with the police, the courts and legal authorities. According to Shani, the Center’s Director, calls can come into the hotline more than 20 years after an assault and often survivors don’t have the money or family support to find treatment. A key to their success, says Shani, is the work they do in prevention. And, the best prevention, they have learned, is to work with teenagers. The team leads workshops in schools and youth movements to raise a generation of people who are not violent, who are respectful in sexual relationships and understand the meaning of consent. Their work addresses pornography, alcohol use and the party culture in the teen population and they teach that it is okay for boys to be sensitive and vulnerable, without sacrificing their masculinity. The organization also does outreach to social workers, midwives and teachers to help identify victims and educate them how to ask for help so they do not get caught up in a cycle of violence.

“We are an organization for social changes,“ Shani says. “We lobby on the national and local levels, and do media and social-media work, all to take the shame out of society so that maybe victims won’t feel so much shame. “

Today, The Haifa Rape Crisis Center receives approximately 40 percent of its budget from the Ministry of Welfare and another 25 percent from generated income from educational seminars they offer to schools and businesses. This means the organization needs to fundraise another 30 to 35 percent in order to meet their annual budget. Each year, there are close to 1,300 new clients in this region and about 300 to 400 of the calls to the hotline are from the Afula-Gilboa area. Plus, there are not as many social services available in Afula as there are in large cities, so the team is faced with the challenge of expanding their services to those who need the help.

What's more, the “ME TOO” movement currently sweeping the United States is resonating within Israel and the Haifa Rape Crisis Center is ready to respond. After learning about the passion and commitment of the women of this organization, I have no doubt, they are prepared to respond.

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