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"I Didn't Scream Because You Didn't Teach Me How"

December 6, 2018

There is hardly any funding allocated to sexual violence prevention in educational institutions and work environments. A senior advisor in one NGO stated, “There is no governmental support and contributors prefer to distribute tablets to people with disabilities.”


It was midnight on Arlozorov Street in Tel Aviv, and the street was empty. Rachel and her friends walked towards the bus stop. Due to construction, they had to jump over a fence and walk through a narrow dark part of the sidewalk. Suddenly, a voice called out to them. 


They ignored it, but the voice kept getting stronger and the person whose voice it was made what he wanted to do to them and to their bodies very clear. "I can't even repeat what he said because it was so disgusting,” Rachel stated, "but his intentions were very clear." 


They started to increase their pace, but the man, who had a bag with a bottle of alcohol in it, was faster. They arrived at the bus stop and there was nowhere else for them to continue. The man that was getting closer continued to yell, untying and pulling down his pants. 


Rachel realized this was the time to do something: "I looked at him and yelled with all my strength, 'Leave. US. Alone!! GO. AWAY!!!’" He continued to come closer, Rachel continues, but her continued screams alerted someone across the street who came and stayed with them until the man left. 


"From the basic details and how it ended, it doesn't sound like it was that bad." Rachel says. "But this man was really drunk and drugged and I told myself I would not be leaving with another #MeToo story. I know that because I wasn't scared I managed to stop the situation before it got to an awful place. My friend hasn’t stopped thinking about what could have happened if I hadn't been there and hadn't reacted that way.

 

 

The only reason Rachel knew how to scream with all of her strength at the right moment and not to freeze or try to run away, like most of us would have done as a result of our instincts, is because the first thing you learn in “IMPACT," an empowerment self-defense course at El HaLev, is to yell and stop a situation with using only your voice. It's hard to imagine how many instances of violence and harassment have been, will be, and could be prevented with this often underestimated tool.
 

You would think that this non-profit organization in Jerusalem, that teaches hundreds of women a year through their empowerment self-defense courses and works to prevent sexual violence in all sectors of the population, would receive the necessary institutional assistance in order to expand its activities. 


However, the Support Committee of the Jerusalem Municipality just rejected their request for assistance for the following reason: the majority of El HaLev's activities focus on sexual violence prevention and therefore does not match the criteria of the committee. The committee is responsible for granting economic assistance to NGO's that deal with victims of sexual assault or sexual violence only. 


The Measured Amount of Violence Holds Steady


"I am familiar with their activities and it seemed strange" Elad Malka, a member of the Support Committee and Hitorrarut [a progressive political party], stated. ”I approached the organization and received documents explaining their activities and the report backing their model from the European Union. I understood that the reason their request was denied was because the committee's criteria uses the word "victims" of sexual assault only." 


The sum we are discussing is trivial in terms of the budget for the municipality of a city as large as Jerusalem. About 300,000 NIS is distributed among a total of four NGO's that rehabilitate victims of sexual assault. However it is a significant amount for activities of a medium-sized NGO (with an annual budget of 3 million NIS) especially when it translates to hundreds of women who could be walking around feeling safer and more confident in their surroundings. 


Malka, together with a few other council members, intend to alter the criteria for the year 2019 at the convening of the committee in August. "The goal is to set appropriate criteria that will allow NGO's who focus on prevention to qualify for the list of supported organizations." The Municipality of Jerusalem states that the option is being explored at the moment and will reach a conclusion for 2019.


The disqualification of El HaLev is an indication of a common approach of organizations and institutions that focus on identifying and treatment after the damage has been done instead of creating a safer environment and focusing on education and prevention. Malka stated: "When it comes to proposing bills in the Knesset and informative content, everyone discusses victims of sexual assault and not prevention." 

 

"Treatment of victims is extremely important, but the change isn't happening,” says Yehudit Zicklin-Sidikman, the CEO of El HaLev who has been active for 15 years as a representative of an international movement for empowerment self-defense; “The Van Leer Institute's index on inequality and violence was presented to the Committee for Gender Equality and proved once again that there had