WAV’s Crisis Center provides services to victims of gender based violence such as physical, emotional or sexual abuse. This Crisis Center is the first fully Arabic hotline. It is also one of the few hotlines in the country that deals with all kinds of violence, not just the sexual abuses, specifically to address the violence against Arab women living in Israel.
The Crisis Center is part of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel that includes 10 women’s organizations from all over the region, working as a coalition yet functioning independently and exclusively within the Palestinian community.
The women are not obliged to identify themselves and they’re not even forced to make a decision for their future. Most of the women, in fact, don’t feel ready to leave their homes or their husbands, but they just need someone who listens to them without judgments.
Until June 2010 the center registered 226 approaches both for physical and sexual abuse.
Right now there are 25 volunteers working in the Crisis Center and two coordinators of the project. Linda Khwaled coordinates the contents and the running of the courses for professionals as lawyers, police officers, and medical staff, and she also attends the victims to the court, or to the meetings with lawyers or policemen for the “Victim Witness Assistance”. Souzan Zoa’bi coordinates all the approaches to the center. She cares about the welfare of the victims, giving them moral and social support, and also makes arrangements for potential referrals to other shelters or therapeutic institutions.
The presence of volunteers is also fundamental for the success of the project. Therefore, the last volunteer training course took place from December 2009 to June 2010. The program qualifies the volunteers to handle the approaches to the Crisis Center and to assist the victims of sexual abuse to the court if it’s necessary.
Usually the course is divided in two parts and before it starts the coordinators meet the attendees to understand if they are suitable for the project. The first part deals with more theoretical subjects about the gender based violence and women’s rights, and after that both the supervisors and trainees evaluate themselves and what they have learned so far. In the second part, the volunteers start to work properly with the hotline and the first approaches to the center. After the course, if the trainee ends it successfully, the volunteers must attend refresh courses monthly and supervision meetings with the coordinators.
It’s important to stress that, generally, the volunteers come from the north area, but in the last period a lot of the people that decided to join the center came from different places in the country. This means that even geographically the center has registered an intensive expansion and that the awareness about the program increases daily through the WAV Raising Awareness program between the entire Arab villages in Israel.
Since the last training courses, 13 volunteers have joined the Crisis Center staff.
In the last year, the project has been working to increase the awareness among professionals about the trauma of victims of sexual or physical abuses. This has received great results such as in 2010 the number of approaches to the Crisis Center by professionals increased by 40% compared to 2009.
One of the projects related to the Crisis Center concerns the workshops and Study Days with lawyers, police officers, social workers and medical staff in order to inform them about the conditions of the Arab women and how to approach them. The coordinators have noticed that often when a woman turns to a professional to report an abuse she feels misunderstood because of the behavior of the professional that reflects his traditional beliefs. Because of this, the project aims to help the professional figures in handling cases of sexual or physical abuse of Palestinian women victims. The coordinators plan to introduce again the workshop for detectives that had been held in 2007 in order to give them a new perspective about the psychological and physical behavior of the victims.
Another project that deals with WAV’s Crisis Center is the “Victim Witness Assistance Program”. It’s fundamental as it helps the victims of sexual abuse in getting through judicial trials, from the report of the assault at the police station to the final verdict of the court.
It has been working since 2002, especially for Palestinian women in Northern Israel, but in the last period it reveals to be useful even for Jewish women.
Its aim is to bring awareness to the women about their rights, not just in reporting the abuse, but also during the trials, therefore the coordinators assist the victims to the police station or to the lawyers and then even to the tribunal. In 2010, the center registered 25 cases of women assisted during the judicial trials, and a new arrangement for psychological treatments for the victims has been made with the “Center of Multi Purposes for the Treatment of Victims of Sexual Abuse”.