Ministry too busy with ‘real problems’ to investigate rape of the disabled

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Police set up a checkpoint in Jerusalem as Israel enters its second coronavirus lockdown(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)AdvertisementThe mother of a 34-year-old son with developmental disabilities reported to the police last week that her son had been sexually assaulted by another resident of Neve ha-Irus, a group home for the disabled in Ness Ziona, where he lives and was told by the police that other parents had made similar complaints, Lia Spilkin reported on the N12 website Thursday.Nearly as disturbing as the fact that the parents of the residents were not told about the assaults and apparently nothing was done to prevent or investigate them was the response from the Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry, which administers such residences.According to the report, Bizchut, an organization that advocates for the rights of the disabled in Israel, was contacted by the parents and asked the Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry how it was handling the reports of the assaults.The head of the disability department of the ministry responded: “We have addressed the issue of recycled complaints about the Neve ha-Irus residence too many times. In the days of coronavirus, our manager deals with providing a solution to real problems.”Chen Gilboa, director of the community department at Bizchut, told N12: “The Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry chooses to allow the institution to continue to operate in the same way despite the complaints submitted in the past. What kind of investigation did they do exactly? The families who complained have not received a response to the claims.”Gilboa went on to criticize closed institutions, which she said are vulnerable to this kind of abuse. In forums for parents of adults with disabilities on social media, parents decried the abuse and said that they would love to put their children in smaller, more open frameworks — but that almost none exist in Israel for low-functioning people. Smaller group homes in the community require more staff members and a bigger budget.While parents of children with special needs were horrified by the report of the abuse and the response of the ministry, the truth is that few were surprised. One mother wrote in a post that, “This ministry has a level of hostility to our children and to families that is worse than any other bureaucracy in Israel.” Another parent wrote, “I had high hopes that [Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Minister Itzik] Shmuli would turn things around. He’s a special education teacher, he seems like a human being. But obviously, he hasn’t.” A number of parents took to Twitter to thank Spilkin for her reporting.

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